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Why Canada’s political system makes it difficult to fight floods

THE CONVERSATION: Canadian history and international relations theory provide perspective on why coordinating flood management is difficult in Canada and what can be done about it.

[Traffic sign in flood waters]
A traffic sign pokes up above the surface of flood waters. (Photo by Kelly Sikkema / Unsplash)

Floods are some of the most damaging weather-related events in Canada, occurring so frequently that they’re the most commonly experienced natural hazard. In recent years, Canadians have witnessed a number of floods of historic proportions, largely in Eastern Canada.

Scant attention is paid to how history has shaped our approach to flood management in Canada. More specifically, little consideration is given to how our system of government handles hazard management, and how the current situation can be improved through the application of what’s known as “international relations theory.”

What’s in a theory?

Addressing events such as floods, wildfires, tsunamis and rising sea levels causes what’s known as “collective action problems” in international relations theory, which focuses on international governance. These events require co-ordination between multiple entities, usually sovereign governments, and this can prove difficult.

Tackling these hazards is hard because it requires a variety of states, each with their own interests and goals, to come together to address a common issue, provide a common good or achieve a collective objective.

These problems also suffer from what international relations theory identifies as the free-rider problem: Some states can reap the benefits of the collective actions of others while not fully committing to paying the associated costs themselves. Effectively, they get a free ride. For example, U.S. President Donald Trump claims that Canada and other American allies are free-riding on their NATO defence spending obligations.

There have been a variety of attempts to solve the problems associated with the need to take collective action, including the establishment of specialized international organizations like the International Monetary Fund (IMF) as well as regulatory regimes like the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

Canadian floods & fires

The recurring effects of flooding in Eastern Canada and wildfires in Western Canada are examples of collective action problems within the boundaries of Canada.

Canadian history can give us better perspective on why co-ordinating flood management, in particular, has proven so difficult in Canada and what can be done about it.

The administrative makeup of Canada ensures that roles, responsibilities and accountability for a host of issues — like emergency management, building codes, land-use planning and the administration of renewable resources — are spread among three levels of government and other entities, including private firms.

The British North America Act and, later, the 1982 Constitution Act, assigned the management of forests and water to the provinces and territories.

This ensures that an often confusing host of local, provincial or territorial and federal ministries, departments and agencies have authority over how the hazards of wildfires and floods are managed.

In the case of forest management, there are 13 provincial and territorial ministries and one federal body that oversee Canada’s forests.

The situation is far more convoluted for flood management, as a greater number of ministries, agencies, departments, authorities, councils and other entities shoulder responsibility.

A flood of authorities

In Ontario alone, this includes 36 conservation authorities, the provincial Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry, 444 municipalities, the federal government — for waterways like the Trent-Severn, Rideau Canal and St. Lawrence Seaway, as well as Indigenous communities — and other owners of private flood management infrastructure.

Across the rest of the country, there is a similar mix of provincial ministries, federal, provincial and municipal agencies and departments, basin and watershed planning and advisory councils and private flood management infrastructure owners. All of them have varying levels of conflicting responsibilities and authority.

In most jurisdictions, there is no single entity in charge of flood risk. Within larger entities, there are separate departments that deal with various aspects of flood risk, from flood mapping, hydrology, flood modelling and flood defence to conservation and disaster assistance.

Flood management in Canada, in fact, is rife with the co-ordination problems highlighted in international relations theory and seen globally when it comes to combating other impacts of climate change and extreme weather events.

‘Patchwork quilt’

There are three major issues that highlight collective action problems in the governance of flood risk in Canada:

1) The patchwork of entities responsible for governing floods have a hard time communicating and co-ordinating among themselves.

2) The winding-down of the federal Flood Damage Reduction Program, Canada’s de facto coordinating body for flood governance, created a two-decade gap of communication between the provinces and the federal government. The program was significant because it set standards and facilitated cost-sharing. It was a co-ordinating body, setting minimum national standards for flood plain mapping and disaster assistance.

