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Student Learning Experience

Queen’s Law clinic ensuring prisoners’ rights are upheld

Since Paul Quick (Law’09) began working as a staff lawyer with the Queen’s Prison Law Clinic (QPLC) in October 2016, he’s been helping students gain more complex litigation experience. Those efforts in representing inmates are now paying off.

 Paul Quick, Law’09, Staff Lawyer with the Queen’s Prison Law Clinic
Paul Quick (Law’09) is a staff lawyer with the Queen’s Prison Law Clinic. (Photo by Nicole Clark)

The QPLC has a near perfect success rate in getting the Federal Court of Canada to quash decisions made by correctional decision-makers and adjudicators. 

“To achieve and maintain this track record, the clinic must be strategic in choosing the cases it pursues,” says Mr. Quick, who has submitted applications and appeared in court to present arguments along with previous QPLC director Sean Ellacott (Law’01).

Mr. Quick, Mr. Ellacott and new QPLC Director Kathy Ferreira (Law’01), have initially chosen to focus on applications for judicial review to Federal Court, where a record of evidence is already fully established and cases can be heard by the court within a few months. In pursuit of the clinic’s goal to advance prisoners’ rights test-case litigation, Mr. Quick says the judicial review process was a natural starting point for building its capacity and expertise.  

The QPLC’s litigation to date has focused on judicial reviews of Parole Board of Canada national policy and Institutional Disciplinary Court decision-making – both core to front-line services the clinic has always provided.   

Of the eight applications for reviews of Institutional Disciplinary Court decisions initiated by the QPLC, five matters were resolved successfully in the prisoner’s favour (with costs ordered to the clinic) without a hearing. The other three matters were heard by the Federal Court; two of these resulted in successful judgments and the third is now under appeal. 

However, the QPLC’s most significant litigation achievement over the past few months has been against the Parole Board of Canada in Dorsey v. Attorney General of Canada, a case challenging the lawfulness of the Parole Board’s national policy to stop conducting biennial parole reviews for persons serving indeterminate sentences. After receiving the clinic’s written arguments to the court, the Parole Board advised it did not intend to defend its policy in court, had changed its policy as sought by the clinic, and would start conducting such reviews in accordance with the law. 

“Our win in this case is significant, not only because parole is the only opportunity these prisoners have to regain their liberty, but also because the approach of a parole hearing is often the sole impetus for the Correctional Service of Canada to take steps to provide such prisoners with recommended programs and interventions,” Mr. Quick notes.

In the process leading up to the judicial review, QPLC students gain valuable experience conducting the initial hearing before the tribunal. This means students take part in setting the record eventually considered by the court and can see how their early strategic decisions, questions to witnesses, and arguments can end up playing an important role in the court’s assessment of the decision on review. During the judicial review process itself, students not only contribute by providing research support but also have the opportunity to observe the hearing in person (two of these Federal Court hearings have taken place at the law school).

“This opportunity to observe and participate in the full tip-to-tail experience of administrative law practice gives students a deeper and more impactful understanding of advocacy strategies and administrative law principles,” Mr. Quick says.

They’re going to be getting even more experience as the QPLC’s litigation practice continues to gain momentum. Looking ahead, the clinic plans to take on a wider variety of prisoners’ rights issues and to place a greater emphasis on human rights and constitutional issues and remedies. Additionally, the clinic aims to increase its collaboration with Queen’s faculty members who have expertise in prison law and public/administrative law matters.

“It is our goal this year to be in a position to apply to intervene as a friend of the court in appellate-level and Supreme Court-level prisoners’ rights cases on relatively short notice,” Mr. Quick says.

Clinic students will be helping to lay the groundwork for these projects through research into key substantive and procedural issues and development of precedent materials. To get started, all current QPLC students have been assigned “initiative files” related to potential litigation to be pursued throughout the winter term under the supervision of Ferreira and Quick.
“We recognize that successful litigation for prisoners’ rights in the long-term requires a front-loading of effort to strategically develop strong evidentiary records at the earliest stage,” Mr. Quick says. “Such carefully structured evidentiary records are required to create real opportunities for bringing precedent-setting judicial review and Charter applications to address systemic injustices in the prison system.

