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Research Prominence

Indigenous community research partnerships can help address health inequities

Many researchers may lack resources to guide them in conducting research that is equitable, inclusive and respectful of diverse Indigenous knowledge, ethics, practice and research sovereignty.

By Janet Jull, Queen's University; Alexandra King; Angela Mashford-Pringle, University of Toronto; Cheyanne Desnomie, University of Regina; Darrel Manitowabi, Laurentian University; Jennifer Walker, Laurentian University; Lindsay Brant, Queen's University; Malcolm King, Simon Fraser University; Melody E. Morton Ninomiya, Wilfrid Laurier University; Moses Gordon, University of Regina, and Priscilla Ferrazzi, University of Alberta

Gathering on the land: Indigenous ways of knowing can ensure that communities reclaim and promote health and healing. (Melody Morton-Ninomiya), Author provided

Building equitable research partnerships is a strong starting point for self-determination of Indigenous communities. Research is critical to inform policies that advance reconciliation and support Indigenous sovereignty.

The Conversation LogoSociety relies on research to develop and contribute knowledge that can be translated into improved health and wellness. Research can also help identify, understand and address health inequities, that is, differences in health that are unnecessary, avoidable and unjust. When it is done appropriately, research contributes to more effective and sustainable health services and care products, resulting in a more equitable and strengthened health system.

We are an interdisciplinary team of Indigenous and non-Indigenous researchers. Our goal is to promote community-centred research approaches that privilege Indigenous ways of knowing, doing and being through all aspects of the research lifecycle. To assist with this, we have developed an open-access online training resource called Indigenous Community Research Partnerships.

The training resource provides guidance to researchers and others embarking on partnered research with urban, rural or remote Indigenous communities.

Whether you have lots of experience in community-based research or are a newcomer to the field, we believe our training resource has a lot to offer on your journey of learning about community-centred research. Our aim is to assist the research community to develop equitable partnerships that prioritize Indigenous ways of knowing and ensure that Indigenous communities are the primary benefactors.

Failure of western-oriented research approaches

In our society, the bias of colonial, or western-oriented and western-constructed knowledge dominates the conduct of research. The evidence derived from this standpoint reflects the structural racism that privileges knowledge derived from western methodologies. This knowledge is then used to inform the development of the policies and processes that organize our health and social systems.

Consequently, western-oriented academic approaches fail to promote Indigenous perspectives and ways of knowing in policies that affect these communities. For example, biomedical health-care models reflect values, knowledge systems, research and care practices that do not meet the needs of Indigenous people. Western-oriented academic research is often focused on disparities and deficit-based approaches identified by researchers. The approach, driven by the outside looking in, fails to consider and prioritize community needs. As well, many researchers are trained within a system that is dominated by (western-oriented) perspectives that do not allow for, or even recognize, alternate ways of thinking or worldviews.

Indigenous people demonstrate tremendous cultural resilience and capacity to innovate, and Indigenous ways of knowing can be a way forward to improve health and wellness.

Indigenous people are more likely than the general population to experience ongoing marginalization and poor health. Ineffective policies perpetuate these health and social inequities.

Principled partnerships

Research conducted with authentic partnerships and full community engagement with Indigenous people is urgently needed to address health inequities. Many researchers may not understand how to work with Indigenous communities and lack resources to guide them in conducting research that is equitable, inclusive and respectful of diverse Indigenous knowledge, ethics, practice and research sovereignty.

A principled approach to research engages different parties who may use or be recipients of research outcomes or be impacted by them. A principled approach promotes active reflection upon principles that all parties agree are important and prioritizes relationships in research partnerships. The purpose of a principled approach is to promote community relevance, participation, ownership and reciprocal capacity building, and to ensure that research will benefit Indigenous communities, centre on partnerships with Indigenous people and prioritize Indigenous ways of knowing.

A principled approach begins with following the key principle of Reconciliation of Ethical Spaces:

“Protecting Indigenous ethical space involves a series of stages of dialogue starting with conversations prior to the design of research through to the dissemination of results and perhaps even afterwards. Fundamental to this process is an ongoing respect for both parties’ ethical spaces and a continual questioning of ‘is this ethical?’”

Research that benefits Indigenous communities

Effective research requires a deeply engaged and relationally accountable approach to partnerships with Indigenous communities. In academic and learning institutions, researchers must learn to cultivate and invest in genuine relationships to generate useful and relevant evidence.

The Indigenous Community Research Partnerships training resource was developed to educate researchers and researchers-in-training in the development of respectful research partnerships with Indigenous communities that can lead to the conduct of research that advances societal change. The intent is to prepare researchers to work in ways that are important to Indigenous communities and individuals, who will be the ultimate beneficiaries of research.

The Indigenous Community Research Partnerships training resource complements other important initiatives to advance health equity and societal change. There are also important policy level initiatives in academic institutions.

Academic research can be conducted to better benefit Indigenous communities. Research partnerships are central to building the research evidence that meets Indigenous community-level needs. Researchers can support work that leads to societal change and opportunities for everyone to achieve optimal health and wellness.

A principled approach to research will contribute to what should be the ultimate goal, namely, health for all.