The federal government attempted to remedy the communication and co-ordination problems by earmarking $200 million in the 2014 budget for the creation of the National Disaster Mitigation Program.

It successfully set out flood mapping guidelines, but funding to the program ceases in 2020 and there’s been no announcement of a renewal.

3) Canadian flood risk governance suffers from the aforementioned free-rider problem. Municipalities control what gets built and where, enjoying the permit fees and property tax revenue from those decisions, but do not directly fund disaster assistance when catastrophe strikes. Instead, the provincial and federal governments do.

Private developers also exercise power over these decisions. But again, they don’t directly pay the costs for disaster assistance when their developments are flooded.

In fact, there are few incentives for decision-makers to pay the costs associated with making different choices when it comes to development and flood risk.

What to do?

So are there any solutions contained within international relations theory when it comes to the flood management dilemma?

International relations theory informs us that collective action is difficult when dealing with situations where multiple actors at various levels of authority are involved.

It also suggests that the creation of dedicated institutions to assist with co-ordination can help and is precisely what is needed for flood risk governance in Canada.

The provinces and territories should establish a directorate or centre that would serve as a central hub for flood management and oversight in their respective jurisdictions.

The federal government should make the National Disaster Mitigation Program permanent and continue to restore flood-related communication, co-ordination, standard setting and cost sharing with the provinces, territories and other stakeholders. The program should create a holistic, risk management-based national flood management program.

We should not delay further action on the co-ordination of flood management strategies in Canada, especially given the recurring deluge of impacts on individuals and communities across the country.


Korey Pasch is a PhD Candidate in Political Science and International Relations at Queen's University, and Glenn McGillivray is Managing Director, Institute for Catastrophic Loss Reduction, at Western 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.

Genetic variation: a key to survival

Queen’s researchers warn that loss of genetic variation means species are less adaptable to climate change.

Queen’s University researcher Vicki Friesen (Biology) and former postdoctoral fellow Debbie Leigh are sounding the alarm over the increasing loss of the genetic variation that allows species to adapt to the rapid and drastic environmental changes being generated by human activity.

Professor Vicki Friesen

Genetic variation is part of what makes individuals different. In plants and animals this can lead to differences in how they look as well as important differences in migration behavior, flowering time, or reproductive success. These differences within a species allow for adaptation to change.

Drs. Friesen and Leigh’s research has shown that genetic variation within species has declined by six per cent since the industrial revolution, which means species are less adaptable to climate change and, therefore, more vulnerable to extinction.

Professor Debbie Leigh

“We are losing populations, and, in some cases, we are losing entire species,” Dr. Friesen says. “Loss of genetic variation increases the risk of extinction, especially on islands, where the loss of genetic variation is higher than on continents.”

For example, in Galapagos finches, variation in beak size enables large-beaked birds to access a new food source during drought. These individuals survive droughts while those with smaller beaks do not. Dr. Friesen adds that, to prevent further loss, we need to reconnect isolated populations and help wild populations grow to combat climate change.

“We can’t be calm about this. Climate change is affecting our world right now, and the outlook for future generations is bleak,” Dr. Friesen says. “The loss of biodiversity is actually an even bigger problem than the climate crisis, and it’s irreversible. But we don’t hear as much about it. There is a rising level of awareness and anxiety about these issues among scientists.”

The research was published in Evolutionary Applications.

Queen’s researchers recognized by Governor General

Three academics honoured for their work on bullying, mental health, and the Arctic.

  • John Smol and Governor General Julie Payette
    John Smol (Biology, Environmental Studies) receives the Polar Medal from Governor General Julie Payette. Photo: Sgt Johanie Maheu, Rideau Hall — at Rideau Hall.
  • Wendy Craig and Governor General Julie Payette
    Wendy Craig (Psychology) is congratulated by Governor General Julie Payette after being appointed an Officer of the Order of Canada. (Photo: Sgt Johanie Maheu, Rideau Hall)
  • Heather Stuart and Governor General Julie Payette
    Heather Stuart (Public Health Sciences) is congratulated after being named a Member of the Order of Canada by Governor General Julie Payette. (Photo: Sgt Johanie Maheu, Rideau Hall)

Wendy Craig (Psychology) was named an Officer of the Order of Canada, Heather Stuart (Public Health Sciences) was named a Member of the Order of Canada, while John Smol was honoured with the Polar Medal. The Polar Medal is awarded to persons who have rendered extraordinary services in the polar regions and Canada’s North.