“Many injustices in Canada’s prison system are seen as intractable, and few prisoners have the resources to effectively hold correctional authorities accountable,” he adds. “In expanding the front-line work of the Prison Law Clinic into strategic test-case litigation, we plan to address such systemic problems head-on, and to give students the opportunity to make real change while upholding the rights of some of our society’s most vulnerable members.”

More information about all the Queen’s law clinics is available on the Faculty of Law’s website.

QICSI opens up to the community

The annual Summer Initiative entrepreneurship bootcamp is now allowing non-student ventures the opportunity to be mentored by Queen’s.

New ventures seeking support in Kingston have a new resource available to help them get their businesses launched. The annual Queen’s Innovation Centre Summer Initiative (QICSI) program is being expanded, with a new stream being added to welcome community ventures to the program.

An entrepreneur looks at a board full of possibilities.
An entrepreneur looks at a board full of possibilities. (Supplied Photo)

Traditionally, QICSI supports only Queen’s students through its summer bootcamp by linking them with seed funding, a stipend, and intensive training and mentorship to further their venture. This year, QICSI will also open up new spots for community ventures who will also receive funding and support to help their business.

Community ventures participating in QICSI 2018:

Focus Forward for Indigenous Youth: Collaborates with Indigenous communities across Canada, empowering youth through locally developed trades-based education to strengthen Individuals’ and communities’ futures.
AquaSwift: A water analytics company focused on providing water organizations and rural homeowners an effective way to track and monitor their water levels. 
Firefi Loyalty: A lower cost alternative to expensive loyalty programs that actually rewards you for spending money at the places you love.
CTRLGate: A security startup that focuses on community management software for gated communities, tracking each visitor and service worker entering and exiting a community while providing reporting tools in the event of an incident. 
Illumirnate: A portable environmental solution to current medical systems that provide oxygen. 
PhysioNow: A mobile interactive application for the treatment of back pain as an alternative to in-clinic physiotherapy to address the disparities that exist among chronic pain patients and empower these patients.

“This is the natural evolution for us – taking the QICSI model and expanding it out to include the community,” says Greg Bavington (Sc’85), Executive Director of the Dunin-Deshpande Queen’s Innovation Centre (DDQIC). “Queen’s is a key driver in Kingston’s innovation ecosystem, and using what we have to help more ventures succeed is another way we are demonstrating our leadership and expertise.”

In addition to the Queen’s student teams who join the bootcamp, six local ventures qualified for a place in QICSI 2018 after their strong performance in the Fall Pitch Competition. Next, these companies will interview with the DDQIC before a final decision is made. One of the competitors includes Focus Forward for Indigenous Youth – a not-for-profit which previously received funding from the DDQIC.

In addition to expanding the bootcamp, the DDQIC is supporting a number of community ventures and Queen’s student ventures who are simply seeking funding. Recently, the centre gave $30,000 to five local ventures who applied for support through the Fall Regional Pitch Competition. The companies funded include startups like Savori, Lukabox, and Spectrum Academy, and QICSI alumni Monetta Technologies and Lowegistics Agrictulture.

“The new funding allows us to expand our alpha test and hire a software development intern over the 2018 summer,” says Thiago De Oliveira (Sci’17), one of the original co-founders of Monetta. “We are scheduled to release the second prototype sometime in the next three months and have sent an early version out to the 64 alpha teams that have signed up before the end of the year.”

Similar to the Fall Pitch Competition, the DDQIC will also be hosting a Winter Pitch Competition where funding will be available to local ventures seeking support.

The 2018 QICSI bootcamp will begin in May. For more information on QICSI and Winter Pitch Competition timelines, visit queensu.ca/innovationcentre

Want to learn more about QICSI? Watch this short video:

A home for innovation

The Innovation and Wellness Centre will provide innovators and entrepreneurs on campus with something they have been lacking. 

When helping student entrepreneurs get their start, one common piece of advice is to start small and lean. Once you have proven the model for your new business, then you can take on liabilities like leasing your own office space. 

Innovation leaders at Queen’s have practiced what they preached, and are now getting ready to reap the rewards when the Innovation and Wellness Centre (IWC) opens its doors next fall. 

