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Home game: Rethinking Canada through Indigenous hockey

Indigenous Hockey Research Network members pause during their 'visioning gathering' earlier this year at Queen's for a pick-up game at the Leon's Centre in Kingston. (Supplied Photo)

“Damn, we got it. We won one in their barn!”

To Cree hockey player Eugene Arcand, these words made little sense. You see, in the 11 years he had skated for two Saskatchewan Indian residential schools — as sweater number 14, residential school number 781 — no settler teams had ever visited the dilapitated outdoor rinks at St. Michael’s residential school in Duck Lake or the Qu'Appelle school in Lebret.

It wasn’t until he was 23, when Arcand became the only Indigenous player in the region’s Intermediate AAA hockey league, that he learned from settler teammates that “home ice” is supposed to be “an advantage.”

We — Mike Auksi (Anishinaabe/Estonian) and Sam McKegney (white settler of Irish/German descent) — are researchers with the Indigenous Hockey Research Network (IHRN). We interviewed Arcand in Kingston, as part of our network’s preliminary work to cultivate critical understandings of hockey’s role in relations between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples in Canada.

Arcand, whose Cree/nēhiýawēwin name is aski kananumohwatah and whose treaty number is 380, knows what it’s like to be denied the right to play in a “home barn” in his traditional territory of Treaty 6. He was a member of the Indian Residential Schools (IRC) Truth and Reconciliation survivor committee and has been honoured for his work in support of Indigenous sport in Saskatchewan and across the country.

As such, he understands hockey as a site of prejudice, but also as a site rife with potential for positive change.

‘We didn’t ever get to socialize’

Regimentation, discipline and control were at the core of residential school design, as a means of conditioning Indigenous children to shed their cultural values. Physical education was well suited to this enterprise, say Indigenous studies scholar Braden Te Hiwi of the University of British Columbia and sport historian and sociologist Janice Forsyth of Western University, also an IHRN researcher.

Exactly how sport curricula was used varied over time and territory, as well as along gender lines, during more than 100 years of residential schooling in Canada.

Where they were present, sports like hockey were built into the institutions’s social engineering regime as what University of Ottawa health researcher Michael Robidoux calls a “disciplining device.”

Yet, the experiences of Indigenous players were not confined by institutional objectives or the goals of individual overseers. Forsyth and historian Evan Habkirk, also of Western University, argue that sports helped many students “make it through residential school” by being a forum in which they could develop “a sense of identity, accomplishment and pride,” even in the context of trauma and abuse.

As Cree residential school survivor Philip Michel explained in a talk he gave at Opaskwayak Cree Nation:

“We were told we were no good in residential school. But in hockey, we were good. We were just as good as anybody. In many cases, we were better.”

Arcand recalled his teammates showcasing their skill against settler teams at tournaments. However, their experiences differed dramatically from those of the non-Indigenous kids:

“We’d put all our equipment on at the school and get on the bus and we’d go to whatever town… and we’d play sometimes three games in one day. After each game, we’d get back on the bus… We didn’t ever get to socialize against our opponents.”

Years later, Arcand asked a former supervisor from the residential school, “‘Why would you make us wear our equipment all day like that? Other kids got to undress. Other kids got to run around the rink. And we didn’t. We had to wear our same stinky equipment all day long.’” The supervisor replied, “‘So you wouldn’t run away.’”

Project to assimilate

In an 1887 memorandum to cabinet, John A. Macdonald, prime minister and minister of Indian Affairs, identified the “great aim” of the Indian Act legislation as being to “assimilate the Indian people in all respects with the other inhabitants of the Dominion.”

Contradictions, however, persisted at the heart of this legislation. When residential schools were at their peak, policies like The Pass System on the Prairies actively prevented Indigenous people from integrating into settler society. While residential schooling was ostensibly about absorption, contemporary policies enacted barriers to inclusion by restricting mobility.

In Arcand’s team’s segregation from the settler teams, we see a similar contradiction at play. Residential schools were intended to condition Indigenous youth to self-identify not as Indigenous but as Canadian — with hockey functioning as a marker of such identification.

Yet the Indigenous players at the tournament were treated as second-class citizens, forbidden from fraternizing with the other players.

