MIRI Researchers

Dr. Chelsea Gabel

Canada Research Chair, Indigenous Well-Being, Community-Engagement & Innovation, Associate Professor
Department of Health, Aging and Society
Indigenous Studies Program

Dr. Gabel is Red River Métis from Rivers, Manitoba. As a Tier 2 Canada Research Chair in Indigenous Well-Being, Community- Engagement and Innovation, Dr. Gabel is leading a SSHRC funded digital storytelling intervention that pairs Métis elders, adults and youth together to document their connections to their identity and its impact on health and well-being. Dr. Gabel completed a first of its kind report that examines Indigenous healthcare in rural Manitoba. She also founded the First Nations Digital Democracy Project – the only project in the world to examine Indigenous experiences with technology and online voting. She led a report that is changing Indian Act legislation to allow for alternative voting methods. Dr. Gabel a research affiliate with the Rupertsland Centre for Métis Research housed in the Faculty of Native Studies at the University of Alberta. Most recently, Dr. Gabel was commissioned by the Chief Science Advisor of Canada (CSA) multidisciplinary science expert panel to advise the CSA on the latest scientific developments relevant to COVID-19, specifically the use of digital vaccine passports in Canada. This invitation resulted in a major report providing current, cross-disciplinary and independent advice to the Prime Minister. For the last five years, Dr. Gabel has been an active member of the Canadian Institutes for Health Research (CIHR) Standing Committee on Ethics (SCE), a committee that provides Governing Council high-level strategic advice on the ethical, legal and socio-cultural dimensions of CIHR’s mandate. She was recently appointed as the Vice-Chair of the SCE for a three-year term.


Métis are largely underrepresented in the mainstream Indigenous health and well-being research literature. Dr. Gabel and a team of Métis scholars and students are currently exploring the ways in which Métis elders, adults and youth living in the prairie provinces of Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta understand their identity and the nature of contact and communication between these three generations through a recently awarded SSHRC Insight Grant entitled “We Know Who We Are”: Intergenerational Understandings of Métis identity and Well-Being Using Digital Storytelling”. The field of Métis studies has focused on Métis issues primarily undertaken by historians, ethno-historians, and political scientists examining issues relating to what ‘Métis’ means and who the Métis people are and most recently, who the Métis people are not. Thus, there is a strong need for research in Métis communities from a Métis perspective. Partnering with the Métis Nations within the prairies provinces, this project uses a Community-Engaged Research approach and the digital storytelling methodology to 1) gain insight into the ways in which Métis elders, adults and youth describe, understand, and express their identity, identifying the common elements that connect Métis generations through time and space; 2) examine the relational aspects that help or hinder Métis elder-adult-youth interaction and how these relationships relate to their overall health and well-being; and 3) bring three generations together in a safe space to document and share cultural knowledge and traditions and plan future occasions in which they might interact in meaningful ways. Little is known about how different Métis generations perceive one another and their respective roles and identities in a contemporary context. This project addresses this gap in knowledge by engaging with elders, adults and youth to discuss their experiences and address barriers and enablers that influence their ability to communicate, understand and engage with each other.

Most recently, Dr. Gabel was commissioned by the Native Women’s Association of Canada to lead community engagement sessions – “Conversations of Cannabis: Métis Community Engagement Sessions” with Métis women and girls to talk about cannabis use and its impact on health and well-being. Dr. Gabel produced a major report which helped support the development of culturally safe and gender-based cannabis education and awareness resources for Indigenous women, girls, and gender diverse people.

Dr. Gabel is also continuing her work on Indigenous experiences with digital technology. Dr. Gabel received a McMaster COVID-19 Research Grant to (1) support communities in digital literacy initiatives; and (2) support community partners through the facilitation of digital dialogues by leveraging technology to connect community members for virtual meetings, general assemblies, youth and elder events and other important events. Community leaders need to ensure that Indigenous voices are heard, communities stay connected and traditional values are upheld in these extraordinary times.

Finally, Dr. Gabel is a co-author of the forthcoming second edition of Indigenous Statistics A Quantitative Research Methodology.

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