The Innovation Hub will feature an event space for programming and student-led conferences.
The Innovation Hub will feature an event space for programming and student-led conferences. (Rendering)

“The IWC will bring our innovation resources on campus out of the bootstrapping phase,” says Benoit-Antoine Bacon, Provost and Vice-Principal (Academic). “The facility will provide a focal point for innovation and entrepreneurship activities at Queen’s, and forge important cross-campus connections across our programs.” 

Located within the IWC, the Innovation Hub will unite some existing resources and programs and add a few new ones. It will include an event space, touch down tables for easy collaboration, and a maker space – a well-equipped work space where student entrepreneurs can create, experiment, and refine their ideas. Students helped shape the final design of the Hub. 

“We work with 2,000 students a year, and I expect that number will double in the next couple of years,” says Greg Bavington (Sc’85), Executive Director, Dunin-Deshpande Queen’s Innovation Centre (DDQIC). “The Innovation Hub will play a key role in supporting existing demand and future growth for innovation on campus.” 

Once it opens, the DDQIC is planning to expand its programming, with a focus on social enterprise – creating more organizations with a mission to both make money and do social good.  

Most importantly, the IWC will give the DDQIC the one thing they have been lacking: common space. 

“We toured other schools when making decisions on what needed to be in our Innovation Hub, and we found that Queen’s did a pretty good job at supporting innovation on campus,” says Mr. Bavington. “The final box we had to tick was to gather it all under one roof, allowing students to scale their business in a straightforward way without leaving campus.” 

The belief is that having everything located side-by-side will not only boost collaboration, it will also increase the visibility of innovation resources and programs. For example, students led 13 conferences and events linked to innovation this year and it was a challenge for each group to find space.  

“Locating the Innovation Hub within a multi-function building like the IWC is a strategic choice – one which is meant to show that everyone is welcome,” he says. “It can take many different people and different skillsets to make a successful business. We’re hoping to bend and weld the academic disciplines to get the sparks flying.” 

The Innovation Hub will not merely connect students to resources on campus – it is expected to build the links between the campus, Innovation Park, and the community. While the Hub will focus on current students, Innovation Park offers a “long runway” as students graduate and look to grow their businesses. Likewise, the Hub will complement what Innovation Park does in supporting community entrepreneurs in southeastern Ontario. 

The creation of the IWC was made possible through $55 million in philanthropic support, including $40 million to revitalize the facility. In addition, the federal and Ontario governments contributed a combined total of nearly $22 million to this facility. 

To learn more about the Innovation and Wellness Centre, visit queensu.ca/connect/innovationandwellness.

Creating open course materials

The Open and Affordable Course Materials Working Group at Queen’s has selected a number of proposals to develop and review open course materials for Queen’s courses.

The working group received great response to its call for proposals from interested faculty, both to review existing open textbooks and to author open text books.

The group selected three proposals to create an open textbook for an upcoming course/program at Queen's, with cross campus support:  

  • Peter MacPherson, Department of Pediatrics, Faculty of Health Sciences, developing The QPeds Pediatrics Textbook: An Open Textbook for Undergraduate Medical Students which could serve as the primary reference for MEDS 122 (Pediatrics and Genetics) and MEDS 444 (Pediatrics Clerkship). It would also contain content relevant to seven additional first- and second-year medical courses.
  • Ryan Martin, Physics, Engineering Physics and Astronomy, developing a new open access textbook for introductory physics, to be used in PHYS 104 and 106 (Fundamental Physics and General Physics).
  • Meghan E. Norris, Psychology, developing a textbook for PSYC204 (Applications and Careers in the Psychological Sciences).

Successful grant recipients are working with the Open and Affordable Course Materials Working Group to develop timelines, deliverables and assessment plans. Once created, these works will be shared with an appropriate open license so that others can easily adopt and use them in their courses.

The successful proposals to review an existing openly licensed, high-quality, peer-reviewed textbook are:

  • Ugurhan Berkok, Economics, reviewing Principles of Microeconomics: Saylor, by Rittenberg and Tregarthen and Principles of Microeconomics: OpenStax, by Taylor for ECON111 F (Introductory Microeconomics).
  • George Boland, Business, reviewing Intermediate Financial Accounting (Volume 1), Arnold et al and Intermediate Financial Accounting (Volume 2), Arnold et al for COMM313 F (Financial Accounting II).
  • Nancy Salay, Philosophy, reviewing forall x: An Introduction to Formal Logic, by Magnus for PHIL361 F (Introduction to Logic).

