Written collaboratively by all members of the SFU Avalanche Research Program
April 14, 2021

Who we are

The SFU Avalanche Research Program (SARP) is an applied research group that conducts interdisciplinary avalanche safety research to help recreationists and avalanche safety professionals make better informed decisions when managing the physical risk from avalanches. SARP resides at Simon Fraser University on Burnaby Mountain, British Columbia, which is situated on the traditional and unceded territories of the Coast Salish peoples including the Tsleil-Waututh (səl̓ilw̓ətaʔɬ), Kwikwetlem (kʷikʷəƛ̓əm), Squamish (Sḵwx̱wú7mesh Úxwumixw) and Musqueam (xʷməθkʷəy̓əm) Nations, but we conduct research across Canada and around the world, which also includes the traditional territories of other Indigenous Peoples.

Why this document

The purpose of this document is to describe where we see ourselves within today’s conversation and growing movement towards a more just, equitable, diverse and inclusive society, and provide context for meaningful actions that SARP can take to promote sustainable and permanent change.

As members of SARP, we operate at the interface between the worlds of academia, backcountry recreation and avalanche risk management. Each of these worlds have long-established structures and procedures that have favoured some, while making it more difficult for others to succeed. The types of barriers, overt and covert expressions of oppression, and unjust treatments that exist in each of these worlds are diverse and occur within the bigger context of Canadian society and beyond. They include the harmful long-term consequences of past and ongoing settler-colonialism, systemic racism, the explicit or implicit exclusion of females, BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Colour), LGBTQIA2-S+ individuals (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer and/or Questioning, Intersex, Asexual, Two-Spirited, and the countless other identities), gender non-conforming people, non-binary people, and people with disabilities, but they also relate to economic barriers and cultural stereotypes. We recognize the simultaneous presence of these issues in the communities we work in has created complexities, amplified challenges and resulted in an exclusive avalanche research community that is primarily white, male, cisgender, able-bodied and focused on western ways of knowing. Our contributions to science and avalanche safety have been built on passion and dedication, but we acknowledge that our career paths and work have benefitted and are still benefitting from these structures and that some of our actions or inactions have inadvertently supported the status quo.

Our vision for contributing to meaningful change

Making academia, the backcountry and avalanche risk management more just, equitable, diverse and inclusive requires a conscious and concerted effort by everybody involved. While initiatives are currently underway to improve gender equity in all communities we work with, we acknowledge that this is just one aspect of the existing inequities and more needs to be done.

Being able to conduct research and teach at an academic institution is a privilege that comes with responsibilities and unique opportunities. The core purpose of SARP is to conduct and promote high-quality, interdisciplinary research that promotes better informed avalanche risk management decisions for everybody. Creating opportunities for students to pursue their professional aspirations, providing scientific training and mentorship to students and practitioners, fostering the passion for science, and inspiring creative thinking about the application of the scientific method are equally important to us. We want to contribute to positive and permanent change in our communities by integrating meaningful actions in our practices. We strongly believe that having a diversity of backgrounds, perspectives, expertise, and interests is critically important for achieving these objectives in a profound way.

We are committed to permanent change. In the context of stated purpose and our current capacity, we see the following opportunities for making purposeful contributions to restorative justice, equity, diversity and inclusion in our communities:

  • Promote consistent respectful engagement
    • Include meaningful land acknowledgements in all of our communications
    • Include pronouns in our email signatures and Zoom accounts
    • Use inclusive language in all of our communications (e.g., papers, presentations)
  • Raise awareness
    • Share information about our JEDI efforts with our partners
    • Include a JEDI section in student-supervisor agreement/welcome letter
  • Align research agenda and practices
    • Stay current on JEDI best practices in social and natural sciences
    • Ensure a respectful, diverse, equitable and inclusive research environment
    • Promote and encourage projects that support the development of accessible avalanche safety products that benefit everyone
    • Prioritize research projects that benefit currently underserved communities
  • Support underrepresented groups
    • Take time to support/review publications from non-traditional avalanche researchers and/or areas
    • Include JEDI considerations in student intake
  • Make our expertise more easily accessible
    • Only publish in open access journals
    • Frequently share research insights with all stakeholders and communities in an accessible and informative way
    • Organize an accessible avalanche safety information events for interested SFU students each fall
    • Mentor researchers and support initiatives that enhance the diversity of perspectives in the avalanche safety community
  • Promote personal learning
    • Include Indigenous Knowledges on avalanches in REM427/627
    • Have at least one JEDI focused group meeting each term (e.g., review positionality statement, discuss a specific JEDI topic, invite relevant speaker)
    • Develop a relevant JEDI resource list

We are committed to these actions as a research group and acknowledge that we all need to do our parts. While some of the actions listed above relate to our daily research practices, others are targeted initiatives that will require extra effort. We recognize that creating the systemic change needed is a process that requires constant learning, unlearning, reevaluation and adjustment as our awareness of the issues and our impact grows. We approach this challenge with humility, acknowledging that real change takes time and that we will make mistakes, which represent new opportunities to do better. As a research group, we will review the content of this document at least once a year every fall to reflect on our actions, align our intentions, examine our impact, renew our commitment, and define concrete actions for moving forward in a sustainable way.

Shared learning

We are looking forward to working with our community partners to make the backcountry safer and more accessible to everybody, and we are thankful to everybody who is helping us to expand our understanding of the existing challenges and injustices. Please use the form below to share questions, comments, or concerns in an anonymous way.