“Drs. Craig, Stuart and Smol are working in three important research areas that are making a difference to people across the country and around the world,” says Principal and Vice-Chancellor Patrick Deane. “These awards show the breadth of Queen’s research and the significance of academic work in addressing real world problems.”

Dr. Smol is one of the world’s foremost experts on environmental change. A Canada Research Chair and professor of biology and environmental studies, Dr. Smol has been at the vanguard of scientific discovery related to lake ecosystems for more than 30 years. By studying sediment cores, he determines how lakes have responded to climate change and other human stressors. His research, which includes studies on the effects of climate change in the Canadian North, has led to tangible policy changes and heightened public awareness.

“I am deeply honoured to receive this medal, although frankly the real credit must go to a very dedicated group of students and colleagues whom I have been honoured to work with over the years” Dr. Smol says. “However, there is much work left to do, as Northern Peoples and the ecosystems on which they depend are on the frontline of climatic and other environmental change.”

The Order of Canada is one of Canada’s highest civilian honours and recognizes outstanding achievement, dedication to the community and service to the nation.

Dr. Craig is an anti-bullying champion who promotes healthy relationships. She is recognized internationally for her research on victimization and its impact on youth. She has shown exceptional commitment to translating research into practice, notably as the co-founder of PREVNet, a national network promoting safe and healthy relationships that has engaged in knowledge mobilization projects, reaching many communities across Canada. Her expertise is sought widely, notably by the World Health Organization, the United Nations and UNICEF.

“I am truly overwhelmed by this honour,” Dr. Craig says. “I have always done my work collaboratively with fellow researchers and students and so this recognition belongs to many. I am particularly grateful for my collaboration with Dr. Debra Pepler with whom I co-founded PREVNet.”

Dr. Stuart, the Bell Mental Health and Anti-Stigma Research Chair, is a champion of mental health in Canada. She has worked tirelessly to shed light on the stigma surrounding mental illness and its impact on recovery. She is an advocate as well as a researcher, advancing the mental health conversation across the country through her instrumental roles in such national initiatives as Bell Let’s Talk and the Mental Health Commission’s anti-stigma program. Driven by compassion, she is leading the charge for Canadians to become agents of change.

“This is a tremendous honour,” Dr. Stuart says, “and one that shines a light on the importance of mental health advocacy and mental health research — two areas that are often underrepresented in the Canadian consciousness.”

For more information on the Order of Canada awards, visit the website.

Queen’s hosts Nobel Prize Laureates for sold-out public talk

International initiative will connect Nobel Laureates with students, researchers, and Queen’s community, during first Canadian tour.

Nobel Prize replica
The Nobel Prize Inspiration Initiative public dialogue, featuring Nobel Laureate Martin Chalfie, will also be broadcast live on the Queen's University Facebook page.
WATCH LIVE ONLINE: Tickets to the event are sold out; however you can watch our live online broadcast on the Queen’s University Facebook page or on the Queen’s Livestream site.

For early- and mid-career scientists, the ascent toward research success is a rewarding but at times daunting climb. On Wednesday, Sept. 25, the Queen’s community will hear from two researchers who have reached one of the world’s highest academic peaks: receiving the Nobel Prize.

As part of the Nobel Prize Inspiration Initiative (NPII), Nobel Laureate Martin Chalfie will visit Queen’s to engage and inspire students, staff, and faculty. Dr. Chalfie shared the 2008 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for his work on Green Fluorescent Protein. He will share thoughts and insights on research success during a sold-out public discussion with Canada’s Chief Science Advisor Mona Nemer, and Queen’s own Nobel Laureate Arthur B. McDonald (Physics, 2015).