Additionally, Sidneyeve Matrix, Dan School of Drama and Music, is working with funding from eCampusOntario to adapt three existing open resources on design thinking into a single new open text suitable for her high-enrolment (700 seat) first-year post-secondary course in design thinking.

This initiative builds on a growing conversation on campus about supporting open education resources for our students.

“It is wonderful to see the faculty interest in using and producing textbooks and other course materials at no cost to students,” says Victoria Lewarne, AMS Academic Affairs Commissioner and member of the working group. “These projects come from a variety of disciplines, and this spectrum should enable our group to glean a solid understanding of requirements and needs.”

The OACM working group will also be offering a session for all faculty and students – Building and integrating open educational resources to support your teaching and learning. This practical workshop will:

  • Explore how to find and integrate openly licensed educational resources into your teaching and assignments
  • Provide an overview of available platforms to publish and share your OERs.

The workshop is scheduled for Tuesday, Feb. 13, 10-11 am in Stauffer Library, Seminar Room (121). Further information will follow. For any questions, contact open.education@queensu.ca.

Stephanie Simpson named next equity and human rights head

The current Director of the Queen's Human Rights Office will assume leadership of both the Equity and Human Rights Offices in February.

Stephanie Simpson (Artsci’95, Ed’97, MEd’11) has been named the Executive Director (Human Rights and Equity Offices) and University Advisor on Equity and Human Rights effective Feb. 1.

Stephanie Simpson (Artsci’95, Ed’97, MEd’11). (University Communications)
Stephanie Simpson (Artsci’95, Ed’97, MEd’11). (University Communications)

“Stephanie has been a leader on equity, diversity, and inclusivity at Queen’s for many years, and her appointment reflects the important role she plays in the Queen’s community,” says Teri Shearer, Deputy Provost (Academic Operations and Inclusion). “She brings deep knowledge, experience, and commitment to this new position, and her appointment will be a significant gain for the cause of creating a more welcoming Queen’s.”

In this role, Ms. Simpson will lead the Equity and Human Rights Offices and will continue to play a key role in fostering both competence and legislative compliance around matters such as inclusivity, diversity, accessibility, human rights, and equity on campus.

“I have always had a passion for issues of social justice and I have committed to strengthening my knowledge and skillset in order to bring my best to this work,” says Ms. Simpson. “There is a sense of renewed energy and purpose on campus in relation to equity right now. I’m very much looking forward to the role the Equity and Human Rights Offices will play in supporting the vision for inclusion clearly articulated in our formal reports, and by community members.”

She will also provide guidance to senior administration, governance bodies, and units on achieving equity within the institution’s strategic priorities. As a member of the Office of the Provost team, Ms. Simpson will work in concert with the Deputy Provost (Academic Operations and Inclusion) in developing initiatives that support the creation of a welcoming campus in collaboration with equity-seeking communities. 

Ms. Simpson has been a member of the Human Rights Office since 1996, starting in the portfolios of anti-racism advisor and education coordinator and increasing in responsibility since. She was most recently the office’s director.

“I want to acknowledge the contributions of Equity Office staff, Human Rights Office staff, and community members I’ve been fortunate to work with over so many years,” she says. “The accomplishment of which I feel we can be most proud is an approach to institutional change work that is respectful and appreciative while also being challenging. Being viewed by community members and colleagues as a trusted resource is our first priority, so we know when we’ve achieved this we have done our job well.”

Ms. Simpson has also supported inclusivity and equity efforts in the Kingston community through her roles with the Black Inmates and Friends group; her consultation and education services efforts with organizations such as Interval House, Limestone District School Board and Kingston General Hospital; and her role on the Kingston Immigration Partnership Operations Committee where she represents Queen’s.

Stepping up mental health care through new model

Counselling Services introduces new workshops and expands support groups for students.

University life can be stressful for many students. And at Queen’s, there is no need for any student to struggle with stress or anxiety alone. That’s why Counselling Services has created new initiatives that aim to gather students who are concerned about their mental wellness together so they can help support and learn from each other. 

Students walking around campus after a snow storm. (University Relations)
Students walking around campus after a snow storm. (University Relations)

“In the fall term, we launched a number of workshops and formed several support groups as we move towards a stepped care model,” says Rina Gupta, Director of Counselling Services. “This approach allows us to reach students more quickly, support more students at once, and provide alternate methods of care.” 

