Mentoring workshop in Canada brings international nuclear sector experts to young women from Indigenous communities

International Mentoring Workshop in Canada, May 2023

The NEA held its first Indigenous International Mentoring Workshop for female students in partnership with the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission, hosted by Trent University, in Ontario on 7-10 May 2023

“Gikendaaso Oshki Kwewag” – the young women carry knowledge

The Nuclear Energy Agency (NEA) organises International Mentoring Workshops for young women in different countries to provide them the opportunity to learn about the education and career pathways available in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) in a unique manner and to provide women who participate in NEA work the opportunity to encourage the next generation.

The NEA held an International Mentoring Workshop for around 40 Indigenous female students in Canada during 7-10 May 2023. The workshop was held in partnership with the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) and hosted by Trent University in Ontario, Canada.

International Mentoring Workshop in Canada, May 2023 

CNSC President and CEO Rumina Velshi welcomes the Indigenous students to the first NEA mentoring workshop in Canada. Photo: Trent University

Over four days, the students had the opportunity to hear from leaders in the nuclear sector and local Indigenous community in a workshop that combined Indigenous ways of knowing with science to offer an engaging, hands-on learning experience. By engaging local members of Canada’s Indigenous community, the event aimed to immerse the students in a broad range of perspectives while acknowledging the importance of respecting the land.

Dr Jeannette Corbiere Lavell, an advocate for Indigenous women’s rights, spoke to the young women and the international guests, providing her story of courage and persistence. The students were also addressed by NEA Director-General William D. Magwood, IV, and by workshop co-chairs and mentors Rumina Velshi, President and CEO of the CNSC, Emily Whentung, Chief Emerita of Curve Lake First Nation, and Yeonhee Hah, Vice President of Global Activities for the Korea Institute of Nuclear Safety.

“I am particularly pleased that the first NEA international mentoring workshop in Canada celebrates and encourages the important contributions to be made by young women carrying forward Indigenous knowledge,” said NEA Director-General Magwood. “Honouring this inheritance is part of closing the gap in understanding and perceived values between the nuclear sector and the communities it serves.

International Mentoring Workshop in Canada, May 2023

Students take part in a water science lab practical session, led by Canada Research Chair Maggie Xenopoulos, analysing water and the challenges facing our environment. Photo: Trent University

The programme over the four days included mentoring sessions, practical laboratory exercises, Indigenous knowledge sharing gatherings, a visit to Nuclear Energy Canada’s BWXT Peterborough facility and a STEM Fair.

"I am thrilled to participate in this first-of-its-kind mentoring workshop in Canada, designed to empower and inspire the next generation of leaders in STEM,” said Rumina Velshi, President and CEO of the CNSC. “The collaboration between the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission, the NEA and Trent University is an important milestone in encouraging youth and Indigenous communities to explore the vast opportunities that STEM offers. Diverse voices bring a broader range of viewpoints and ideas, yielding better results and safety outcomes."

International Mentoring Workshop in Canada, May 2023NEA Director-General William D. Magwood, IV, talks to students during a special roundtable session in which they could pose questions about what it is like to work in the nuclear sector

Among the highlights of the NEA International Mentoring Workshops are the high-level mentors and speakers that the events feature to engage with the young women. This workshop’s mentors included Laurie Swami, President and CEO, NWMO, Canada; Aleshia Duncan, Deputy Assistant Secretary for International Nuclear Energy Policy and Co-operation, US Department of Energy; Sara Rashad Al Saadi, Nuclear Safety Director, Federal Authority for Nuclear Regulation, UAE; Gina Abdelsalm, GIF Technical Secretariat Chief of Staff, NEA; Jessica Perritt, Section Manager for Indigenous Knowledge and Reconciliation, Nuclear Waste Management Organization (NWMO), Canada; Terri-Lynn Woods, Manager, Indigenous Engagement and Special Projects, Organization of Canadian Nuclear Industries; and Taryn Roske, Jet Bore Systems Operator III, Cameco.

Yeonhee Hah, Vice President of Global Activities for the Korea Institute of Nuclear Safety and workshop co-chair, shared why these mentoring workshops are so valuable not only for the students, but for the nuclear sector as a whole.

The workshop also included a video message from Hélène Langevin-Joliot, a distinguished nuclear physicist and the granddaughter of Marie Skłodowska-Curie, an Indigenous leaders’ circle, and a roundtable discussion with NEA Director-General Magwood. Director-General Magwood, President Velshi, and Chief Whetung also met with the Indigenous Chaperones to discuss their views on how to enhance and promote the STEM education in Canada.


Workshop co-chair and Chief Emerita of Curve First Nation Emily Whetung addresses the students, highlighting the possibility of weaving Indigenous knowledge into careers in STEM fields

“The unique feature of this event is the space we are creating to integrate Indigenous scientific systems, traditional knowledge systems, and Indigenous ways of knowing into the STEM dialogue,” said workshop co-chair Emily Whetung, Chief Emerita of Curve First Nation. The programme has been carefully designed to support you in your educational pursuits by offering opportunities to meet with female mentors in the STEM fields,” she added in her address to the students.

The International Mentoring Workshop has previously been hosted in France, Japan, Kenya, Spain and the United Kingdom. The next NEA mentoring workshop is scheduled to take place in 2023 in Korea.

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