1st Session, 41st Parliament,
Volume 150, Issue 154

Tuesday, April 23, 2013
The Honourable Noël A. Kinsella, Speaker

Universities and Post-Secondary Institutions

Inquiry—Debate Continued

On the Order:

Resuming debate on the inquiry of the Honourable Senator Cowan, calling the attention of the Senate to the many contributions of Canadian universities and other post-secondary institutions, as well as research institutes, to Canadian innovation and research, and in particular, to those activities they undertake in partnership with the private and not-for-profit sectors, with financial support from domestic and international sources, for the benefit of Canadians and others the world over.

Hon. Mobina S. B. Jaffer: Honourable senators, Senator Dawson has given me permission to speak at this time.


Honourable senators, I am pleased to speak to this inquiry regarding the contributions to innovation and research made by universities and other post-secondary institutions in Canada. As Senator Cowan pointed out in his inquiry, the partnerships that many universities and other post-secondary institutions in Canada form with the private and not-for-profit sectors are very successful in Canada and around the world.


I want to thank Senator Cowan for highlighting Canadian research and innovation in the Senate and I commend Senator Cowan and Senator Segal for their collaborative approach to this issue.

Today I want to recognize and celebrate certain aspects of Canadian research that contribute to long-term development and sustainability in poorer nations.

In 2009, Canadian filmmaker Richard Phinney travelled back to Afghanistan after several years away. Instead of finding poppies, as he did in previous visits, and the guns and violence he remembered, Phinney found new facilities training midwives and community health workers, social audits demonstrating democracy at its best, and young girls dreaming of becoming doctors and teachers.

Phinney discovered and exposed through film the difference made by research of Canadian institutions sponsored by the work of the Aga Khan Foundation and the generosity of so many Canadians. Canadian contributions in early childhood development, democratic process, health systems, and strengthening international trade, economics and microfinance have all paved the way for a brighter future in Afghanistan.


With the support of the Aga Khan Foundation, Canadian institutions, students and researchers are doing a great deal to promote innovation, prosperity and peace in the world.

The Aga Khan Foundation Canada, established in 1980, is a non-profit international development agency that works in Asia and Africa to find sustainable solutions to the complex problems causing global poverty.


The foundation is a Canadian charity and an Aga Khan Development Network agency.


To quote from Aga Khan Foundation Canada’s website:

In addition to supporting overseas programming, AKFC has several educational programs aimed at improving the quality of Canada’s development assistance and showing Canadians how they can contribute to the solution to world poverty. Our international management training fellowships are shaping the next generation of global leaders by annually sending dozens of young Canadians abroad to learn about the challenges of development from our in-country partners. AKFC invites students from developing countries to study in Canada where they can begin to form life-long professional relationships. The Foundation also sends Canadian specialists overseas to share knowledge and expertise with their colleagues in the developing world.

The Aga Khan Foundation Canada has a history of collaborating with many Canadian institutions, including the University of Alberta, McMaster University, the University of Guelph, the University of Toronto, Carleton University and the University of British Columbia, among others.

Honourable senators, partnerships with organizations such as the Aga Khan Foundation Canada have played a critical role in supporting research and innovation at Canadian institutions, both locally and globally. While many Canadian universities are advancing partnerships globally, working with international development organizations that have a proven track record in the developing world, such as the Aga Khan Foundation, ensures that Canadian expertise is more effectively deployed and leads to sustained improvements in quality of life in poorer countries and poorer communities.


By facilitating Canada’s involvement in developing countries, the Aga Khan Foundation helps promote the Canadian values of pluralism, cooperation and compassion, while allowing Canadians to acquire knowledge, conduct research, innovate and apply the results of their work.

Canada’s involvement does more than simply increase Canada’s prosperity through innovation and cooperation. It also helps improve growth, stability and the quality of life in countries where material goods are in short supply and peace is a work in progress. These countries stand out because of their creativity and the new opportunities they offer, but more than anything, they can benefit from the research and knowledge of Canadian students, academics and practitioners and add value to it.


Honourable senators, in November 2008, McMaster University signed a memorandum of understanding with the Aga Khan University, another step forward in a 25-year collaboration to develop nursing practices and policy work worldwide. The two universities have partnered to support national nursing initiatives in Africa and Asia, where the nursing profession has often been neglected.

McMaster University’s School of Nursing has played an essential role in the partnership between the two universities, supporting research on how to improve nursing education practice and regulation worldwide. For example, Canadian investment has enabled Aga Khan University to make critical contributions to the development of national curricula for the training of nurses and midwives in Afghanistan.


Last year, as part of the Regional Cooperation and Confidence Building project launched with the support of the Aga Khan Foundation Canada and the Canadian Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, the University of Central Asia established a partnership with the Norman Paterson School of International Affairs at Carleton University. Together, they created an intensive program to help civil servants in Afghanistan, Tajikistan, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan enhance their commercial trade skills and knowledge.


As Norman Paterson School of International Affairs Director Dane Rowlands notes, there are comparisons to be made between economies in those countries and the Canadian economy, which makes collaboration all the more valuable. He said:

They have a large natural resource base, and their economy is shaped by big neighbours. So there is a natural appeal to working with Canada.

Carleton University’s Centre for Trade Policy and Law worked hand in hand with the University of Central Asia’s Institute of Public Policy and Administration to adapt and deliver a curriculum targeting specific skills grounded in the realities of regional and international trade. The training scored high marks among participants. The unanimous conclusion was that the training was directly applicable to their work.

For example, Kyrgyzstan’s Secretary of the Ministry of Economy credits the training with preparations for new bilateral negotiations to enhance that country’s trade with Afghanistan. Blending Canadian strengths in trade negotiation with the University of Central Asia’s regional connections and insights, this benchmark setting collaboration stands as an important example of well-targeted, effective deployment of Canadian expertise.