A similar set of programs will be offered this winter.  

The workshops this semester include ‘The Upside of Stress’, ‘Positive Psychology’, a two-part series on sleep, a session on perfectionism, another on managing panic attacks, and a session aimed at helping those who have friends who have been through traumatic and difficult events.  

The workshops are led by counsellors, and are intended for those who are seeking specific information on the topics presented. They are designed to be interactive such that students will have opportunities to ask questions specific to themselves or a friend.  

The support groups have been quite popular, and include two varieties – drop-in, which anyone can attend, and therapy groups which require a specific referral.  

The drop-in groups tackle topics such as stress management, and mindfulness practice. The therapy groups, which range from ten to twelve participants, feature a set curriculum. They are aimed at students who are looking to build skills in managing powerful emotions, navigating interpersonal relationships, and want to successfully manage anxiety issues. There is also an ongoing group specific to survivors of sexual violence.  

“There are situations in which working one-on-one with a counsellor will be most effective for a student,” says Dr. Gupta. “But alternate delivery methods for care can actually be the best option for others, depending on the circumstances. By offering these groups and workshops, we aim to best meet the needs of all students seeking support, and we hope to increase capacity and reduce wait times at Counselling Services.”  

Counselling is incorporating a few other changes to expand their offerings and better serve students. They have just added two new positions – a drop-in crisis counsellor, and a second equity and diversity counsellor.  

The crisis counsellor will allow for quick access to a professional for students in their highest time of need. This counsellor has specific experience and training in providing this service, and will be seeing students on a walk-in basis, no appointment needed. 

The equity and diversity counsellor, meanwhile, has specific training and experience to help students who are facing challenges related to cultural factors, or issues related to money, sexual identity, or disability.  

To learn more about Student Wellness resources including Counselling Services, visit queensu.ca/studentwellness 

New director settles in at Queen’s Prison Law Clinic

Sixteen years ago, Kathy Ferreira (Law’01) won the course prize as the top student in Clinical Correctional Law at Queen’s. After graduation, she clerked at the Superior Court Central West, developed prison law research materials at Ontario’s Legal Aid Research Facility (now LAO Law), and then returned to Queen’s Correctional Law Project as a staff lawyer in 2003. In November, Ferreira was appointed director of the project, now known as the Queen’s Prison Law Clinic (QPLC). 

Kathy Ferreira
Kathy Ferreira (Law’01) was appointed to the position of director of the Queen’s Prison Law Clinic in November. (Photo by Nicole Clark)

“Kathy set a standard of excellence in her work instructing and supervising students and representing clients in parole hearings and in disciplinary court,” says Karla McGrath (LLM’13) Executive Director of the Queen’s Law Clinics. “The Prison Law Clinic, its students and clients will all be well-served under Kathy’s leadership.” 

The clinic that Ms. Ferreira now oversees is unique to Queen’s, enabling students to assist prisoners in one of six institutions with numerous legal issues for academic credit or in a paid summer position.

When and how did you develop your interest in prison law? 

I first developed an interest in prison law as a student in the Correctional Law Project. I took the Clinical Correctional Law course in 2000-01 to gain practical legal experience, including development of advocacy skills and an understanding of the solicitor-client relationship. Although it was demanding, I very much enjoyed working with the vulnerable client group and advocating for their rights against the Correctional Service and to the Parole Board of Canada. It was my best law school memory, and I have heard that same thought many times since from students who have been involved in the clinic.

What do you enjoy most about working in the Queen’s Prison Law Clinic?

The clients. There is no other area of law I would prefer to do or can even imagine practising. Helping them succeed in small and significant ways is incredibly satisfying. They value the clinic, and our students especially, and I want to ensure we always strive to justify that confidence.

What are the biggest changes in prison law and the QPLC since you started as a staff lawyer in 2003? 

Significant changes in prison law include a very negative anti-prisoner conservative wave of legislative changes that included removal of early parole opportunities for non-violent first-time federal offenders, and a more recent positive liberal swing that has included more progressive Parole Board of Canada decisions favouring release in appropriate cases. Segregation remains a concern and although the government has recently committed to reducing segregation, this is an area where prisoners’ advocates must remain vigilant. The Correctional Service always prioritizes administrative concerns over prisoner rights. Significant changes in the clinic include funding for an articling student, inclusion and focus on litigation, and an overall expansion of the range of services we provide. We remain committed to a valuable student learning experience.