We thank the following people for their support and contributions to the article: Melissa Ireland, director and interim senior advisor, Office of Indigenous Initiatives at Wilfrid Laurier University; Penny Moody-Corbett, retired associate dean research, Northern Ontario School of Medicine; doctoral student Andrew Forbes at the University of Ottawa; professor Ian Graham at the University of Ottawa and lead of the Integrated Knowledge Translation Research Network; Rebecca Sweetman and Julian Enright who are members of the Arts and Science Online Multimedia Team at Queen’s University.The Conversation

Janet Jull, Assistant Professor, School of Rehabilitation Therapy, Queen's University; Alexandra King, Cameco Chair in Indigenous Health and Wellness, College of Medicine, University of Saskatchewan; Angela Mashford-Pringle, Assistant Professor/Associate Director, Waakebiness-Bryce Institute for Indigenous Health, University of Toronto; Cheyanne Desnomie, Associate Director, Indigenous Peoples' Health Research Centre and Sessional Instructor, Department of Anthropology, University of Regina; Darrel Manitowabi, Associate professor, Northern Ontario School of Medicine, Laurentian University; Jennifer Walker, Associate Professor and Canada Research Chair in Indigenous Health, Laurentian University; Lindsay Brant, Educational Developer, Indigenous Pedagogies and Ways of Knowing, Queen's University; Malcolm King, Professor, University of Saskatchewan Community Health and Epidemiology, Adjunct Professor, Faculty of Health Sciences, Simon Fraser University; Melody E. Morton Ninomiya, Assistant Professor, Wilfrid Laurier University; Affiliate Scientist, Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, Wilfrid Laurier University; Moses Gordon, Acting director, Indigenous Peoples' Health Research Centre, University of Regina, and Priscilla Ferrazzi, Lawyer, Research Contracts Unit, Queen's University; Researcher (Adjunct Status), University of Alberta

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

The Conversation is seeking new academic contributors. Researchers wishing to write articles should contact Melinda Knox, Associate Director, Research Profile and Initiatives, at knoxm@queensu.ca.


How to build support for ambitious climate action in four steps

Governments must expand the number of people who see themselves as ‘winners’ in the transition to a low-carbon society.


Wildfire in Portugal threatens a town
A wildfire in Portugal nears a number of homes. (Photo by Michael Held / Unsplash.com) 

Canada and the United States are suddenly steeped in policy proposals to aggressively cut carbon emissions. In the face of a climate emergency and on the heels of numerous climate disasters, this is welcome news indeed.

In the U.S., the newly minted Biden administration has unleashed a series of executive orders to tackle the climate crisis. Canada recently pledged to transition its economy to net-zero by 2050 and released an updated national climate plan. Announcements are easy — now comes the hard work.

The recipe for making headway on this new climate agenda has two key ingredients. Defuse political opposition. Build political support. But it’s not so simple.

The Conversation CanadaUnfortunately, some still believe they can gain politically by opposing climate action with misinformation. Take Texas, for example. The recent climate-related winter storm left millions without power and killed dozens.

Right-wing politicians falsely blamed renewable energy and the Green New Deal. Here’s a fact-check: The Green New Deal hasn’t been passed and freezing natural gas lines contributed most to the collapse of the electricity system.

As politics researchers, we are deeply concerned with the scale of action required to avoid climate collapse. A vital piece of a just transition to a low-carbon society will be to expand the number of people and sectors that see themselves as “winners” in this transition.

A just and socially accepted transition must protect society’s most vulnerable from climate change impacts while simultaneously shielding those whose livelihoods will be disrupted by transformation. A just transition must also diffuse rather than consolidate economic power in the midst of climate action.

Four guiding principles can help build the political support needed to meet North America’s new-found climate ambition.

1. Policy integration

Political opposition to climate action often pits economics against the environment. This false dichotomy ignores how our economic future fundamentally depends on the health of our environment.

But proponents of climate action too often feed into this narrative, engaging in what Jennie C. Stephens, a sustainability science and policy researcher at Northeastern University, calls climate isolationism. They rely on overly narrow, technology-centric solutions.

These approaches often fail to resonate. They don’t connect climate action with the issues that matter the most in peoples’ day-to-day lives: socio-economic well-being, equitable employment opportunities, racial justice, access to safe and secure shelter, child care, improved health, food systems, and transportation.

Enduring, transformative climate action requires integrating social, economic and environmental policies holistically, so that institutions can better serve their citizens. Copenhagen, Denmark, is a model city with a climate plan that integrates climate action, urban investment and job growth to create a liveable sustainable city. This model views climate transformation as a necessary opportunity to improve the lives of Copenhagen residents in multiple ways.

2. Institutional integration

Policy integration means thinking differently about how governments are structured. The Biden administration is starting to orient the U.S. federal government cohesively around climate action. The U.S. now has both domestic and international climate “czars” and is integrating climate change across departments.

Given the scale of transformation necessary to meet the Paris agreement’s goals and commitments, climate action is inherently implicated across government files. It may be better to mainstream climate action throughout the government.

Canada’s recent ministerial mandate letters are an improvement. But furthering comprehensive action means orienting more, if not all, ministries to a just transition. Crucially, the ministries of Indigenous Services, Middle Class and Prosperity and Diversity and Inclusion and Youth lack clear mandates around climate action. Provincial and municipal governments must also adapt to this new policy-making environment.

All policy is climate policy in our climate-constrained world.

3. Beyond technology

Technology and technological innovation will certainly play a sizeable role in the unfolding transformation. But technologies, like carbon capture, biofuels, renewable energy, electric vehicles and smart neighbourhoods are not silver bullets.

Technological innovation must be pursued in ways that engage communities and are geared towards social goals. This can enhance the support necessary for sustaining climate action beyond the introduction of a technology.

One only has to look as far as the Sidewalk Labs debacle in Toronto to see the pitfalls of a strategy that put technology ahead of community needs. This project failed to prioritize community well-being and civic engagement. Instead, Sidewalk Labs proposed corporate control over 190 acres of Toronto’s waterfront and did not plan to adequately protect personal data.

Effectively implementing the new aggressive climate agendas in North America means integrating technological innovation with democratic, inclusive social engagement.

