About the Instructor

About the Instructor


HI Everyone!

I am Ken Coates, the course instructor for Circumpolar Innovation.  Here is some background on me so you can better understand who I am and why I am offering this course.

Started in the North, Been Everywhere

I was raised in Whitehorse, Yukon, in the Canadian North and lived there until I had to leave to attend university (there were no academic options in the North at that time).  I completed my BA (History) at the University of British Columbia in 1978 and then attended the University of Manitoba, where I received my MA (History), completing a thesis on the Fur Trade in the Yukon.  I returned to UBC in 1979, completing a PhD on Native-Newcomer Relations in the Yukon.   Since receiving my PhD in 1984, I have worked at Brandon University (Manitoba), the University of Victoria (British Columbia), the University of Northern British Columbia, the University of Waikato (New Zealand), the University of New Brunswick at Saint John, the University of Saskatchewan and the University of Waterloo (Ontario).  During this time, I continued my work on northern history, regional development in the North, Indigenous rights and land claims and, most recently, significantly expanded my international reach through distinguished contributions to research projects on the development of the Circumpolar world, East Asia-Arctic relations and the internationalization of Indigenous rights. I was appointed as a Tier 1 Canada Research Chair in Regional Innovation in the Johnson-Shoyama Graduate School of Public Policy at the University of Saskatchewan as of 2012, and have since shifted my research to focus less on the past and more on the future related to innovation, skills training and entrepreneurship in non-metropolitan areas.

I have also done a fair bit of academic administration as well. In 1991, I was recruited to serve as the founding Vice-President (Academic) of the University of Northern British Columbia, an institution with strong commitments to northern and Aboriginal studies.  I subsequently held administrative posts at the University of Waikato (Department Head of History), the University of New Brunswick at Saint John (Dean of Arts), the University of Saskatchewan (Dean, Arts and Science, and Acting Provost and Vice-President Academic), and the University of Waterloo (Dean of Arts).  In the later post, I was heavily engaged in the digital media sector in Canada, leading the development of the University of Waterloo’s Stratford Campus and helping to set up the annual Canada 3.0 conference. Through an administrative career that spans more than two decades, I have had the pleasure and the honour to play a significant role in institutional development relating to northern, Indigenous and technological studies.


I have authored or co-authored 25 books—with two others currently forthcoming—and have edited or co-edited 12 other academic books. One of these won the Donner Prize for Public Policy in 2009 for Arctic Front: Defending Canada in the Far North, a book I co-authored with three colleagues. My 2000 book, The Marshall Decision and Aboriginal Rights in the Maritimes (McGill-Queen’s University Press) was also shortlisted for the Donner Prize in Public Policy. My historical work, I am honoured to say, has been recognized by historical societies in Manitoba, British Columbia and the Yukon.  I have also published more than 30 journals articles and 45 chapters in academic books, including a contribution on “Aboriginal Law (North America)” that appeared in the 2013 Oxford Handbook of the History of International Law—a book that won the American Society of International Law’s (ASIL) Certificate of Merit in 2014.

Current Work

As a CRC at the University of Saskatchewan’s Johnson-Shoyama Graduate School of Public Policy, I continue my work on issues related to Indigenous rights, Aboriginal land claims, Indigenous-newcomer relations, contemporary Aboriginal politics and Arctic sovereignty. I am a Senior Fellow of the Macdonald-Laurier Institute and co-director of the Aboriginal People and Natural Resources research and policy program—a three-year funded research initiative launched by the Assembly of First Nations with extensive private sector support.  In this capacity, I have produced substantial major reports on Indigenous participation in natural resource development; all of the reports have been covered extensively in the national media. In addition, I also serve as the Director, International Centre for Northern Governance and Development, University of Saskatchewan, strengthening Canadian ties with Scandinavia and leading the establishment of a Circumpolar Thematic Network on Northern Innovation within the University of the Arctic.

There is a substantial science and technology aspect to my work as well.  I have studied and written extensively about this topic for more than 15 years. To this end, I have served two terms as co-President of the Japan Studies Association (ending in 2013) and my research in this area has focused on scientific and technological innovation within that country. I have co-authored or edited several books on issues related to Japan’s innovation environment, including Japan and the Internet Revolution; Innovation Nation: Science and Technology in 21st Century Japan; and, most recently, Digital Media in East Asia: National Innovation and the Remaking of a Region. I just finished a book with my wife, Carin Holroyd, called The Global Digital Economy, which looks at one of the key elements of the innovation economy; it will be released in December 2014.

Active Academic

I am one of those academics who likes to work with the general media to share ideas and respond to public concerns.  I give public talks and media interviews and publish op-eds in some of Canada’s most influential newspapers and magazines. My work has appeared in such venues as The National Post, Globe and Mail, the Hill Times and The Walrus and addresses issues ranging from Arctic sovereignty, northern development, Research In Motion’s turbulent financial footing to the future of First Nations, equalization payments and university education in Canada. I also appear regularly as a commentator on radio and television programs, providing critical scholarly context to a diverse range of contemporary issues. I have also served as an expert witness for Aboriginal rights court cases in Western Canada and as a consultant for many organizations around the world, including the Governments of Canada and New Zealand, the United Nations (Human Rights) and Indigenous groups in Australia, British Columbia and the Yukon. In this work, I have maintained strong ties with northern and Indigenous communities and advise governments on Aboriginal and natural resource policies.

Bringing it All Online

As you can see, this course brings together two of my core interests and professional strengths:  the study of the Canadian North and of scientific and technological innovation. To make things easier, I have a 13 year old daughter at home who helps me with social media!!