What are you doing in your role as QPLC director?

In my teaching role, I instruct the Prison Law Clinic course and look forward to developing a detailed syllabus for the 2018-19 year. I meet regularly with student caseworkers and supervise their work, as well as work by Pro Bono students assisting the clinic. Also, I oversee the development and implementation of our litigation strategy. For clients, I provide timely summary advice over the telephone and attend the institutions to speak to prisoners at the request of the Correctional Service or other inmate groups. I value the opportunity to talk with prisoners directly about their prison concerns and address parole questions, and do this as a regular guest speaker for John Howard Society Pre-Release groups. In my administrative capacity, I manage the QPLC’s employees, serve as the point person for all clinic inquiries, and report to the law school, our funder Legal Aid Ontario and our corporation board. I also explore making connections with and providing assistance to other groups doing related work, for example, groups assisting families of incarcerated persons.

What are your plans for the clinic?

We have a really solid group with our incredibly capable administrative assistant, our lawyers and students. We continue to work closely with our co-located Queen’s Law Clinics. I look forward to continuing our core mandate of assistance at prison Disciplinary Court, Parole Board of Canada hearings and grievances/human rights complaints against the Correctional Service to help ensure prisoner rights and procedural fairness. Clients expect assistance in these areas (Legal Aid Certificates are rarely issued for Disciplinary Court so the QPLC’s assistance fills an essential service area) and they are essential to experiential learning, permitting student advocacy opportunities and development of the solicitor-client relationship. The clinic is expanding services at consent and capacity hearings for prisoners with mental health issues. The QPLC has been very successful establishing positive legal precedents for our clients and we are working on a test-case litigation strategy together with Legal Aid Ontario.

This article was first published in Queen’s Law Reports.

New support for Indigenous students near and far

Four Directions Aboriginal Student Centre has hired a new Cultural Counsellor/Elder-in-Residence, while the Faculty of Education has also added an Elder-in-Residence.

Two new staff members hired this fall are already having a significant positive impact on the Queen’s community, particularly for Indigenous students.

Vernon Altiman (University Relations)
Mishiikenh (Vernon Altiman) can be found at Four Directions Aboriginal Student Centre. (University Communications)

Mishiikenh (Vernon Altiman) joined Four Directions Aboriginal Student Centre in Oct. as an Elder-in-Residence and Cultural Counsellor, a new role which sees him meeting with students and supporting Indigenous cultural ceremonies. His hiring diversifies the voices at Four Directions, as he is the only Anishinaabe man working in the centre.

Mr. Altiman’s career has been focused on traditional healing practices, specifically in mental health. He was summoned by the Elders to complete a Master’s of Indigenous Knowledge and Philosophy Program through Seven Generations Education Institute in Fort Frances, Ontario. The institute is connected to the World Indigenous Higher Education Consortium (WINHEC), and is affiliated with Queen’s.

Mr. Altiman moved back to Kingston last year to work with the federal penitentiaries, and while in town he became involved in the local Indigenous community through Four Directions.

He began helping the centre with its Ojibway language programming and, through the connections he made at Four Directions, Mr. Altiman heard that Queen’s was seeking an Ojibway language teacher.

“It was an opportunity of a lifetime,” he says. “I never dreamed that I would be asked to do it.”

A few months later, Mr. Altiman also took on the Elder and Cultural Counsellor roles with Four Directions. He says there are some similarities in providing guidance to students and his past work.

“The difference is that the students are willing and seeking the knowledge,” he says. “There are different objectives, different teachings that are used…and it is open and free.”

Since joining Four Directions, Mr. Altiman has had the opportunity to present to medical and education students, and help organize Indigenous ceremonies on campus including smudging. Annually, he participates in ceremonies such as the Sun Dance, which involves four days without food or water and a trial of physical endurance.

“It’s not just feathers and beads…it is research. It is hard work, commitment, and sacrifice,” he says. “I pick up a lot of baggage that I have to dispose of, so that’s why I am committed to these traditional annual practices.”