4. Centre justice and equity

Durable climate action fosters comprehensive security and equity for citizens. It allows people to embrace changing and sometimes unpredictable conditions.

COVID-19 has exacerbated socio-economic disparities according to income, gender, race and geography. Canada has joined a number of countries in pledging to “build back better” and support marginalized and underrepresented groups in the context of COVID-19.

This pledge needs to go beyond rhetoric. Policy-makers should acknowledge and address anxieties towards change transparently. The communities that will be most severely affected by climate impacts or from climate action must be supported with concrete resources.

This includes stimulus for low-income families, anti-racism measures, investment in public projects and decent work for those whose livelihoods are most threatened by climate change or transition policies.

Climate ambition in North America is long overdue and welcome. Now, let’s turn that ambition into transformative action. These guidelines can help build the broad-based political support necessary in a climate emergency. That support will flow from individuals and communities imagining and experiencing improved lives through this transition to a low-carbon world.The Conversation


Sarah Sharma is a Vanier Scholar and PhD Candidate in International Relations at the Department of Political Studies, Queen's University, and Matthew Hoffmann is Professor of Political Science and Co-Director Environmental Governance Lab, University of Toronto

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

The Conversation is seeking new academic contributors. Researchers wishing to write articles should contact Melinda Knox, Associate Director, Research Profile and Initiatives, at knoxm@queensu.ca.

Health researchers awarded over $11.5M in funding

Queen’s researchers receive funding from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research for projects addressing human health issues from cancer to pain and healthy aging.

Queen’s researchers have been successful in garnering over $11.5 million in funding from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) Project Grant competition, a program designed to capture and support ideas with the greatest potential to advance health-related knowledge in Canada. As CIHR’s largest funding program, the Project Grant competitions support multi-year grants for researchers at various stages in their career.

The funding is divided among 13 Queen’s research projects (10 fully funded and three $100,000 priority announcement grants) that contributed to a success rate of 26.3 per cent compared to 15 per cent nationally. Of the funded projects, half are led by early-career researchers and two applications ranked first in their panels.

“I am continually impressed by the success our researchers see in increasingly competitive funding environments such as the CIHR Project Grants,” says Kimberly Woodhouse, Vice-Principal (Research). “This funding will help our researchers advance innovation in research designed to better understand human health and to benefit Canadians.”

The funded projects include:

Principal Investigator Project Title Funding Awarded

Sheela Abraham (Biomedical and Molecular Sciences; Queen’s Cancer Research Institute)

Elucidating the Role Extracellular Vesicles play in leukaemogenesis $1,071,000
Tricia Cottrell (Pathology and Molecular Medicine; Canadian Cancer Trials Group) Immunophenotyping Malignant Pleural Mesothelioma: Identifying Predictive and Prognostic Biomarkers for Combinatorial Immunotherapy


Kerstin de Wit (Emergency Medicine) PEITHO-3. Reduced-dose Thrombolytic Treatment for Patients with Higher-intermediate Risk Acute Pulmonary Embolism $478,125
Vincent DePaul and Catherine Donnelly (Rehabilitation Therapy; Health Services and Policy Research Institute) Fostering Healthy Aging in Naturally Occurring Retirement Communities: A Mixed Methods Explanatory Case Study $1,583,288 
Jason Gallivan (Biomedical and Molecular Sciences; Centre for Neuroscience Studies) Investigating the Role of Cognitive Brain Networks in Human Motor Learning


Ian Gilron (Anesthesiology & Perioperative Medicine) The PRECISE trial – Pain Relief Combination Intervention StratEgies $100,000
Michael Green (Family Medicine) and Ian Gilron (Anesthesiology & Perioperative Medicine) Development of a Validated Method to Identify Patients with Chronic Pain in Electronic Medical Records and Administrative Health Data to Advance Clinical Research and Patient Care $673,200 
Annette Hay (Medicine; Canadian Cancer Trials Group) Randomized Phase 3 Evaluation of Lower Dose (3-2-1 Strategy) vs. Full Dose of Ibrutinib for the Treatment of Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia $100,000
Amer Johri (Medicine; Translational Institute of Medicine) Intraplaque Composition Combined with Stress Echo for Cardiac Risk Stratification $918,000
Lucie Lévesque (Kinesiology and Health Studies) It takes an island: local and sustainable child health and well-being promotion in Antigua and Barbuda $100,000
Wendy Parulekar (Oncology; Canadian Cancer Trials Group) SPECT-CT Guided ELEctive Contralateral Neck Treatment (SELECT) for Patients with Lateralized Oropharyngeal Cancer: A Phase III Randomized Controlled Trial


Michael Rauh (Pathology and Molecular Medicine) Dysregulation of TET2 and DNMT3A Promotes Pulmonary Arterial Hypertension (PAH) through Inflammation: A New Mechanism of PAH $891,225
Chandrakant Tayade (Biomedical and Molecular Sciences) Investigating the Role of Endocannabinoids in Endometriosis Pathophysiology and Determine Efficacy of Cannabinoids as a Novel Therapeutic Modality $868,275

For more details, including project summaries, visit the Government of Canada’s Funding Decisions Database.

Polar bears: A sentinel of Arctic environmental change

Queen’s researchers and partners are developing an innovative approach to studying the impact of climate change by monitoring the health and movements of polar bears.

[Photo of polar bears]
Polar bears are the Arctic's apex predators. (Photo by Hans-Jurgen Mager / Unsplash)

Queen’s researchers and partners are monitoring the health and movements of polar bears in an innovative approach to studying climate change in the Arctic.