The government’s political goal of eliminating Indigenous rights and identities was never accompanied by a similar commitment toward eliminating settler perceptions of Indigenous inferiority.

Assimilation, in Canada, has never meant equality.

Calls to action in sport

Another factor complicating Indigenous experiences of hockey is the way the sport is romanticized in this country.

The IHRN’s early research suggests that hockey is linked to the naturalization of settler entitlement. Hockey belongs to Canadians because it belongs in the Canadian landscape, so the story goes. Thus, participation in the game allows settlers to imagine they belong here too — with adverse implications for Indigenous people.

Arcand remembers the ferocious nature of anti-Indigenous racism in Saskatchewan hockey in the 1970s. So much so, he shares, that when his team’s trainers packed up the sticks after a road game, they’d leave his out for safety.

“I had to use my stick to defend myself in those arenas.”

Anti-Indigenous racism persists in Canadian hockey today. In the past year, the First Nation Elites Bantam AAA team faced taunts of “savages” from spectators, players and coaches at the Coupe Challenge tournament in Québec. Five First Nations teams from Manitoba found themselves without a league to play in when the non-Indigenous teams against which they used to play formed a new league from which they were excluded.

Yet teams, coaches, players and fans are not without the artillery to make positive change. The Final Report of the TRC provides guidance via Calls to Action 87 to 90 on Sport and Reconciliation.

The report calls for government-sponsored athlete development, culturally relevant programming for coaches, trainers and officials, as well as anti-racism awareness training.

Arcand has worked much of his life to eliminate barriers to participation in sport for Indigenous, racialized and economically challenged athletes. To truly foster inclusion, he says, hockey associations need to confront racism and settler entitlement through disciplinary actions with sufficient teeth to create conditions of safety.

“Why are the people in power,” he asks, “not stepping up to properly enforce excluding these people who deserve to be excluded from the sport?”

‘We still need the game’

Between 1975 and 1981, long before Colin Kaepernick’s and other football players’ celebrated acts of protest, Arcand refused to stand for the Canadian national anthem. When told to do so during a playoff game, he responded, “‘Coach, you want me to stand up? I’m going to get up and you’ll never see me again. Your choice. Make it right now.’” The coach never bothered him again.

Years later, when the horrors of residential school were coming to light through the TRC, one of Arcand’s settler teammates from those days embraced him at the International Ice Hockey Federation World U20 Hockey Tournament in Saskatchewan. He told Arcand, “Now we understand.”

Arcand, a target of brutal assimilation policies and racist violence, says:

“Sports saved my life, hockey saved my life.”

Provided Canadians reckon with hockey’s relationship to settler colonialism and racism, Arcand insists, “We still need the game.”The Conversation


Sam McKegney is an associate professor of English Language and Literature at Queen's University, and Michael Auksi is an Indigenous research officer at 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.

Setting the stage for the artistic repatriation of Indigenous music

Queen’s scholar leads first successful effort to replace misappropriated song from copyrighted opera.

Dylan Robinson, Queen's Professor and Canada Research Chair in Indigenous Arts
Dylan Robinson, Queen's Professor and Canada Research Chair in Indigenous Arts.

In what may be a classical music first, the Canadian Opera Company (COC) and the National Arts Centre (NAC) are co-commissioning new music to replace part of a copyrighted musical work – the opera Louis Riel – to redress the misappropriation of a Nisga’a First Nations song. The decision follows a consultation process led by Queen’s University researcher Dylan Robinson that brought together Indigenous artists and community members, family and friends of the composer and librettist, and performers and artistic leadership of the NAC and COC, to discuss the song’s misuse, and how reparations should be made.

“I’m grateful for the COC and NAC’s work to support Nisg̱a’a Lisims Council of Elders’ request to remove the song from Louis Riel, and to commission Métis composer Ian Cusson to re-write this section of the opera,” says Dr. Robinson, a scholar of Stó:lō descent who holds the Canada Research Chair in Indigenous Arts. “This sets an important precedent for many other appropriated Indigenous songs that remain in contemporary compositions and arrangements.”