Award-winning journalist and author, André Picard, will moderate the dialogue, which will be held at the Isabel Bader Centre for the Performing Arts from 2-3:30 pm that day. Open to the public, the talk is the signature event of the daylong NPII visit to Queen’s – which is one of four universities hosting the initiative on its first-ever Canadian tour.

The NPII is an international outreach program that strives to connect Nobel Laureates with scientific and student communities at universities and research centres worldwide. Organized by Nobel Media, in partnership with biopharmaceutical firm AstraZeneca, the effort allows laureates to shed light on topics of interest to young scientists and the research community at large; including anything from career choices to work-life balance, or how best to communicate their research. Since 2010, the NPII has visited over 30 cities in 14 countries around the globe.

Nobel Prize Inspiration Initiative
Nobel Prize Laureate Martin Chalfie.

“We are delighted to be visiting Canada with Dr. Martin Chalfie as part of the Nobel Prize Inspiration Initiative. Having already taken the Nobel Prize Inspiration Initiative to the next generation of scientists on five continents we know that each event brings a new sense of excitement,” says Adam Smith, Chief Scientific Officer, Nobel Media. “We look forward to a fascinating discussion at Queen’s University, where a wonderful group of panellists will be exploring the questions of critical importance to the future of science, including the correct balance between fundamental and applied research, and the factors which influence scientific success.”

Along with the public discussion, Dr. Chalfie will engage in an exclusive, roundtable talk with some of Queen’s most promising graduate and post-doctoral students, and early-career researchers.

“The Nobel Prize has been considered the highest honour for academics, so it’s truly a privilege for the Queen’s community, and particularly our student researchers, to host Dr. Chalfie and the Nobel Prize Inspiration Initiative here on campus,” says Patrick Deane, Principal and Vice-Chancellor, Queen’s University.

While on campus, Dr. Chalfie will also tour two cutting-edge, multi-disciplinary research and learning spaces on campus – the Beaty Water Research Centre and Ingenuity Labs at newly-opened Mitchell Hall – meeting with graduate and post-doctoral students, staff, and faculty.

Queen’s University is recognized nationally for its research and graduate studies, including attracting and retaining accomplished academics and research mentors. Among them, Nobel Laureate Arthur B. McDonald, who, together with Japanese scientist Takaaki Kajita, received the 2015 Nobel Prize in Physics for demonstrating that neutrinos have mass. Stemming from this achievement, Queen’s University, alongside university and institutional partners, launched the Arthur B. McDonald Canadian Astroparticle Physics Research Institute in 2018. Supported by a $63.7 million investment from the Canadian government, the Queen’s-based institute unites researchers, theorists, technical experts, and students in an effort to understand some of the universe’s deepest mysteries.

“Queen’s demonstrates marked leadership and excellence in the area of fundamental and applied science, a reputation that has been shaped by researchers like Dr. McDonald,” says Kimberly Woodhouse, Interim Vice-Principal (Research). “In sharing their career trials and triumphs, especially in open conversation with students and faculty, Drs. McDonald, Chalfie, and Nemer, will surely help aspiring researchers in charting their own paths to success.”

The Nobel Prize Inspiration Initiative public discussion takes place at the Isabel Bader Centre for the Performing Arts on Wednesday, Sept. 25 from 2-3:30 pm EST. Tickets are sold out. However, you can still experience the event by watching our live online broadcast on the Queen’s University Facebook page or on the Queen’s Livestream site. To join the event’s wait list or receive a reminder about the livestream, register for tickets on our Eventbrite. Don’t forget to like our Facebook page or bookmark the livestream link for additional notifications when the event goes live. 

Let’s change the ‘girls play flute, boys bash drums’ stereotypes

Woman playing the drums
Do gendered associations with music, such as the drums being considered more ‘male,’ still influence today’s music classrooms?(Photo by Lindsey Bahia / Unsplash)

In 2019, surely we are past the days in music class where boys are shunted to drums and trombone while girls are pushed toward flute and choir? Not necessarily so.

