Historic agreement between uOttawa and PAHO broadens possibilities for Indigenous-led health research

Faculty of Law - Civil Law Section
Research and innovation

By Droit civil

Section de droit civil, Faculté de droit

Cérémonie de signature - uOttawa-PAHO
The University of Ottawa has entered into an historic agreement with the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) to expand possibilities for research addressing the health and well-being of Indigenous Peoples on a global scale.

The agreement was initiated by Adjunct Professor Mariam Wallet Aboubakrine and Sandra Del Pinto, Cultural Diversity Advisor for PAHO. The collaboration will help to advance the work of the multidisciplinary Ărramăt Project, of which Professor Wallet Aboubakrine is a co-princip[MA1] al investigator, alongside Professor Brenda Parlee of the University of Alberta, Professor Danika Littlechild of Carleton University, Professor John O’Neil of Simon Fraser University, Professor Murray Humphries of McGill University and Professor Sherry Pictou of Dalhousie University. As an Indigenous-led project, Ărramăt seeks to address a broad range of problems related to the health of biodiversity, the environment and humanity itself by elevating the knowledge and experience of Indigenous Peoples. As such, Ărramăt is a source of connection and direction for a vast interdisciplinary team of Indigenous organizations, governments, community resource people and university researchers, including the Civil Law Section’s own Professor Sophie Thériault. Since most of the Earth’s biodiversity is located in the territories of Indigenous Peoples, and since Indigenous Peoples, globally, are highly successful in taking care of land in ways that support the health and well-being of their communities, Ărramăt seeks to amplify the voices of Indigenous knowledge holders. By strengthening Indigenous capacity to document, share, and implement Indigenous knowledge and practice, Ărramăt is advancing impactful strategies for protecting the environment and improving health and well-being around the world.

Professor Wallet Aboubakrine also leads a branch of the project – one of ten Global Transformation Pathways – focused on social justice and gender diversity. A Tuareg woman from Timbuktu, Mali, she holds a medical degree, a degree in humanitarian action, and a degree in education. She formerly served as the President of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, and has held other noteworthy positions related to advocacy for the global health of Indigenous Peoples, including the UNESCO Global Task Force on Indigenous Languages and the International Indigenous Working Group on HIV-AIDS. The strong connections she has built with the United Nations, Indigenous Peoples and other international partners have paved the way for this new partnership with the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), a regional office of the World Health Organization.

Cérémonie de signature
Mary Lou Valdez, Sophie Thériault, Jacques Frémont, Jarbas Barbosa da Silva and Jennifer Quaid

As a public international organization specializing in the field of health, PAHO possesses considerable competence and experience connecting communities with the knowledge and expertise they need to thrive, while promoting responses and treatments that can strengthen healthcare and well-being throughout the Pan American region. Through this partnership with the University of Ottawa, PAHO gains access to a vast network of researchers pushing the boundaries of research and knowledge in the field of health. And PAHO offers the University of Ottawa, and the Ărramăt project specifically, a chance to exchange research results with a vastly broader network of health experts, resource people and end users. The collaboration will make it substantially easier for Ărramăt researchers to connect with Indigenous communities to further the shared goals of building Indigenous capacity, supporting Indigenous-led participatory research, and enabling Indigenous leaders to effect institutional change at local, regional, and global scales.

The signing of this historic agreement took place on April 9, 2024, with President Jacques Frémont signing on behalf of the University of Ottawa and Dr. Jarbas Barbosa da Silva signing as Director of PAHO. Jennifer Quaid, Vice-Dean of Research, also signed the agreement on behalf of the Civil Law Section. Mary Lou Valdez, PAHO Deputy Director, Patricia Schroeder, Policy and Program Advisor, and Carlos Andrés Emanuele, Specialist in Cooperation among Countries for Health Development, also attended the ceremony as representatives of PAHO. Finally, Mariam Wallet Aboubakrine, Sophie Thériault and François Carrier, Director, International Research and Experiential Learning, were also present on behalf of the University of Ottawa.

“We are thrilled to embark on this historic partnership with the Pan American Health Organization, and to continue our support of Indigenous-led research,” said President Frémont. “Building on the important work of Professor Mariam Wallet Aboubakrine and her co-researchers, this collaboration presents exciting opportunities for amplifying the voices of Indigenous Peoples while simultaneously fostering impactful strategies for lifelong health and wellness.”

The word Ărramăt is a concept in Tamasheq, the Indigenous language spoken by the Tuareg people. It describes a state of well-being shared by the environment, animals, and humans​. This concept teaches us that if the lands are not healthy, then the people are not healthy. Signed in the spirit of advancing this foundational perspective, this new agreement between uOttawa and PAHO is a starting point – the first step in what the Civil Law Section hopes is a lasting relationship with innumerable possibilities for working together to improve global health and well-being in the future.

Cérémonie de signature avec PAHO
François Carrier, Jacques Frémont, Jennifer Quaid, Jarbas Barbosa da Silva, Mariam Wallet Aboubakrine, Patricia Schroeder, Mary Lou Valdez, Carlos Andrés Emanuele and Sophie Thériault