In 1967, when composer Harry Somers wrote Louis Riel, he decided to use his previously written composition, “Kuyas”, to open the third act of the opera. Kuyas is based on a Nisga’a song—a lim’ooy̓, or funeral dirge—recorded and transcribed by Marius Barbeau and Ernest MacMillan in 1927. The song is one of hundreds of First Nations songs collected by ethnographers during the early 20th century. The majority of these songs were collected during the Indian Act’s potlatch ban from 1885-1951, where First Nations on the northwest coast were prohibited from gathering to practice their cultural traditions.

Indigenous History Month
June is Indigenous History Month in Canada.
In recognition of this the Gazette is highlighting a number of articles throughout the month.
To learn more about Indigenous Supports at Queen’s University, visit the Inclusive Queen’s webpage.
Information is also available at the Four Directions Indigenous Student Centre website.

As a recent repatriation policy by the Royal BC Museum outlines, much of the material and intangible cultural heritage (including songs) were collected under duress. Indigenous people allowed ethnographers to record their songs during the time of the potlatch ban with the understanding that doing so would keep them safe for future generations of Indigenous people. Many of those who shared were unaware that the songs might be used in future compositions without their consent, and in contravention of Indigenous law.

“To sing this lament in other contexts, and without the appropriate rights to do so, goes against Nisga’a law,” says Dr. Robinson. “More broadly, Indigenous songs are often forms of law, medicine, teachings, personal family history, and are considered to have life themselves. This means that their mis-use is not only appropriation; for Indigenous peoples, hearing this most cherished aspect of our culture ‘broken apart’ can be a traumatic experience.”

Cusson, who is currently composer in residence with the COC, says he intends to create music to replace the Nisga’a song that will be faithful to the original intentions of the opera’s creators, Somers and librettist Mavor Moore.

“I am so thankful to be a part of this important and historic work of seeing this song return to the Nisg̱a’a people,” he says. “That the COC and NAC, two of Canada’s largest arts organizations, are partnering with the Moore and Somers families to enable this important act of musical redress, points to their leadership in the furthering of relations with Canada’s Indigenous peoples.”

The completed new work will be debuted by the National Arts Centre Orchestra at a concert celebrating the work of some of Canada’s leading Indigenous composers, on September 19, 2019 in Ottawa.

“This process serves as a great example of how Indigenous-led work with institutions can lead to substantive change,” says Dr. Robinson, “especially as we increase our efforts to repatriate songs back to our communities, and to foster resurgence through new Indigenous artwork. People are often surprised to learn that most Indigenous songs used in classical music were used without permission of those families and individuals who hold the exclusive rights to sing them. Many of our songs remain trapped within classical music pieces, and so much work remains to be done.”

Castle campus marks 25 years

Queen’s Bader International Study Centre to celebrate milestone with alumni reunion.

Queen's Bader International Study Centre
Queen's Bader International Study Centre (BISC) celebrates 25 years.

Inside the walls of a nearly 600-year-old English castle, Queen’s alumni, faculty, staff, and friends will soon gather to mark the 25th anniversary of the Queen’s Bader International Study Centre (BISC) housed there. Among them: a NASA astronaut, the Lord Lieutenant of East Sussex, leading academics, Canadian expats, local community members, and those traveling from around the world – all of whom will be on hand from June 29-30, 2019 to celebrate the past, present, and future of the overseas Queen’s campus.

“For a quarter century, the BISC has been a temporary home to Queen’s students looking to further broaden the scope of their learning,” says Hugh Horton, Vice-Provost and BISC Executive Director. “Here, they are able to engage with scholars from across the world, in a close-knit, interdisciplinary academic environment to not only enhance their education, but give it a truly global dimension.”

Visionary philanthropists and Queen’s alumni Alfred and Isabel Bader gifted the BISC, located on the Herstmonceux Castle estate in East Sussex, UK, to Queen’s University in 1993, and it opened doors to students in 1994. It has since provided innovative, international undergraduate and graduate programs to over 7,000 Queen’s students, across disciplines as diverse as archaeology, music, international law and politics, global health, international project management, and astronomy. Program offerings continue to grow.

In 2017, the BISC accepted its first group of students from the Queen’s Concurrent Education Program, which prepares undergraduates to become educators. Students enrolled in this program complete local practicums at primary and secondary schools nearby the BISC campus, providing a hands-on comparative learning experience.