Importantly, this initial collaboration is developing into a longer-term partnership. Speaking from the perspective of the University of Central Asia, Dr. Bohdan Krawchenko said:

With help from Carleton, we hope to develop a curriculum for an undergraduate program in international economics and trade — the first of its kind in Central Asia.

In June 2009, the University of Alberta and the Aga Khan University signed a memorandum of understanding to advance global engagement, human advancement and social justice throughout the world. This partnership has allowed research and innovation at the University of Alberta to improve quality of life in developing nations through collaboration with the Aga Khan Development Network.

During the signing of the memorandum, then Premier of Alberta, Ed Stelmach, remarked:

The expansion of this partnership puts the University of Alberta on the forefront of international capacity building. AKDN’s extensive reputation in economic, social and cultural development allows the university to harness Alberta’s research and teaching innovation to benefit communities not only in Alberta, but also in East Africa, and Central and South Asia.

Through programs such as the international internship program offered to the University of Alberta through the Aga Khan University, many Canadian students and researchers in communications, human resources, information technology, management, teaching and nursing have had the opportunity to contribute their skills, advance their research and network with their institutions from around the world.

University of Alberta President and Vice-Chancellor Samarasekera added:

The University of Alberta, along with the Aga Khan Development Network, is deeply committed to providing globally engaged higher education and research. Through our partnership, the university will move much closer to fulfilling one of our most important goals — to reach out to the developing world in Africa, the Middle East and parts of Asia, and engage in meaningful and effective dialogue and exchange.

Firoz Rasul, President of the Aga Khan University, praised the University of Alberta, especially in its research in Canada’s North, and he said:

Their innovative approach to research, teaching and service in healthcare, education, and sustainable economic and environmental development in northern Canadian communities could greatly benefit the developing countries in which AKU, UCA and the Aga Khan Trust for Culture currently work.


Honourable senators, as well as facilitating partnerships, the Aga Khan Foundation works on the ground, which allows Canadians coming out of universities and other post-secondary institutions to share their knowledge and the results of their research with local populations.

Founded in 1989, the Aga Khan Foundation Canada’s International Fellowship Program is a professional development program for young Canadians seeking hands-on experience in international development. The fellowship includes three unique streams: international development management; international microfinance and microenterprise; and young professionals in media.


This unique program allows Canadian students to participate in research and development in developing countries and to create new opportunities.


International development management programs give post-secondary students the opportunity to work with an Aga Khan Development Network field partner to support the planning and implementation of programs such as early childhood development programs, natural resource management programs and health programs.

In service to communities abroad, young Canadians make valuable contributions to their fields, and support host organizations in research and development of programs. For example, program fellows have helped to develop effective management reporting and documentation practices at early childhood development programs, helping young children in Asia and Africa to get the best education possible.

One of the most prestigious media fellowships in Canada, the Aga Khan Foundation’s Young Professionals in Media program partners with Nation Media Group in Kenya and Uganda. Young Canadians gain experience in print, television, online and other forms of media in East Africa. Through the exchange of ideas, experience and training, our young Canadian journalists receive opportunities to enhance their knowledge and exposure to the complex issues facing developing countries. Canadians continue to advance the dynamic and ever-changing field of journalism.


Honourable senators, in addition to promoting research abroad, the Aga Khan Foundation promotes discussion between Canadian students and academics on national and international issues. The Aga Khan Foundation provides seminars and workshops that teach Canadians about the role that research and innovation play in international development.


Recently, the Aga Khan Foundation held an event as part of their seminar series on the importance of the first 1,000 days. Recent research from both global and Canadian resources suggests that the first few years of a child’s life are critical for a bright future.

The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: I regret to inform the honourable senator that her time for speaking has expired. Is she asking for more time?

Senator Jaffer: May I have five more minutes?

The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: Is it agreed, honourable senators?

Hon. Senators: Agreed.

Senator Jaffer: Dr. Stephen Lye, the Executive Director of the Fraser Mustard Institute for Human Development at the University of Toronto, highlighted the importance of the first 1,000 days in a child’s life in establishing trajectories in health, learning and social functioning as an adult. Dr. Lye gave an overview of the important research in early childhood development conducted in Canada, including by the Fraser Mustard Institute at the University of Toronto and at the Institute for Early Childhood Education and Research at the University of British Columbia.

Canadian research in this important field is being directly applied to efforts in the developing world. For example, among the Aga Khan Foundation’s recent undertakings, a project called “Strengthening Communities, Saving Lives” applies Canadian research expertise to reduce child mortality rates worldwide. Dr. Zulfiqar Bhutta of the Aga Khan University suggests:

Child mortality can be significantly reduced by focusing interventions on the poorest of the poor, particularly in rural areas.

Discussions among experts from both Canadian institutions and NGOs brought innovative ideas and solutions to the table. The importance of collaboration and education in improving the lives of Canadians and others around the world cannot be overstated.

Honourable senators, whether it is finding ways to improve nursing practices worldwide, to provide education for young girls in Afghanistan, to advance economic cooperation between Afghanistan and its neighbours, or to help young children in Canada and abroad to develop in their first 1,000 days, among many other projects, the Aga Khan Foundation plays a huge role in supporting the research and service of Canadian students and scholars.

As Canadians, we are blessed and privileged. We also share a responsibility to help those who are not so fortunate.

Honourable senators, I hope that you will join me in congratulating the Aga Khan Foundation on its remarkable work, in collaboration with Canadian universities and post-secondary institutions. I also ask you to join me in congratulating Senator Cowan for launching this inquiry. Thank you very much.

(On motion of Senator Jaffer, for Senator Dawson, debate adjourned.)