The polar bear is an apex predator whose distribution encompasses a vast area of diverse habitats, spanning land and sea ice. Changes in its lifecycle and population declines are often seen to reflect environmental changes stimulated by shifts in global climate in the Arctic. Monitoring of polar bear activity and health in near-real time is not only necessary to ensure their persistence globally, but it also provides important insights into the state of Arctic ecosystems.

Monitoring and tracking

In 2016, Queen’s researchers Stephen Lougheed (Biology), Peter Van Coeverden de Groot (Biology), and Graham Whitelaw (Environmental Studies), and a host of community, governmental, and university collaborators, received funding from Genome Canada’s Large-Scale Applied Research Project competition and the Ontario Genomics Institute to develop a non-invasive method for tracking polar bear health in the Canadian Arctic. The project, BEARWATCH, uses a combination cutting-edge genomics and Inuit polar bear traditional ecological knowledge (TEK).

Traditionally, monitoring of polar bears has been completed through an aerial censusing of populations at 10- to 15-year intervals. For the past five years, the BEARWATCH team has been investigating a different and complementary approach, where bears can be identified individually using an innovative fecal-based molecular toolkit. A critical piece of the toolkit depends on gut-origin epithelial cells that are shed during defecation and the use of genomics to identify individual bears. Bear scat is then analyzed to obtain information about a bear’s sex, recent diet, chemical exposure, and overall health and wellbeing. This method will enable flexible and verified collection of data in near real-time, allowing for establishment of a clear baseline of Canadian polar bear health and genetic diversity against which future climate change impacts can be measured.

Partnerships for impact

The project originated from long-standing relationships between Queen’s researchers, the community of Gjoa Haven, and the Government of Nunavut. The success of BEARWATCH has built on these relationships with contributions from a more diverse set of stakeholders that span northern communities across the Arctic, Inuit organizations, the governments of Yukon, Northwest Territories, and Nunavut, and researchers from Denmark, Norway, Russia, and the United States. 

Given the degree to which Arctic Indigenous peoples are affected by climate change, and the importance of the polar bear in Inuit culture, Dr. Lougheed and his team depend on TEK and insights of local experts for wildlife conservation.

“What has struck me most is the depth and richness of traditional knowledge,” Dr. Lougheed says. “I am in awe of how attuned Northern peoples are to other species and how capable they are at persisting in these challenging environments.”

The project team also works closely with members of the 1st Canadian Ranger Patrol Group (1 CRPG) for navigating the vast Canadian Arctic. 1 CRPG is tasked with maintaining a Canadian Armed Forces' presence in the remote communities of the north. The intimate knowledge of oft-unknown surroundings of the Rangers enables them to provide insights and samples from regions that are distant from northern communities. 1 CRPG previously helped to build research cabins in the environs of Gjoa Haven and has been instrumental in facilitating northern research for BEARWATCH and other important northern scientific work.

“1 CRPG was happy to assist in this research project. Canadian Rangers are members of their local communities and supporting this study will serve to ensure better long-term stewardship of the lands they live in,” says Capt. Chris Newman, 1 CRPG Unit Public Affairs Representative. “As experts of their local areas, being able to impart local knowledge is one of the cornerstones of the Canadian Ranger mandate.”

[Photo on location supplied by Stephen Lougheed]
One of the research cabins built by 1 CRPG in the environs of Gjoa Haven to support northern research for BEARWATCH and other projects. (Photo supplied by Peter van Coeverden de Groot)

Establishing Canadian Leadership in Polar Bear Conservation

BEARWATCH is now in its fifth year and the project toolkit is in its end stages of development and testing. The final version will include a genomics approach called genotyping-in-thousands for identifying individual polar bears from scat alone, as well as DNA metabarcoding for assessing bear diet and methods for gauging contaminant exposure. Preliminary results have indicated that scat-based tracking is effective at distinguishing individual bears from each other and understanding plants and animals consumed by bears and other indicators of health. The next step involves presenting the toolkit to northern communities and governments for feedback and eventual implementation.

This work shows immense promise for establishing Canada as a global leader in polar bear conservation and wildlife management. 

“Canada has about two-thirds of the global polar bear population and is one of only five nations with this iconic species,” Dr. Lougheed points out. "From this vantage alone, Canada is compelled to lead in polar bear protections.”

The success of this toolkit and its implementation may serve as a model for conservation efforts for other wildlife species worldwide.

The researchers are hopeful that polar bear management will become an area of true partnership and shared decision-making with Indigenous peoples, drawing on the strengths and values of both TEK and western science and perhaps taking one small step closer to reconciliation.

The Canadian Senate briefly reached gender parity – here’s why it matters

In December 2020, the Senate became gender-equal, offering up the promise that women's interests will be represented in the upper chamber.

Senate gender parity suggests women are beginning to break through the glass ceiling in Canadian politics. Canada’s Senate chamber is seen in this photo. (Flickr)

At the end of 2020, Canada quietly reached a milestone: our first-ever gender-equal house of Parliament, the Senate.

Sen. Frances Lankin noted in December that there were 47 women and 47 men in the Senate.

The balance shifted back in favour of men following the retirement of Lynn Beyak and the death of Elaine McCoy.

But given the Senate’s institutional structure, the high number of women legislators generally allows for a strong representation of women’s interests in the upper house — which is why Prime Minister Justin Trudeau should make strides to return it to gender parity with his next Senate appointments.

In December 2020, Canada was tied with Australia for the second-highest percentage of women legislators in the upper house (with the Caribbean’s Antigua and Barbuda taking the top spot).

In 2019, women made up only 24 per cent of legislators globally. Recently, the Canadian House of Commons reached 100 women MPs for the first time, amounting to 30 per cent female representation.