This year, programming for science students is set to expand with the opening of the BISC’s brand-new teaching science laboratory and innovation design space, allowing the campus to offer practical science subjects on campus for the very first time. The facility will be officially unveiled during the 25th anniversary celebrations.

The Bader International Study Centre
Queen's Bader International Study Centre.

“The Baders envisaged a learning facility that could take the Queen’s educational experience Alfred deeply cherished, and extend its reach internationally,” says Dr. Horton. “With 25-years of BISC alumni now living and working in countries across the world—many of whom are set to join us in celebration of this incredible milestone—and our ever-growing complement of programs, I think their vision has truly taken shape. In honour of their vision, and of Alfred, who passed away late last year, I look forward to continuing our momentum forward into the next 25 years.”

On June 29, 2019, BISC alumni and their families are invited to the first day of 25th anniversary celebrations. There, they will have a chance to reminisce during castle tours, have tea in the Elizabethan gardens, mingle with professors, and attend the unveiling of a commemorative garden honouring the Baders. NASA astronaut and Queen’s alumnus Drew Feustel, who returned from the International Space Station last October following a six-month mission, will also deliver a keynote address.

On June 30, the celebration will open to the public and take on a Canadian theme in recognition of the Canada Day weekend. Canadians living in England are encouraged to join alumni on the castle grounds for street hockey, tastes from home such as poutine and Nanaimo bars, falconry and archery demonstrations, and a symphonova performance by the BISC Musicians in Residence, featuring works by Dan School of Drama and Music Professor John Burge.

Queen’s Principal and Vice-Chancellor Daniel Woolf, Chancellor Jim Leech, and Vice-Principal (Advancement) Karen Bertrand will be among senior leaders there to help mark the milestone.

“In 1993, the Baders bestowed Queen’s with the BISC; an amazing gift that went on to play a foundational role in extending our university’s global horizons,” says Principal Woolf. “The unique, experiential learning prospects that the facility provides helped inspire us to chart educational linkages with many other institutions and organizations internationally – opening a world of opportunities for our students.”

Those interested in attending the festivities can register on the website.

Sending surplus food to charity is not the way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions

Giving food that would otherwise go to landfill to hungry people does little to ensure the well-being of Canadians who are food insecure. (Photo by Chuttersnap/Unsplash)

With the recent news that Canada is warming twice as fast as the rest of the world, Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC) is calling for urgent action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Reducing food loss and waste is one important action we can take. When food waste is sent to landfill, it decomposes to methane, which is 25 times more powerful than carbon dioxide as a greenhouse gas. In addition, food waste represents a tremendous loss of the energy, land, water and labour used to produce the food.

And we waste a lot of food. An incredible 58 per cent of all food produced in Canada is either lost or wasted. This is an enormous amount of food, worth almost $50 billion, according to a report by the Toronto-based food charity, Second Harvest.

The first proposed strategy, laid out by ECCC in a draft document circulated in early spring 2019 to academics and others with interests and expertise in addressing food loss and waste, is the most obvious: to reduce the amount of food that is wasted, most of which originates in food processing, production and manufacturing.

The second proposed strategy is to enhance the donation of surplus food to feed hungry people. This strategy appears to be a simple “no-brainer,” as demonstrated by the more than 233,000 Canadians who signed a Change.org petition to end food waste. The comments on the petition website show that many Canadians believe it to be morally wrong to waste edible food, especially when some Canadians are hungry.

However, while giving food that would otherwise go to landfill to hungry people may be a convenient part of a solution to reduce greenhouse gases, it will do little to ensure the well-being of the four million Canadians who are food insecure.

Reducing food waste by feeding hungry Canadians is a simplistic solution that is deeply problematic and morally distressing. It provides the comforting illusion of a solution to hunger while the underlying problem — poverty — is not addressed.

Food insecurity

Food insecurity — the inadequate or uncertain access to food because of financial constraints — is a symptom and result of poverty. It is a public health crisis, with profound consequences for individual health and for health-care costs. It cannot be solved by food charity.