Music researchers have consistently found what musicians, music educators, parents or students may have anecdotally noticed: many people have gendered associations with particular instruments related to instruments’ pitch and timbre or their role and size. And, these gendered associations shape both people’s perceptions of the gender identity and social role of musicians and of what instruments people should choose.

In the 1970s, in the United States, Harold Abeles of Columbia University and Susan Yank Porter of Wilmington Public Schools began to study the effects of gender in music education. They found that both children in kindergarten to Grade 5 and adults make gendered associations with musical instruments, and that students and music teachers tend to prefer “gender appropriate” instruments.

They also found from “most feminine to most masculine,” the list looks like this: flute, violin, clarinet, cello, saxophone, trumpet, trombone and drum. Similar findings persist in studies conducted regularly since.

Unfortunately, when children take up instruments they’re not passionate about, most don’t stick with music for long.

But what is the background here, and what can teachers and parents do to ensure that children are selecting musical activities based on their real desires?

Sounds like gendered history

Historical research shows that gender disparities in music have existed for a long time.

Writing in 1886, music critic George Upton concluded that women were unable to be creative in music. His reasoning was that history shows women wrote no great music and “‘having equal advantages with men, they have failed as creators.’”

Anecdotally, in my teaching and research career I have found many music students repeat the fallacy “if there were any good women musicians we’d have heard of them.”

In the 1980s, scholar Ellen Koskoff of the Eastman School of Music, University of Rochester, published an influential volume of essays that surveyed women’s experiences in music, both globally and historically. Koskoff’s volume points to gendering of musical pursuits as a pan-global experience.

Of course, the corollary is that men’s musical activities, though generally broader and more prestigious, are also prescribed and restricted. As far back as the 1930s, the Music Educators Journal published a reflective essay by music teacher Inez Field Damon, “The Boys Who Would Not Sing.” Damon laments her experiences talking with the principal at a school where she’s failing at cajoling boys’ participation. The principal replies:

“You can’t make them sing. They never sing. They are heavy in everything.”

Closer to our own times, sociology of arts scholar Clare Hall of Monash University in Australia examines the “missing male” trend in singing at school. She finds that far fewer boys joining choirs or willing to sing likely finds its origins in very early childhood.

Flute and muscial score
What can teachers and parents do to ensure that children select musical activities based on their real desires? (Photo by Rajesh Kavasseri / Unsplash)

Musical genius isn’t male

In my work, I’m tracking gender research in music education. There are many ways researchers are investigating this area.

Researchers look beyond musical instruments, such as barriers to girls playing the electric guitar, to include all types musical pursuits, including collecting records, DJ-ing or writing and producing music.

There are two approaches aimed toward greater gender equity in music education — which could also be adapted to combat gender inequity in other human endeavours — which really must be used in concert. These are known as compensatory practices and challenging practices.

Compensatory practices aim to fill in some gaps related to music history. Rather than just studying dead white European men, music educators must consciously and purposefully include women of diverse cultures or backgrounds in the story.

Let’s study medieval abbess Hildegard von Bingen and American composer, singer and arranger Roberta Martin. Let’s study Americana guitarist Maybelle Carter, or contemporary music makers like blues rocker SATE or vocalist Tanya Tagaq.

And, for those who scoff that we can’t just not study Beethoven, I say, “Of course we study Beethoven! He’s pretty good. But, we don’t privilege Beethoven’s work as inherently more important or a as product of musical genius exclusive to men.”

Role models

Compensatory practices used alone are not enough. Filling gaps is necessary, but alone, compensatory practices don’t take steps to combat continued gendering in music. Some challenging practices that interrupt the formation of gender stereotypes are needed. One of the most effective is providing students with a variety of musical examples or role models.

Exposing students to images of both male and female musicians playing varied instruments or in varied musical roles has been shown to be effective. But beware, because simply showing what might be thought of as counter-examples (only girls playing drums, for instance) runs the risk of creating an equally strong gender bias shifted from the prevalent one.