Bezhig Waabshke Ma’iingan Gewetiigaabo (Deborah St Amant). (Supplied Photo)
Bezhig Waabshke Ma’iingan Gewetiigaabo (Deborah St Amant) has an office in Duncan McArthur Hall, and she also connects to students through video conferencing. (Supplied Photo)

Meanwhile, in the Faculty of Education, Bezhig Waabshke Ma’iingan Gewetiigaabo (Deborah St Amant) is applying new technologies to Indigenous traditions. Ms. St Amant (Ed’82) describes the largest part of her role as a ‘Cyber Elder’, where she virtually connects with students in the Master of Education in Aboriginal and World Indigenous Educational Studies (AWIES) and the faculty’s doctorate programs.

“When the AWIES students get together in the summer, they really like that sense of community,” Ms. St Amant says. “When they leave Kingston – headed to Whitehorse, to Moosonee, and every other part of Canada – they lose that connection to their student learning community. The relationship is so important in any Indigenous culture…it’s all about the relationship and being able to see the person.”

To help foster those relationships with the students, she holds regular video calls – and, starting in January, she hopes to start a virtual ‘talking circle’ with the entire group simultaneously connected to the same video call. Ms. St Amant is also on-campus twice a month specifically to support students in the Aboriginal Teachers Education Program (ATEP) or other faculty, staff, and students seeking an Elder.

She says Indigenous students face a number of barriers in the education system, and it can be helpful to have an Elder who can counsel them and vouch for them.

“A lot of the discussions I have are about the challenges of doing this work online as an Indigenous person; about social, familial, and funding barriers; barriers within the education system and cultural misunderstandings; and the intergenerational trauma that was caused by the residential school system,” she says. “Those who have not experienced some of these hurdles cannot understand their impact, but I am able to help them clear these hurdles.”

Ms. St Amant, who possesses both Métis and Ojibway heritage, worked as a teacher for three decades before retiring in 2012 – skills which have served her well as Elder-in-Residence in an academic environment. Since starting in her part-time role in October, there has been significant demand for her time.

“This is an important role, and it’s a great step for the faculty. I something like this was available when I was a student.”

The Elder-in-Residence position within the Faculty of Education was established with the support of Oriel MacLennan in memory of her mother, Edwina Diaper (MEd’82), who was a teacher in the Kingston community for many years. Learn more about this position on the Faculty of Education’s website.

Building momentum

The Gazette speaks to Teri Shearer about how she is advancing diversity and inclusivity efforts on campus.

In spring of 2017, Teri Shearer’s role as Deputy Provost (Academic Operations and Inclusion) was expanded to take on leadership for diversity and inclusivity. In this interview, the Gazette speaks with Dr. Shearer about the importance of diversity and her work since the spring.

Teri Shearer, Deputy Provost. (University Communications)
Teri Shearer, Deputy Provost (Academic Operations and Inclusion). (University Communications)


Why are diversity and inclusivity important to Queen’s, and why should these matter to staff, faculty, students, and alumni?

It’s about excellence in our research, teaching, learning, and overall experience.

We’re all justifiably very proud of the student experience that is kind of a defining feature of Queen’s. If we do not make the student experience inclusive of the diversity of all our students, we’ll lose that strength that Queen’s has historically had.

The world is globalized. If we don’t reflect the diversity of the Canadian workforce and population, we simply won’t be able to maintain excellence. Research study after research study proves that diverse groups of individuals make better decisions. In our context, being a more diverse university means better pedagogy and more creativity in scholarship.


What have been some of your first priorities and actions in your expanded role?

The university has commissioned two strong reports to help us build a more inclusive campus, including the Principal’s Implementation Committee on Racism, Diversity, and Inclusion (PICRDI) report and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Task Force final report. We are taking both reports seriously.

It was important that we move quickly once the reports were released this spring. I spent the summer planning, preparing, and listening so we could be ready to hit the ground running this fall.

My first priority was to hire our inaugural Director of Indigenous Initiatives, and I am looking forward to continuing to work with Kanonhsyonne (Janice Hill) in this new role.

Another priority was to establish the inaugural University Council on Anti-Racism and Equity (UCARE). This group will help inform the overall vision and strategy for the university, and in particular will help ensure we continue to make progress on these important goals while building a two-way dialogue with equity-seeking groups on our campus.