Only one in five hungry Canadians use food banks. And even when they do, they remain food insecure. When food banks and soup kitchens distribute edible food that would otherwise go to landfill, it means that some hungry Canadians are less hungry than they would otherwise be. But food charity is not a solution to the problem of food insecurity.

Nobel Prize winner Archbishop Desmond Tutu has recounted the profound poverty affecting black South Africans when he was a boy. He explained that the free school meals provided to white — but not Black — school children were often thrown in the garbage in favour of homemade packed lunches.

Watching another Black boy rummaging in the garbage to find the food that white children had rejected was indelibly marked in his memory of childhood. “It was perfectly edible food. But I knew it was wrong,” he said. For Archbishop Tutu, the idea that some people have to eat the cast-off food that others do not want is a powerful symbol of profound, systemic injustice.

I expect he would be shocked that the government of one of the richest countries in the world, with an international reputation as a just society, would consider endorsing such a proposal.

Most food waste in Canada comes from the food industry. (Photo by Jonathan Borba/Unsplash

The right to an adequate standard of living

While Canada has committed to the Sustainable Development Goal of halving per capita food waste globally by 2030 and cutting greenhouse gas emissions by 232 million tonnes by 2030, we must remember that we have other international obligations too.

In 2012, the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food, Olivier De Schutter, expressed concern about the growing gap between Canada’s international human rights commitments and their domestic implementation. He recommended that Canada ensure income security for all citizens at a level sufficient to “enjoy the human right to an adequate standard of living,” which includes the right to food.

There is no reason why we cannot achieve our goals of reducing food waste and greenhouse gas emissions while also assuring all Canadians the income they need for an adequate standard of living, including the ability to buy their own food. Reducing poverty through effective public policy, such as the poverty reduction strategy introduced by the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador and the ill-fated Ontario Basic Income Pilot project, reduces food insecurity.

In a country as wealthy as ours, it is immoral, unjust and unconscionable that the Government of Canada would endorse a plan that effectively relegates four million Canadians to second-class citizenry by recommending that they eat the garbage that no one else wants.The Conversation


Elaine Power is an associate professor in Health Studies 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.

Queen’s remembers Mabel Corlett

Members of the Queen’s community are remembering Mabel Corlett who passed away on April 14. She was 80.

In 1960, Dr. Corlett became the first woman to obtain a B.Sc. in geology from Queen’s University. After obtaining her Master’s and PhD at the University of Chicago, she returned to Queen’s to teach mineralogy. In doing so, she also became the first female professor in the department, where she would teach for 17 years.

Flags on campus were lowered in her memory on Saturday, May 11.

An obituary is available online.

Recognizing research excellence at Queen’s

At this year’s Spring Convocation, Queen’s University is bestowing its highest form of recognition for research excellence to five faculty members. Margaret Moore (Political Studies), Tucker Carrington (Chemistry; Physics, Engineering Physics & Astronomy), Mark Daymond (Mechanical and Materials Engineering; Physics, Engineering Physics & Astronomy), Robert Ross (Kinesiology and Health Studies), and Nancy van Deusen (History) are the recipients of the 2019 Prizes for Excellence in Research (PER). Valued at $5,000 each, the PER are awarded to outstanding Queen’s researchers and celebrate major research contributions either completed or recognized in recent years. Recipients are nominated by members of the Queen’s community and represent one of five categories: humanities; social sciences; natural sciences; health sciences; and engineering.

This year’s PER recipients demonstrate the breadth and scope of research excellence across the disciplines at Queen’s. Since the program’s development in 1980, the PER have been Queen’s signature internal research honour and represent an important investment by the university in recognizing its top scholars.

Margaret Moore

Dr. Moore (Political Studies) is the director of the Centre for the Study of Democracy and Diversity, and holds a cross-appointment as a courtesy in philosophy where she teaches in the Master’s in Political and Legal Theory program. Her research focuses on justice, nationalism, and the territorial rights of peoples and states. She is the author of A Political Theory of Territory, which won the Canadian Philosophical Association’s biannual book prize for 2017, and the forthcoming Who Should Own Natural Resources?