Prime ministers have long used Senate appointments to make up for the lack of diversity in the House of Commons. The Senate was initially created, in fact, to protect the interests of minority regions. More recently, though, it’s become a chamber where the interests of marginalized groups are protected.

Senators generally speak up for marginalized groups by introducing legislation that protects their interests, and by scrutinizing and amending government legislation. That certainly isn’t always the case — Beyak retired from the Senate earlier this year amid a controversy over her remarks about Indigenous people and residential schools. But it was other senators, including Murray Sinclair and Mary Jane McCallum, who pushed for the departure of the Stephen Harper appointee.

Since the Charter of Rights and Freedoms was introduced in 1982, Canadians have come to see themselves as belonging to groups that stretch across provincial borders. We tend to identify with each other based on our gender, ethnicity and language, and there have been growing calls for our politicians to better represent us in that regard.

The significance of women in the Senate

But why should we care about the gender of our legislators? Don’t we need people best equipped to do the job?

In 1995, political theorist Anne Phillips wrote about “the politics of presence.” She maintains that there is a difference in the lived experiences of men and women, and the representation provided by individuals is influenced by their experiences.

In studies of representation, diversity is increasingly seen as beneficial for the policy-making process. Women senators bring unique viewpoints to the table that will shape legislation and policy in Canada. Gender cannot be the only reason a woman is chosen, but being a woman should not be a barrier due to outdated masculine selection criteria.

Researchers continue to investigate whether women legislators truly represent and look out for women in politics. There is mounting evidence suggesting that the representation of women’s interests is not only about the number of women in a legislature, but also about the presence of legislators who will work to represent women’s policy preferences.

Female politicians are more likely to be the legislators who act on behalf of women, which makes it all the more important that the Senate reaches gender parity again soon.

Men can certainly represent women’s interests, but empirical evidence shows that they usually don’t take up women’s causes on their own initiative. However, research has shown that male legislators’ advocacy of women’s issues increases as the number of women in legislatures grows.

That means that as more women join the Canadian Senate, there will be more opportunities for them to work together as well as collaborating with like-minded male colleagues to advance women’s interests.

Senators have defied government wishes

There’s also hope that senators are in a better position to represent women’s interests than elected legislators in the House of Commons. Evidence from around the world supports the theory that party discipline hinders the promotion and representation of women’s interests.

But party discipline is relatively weak in the Canadian Senate. Senators are appointed, and they don’t have to toe the party line to ensure re-election.

More than half of Canadian senators don’t belong to a national party caucus. That means that in most cases, senators are not subject to party discipline at all. Therefore, they have the freedom to act for other groups seeking representation, including women, and in a non-partisan manner.

We’ve already seen examples of senators thwarting the government’s wishes to protect women’s interests. Brian Mulroney’s Progressive Conservative government’s Bill C-43 advanced anti-choice abortion policy in Canada. Famously, the bill died in the Senate after a tie vote in 1991, when multiple Progressive Conservative senators, including three women, voted against the bill.

More recently, in 2017, senators pushed to eliminate sex discrimination in the Indian Act, amending Bill S-3 to do so. While the initial amendment was rejected by the government, senators’ efforts led it to reconsider its policy and ultimately include their changes.

There is already some evidence of heightened feminist activity in the Canadian Senate as the number of women senators rises. Through interviews with senators in 2019, I unearthed a network of feminist legislators forming among newly appointed women senators.

Given the important role played by women senators, it’s imperative that gender parity in the Senate is restored. Trudeau’s next Senate appointments will be ones to watch. It will be increasingly important to look for indicators that our senators are representing otherwise marginalized groups.The Conversation


Elizabeth McCallion, PhD Candidate, Political Studies, Queen's University.

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

The Conversation is seeking new academic contributors. Researchers wishing to write articles should contact Melinda Knox, Associate Director, Research Profile and Initiatives, at knoxm@queensu.ca.

Launch of Queen’s 2021 Catalyst Fund

The Vice-Principal (Research) portfolio invites all eligible Queen’s University researchers to apply for funding through this year's Catalyst Fund.

The Queen’s Research Opportunities Funds’ latest competition is now accepting applications for the 2021 Catalyst Fund competition. The Catalyst Fund is intended to enhance areas of research excellence that are of strategic importance to the university by giving scholars an opportunity to accelerate their research programs. Ten $25,000 awards will be allocated with a funding period of two years. A minimum of six of the awards will be allocated to Early Career Researchers, defined as those who are within 10 years of their first academic appointment.

Interested applicants will need to submit a notice of intent by March 31, 2021, with final applications due April 30, 2021. Successful projects will commence in May/June.

Learn how the Queen’s Research Opportunities Funds and the Catalyst Fund competition are providing scholars with an opportunity to accelerate their research programs.

Video call system to reduce PPE demand

Queen’s University researcher Michael Greenspan safely improves the way patients and health care workers connect during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The patient call button is a piece of equipment that is taken for granted in most hospitals. In fact, the technology behind it hasn’t been updated in decades.

But now, Queen’s researcher Michael Greenspan, Department of Electrical and Computing Engineering,  is running a pilot project at Belleville General Hospital that aims to upgrade the  call button system with some modern technology.

 “Basically, there is a computer tablet in a patient’s room, and one outside of the room for a health care worker to use,” says Dr. Greenspan. “The patient and nurse can interact safely, and it saves the hospital staff from changing into and out of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).

While certain patient interactions still require health care providers to be physically present in the room, many routine interactions, like ones that are currently handled through hourly or intentional rounding, can be done as effectively and more efficiently, through a face-to-face video call conversation.


a modern call button system being piloted at Belleville General Hospital
A modern patient call button that is being piloted at Belleville General Hospital 

The COVID challenge

One of the main challenges hospitals are facing throughout the COVID-19 pandemic is a shortage of PPE, especially masks, N95 respirators, goggles, visors, and gowns.