Any lifelong musician can tell you the benefits of making music. We talk about enhancing self-esteem and self-regulation, building community and enhancing academic achievement among the benefits. But let’s not forget the joy and needed self-expression that music making also brings.

It’s a shame when children miss out on these many benefits either because somebody pushes them in the wrong direction because of who or what they appear to be, or because encouragement and efforts to break down stereotyping are lacking or ineffective.


Robbie MacKay, is a lecturer in Musicology, Dan School of Drama and Music at 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.

Orientation concludes with weekend events

  • Students at Ontario Hall
    A group of first-year students get their photo taken at Ontario Hall shortly after they received their tams. (Photo by Bernard Clark / Queen's University)
  • Weekend orientation students
    An orientation leader reconnects with her first-year students as orientation events restarted over the weekend. (Photo by Bernard Clark / Queen's University)
  • A group of first-year Arts and Science students get their photo taken with their orientation leaders.
    A group of first-year Arts and Science students get their photo taken with their orientation leaders. (Photo by Bernard Clark / Queen's University)
  • First-year students from the Faculty of Arts and Science receive their tams
    First-year students from the Faculty of Arts and Science fill Grant Hall as they receive their tams, a Queen's University tradition. (Photo by Bernard Clark / Queen's University)
  • First-year students from the Faculty of Arts and Science do the Oil Thigh
    First-year students from the Faculty of Arts and Science and their orientation leaders perform the Oil Thigh. (Photo by Bernard Clark / Queen's University)
  • Members of Queen's Bands perform outside Grant Hall
    Members of Queen's Bands perform outside Grant Hall for incoming first-year students. (Photo by Bernard Clark / Queen's University)

Following their first two days of classes, Queen’s University’s Class of 2023 took part in their final orientation week events over the weekend.

A number of orientation activities were held Friday evening and throughout the weekend, including a special concert, tours of the Athletics and Recreation Centre and Stauffer Library, while the students also received their tams, traditional Scottish-style hats that are handed out to all first-year undergraduate students at Queen’s.

Other events included a Conflict Management Workshop and Academic Skills Workshops run by Peer Learning Assistants from Student Academic Success Services.

Sunday also marked Welcome to Kingston Day, the official orientation to the Kingston campus for students who spent their first year studying at the Bader International Study Centre.

Learn more about the Class of 2023.

A royal honour for research

Royal Society of Canada elects four Queen’s University researchers.

[Royal Society of Canada]
Queen's University researchers Rosa Bruno-Jofré, Margaret Moore, and Kim Nossal have been elected as fellows of the Royal Society of Canada, while Grégoire Webber was named a member of the College of New Scholars, Artists, and Scientists. 

Four Queen’s University researchers have been elected to the Royal Society of Canada, the most prestigious academic society in Canada. Rosa Bruno-Jofré, Margaret Moore, and Kim Nossal were elected to the Fellowship of the academy, while Grégoire Webber was named a member of the College of New Scholars, Artists, and Scientists.

The group offers a diverse range of research interests including foreign and defence policy, the history of education, territorial rights, and human rights.

The Fellowship of the Royal Society of Canada comprises over 2,000 Canadian scholars, artists, and scientists, peer-elected as the best in their field. These are distinguished men and women from all branches of learning who have made contributions in the arts, the humanities and the sciences, as well as in Canadian public life.

The College of New Scholars, Artists and Scientists is Canada’s first national system of multidisciplinary recognition for the emerging generation of Canadian intellectual leadership.

Queen’s is proud to be home to over 90 members of the Fellowship and 11 members of the College of the Royal Society of Canada.

“Congratulations to the four researchers recognized as members of this esteemed group of Canada’s most influential academics,” says Patrick Deane, Principal and Vice-Chancellor, Queen’s University. “This honour reflects their outstanding leadership in the field of research and the significant contributions they have made to the academy.”

The four Queen’s scholars are:

Rosa Bruno-Jofré (Education) is internationally acclaimed for her research into the history of education, the development of large interdisciplinary projects, and her futuristic view of outreach. She has contributed innovative approaches to the study of Catholic history.