Tucker Carrington, Canada Research Chair in Computational Quantum Dynamics

Dr. Carrington (Chemistry; Physics, Engineering Physics & Astronomy) and his group pioneered the development of iterative methods for computing vibrational and ro-vibrational spectra. These methods are now widely recognized as methods of choice for molecules and reacting systems with more than three atoms. Iterative methods make it possible to study, at a detailed level, systems of real chemical interest. Recently he used these ideas to study CH5+, which has 120 equivalent minima separated by small barriers and is recognized as a bizarre and intriguing molecule. Established approaches for computing and analysing spectra fail completely for CH5+.

Mark Daymond, Canada Research Chair in Mechanics of Materials

Dr. Daymond (Mechanical and Materials Engineering; Physics, Engineering Physics & Astronomy) is the NSERC/UNENE Industrial Research Chair in Nuclear Materials and the lead investigator of the Reactor Materials Testing Laboratory. His major scientific contributions have provided new insights into the mechanical behavior of, and phase transformations in, metals by the application of advanced neutron, synchrotron X–ray and electron diffraction techniques, coupled with the extensive use of numerical models to analyze and interpret the diffraction data. In addition to advancing the understanding of several life-limiting issues associated with current and future nuclear reactor designs, Dr. Daymond’s research has contributed significantly to the broader fields of materials science and mechanics of materials.

Robert Ross

Dr. Ross (Kinesiology and Health Studies) has had a major impact on the advancement of knowledge about the effectiveness of physical activity interventions for managing chronic, life-style based disease. He is the principal investigator of the Lifestyle & Cardiometabolic Research Unit at Queen’s and holds a cross-appointment in the Endocrinology and Metabolism Department of the School of Medicine. Dr. Ross has led the scientific writing of consensus statements from prestigious medical and health organizations recognizing the overwhelming evidence that cardiorespiratory fitness and physical activity should be a vital sign in clinical practice.

Nancy van Deusen

Dr. van Deusen (History) is a historian of colonial Latin America and the Atlantic world who has made outstanding contributions to research in gender history, religious history, and most recently Indigenous history. Her scholarship illuminates the spiritual and material worlds of people whose voices have been left out of the historical record. Her work blends meticulous research and careful, critical reading of her sources with methodological sophistication and innovation. She is the author of four books and is currently working on a SSHRC funded project entitled “The Disappearance of the Past: Native American Slavery and the Making of the Early Modern World.”

For more information about the Prizes for Excellence in Research, see the Office of the Vice-Principal (Research) website

Funding for new discoveries

Queen’s University researchers earn over $20 million in funding from the NSERC Discovery Grants program.

Minister of Science and Sport Kirsty Duncan has announced $588 million in funding from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) through the 2019 Discovery Grants programs. More than 100 Queen’s University researchers received funding through the programs, totaling over $20 million to pursue research and innovation. This includes over 66 Discovery Grants totaling over $13.3 million (80 per cent success rate).

Support for Discovery
• The investment announced today includes $426 million in Discovery Grants going to more than 2,295 researchers across the full range of science and engineering disciplines, from biology and chemistry to advanced materials engineering and astrophysics
• $6.2 million in Discovery Launch Supplements will be going to 499 early-career researchers in the first year of their Discovery Grants to help them launch their careers
• $83 million in Scholarship and Fellowships to support nearly 1,700 graduate students and fellows in the early stages of their careers

“The funding announced today demonstrates our strong and enduring commitment to science and researchers,” says Minister Duncan. “Since taking office, our government has worked hard to bring science and research back to their rightful place and this historic investment in the discoveries of tomorrow is just one example of how we are achieving this goal.” 

Along with the Discovery Grants funding, Queen’s researchers received support from a number of other discovery programs including:

  • Two Discovery Accelerator Supplements worth $120,000 each
  • Two Northern Research Supplements with a value of $205,000 over five years
  • Three Subatomic Physics Grants totaling $5,858,000
  • 13 Discovery Launch Supplements worth $12,500 each

Queen’s University also received 20 NSERC post-graduate scholarships for students working in the fields of natural sciences and engineering.

“Support through programs such as Discovery are the cornerstone of research in Canada,” says Kimberly Woodhouse, Interim Vice-Principal (Research).  “They allow Queen’s faculty, students, and post-doctoral fellows to pursue long-term research projects that will contribute to ensuring our health, environment, economy and communities thrive.”

