Symbolic Ground Turning for the Dahdaleh Institute for Innovation in Health at StFX: A Visual Message of Priorities?

At the symbolic ground turning on July 5, 2024 at St. Francis Xavier University in Antigonish, Nova Scotia, benefactor Dr. Victor Dahdaleh said this building will be the proof of the power of collaboration, and soon, he hopes the start of breakthrough victories and life-changing discoveries that will impact the region and help create a better future for all.

“Mona and I are so happy thinking about all the 18-year-olds to come who will arrive here and become part of the legacy of StFX.” 

Dr. Dahdaleh’s opening remarks at the sod turning for the Institute for Innovation in Health at St. Francis Xavier University (StFX) are testament to the impressive collaboration between StFX and the Nova Scotia government. Congratulations and deep gratitude to these supporters!

Collaboration and social inclusion are the hallmarks of StFX history embodied in the Antigonish Movement. They are also universally recognized social determinants of health equity.  Yet in the July 5th symbolic groundbreaking ceremony, many key collaborators in the health of citizens of Nova Scotia and beyond were missing.  This raises questions about the new Institute’s research priorities and approaches to innovations in health. 

There was no representative of the Mi’kmaw Nation in the newsworthy visual line up at the symbolic sod turning on this unceded and unsurrendered land of the Mi’kmaw Peoples.  So will innovations in decolonizing health research feature the 94 Calls to Action for Truth and Reconciliation?

There was no representative of the arts. Most notably, the Dean of Arts was not breaking the ground alongside the Dean of Science.  Will the arts and humanities not receive equal emphasis to science in developing innovations in health?

The Canada Research Chair in Health Equity and Social Justice was also absent. Will social justice issues not figure in the Institute’s priorities for innovation in health?

The Town and County of Antigonish were not represented. Will collaboration with the wider community of Antigonish not figure in the Institute’s priorities for innovation in health?

There was no representative from institutional health care or public health. Will collaboration with people with lived experience of innovations in health not figure in the Institute’s priorities?

The StFX Extension and the Coady Institute, which embodies the Antigonish Movement’s historic values of collaboration and social inclusion, were not represented. Will these principles and values not figure in the Institute’s priorities for innovation in health?

The day before this symbolic groundbreaking ceremony, StFX Extension and the Coady Institute hosted The People’s School on the Arts and Health Equity.  Not one representative from current StFX faculty or administration participated. Not one elected representative from any level of government.

Just what are the priorities for the Victor Dahdaleh Institute for Health Innovation? Will they truly represent our wider community’s vital and urgent concerns for health and wellbeing in 2024?

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