Monday, June 16, 2008

“I started research in the field of Native-newcomer relations because I was perplexed by what I saw around me. Like most Canadians who think about the matter today, I wondered why things were so messed up, why were relations so bad between us, and why do Aboriginal communities very often have such serious socio-economic and health problems? How did it get like this?”

Last week, Jim Miller (not for the first time) reminded us all of how historians can make a difference in the here and now, helping to shape the present and future by skillfully and thoughtfully unveiling the past. Through his research, writing, engagement with public policy debates, and appearances on radio and television, Jim has played an important role in helping to make the story of Canada's residential schools a central pillar of Canadian history and Canadian identities. And as the above words attest, Jim Miller brings clarity and a no-nonsense approach to a matter of enormous complexity and controversy in Canada.

Last Wednesday, Jim featured prominently in CBC Newsworld's live coverage of Prime Minister Stephen Harper's historic apology on behalf of Canada's government for more than a century of abuse inflicted on natives at the schools. In offering his thoughtful expertise and analysis of the day's events, Jim did our department and the university proud -- indeed, early returns suggest that Jim's comments on television and in print reached an audience of 15.4 million people.

Jim Miller not only analysed the news last Wednesday, he made some himself: on the very day that the Harper Government offered its apology for the residential school system, it also announced that Jim had been awarded $1.4 million from the federal Canada Research Chair (CRC) program to renew his senior research chair in Native-Newcomer Relations, and to advance his current study of the truth and reconciliation process, and how churches and the federal government have attempted to make amends with residential school victims.

The renewal of Jim's CRC follows a rigorous review process, and attests once again to the quality and impact of the work Jim and his graduate students and postdoctoral researchers have produced in recent years. The grant is for seven years, and will allow Jim and his team to continue to inform our national debates. Click here for further details contained in the official University of Saskatchewan press release.