At the same time, I have started working with the Equity Office and Human Rights Office to ensure, when we are hiring new staff members, that we are building employment equity into the process. We are also rolling out equity training for all employees in the coming years, starting with senior administrators this year.

“Things are being done at a departmental level, an individual level, a Faculty and School level, at a central level, and in the shared services…if we keep this momentum going, we will make a real difference. -Dr. Teri Shearer


Could you tell us more about those employment equity practices?

Not only is it is essential that we increase the diversity of our students, but we also need to diversify our staff and faculty. We have defined what we need to do to and have started to act on it.

For instance, diversity is one of the criteria we are using as part of our faculty renewal efforts. When I look at the faculty we have hired recently, there is a high percentage of faculty who identify as a visible minority – much higher than the percentage within the general Canadian workforce.

We have also implemented a new partnership with a national job broadcast service called Equitek. This company works with community organizations across the country who serve underrepresented groups. So, through Equitek, our job postings will be visible to a much more diverse job-seeking population.

We will also be providing additional training to hiring committee members, including some special training to employee equity representatives who will sit on our hiring committees. So we are making progress.


What are some other goals in the year ahead?

The university has made good progress on a number of the recommendations of the PICRDI report. I am working on some of the yet-to-be-completed recommendations to see how we can make them a reality. There is still plenty of work to do, and I am continually re-evaluating our progress and seeking ways we can improve.

On the student recruitment and retention side, I am chairing a working group to review Undergraduate Orientation and ensure it is a welcoming and inclusive experience for all students. Over the next few months, we want to hear from all members of our community about how we can enhance orientation at Queen’s.

Additionally, I am working with Advancement to secure additional financial support for Indigenous and racialized students. We look forward to making a significant announcement about this in the near future.

And now that UCARE is established, I will be working with that council to assist me in generating ideas and prioritizing the PICRDI recommendations.

I am also meeting regularly with student groups and others with ideas about how to foster inclusivity at Queen’s. It is critical that we keep the communications channels open.

I am also supporting the efforts of the Vice-Principal (Teaching and Learning) to incorporate course content that includes Indigenous content and reflects a diversity of Indigenous backgrounds and perspectives. A job was posted recently for an Educational Developer centred on Indigenous Curriculum.

As a personal goal, I aim to complete the Equity Office’s “Diversity to Inclusion” certificate for my own improvement.

All of this work will contribute to our big picture goal of creating a safe and inclusive living and learning environment.


What have been some of the biggest surprises over the past few months?

What surprised me the most is the commitment across the university to make change in terms of how we relate to Indigenous communities, in creating and furthering diversity in the Queen’s community, and in addressing systemic racism and implicit bias. I have been here for 21 years and I have never seen anything like this.

I am in a position where I get to see the change because people come and tell me what they’re doing. Things are being done at a departmental level, at an individual level, at a faculty and school level, at a central level, and in the shared services…if we keep this momentum going, we will make a real difference.

IWC construction site to be closed in

Keeping the snow out means more work can be done on the inside of the Innovation and Wellness Centre building.

While the Queen’s community gets into the holiday spirit by hanging festive decorations, the Innovation and Wellness Centre (IWC) construction crews are getting ready to hang the last panes of glass on the north side of the building.

Once the glass is in place the entire building will be closed in, keeping the snow out and allowing contractors to complete more interior work.

The Innovation and Wellness Centre at night. (Supplied Photo)
The snow is flying, and so are the glass panels as they are expertly hoisted into place by construction crews working on the IWC. (Supplied Photo)

“With the recent work completed on the roof and exterior of the IWC, we are on track to keep our New Years’ resolution of having the building enclosed by the end of 2017,” says Bob Polegato, Project Manager with Physical Plant Services. “While the Queen’s community is tucking into holiday dinners and unwrapping presents, our crews will be unboxing supplies to continue the work indoors from Dec 27 to 29.”

Once the site is weathertight, it will be heated to help construction move to the next phase. Some exterior sections, like the north staircase, won’t be completed until spring, however.

The IWC is scheduled to open Fall 2018. The creation of the IWC was made possible through $55 million in philanthropic support. In addition, the federal and Ontario governments contributed a combined total of nearly $22 million.


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