March 5, 2020
Veteran, educator and ethnographer Dr. Colin McCaffrey, who recently passed away at age 92, had an enduring love of learning inspired in him by his mother. His passion for learning, education, and Indigenous community development took him across the globe throughout his life.
Shortly after serving in the Second World War, Colin qualified as a teacher in Britain. He emigrated to Canada in the 1950s and taught in several northern communities. There he found Indigenous youth disengaged with formal school learning — with many also cut off from their traditional culture. Social and cultural change in the area had brought challenges to traditional knowledge and economic systems — with Indigenous youth displaced in cities with hunting skills that weren’t translating into this changing environment.
Colin launched prospecting classes on the tundra, and his students found new ways to use their travelling and survival skills to gain employment while still validating traditional knowledge. In this way, he was able to reignite a love of learning in these communities and increase student involvement.
Dr. McCaffrey earned a Master of Education from UBC in 1963 and went on to doctoral research in 1967 with the Kekchi Maya in Belize. He studied in a remote village, focusing on ethnographic research and perspectives in community development. His engagement with the local villagers helped to secure government funds to finish the last 10 miles of the main road in their city. The lasting impact of this road has enabled transportation and communication over the decades.
Colin contributed annually to the Dean of Education Scholarship since 1994 and, through his estate, he established the Rose Hinselwood McCaffrey Indigenous Education Bursary and the James McCaffrey Enhancement Fund for Indigenous Education to honour his mother and father. He defined his life by inspiring a love of learning everywhere he went — and now, with his newly-established funds, his inspiration lives on within the next generation of innovative educators.