Margaret Moore (Political Studies) is one of the world’s leading authorities in the field of territorial rights. She has developed a comprehensive and systematic theory of territory dealing with some of the most pressing issues faced in national and international politics: how to draw state boundaries, secession, resource rights, rights to migrate and rights of national defense.

Kim Nossal (Political Studies, School of Policy Studies) has published widely and influentially on Canada’s foreign and defence policy. Uniquely, his scholarship has successfully sought to build bridges to the significant francophone scholarly community examining Canada’s political role globally.

Grégoire Webber (Law) has worked for the Privy Council Office, served as Legal Affairs Advisor to the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, and received a Meritorious Service Medal from the Governor General for founding the Supreme Court Advocacy Institute.

The four Queen’s researchers will be inducted at the Royal Society of Canada's annual Celebration of Excellence and Engagement on Friday, Nov. 22. For more information visit the Royal Society of Canada website.

Land donation gives Queen’s access to unique ecosystem

Family commemorates the 100th anniversary of their grandmother’s graduation.

Larry McKeown (MA’86) and his sister, Anna Kelly (Artsci’81, BEd’81), donated land in honour of their grandmother, Kathleen McKeown (Arts 1916).  

Students and researchers have access to ecologically important land and a wider range of plants, animals, and insects for field studies, thanks to the generosity of a Queen’s family.

Larry McKeown (MA’86), and his sister, Anna Kelly (Artsci’81, BEd’81), donated an 18-hectare tract of the Bayview Bog that has been in their family for decades. The land, located along Taylor Kidd Boulevard about 20 minutes west of the Queen’s campus, was donated to honour their grandmother, Kathleen McKeown (nee Ralph), who graduated in 1916 and was a popular member of the Queen’s community.

Biology professor Vicki Friesen is excited the university has access to the land because fieldwork and hands-on learning is an essential part of the Queen’s student experience.

“When students get out in the field, the light in their eyes changes,” says Dr. Friesen. “It’s awesome to see. They learn more by studying organisms and their interactions in nature, rather than pictures and words in a book.  Once you see the plants and animals, they become more real and important.”

Despite the name, the Bayview Bog is actually a type of wetland known as a fen. Only a small amount of water drains out, which makes it very wet and nutrient-poor, so the land is often home to rare plants, insects, and small animals. Fens require thousands of years to develop and cannot be easily restored once destroyed. Fens are also important to reduce the effects of climate change because wetlands absorb large amounts of carbon dioxide.

“A fen is completely different from a forest or a river ecosystem,” says Dr. Friesen. “So Queen’s students now have better access to see and study a wider range of plants and animals out in the wild.”

The McKeowns originally wanted to donate the property directly to Queen’s to commemorate the 100th anniversary of their grandmother’s graduation. But because it was ecologically sensitive land, it was placed under the stewardship of the Cataraqui Region Conservation Authority (CRCA). A partnership between Queen’s and the CRCA allows students and researchers access to the land.

The Bayview Bog is one of several outdoor areas available to Queen’s students and researchers. The most well-known is the Queen’s University Biological Station (QUBS) which opened in 1944 on the shores of Lake Opinicon, 50 kilometres north of Kingston. It has expanded to more than 3,400 hectares and is now one of the top scientific field stations in Canada.   

This article originally appeared on the Queen's Alumni website.

Valuing femininity

A Queen's post-doc has won an Ontario Women’s Health Scholars Award for her work to measure and combat femmephobic attitudes.

Rhea Hoskins
Rhea Hoskin, a Queen's University post-doctoral fellow, has won an Ontario Women’s Health Scholars Award. (Supplied Photo)

You recognize the signs.

People avoiding the colour pink for fear of appearing too feminine. Crying being labelled as a sign of ‘weakness’. Holding attitudes that suggest women are less capable than men.

These are all examples of femmephobia and anti-femininity – prejudices against femininity and feminine qualities. While some examples of femmephobia can be highly overt, it can also be subtle in how it influences cultural norms.