“Even though hospitals are re-using or extending the use of some of these PPE elements to conserve these limited products, PPE shortages remain prevalent across Canada and worldwide and these shortages are likely to be a concern for the foreseeable future,” says Dr. Greenspan. “Whereas other efforts have been oriented to increasing the supply of PPE, we’ve focused on the other side of the equation, ad are working towards decreasing the demand through the use of this interactive technology.”

The research was initially funded through the Ingenuity Labs Research Opportunities Seed Fund, and then through the Ontario Centres of Excellence VIP project, which included a contribution from HHAngus and Associates Ltd, an engineering firm with a focus on health care facilities. The project involves collaborators  Dr. Jennifer Medves (School of Nursing), Dr. Dick  Zoutman (Medicine), as well as colleagues from Queen’s Ingenuity Labs. Several other students and recent Queen’s graduates are also working on the project, including an ECE MEng recent graduate, software developer and team lead Ankit Dhanda.

Beyond the pandemic

Officials at Belleville General Hospital are keeping the system in place for now. Dr. Greenspan says the researchers have developed a new version, with a number of additional and advanced features based on the feedback that they have received, and are on track to install this new version in the spring.

Plans to evolve the patient call button were well underway when the COVID-19 pandemic hit and, once it subsides, the research team is hoping to circle back to the original vision of re-engineering the call button system entirely. The original vision involved adding in a series of sensors to monitor the patient and their environment, and then processing the data with Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning methods, in order to detect and predict unsafe events or conditions. The technology could one day provide a better way for health care workers to interact with and monitor patients

“We hope to not only apply a different version to a hospital setting, but expand the system even further,” says Dr. Greenspan.  “The technology could be used in the Intensive Care Unit of hospitals, because the patients there are especially vulnerable and need to be protected from infection,” says Dr. Greenspan. “Overall, this technology upgrade  could lead to better efficiencies, better health outcomes, and higher patient and health care worker satisfaction.”



New Vice-Principal (Research) Appointed

Nancy Ross, accomplished research administrator and renowned expert in population health, will assume the position of Vice-Principal (Research) at Queen’s effective August 1, 2021.

[Photo of Nancy Ross]
Dr. Nancy Ross will begin her five-year term as Vice-Principal (Research) on August 1, 2021.

Principal and Vice-Chancellor Patrick Deane has announced the appointment of Nancy Ross (Artsci'90, MA'92) as Vice-Principal (Research), following unanimous approval by the Board of Trustees.

Dr. Ross, who is currently the Associate Vice-Principal (Research and Innovation) at McGill University, will succeed Vice-Principal (Research) Kimberly Woodhouse, who has been interim in the role since 2018.

"On behalf of our entire university community, I am delighted to welcome Dr. Ross to her new role at Queen’s, where her experience as an administrator and researcher will be critical," says Patrick Deane, Principal and Vice-Chancellor. "Dr. Ross has an excellent reputation within the research community, and that will be invaluable as we embark upon an ambitious new strategy. I am looking forward to working with her to advance the university’s research mission."

A recognized expert in population health, Dr. Ross is a Tier 1 Canada Research Chair, a member of the Department of Geography, and an associate member of the Departments of Epidemiology, Biostatistics and Occupational Health and Epidemiology at McGill University. A social scientist by training, her award-winning interdisciplinary research has been funded mainly by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), and she is past Editor-in-chief of Health Reports, Canada’s flagship population health journal.

A proud Queen’s alumna, Dr. Ross received her Bachelor of Arts and Master of Arts degrees in Geography. Dr. Ross obtained her PhD in Geography from McMaster University and subsequently worked as a Senior Research Scientist with Statistics Canada, including as postdoctoral fellow with the Population Health Program of the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research (CIFAR). She joined McGill’s faculty in 2001.

As McGill’s Associate Vice-Principal (Research and Innovation) since 2016, Dr. Ross has advanced the institution’s research enterprise by providing strategic advice and counsel to the McGill community. These activities include mentoring researchers during the development of grant applications, leading the implementation of programs designed to increase success in research funding and research intensity, and developing proposals for strategic business and corporate or institutional partnerships worldwide. She also oversaw university-wide efforts to generate and support nominations of McGill researchers for major national and international prizes and awards.

"I am very excited to be joining Queen’s at this juncture of momentum-building," says Dr. Ross. "Queen’s, like McGill, is a U15 member and one of Canada’s most research-intensive universities, playing an integral role in the fabric of the nation’s research landscape. I look forward to partnering with the Queen’s research community to garner an understanding of its strengths and aspirations and, together, working to advance the university’s research mission."

Dr. Ross will join Queen’s senior administrative team and will oversee the Vice-Principal (Research) portfolio, which includes University Research Services, Queen’s Partnerships and Innovation, and oversight of university-based Research Centres and Institutes. A member of the U15 group of Canada’s research-intensive university, Queen’s is home to 51 Canada Research Chairs, including a Canada 150 Research Chair, and attracts approximately $200 million in research income per annum. Queen’s is also home to Arthur McDonald, the co-recipient of the 2015 Nobel Prize in Physics, and a world-leading particle astrophysics research institute named in his honour. The university fosters a dynamic, welcoming, and collaborative environment of focused inquiry where scientists, artists, and scholars across disciplines share ideas and challenge the boundaries of what is known and understood to effect change.

Dr. Ross will begin her five-year term as Vice-Principal (Research) on August 1, 2021. She will be a faculty member in the Faculty of Health Sciences.

