Markus Batraki, an Inside-Out program alum, is one of many students who have had their lives transformed by this innovative course. Vancouver Island University photo

Northpine Foundation donates more than
$1 million to VIU

A program on Vancouver Island that allows university students to learn alongside incarcerated people in provincial correctional centres will expand, thanks to a $1.1-million gift from the Northpine Foundation.


This generous gift will expand Vancouver Island University’s (VIU’s) Inside-Out Prison Exchange Program to other BC communities. It will also support formerly incarcerated persons pursuing post-secondary studies and enable the development of employment training at the Nanaimo Correctional Centre (NCC).


The Inside-Out program offers post-secondary criminology courses to classes composed of both incarcerated students (“inside” students) and university students (“outside” students). The course is taught within the correctional centre and offers students a powerful academic and experiential learning opportunity that puts a face and voice behind what it means to be involved in the justice system in a way that fosters mutual understanding, compassion and shared experiences.


“The Inside-Out program has had a tremendous impact on my life,” said former inside student Markus, who is now enrolled full-time at VIU and plans to pursue a Bachelor of Arts degree. “Through the program and the connections made with others, I have come to believe in my ability to become a university student. I now understand that even though I have spent time in prison, I can overcome past adversity and tackle new goals in life with hard work and perseverance.”


VIU began offering Inside-Out classes at the Nanaimo Correctional Centre in 2016. Three years later the program expanded to the Vancouver Island Regional Correctional Centre in Victoria. More than 250 students have taken the course, including 118 inside students.


“I’ve had the privilege of observing enormous growth in participants’ compassion and mutual respect for each other,” said Criminology Professor Dr. Elizabeth McLin. “They learn that we have much more in common than we ever thought, recognizing our shared humanity. And, once that happens, all those assumptions we’ve held about each other cease to wield power over how we view others – and that change transcends the classroom.”


Over the next three years, VIU will assist with the startup of programs with other universities in the province. The funding also allows VIU and NCC to collaborate with a local non-profit on more employment training for NCC residents and supports for Inside-Out alumni as they continue their educational journeys.


“At VIU, success is determined by how wide we can open our doors to allow as many people as possible to access life-changing educational experiences,” said Dr. Deborah Saucier, VIU President and Vice-Chancellor. “This program has enabled inside students to see a different path forward for themselves. The program breaks down stereotypes, creating kinder, more compassionate human beings. This partnership with the Northpine Foundation will offer fresh perspectives and help create a deep connection to communities our students serve.”


“Over the past seven years during which the Inside-Out program has been offered at NCC, I have witnessed the participants grow in so many meaningful ways,” said Teri DuTemple, Warden at the Nanaimo Correctional Centre. “Both inside and outside students are allowing themselves to be vulnerable, to consider the perspectives of others, to show empathy, and in some cases develop a sense of passion for creating positive change to address social issues. I have been inspired at each graduation upon hearing the stories of the graduates as to how life-changing their participation in the course has been. I am incredibly proud of our partnership with VIU and look forward to many more years of Inside-Out graduations.”


The Northpine Foundation invests in innovative projects for underserved and underinvested communities in Canada. Through risk capital through a mix of grants, donations, loans, equity investments, or a hybrid of all these, they aim to catalyze scalable outcomes for these communities. Northpine will also provide expertise, networking and other non-financial supports to the Inside-Out program at VIU and the employment training at NCC.


“Incarcerated people have limited access to post-secondary education, and what’s available is often prohibitively expensive,” said Sara Tessier, Impact Manager for Formerly Incarcerated Persons at the Northpine Foundation. “Our investment in the Inside-Out program will help remove some of the barriers to gainful employment by opening access to career-focused education, reducing recidivism in the process. We hope this investment will prove the value of VIU’s model, boosting possibilities for scaling and expanding to serve communities across Canada.”

VIU accepts return of Honorary Doctorate

of Laws from Mary-Ellen Turpel-Lafond

Vancouver Island University has accepted the return of an Honorary Doctorate of Laws given to Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond in 2013.


Turpel-Lafond informed VIU of her decision to voluntarily return the honour after receiving correspondence from the university that it would be moving forward with a process regarding her honorary doctorate. VIU initiated this process following requests from members of the VIU community and calls from the Indigenous Women’s Collective to review Turpel-Lafond’s continued eligibility to hold VIU’s highest honour. As this matter is now concluded, VIU will not provide further comment on Turpel-Lafond’s specific case.


More broadly, VIU condemns Indigenous identity fraud and will continue the consultation process that is currently underway to develop and implement an Indigenous Identity Policy. VIU will also be reviewing its policy and procedure for nominating, awarding and rescinding honorary doctorates. 


“False claims of Indigenous ancestry cause harm to Indigenous peoples,” said Dr. Deborah Saucier, VIU President and Vice-chancellor. “This is why VIU’s future policy on Indigenous identity will honour the contributions of Indigenous students, faculty, staff and community leaders and will include safeguards to confirm Indigenous identity going forward.”


Dr. Kyle Duncan has an NSERC Discovery Grant of $125,000 over five years to pursue his research. VIU Photo

VIU Chemistry Professor gets grant to help develop new mass spectrometry imaging technology

23/01/04 – Vancouver Island University Chemistry Professor Dr. Kyle Duncan is developing mass spectrometry technology that could help discover new treatment options for cancer.


Dr. Duncan is building custom mass spectrometry imaging technology to help get a more accurate picture of metabolites in tissue. Metabolites are small molecules that control the metabolism of our cells. Changes in the presence or number of certain metabolites in specific regions of tissue can result in disorders or be a sign of serious and chronic diseases such as diabetes or cancer.


Current methods to examine tissue metabolites require cutting out specific regions for analysis by a mass spectrometer, but this means information from the adjacent cells is lost. Duncan’s method is to image metabolites directly in specific regions of tissue, which gives a more accurate and detailed picture. To apply this technology, he is currently collaborating with other members of MetaboBC to help understand how metabolites are distributed in healthy and cancerous tissue with the aim of discovering potential treatment options to disrupt cancer growth and progression.


Duncan received a Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) Discovery Grant of $125,000 over five years to pursue his research. He also received a Discovery Launch Supplement, a grant for early career researchers, of $12,500. 


“Our body’s metabolic processes are highly dynamic and can compensate or react to changing conditions at the molecular level, creating a moving puzzle with many intricate pieces,” said Duncan. “The fundamental research enabled by this grant allows me to pursue my passion – exploring this boundary between chemistry and biology.”


Duncan’s state-of-the-art technology provides images similar to those a camera produces. A camera has a combination of red, green and blue pixels to create the image. Instead of colours in each pixel, mass spectrometry image pixels provide a simultaneous snapshot of different metabolites in tissue, anywhere from one to thousands. This more detailed picture will allow scientists to determine if metabolites are higher in particular regions of tissue, and if so, why.