Sioux Lookout one of five hosts for Northern Policy Institute’s eighth Experience North placement program
Reeti Meenakshi Rohilla - Staff Writer
The Northern Policy Institute (NPI) has commenced its eighth Experience North Summer Placement Program with Sioux Lookout being a first time host for the program. Sault Ste. Marie, Kirkland Lake, Hearst and Thunder Bay are the other four host communities for this year’s summer program.
NPI Research Manager Rachel Rizzuto shared, “NPI’s main offices are in Sudbury and Thunder Bay. So, we try to ensure the majority of our summer placements are located in smaller communities across the North. This year, Holly (Parsons) and Lindsay (Bain) are NPI’s connection to Sioux Lookout.” She added, “Our summer hosts tend to be post-secondary institutions that usually have spare space in the summer when their students are away. We were lucky to find a partner in the Innovation Station in Sioux Lookout, but any organization is welcome to approach NPI if they would like to partner with us by hosting one of our summer (or fall) offices.”
Rizzuto shared that they try to target communities that they haven’t been to before. This year’s summer placements began on May 3 and the program wraps up on August 20.
NPI has been running this program for eight years, with a goal to build the human capital of young professionals in the North, introduce them first-hand to the cut and thrust of public policy debate, and to expand the knowledge base among young professionals about living and working in Northern Ontario, shared Rizzuto.
“Every candidate is asked to submit a statement as to why they wish to work in the community for which they apply. Some highlight family connections, others are from the region, others have had positive experiences in their youth, others are looking to expand their knowledge of northern communities,” shared Rizzuto. She added that selection is based on the alignment of experience and education to the job opportunity, connection to or interest in the host community, and knowledge of or tie to Northern Ontario.
Rizzuto shared, “Alongside a follow up piece to Dr. (Heather) Hall’s northern lens paper from December, Holly is working on drilling down into living costs in smaller communities across Northern Ontario.”
Parsons, who is from southern Ontario and went to University for policy studies, politics and international relations, moved to Sioux Lookout at the beginning of May to work on this project. “When I finished university… it became obvious to me that a career in public policy and policy analysis was the route that I wanted to take. The Northern Policy Institute offers this fantastic program, Experience North, to help graduates and students while they are in university get some first hand experience from job experience. So, I saw the job posting and thought it would just be such a great experience for me. And I also wanted to learn and discover, and explore more of northern Ontario.”
Parson said that her project to build on Dr. Hall’s northern lens paper is a commentary building on how a suitable lens be made that is truly representative of the diversity of northern Ontario. She added, “We have identified First Nation communities, we’ve identified communities that are far north which we feel should have even more special consideration for the challenges that they face, which are different from the other communities in northern Ontario.”
Parson’s other project focuses on working closely with NPI’s economists to collect data that has not yet been collected on cost of living. She added that it is more challenging to find data for smaller northern communities. “We are just trying to make sure we are representative of all northern Ontario, including the smaller communities and including Sioux Lookout, to produce a representative paper on cost of living in northern Ontario,” she added.
Parsons said, “It’s about the recognition and raising awareness, of different issues. There is a lot of diversity in northern Ontario. So, these projects raise awareness especially to policy makers and researchers located in southern Ontario and the GTA, that are making decisions on behalf of all Ontarians. So, it definitely raises awareness, draws attention to the diversity and recognizes the specific challenges of people in northern Ontario.”
Rizzuto shared that Bain will be focusing on the progress that was made 20 years before and 20 years after the closure of the Ontario Treaty Commission. “As well, she is working on a Francophone immigration project that is in partnership with Réseau du Nord through NPI’s Northern Analyst Collective program,” she added.
With roots from northwestern Ontario, Bain said that she is excited to be back in the area, working on local issues. She said that aspects of her work on Ontario Treaty Commission consist of researching the terms of treaties that have been implemented and how the whole treaty implementation process has been handled. “Basically looking at success indicators, First Nations responses, government responses, potential tri-party negotiation agreement. So kind of between federal, provincial and First Nation interest, that is kind of what the Ontario Treaty Commission was. It was meant to be kind of all interest negotiating at the same time,” she added.
Bain said that her other project focuses on the economic impact of temporary residents, specifically Francophone temporary residents in northern Ontario, how it could benefit different northern communities, and the overall impact that immigration has on rural and northern communities.
“I’m learning a lot. I am really excited to kind of dig in the data, engage with community if possible in a safe way with COVID. We are finding different ways to handle that virtually with video or email, even phone,” said Bain.
NPI’s website states that every summer the institute makes available up to ten four-month placements across Northern Ontario. This program is made possible with support from RBC Foundation, the SM Blair Foundation, and Canada Summer Jobs.
Rizzuto shared that NPI’s Fall Experience North program takes place from September to December. Application for this upcoming fall program are available on NPI’s website, at