Advisory Selection Committee:

The search for Queen’s University’s next Vice-Principal (Research) was conducted by an advisory selection committee chaired by Principal and Vice-Chancellor Patrick Deane. In recognition of the importance of the role of research in all academic disciplines, the committee included representation from faculties across the university.

The committee members are:

  • Patrick Deane, Principal and Vice-Chancellor (Chair)
  • Mark Green, Provost and Vice-Principal (Academic)
  • Stephanie Simpson, Associate Vice-Principal, Human Rights, Equity and Inclusion
  • Sandra den Otter, Vice-Provost (International)
  • Fahim Quadir, Vice-Provost and Dean, School of Graduate Studies
  • Barbara Crow, Dean, Faculty of Arts & Science
  • Amber Simpson, Associate Professor, Computing and Biomedical & Molecular Sciences
  • Jane Philpott, Dean, Faculty of Health Sciences
  • Steven Smith, Vice-Dean Research, Faculty of Health Sciences
  • Heather Aldersey, Associate Professor, School of Rehabilitation Therapy
  • Amy Wu, Assistant Professor, Mechanical and Materials Engineering
  • Joshua Marshall, Associate Professor, Electrical and Computer Engineering
  • Joshua Karton, Associate Dean, Graduate Studies & Research, Faculty of Law
  • Lindsay Morcom, Associate Professor, Education
  • Julian Barling, Professor, Smith School of Business
  • Charles Sumbler, Executive Director, Research Operations and Strategy, Office of the Vice-Principal (Research)
  • Heather Cole, Chief of Staff and Legal Advisor, Office of the Principal (Recording Secretary)

Canada Foundation for Innovation funds Queen’s researchers in their pursuits of exploration and discovery

More than $10 million has been secured by Queen’s researchers for infrastructure that will help to combat climate change, treat cancer, and understand the fabric of the universe.

The federal government is continuing its investment in Canada’s research infrastructure with the announcement by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of $518 million in support from the Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI) Innovation Fund. Two projects led by Queen’s researchers have received close to $10 million to significantly advance their research. Queen’s is also a collaborator on a third project, led by Carleton University.

CFI’s Innovation Fund 2020 competition was designed to provide strategic investments in research infrastructure, from supporting fundamental research to technology development. With a look towards a post-pandemic future, the federal government through the CFI was focused on supporting research that would build a healthier, greener, and more economically robust society while continuing to pursue exploration and discovery.

“This support will allow Queen’s to build on exceptional international strengths and have a direct impact on how we live and understand the world around us," says Kimberly Woodhouse, Vice Principal (Research). “Thank you to the Government of Canada for investing in the tools that advance research.”

ExCELLirate Canada

The Canadian Cancer Trials Group (CCTG) and Queen’s researcher Annette Hay (Medicine) and Jonathan Bramson, of McMaster University, have received CFI support of more than $5 million for their project to develop a national cellular therapy translational research platform, the first of its kind globally. ExCELLirate Canada: Expanding CELL-based Immunotherapy Research Acceleration for Translation and Evaluation is a collaboration between Queen’s, McMaster University, University of Calgary, University of Ottawa, Université de Montréal, and Canadian Blood Services. CFI funds will support research activities from novel cell therapy development to point-of-care cell manufacturing and multi-centre clinical trial testing for cancer treatment. This project aims to develop cell therapies as safe and viable treatment options through identifying biological mechanisms affecting safety and designing cost-effective methods for the harvest, expansion, manipulation, purification, and delivery of the cells.

[Photo of an immunofluorescence stain]
Art of Research PhotoImmunofluorescence Stain by Shakeel Virk and Lee Boudreau, CCTG Tissue Bank


Queen’s civil engineering researchers Andy Take, Canada Research Chair in Geotechnical Engineering, and Ian Moore, Canada Research Chair in Infrastructure Engineering, are aiming to improve the future resiliency of Canada’s civil engineering infrastructure in the face of climate change with their project CASTLE. The Climate Adaptive infraStructure Testing and Longevity Evaluation (CASTLE) Innovation Cluster is a collaboration between Queen’s and the Royal Military College of Canada, which received close to $4.5 million in funding from CFI. As Canada’s landmass spans diverse geographic regions, current and future infrastructure must be made resilient against the unique impacts of climate change affecting remote northern regions to southern urban centres. The objectives for CASTLE are to improve storage of mine waste, ensure safety and improve resilience of transportation infrastructure, such as roads, railways, and pipes, and coastal defense structures, as well as ports and harbours, against the direct and triggered geotechnical hazards of climate change.

[Photo of a light tunnel]
Art of Research PhotoA New Light by Robert Cichocki, GeoEngineering Lab

Dark Matter Detector

In furthering Canada’s leadership in the field of dark matter, Queen’s is a collaborator on a project to develop the next generation liquid argon dark matter detector and an underground argon storage facility at SNOLAB. Understanding the nature of dark matter, which makes up 85 per cent of the universe, is one of science’s unsolved mysteries. This project will include upgrades to the DEAP-3600 experiment, contributions to the Darkside-20k experiment, and the development of the ultimate ARGO detector at SNOLAB. By enabling further scientific discovery at SNOLAB, the location where Queen’s researcher Arthur McDonald conducted his Nobel Prize winning research, this project has the potential to develop technical and commercial innovations in digital light sensors and offer training opportunities to junior researchers and students.

For more information on projects funded through the Innovation Fund 2020, visit the CFI website

The art of dark matter

A new exhibition and residency project, generated by Agnes Etherington Art Centre, the McDonald Institute, and SNOLAB, brings together artists and scientists in the quest to understand dark matter.

