Kelowna’s Candice Loring is on a mission to advance Indigenous businesses and communities

The Mitacs executive seeks to pair industry and academia.

Credit: Athena Bonneau

The Mitacs executive seeks to pair industry and academia

After graduating from UBC Okanagan with a bachelor’s degree in business management and a minor in psychology, Candice Loring spent some time working in finance in West Kelowna before she went back to school.

Well, kinda. Loring switched career paths to work out of her alma mater, in business development for national research group Mitacs.

There, she oversees the nonprofit’s work in connecting Indigenous-owned businesses and organizations with the right academic talent to help them achieve their innovation goals.

“What we’re doing is really looking at Indigenous strategy,” says the 36-year-old member of the Gitwangak band from the Gitxsan Nation. “Part of that is increasing Indigenous representation in terms of the businesses we work with, but it also applied to the students and interns that work on the Mitacs projects.”

Loring says she’s worked with some 250 internships this year on several projects across the province. Usually businesses match Mitacs dollar-for-dollar for the organization to help out, but Loring and her team found that “having the financial capital to put up the cost was one of the biggest barriers for the companies.”

As a way to create equitable access, the agency launched the Indigenous initiative with three-to-one matching, meaning it pays $3,750 of the typical $15,000 cost for a four-month internship. “It’s the most generous offer in Mitacs’ 21-year-old history, because we haven’t put a cap on it,” Loring says.

Along the way, Loring has lent a hand to a range of objectives. For example, she’s collaborated with an Indigenous-owned environmental consulting firm that aims to reduce arsenic contamination in soil, and with some 30 internships on Vancouver Island that are digitally preserving Indigenous languages.

“It’s such a pivotal time for Indigenous communities, as we’re losing our elders, and with them, so much of that knowledge is being lost,” she says. “And it isn’t written down, so it’s really important for these languages to be preserved. So this is a multiyear project that’s about combining traditional Indigenous ways of knowing and modern technology to make it accessible to Indigenous youth. If it’s not put into a form that’s easily accessibly by our youth, it won’t survive.”

There’s also a project developed in response to the recent “In Plain Sight” report by UBC that found evidence of systemic racism in B.C.’s health-care system.

Lisa Bourque Bearskin, an associate professor at Thompson Rivers University’s school of nursing who is member of the Beaver Lake Cree Nation, and master’s student and Secwepemc Nation member Nikki Hunter will explore mental wellness services by and for Indigenous Peoples in B.C.

“Research like this is so important because we must have Indigenous voices and representation within the health-care system to prevent and stop systemic racism,” Loring says.

“I’m working for an organization that’s not only hearing my voice but is my voice, helping to make real change within Indigenous research and academia.”