Dr. Vianne Timmons. Photo courtesy of Manfred Joehnck

The president of the University of Regina says northern communities are asking for training in addictions and youth counselling.

Dr. Vianne Timmons says that was one of the main takeaways from visits to Stony Rapids, Fond du Lac, Wollaston Lake and La Ronge this week.

Timmons does a Community Connections tour every year, but this was her first to the province’s north since 2014.

She says the point of the tour is to learn how the U of R can better serve northerners who are enrolled in the university.

“A lot of the concern is they want to stop the transient, in-and-out employment,” she says. “So they want people educated in their communities, from their communities who stay in their communities. So teachers, social workers. Youth counsellors is an area. One area — addiction counselling — has just been brought up on this trip. They are really looking at people who are trained in addiction counselling.”

Timmons notes the school is willing to accommodate northern students facing sudden financial pressures.

“The students from the far north, we’re learning all the time how to better serve and support them because the challenges they face are, at times, extraordinary,” she says. “And they still make it down south to school, but many of them have travel, child care issues. And it’s not easy to go back to their community if there’s a funeral. So we provide travel grants for students who have to go home for funerals so that it doesn’t negatively impact on their finances for school.”

She also says students in programs like nursing, education and social work are now required to take Indigenous knowledge courses to graduate.

Self-declared Indigenous enrollment at the U of R is now over 13 per cent.