In the 1930s, researchers first proposed the seemingly impossible concept of dark matter, the “glue” that holds the universe together. Dark matter is made up of material that does not emit light or energy, making it invisible. Even though about 80 per cent of the matter in the universe is composed of this indiscernible substance, we barely understand how it behaves or influences other entities.

The mysteries of dark matter are being unlocked by scientists and engineers at the Arthur B. McDonald Canadian Astroparticle Physics Research Institute at Queen’s University and SNOLAB, located in an active nickel mine two kilometres below the surface, near Sudbury. This work has inspired a new collaboration with Agnes Etherington Art Centre.

  • Artist Nadia Lichtig photographing the drift entrance to SNOLAB. Photo: Zac Kenny
    Artist Nadia Lichtig photographing the drift entrance to SNOLAB. Photo: Zac Kenny
  • Artist Jol Thomson documents researchers working on CUTE (a Cryogenic Underground Test Facility) at SNOLAB. Photo: Gerry Kingsley
    Artist Jol Thomson documents researchers working on CUTE (a Cryogenic Underground Test Facility) at SNOLAB. Photo: Gerry Kingsley
  • Artist Josèfa Ntjam and SNOLAB staff scientist Dimpal Chauhan discuss ancient water. Photo: Zac Kenny
    Artist Josèfa Ntjam and SNOLAB staff scientist Dimpal Chauhan discuss ancient water. Photo: Zac Kenny

To explore the “known unknown” from different angles and demonstrate the interrelatedness of science and art, McDonald Institute, SNOLAB, and Agnes launched a residency and exhibition project, called Drift: Art and Dark Matter. Drift, an ode to the mining term for a horizontal tunnel, collaborated with four nationally- and internationally-acclaimed artists, Nadia Lichtig, Josèfa Ntjam, Anne Riley, and Jol Thoms, to partner with Queen’s and SNOLAB researchers searching for dark matter and create unique pieces inspired by these exchanges.

The first stage of the residency took place in July and October 2019. It involved two extended site visits, at Queen’s and at SNOLAB, during which the artists, scientists, and staff participated in presentations, hands-on research experiments, and field trips. The visits provided ample opportunity for Lichtig, Ntjam, Riley, and Thoms to connect with world-renowned physicists, chemists, engineers, and other scholars, including Dr. Arthur B. McDonald, co-recipient of the 2015 Nobel Prize in Physics. Discussions ranged from the basics of dark matter and neutrino physics to articulations of racialized, Indigenous, and entangled identity, prioritizing mutual exchange of knowledge and insights. The subsequent months of the residency were focused on digital discussion among collaborators and home studio production for artists.   

Josèfa Ntjam, Luciferin Drop, 2020, glass, metal, ABS filament and luminescent liquid and Myceaqua Vitae, 2020, video with sound. Collection of the artist. Installation view from Drift: Art and Dark Matter. Photo: Tim Forbes
Josèfa Ntjam, Luciferin Drop, 2020, glass, metal, ABS filament and luminescent liquid and Myceaqua Vitae, 2020, video with sound. Collection of the artist. Installation view from Drift: Art and Dark Matter. Photo: Tim Forbes

“The experience was unique for several reasons. Firstly, I was able to travel to Canada and then go two kilometres underground, together with the miners. Then the fact I was able to visit the research facilities and speak with the researchers, and later able to deepen the discussions with the researchers invited in the context of the residency,” says Nadia Lichtig, one of Drifts artists-in-residence. “The whole experience was very inspiring.” 

Drift successfully opened dialogue between artists and physicists, revealing shared values, goals, and habits and highlighting new perspectives and comprehensions of advanced scientific theories being explored and developed nationwide. The residency culminated in several artworks – installation, sculpture, textile, and video – that offer a multisensory experience of dark matter science and the “how” and “why” of that which cannot be sensed directly.

Jol Thoms, Orthomorph (Tunneling), 2020, digital print. Courtesy of the artist.
Jol Thoms, Orthomorph (Tunneling), 2020, digital print. Courtesy of the artist.

“From a curator’s perspective, I believe we have reached a historical moment when the modes and motivations of producing culture need to be reconsidered, and with this project, we’re participating in a broader movement of artists and institutions making forays to explore much wider contexts and different constructions of knowledge,” says Sunny Kerr, Curator of Drift and Contemporary Art at Agnes. “This exhibition is a crucial step at the beginning of longer conversations between art and science.”

For those interested in experiencing the exhibition in person, it is on view at the Agnes until May 30, 2021. It will then tour across Canada to galleries with McDonald Institute and SNOLAB affiliations in Vancouver, Ottawa, Toronto, and Sudbury. 

Nadia Lichtig, Blank Spots, 2021–ongoing, frottage on canvas, theatre lights, sound. Collection of the artist. Installation view from Drift: Art and Dark Matter. Photo: Tim Forbes
Nadia Lichtig, Blank Spots, 2021–ongoing, frottage on canvas, theatre lights, sound. Collection of the artist. Installation view from Drift: Art and Dark Matter. Photo: Tim Forbes

Drift: Art and Dark Matter also takes the form of an online exhibition that can be found on Digital AGNES. The digital exhibition showcases the meeting of theories and voices that informed this exciting transdisciplinary residency and features behind-the-scenes videos, interviews, and interactive activities.

Agnes is open: Agnes reopened its doors to the public on Feb. 20. In addition to Drift, visitors can experience two other exhibitions, From the vibe out: Neven Lochhead and Radicals and Revolutionaries: Artists of Atelier 17, 1960s as part of the Agnes’ current season offerings.

Josèfa Ntjam, Organic Nebula (detail), 2019, carpet, photomontage. Collection of the artist.
Josèfa Ntjam, Organic Nebula (detail), 2019, carpet, photomontage. Collection of the artist.



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