49 Langarans

49Langaran

Kelley Lee

Langara Alum | Global Health Researcher

Dr. Kelley Lee has studied the need to strengthen collective action on global health challenges related to tobacco control for over two decades, largely focusing her work outside of Canada. When the Langara College alum and internationally renowned global health researcher relocated back to Vancouver, she soon noticed that many of the tobacco control issues she’d observed abroad were happening right here at home.

“My research focuses on the tobacco industry and how it has grown its markets worldwide through a range of business and political strategies. We then noticed the high rates of commercial tobacco use in Indigenous communities, and the ineffectiveness of mainstream tobacco control approaches, and wondered if we could approach the issue from a different perspective,” Lee said. “We don’t have detailed data, but smoking rates in some First Nations communities can be triple the rate of use of non-Indigenous people in Canadian mainstream society.”

With this in mind, she worked with partners at the First Nations Health Authority to initiate the three-year Promoting Indigenous Led Action on Respecting Tobacco Project in 2017, aimed at improving health and wellness in B.C. First Nations communities.

Working in partnership with five B.C. communities, her team has been consulting with community members through engagement events, interviews, and focus groups, among other activities.

With consent, they are hoping to conduct a survey in each community to collect baseline data on tobacco use, and community opinions on commercial tobacco use and potential initiatives that would build on community strengths.

“We want to provide useful information to these communities based on local perspectives and what community members would like to do regarding tobacco use,” Lee said.

Tobacco use in Indigenous communities involves complex cultural and historical considerations, she added. Many communities use the plant for spiritual, medicinal and ceremonial purposes.

“If you come in and say ‘all tobacco is bad,’ that doesn’t resonate with cultural teachings. It is a very colonial approach,” she said. “We need to understand that in order to support health and wellness while respecting Indigenous cultures.”

Such an initiative, for example, might involve supporting traditional ways to use tobacco, such as burning during ceremonies, and offering tobacco leaves as gifts in pouches or tobacco ties. “We’ve learned that there can be healthy Indigenous relationships with tobacco, which do not involve inhaling smoke into your lungs,” she said. “When you’re inhaling commercial tobacco products, with added toxic chemicals and flavourings, that’s when cancers and other illnesses arise.

“Alternatively, traditional tobacco could be a part of the healing of Indigenous communities from the impacts of colonization through the recovery of traditional cultures.”

The project team, the majority of whom are Indigenous, plan to finish conducting their qualitative research by December, and then conduct the survey with the permission of the five communities in 2020.

They have until 2021 to finish the project, eventually leaving the communities with resources and a strategy document that will help them move forward.

“That’s the most important part, to leave the communities with something that is useful. Not just academics writing papers,” Lee said. “We want to conduct our research differently, and show that this will produce findings that are far more practical and useful.”

Courtesy of Black Press Media.

49 Facts — NO. 1

On October 13, 1970, a crowd of staff, students, and VIPs made the “great trek” from the King Edward Education Centre to herald the opening of the new VCC Langara campus, including a motorcade of 150 cars.

Meet more 49 Langarans.

  • Gail Bremer

    Gail Bremer

    Retired Employee | Professional Development Advocate

    Gail worked in a number of roles during her time at Langara, including Nursing Instructor, coordinator for the Langara Employee Development Centre, Administrator of the Nursing program, and Manager of Nursing’s professional development funds. A program pioneer, she was part of the College’s first International Nursing program and First Nations Continuing Studies pilot project. An alumna of Langara and a former Falcons volleyball player, she continues to be an ardent supporter of the College and the Falcons. She is an active member of the Langara Retirees Steering Committee, and volunteers more than 900 hours annually to organizations such as the Vancouver Aquarium, Easter Seal, Operation Red Nose, and Soccer Canada. In recognition of her work, she has received the 2012 Langara Leadership Award, Andre Tse Service Award, and multiple Richmond Mayor’s Sustainability and Environmental Awards.

  • Gail Sparrow

    Gail Sparrow

    Langara Alum | Indigenous Leader

    Gail Sparrow is a former Chief of the Musqueam First Nation. An alumna of Langara, she returned to the College as an Elder-in-Residence, helping to provide a supportive environment for Indigenous students. She played a key role in strengthening the connection between the Musqueam and the College, educating the Langara community on the history, culture, and teachings of the Musqueam and the land on which the College is located. Gail was also instrumental in Langara receiving its Musqueam name, snəw̓eyəɬ leləm̓, which means house of teachings. Outside of Langara, she has been a passionate community advocate as a Native Employment Specialist with Canada Employment and Immigration Centre, Project Manager with Tribal America Consulting Los Angeles California, Community Development Director with the Musqueam Indian Band, Owner with LIFT Computer Institute, and as the President and Owner of Native Personnel Services.

  • Valerie Dunsterville

    Valerie Dunsterville

    Retired Employee | Langara Pioneer

    An “original Langaran,” who was part of the 1970 trek from Vancouver Community College’s old King Edward Campus, Valerie was the Dean of Student and Education Support Services for Langara College and had previously been the Registrar for the VCC Langara campus. Her impact on the College has been immeasurable. As the Registrar, she set up Langara’s student records systems and processes, many of which are still in use today. As Dean, she was responsible for all student and educational support services on campus which included the Library, Bookstore, the Registrar’s Office, Counselling, Health Services, Athletics, Daycare, Food Services, Disability Services, and First Nations Services. She was also a passionate champion for Langara outside of her work. In 1999, Valerie was awarded the Order of the Falcon for her support of the Langara Athletics department. She continues to support student success through her endowed award with the Langara College Foundation.

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