Rhea Hoskin believes femmephobia and anti-femininity are second nature in society, and their prevalence makes it difficult to conduct research into how this mindset factors into gender-based violence and discrimination. So, her post-doctoral research at Queen’s will aim to develop scales to measure femmephobic attitudes and experiences, and to identify the most likely targets of such attitudes.

“Specifically, in this work I seek to connect different types of violence to the ways in which society views femininity,” she says. “It is my hope that this research helps us to better understand how attitudes that devalue and regulate femininity fuel other forms of discrimination. And, ultimately, I hope that this work encourages the re-valuing of femininity as a strategy to combat misogyny, sexism, homophobia, transmisogyny, and rape culture.”

This promising research topic, coupled with Dr. Hoskin’s other contributions to women’s health and to science over the past decade, recently earned her a 2019 Ontario Women’s Health Scholars Award. The award was established by the Council of Ontario Universities to ensure that Ontario attracts and retains pre-eminent women’s health scholars.

“I was driving when I got the call notifying me that I had received the award,” she said. “I had to pull over because I was instantly overcome with emotion. In all honesty, I broke out into an ugly cry – it was a happy cry, but it was most definitely ugly. I immediately called my mother and wife to let them know. We were all ecstatic.”

For Dr. Hoskin, who also recently received the Governor General’s Gold Medal as one of two of the top graduate students across the university based on academic achievement, this Women’s Health Scholars award means she gets to continue pursuing her passion.

“I think that many people feel relieved or excited when they finish their PhD, but I mostly felt sad by the thought that I might not get to continue with my research, and this line of research in particular,” she adds. “Not only do I love research in and of itself, but I love being able to research femme identities, femmephobia, and anti-femininity in particular.”

Working with Sari van Anders, Canada 150 Research Chair in Social Neuroendocrinology, Sexuality, and Gender/Sex, as her post-doctoral supervisor was a major draw for Dr. Hoskin, as her research requires an interdisciplinary mentor who can understand the complexity of gender and feminist theory and simultaneously work within an empirical realm.

“The opportunity to work with Dr. van Anders will uniquely set me up to continue, and strengthen, the trajectory of my research program,” she says.

Dr. Hoskin’s hope is, through her research, that she can create fresh understanding around why it is we devalue and demote people and things that are feminine, and how that affects women’s health and well-being.

“My research centers marginalized people and applies queer and marginalized perspectives to broader social analyses – thus, to have the importance of this perspective recognized and funded is meaningful,” she adds. “Personally and professionally this award allows me to continue to foster interdisciplinary research collaborations with scholars in Ontario. It is my future goal to continue this programme of research at an Ontario university.”

In addition to her research accomplishments and her ambitious agenda, Dr. Hoskin is also the co-chair of Preaching to the Choir: An International LGBTQ+ Conference and is currently the guest editor for an upcoming special issue on critical femininities in Psychology & Sexuality. She is also an invited guest editor for a special issue on femme theory for The Journal of Lesbian Studies.

Getting to know the Class of 2023

This group of incoming students come from across Canada and around the world.

[Queen's students take part in  orientation]
Incoming first-year students share a laugh during the Queen's Welcomes U event on Saturday, Aug. 31. (Photo by Bernard Clark / Queen's University)

The undergraduate Class of 2023 is now on campus, and they are already adding vibrancy and diversity to Queen’s. In this new class, there are more than 4,600 students from all 10 provinces and three territories in Canada as well as students from 49 countries around the world. Queen’s and Kingston continue to be a destination of choice for international students who this year will make up more than 14% of incoming undergraduates.

The overall average of the incoming class is 89.5 per cent and students are entering a wide range of programs; two-thirds are in the Faculty of Arts and Science; 17 per cent are in the Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science; 10 per cent of students are in the Smith School of Business and five per cent in the Faculty of Health Sciences, which is welcoming its first on-campus cohort to the Bachelor of Health Sciences program.

Additionally, more than 100 Arts and Science students will be spending their first year at the Bader International Study Centre in East Sussex, England. This group will be joining their classmates in Kingston next September to complete the remainder of their studies.


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