For more information on the funding, visit the NSERC website.

Don’t miss out on research funding opportunities, subscribe to the University Research Services Funding Opportunities listserv.

U.S. college admissions scandal means more skepticism of genuine invisible disabilities

Admissions consultant William Singer is alleged to have helped his clients game the admissions system, including advising parents to get medical documentation stating their child had a learning disability. (Photo by Unsplash / good-free-photos.com)

Many have been shocked or disgusted to see a parade of privileged U.S. parents face charges after an alleged $20 million in bribes was paid between 2011 and 2018 by people seeking to cheat the normal college admissions process.

Admissions consultant William Singer is alleged to have helped his clients game the admissions system, including advising parents to get medical documentation stating their child had a learning disability, which can give students more time on tests or allow test-taking without regular supervision.

Abuses of disability diagnoses like these cheat students with genuine disabilities who may now be more likely to face skepticism about their diagnoses or be forced to revisit struggles they faced regarding accommodations. They also spotlight larger questions of fairness regarding accommodations for invisible disabilities in post-secondary education.

Since at least the mid-1990s, after groundbreaking anti-discrimination laws were introduced in the U.S., both journalistic investigation and academic research has examined signs that some people exploit accommodations designed for invisible disability diagnoses (such as learning disabilities or ADHD) to gain advantage.

Studies warned how easily students could feign learning disabilities or Attention Deficit Disorder (ADHD).

As a researcher, I’ve studied clinician bias and issues that interfere with accurate diagnosis of ADHD and learning disabilities.

I also work as a clinician at an assessment centre that helps students with learning disabilities transition to and succeed in post-secondary education.

Financial privilege and diagnoses

In 2000, the California state auditor reported that rates of learning-disability-related accommodations provided on college entrance exams were heavily skewed towards rich, white students throughout the state: by contrast, the number of learning disability accommodations provided to students in inner-city Los Angeles schools was zero.

This pattern is repeated throughout the U.S.: high parental income correlates with high rates of learning disability diagnosis and associated academic accommodations. These discrepancies don’t prove fraudulent diagnoses, but they do raise questions regarding why higher rates of learning disability diagnoses are associated with financial privilege whereas rates of physical disabilities show no such association.

According to a The New York Times report, Singer allegedly told one client that for $4,000 or $5,000 he could get a psychologist to write a report stating the client’s daughter “had disabilities and required special accommodations.”

This suggests psychologists were available who could either produce diagnoses on demand or who could be duped.

Honest psychologists can be fooled. Clinicians are generally inclined to regard their clients as honest. Some research suggests that someone who reads slowly or with difficulty, or seems to have problems processing information will often capture a disability diagnosis and get awarded the extra test-taking time that goes with it.

When is a fair accommodation fair?

Accommodations at the post-secondary level are supposed to ensure that those with disabilities have an equal opportunity to participate; they ensure access, not success.

In the case of physical disabilities, the principle of equal opportunity is easier to grasp. For example, having an exam provided in braille means a student who is blind can read the questions. Such an accommodation would confer no advantage to those who can see: if a person pretended to be blind and accessed a braille exam, there’s no benefit.

Advocates of learning disability accommodations have asserted that accommodations don’t provide an unfair advantage.

But, in fact, research has suggested giving more than 25 per cent extra time provides a competitive advantage to reading disabled students relative to their university peers, and extra time in general helps all students including those with ADHD.

Singer allegedly told a client “wealthy families…figured out that if I get my kid tested and they get extended time, they can do better on the test. So most of these kids don’t even have issues, but they’re getting time.” For those feigning a disability, any amount of extra time gives a leg up on peers.

Feigning in Canada

To my knowledge, no comprehensive research exists about the prevalence of gaming disability accommodations in Canadian universities.

But suggesting there is less opportunity to game the Canadian system misses something: the possibility of students with no learning issues using disabilities accommodations to gain extra test time in courses before applying to highly competitive undergraduate or graduate programs, or before writing standardized tests like the Law School Admissions Test (LSAT).

In one study of 144 cases of post-secondary students undergoing testing for learning disabilities or ADHD, my colleagues and I found definitive evidence that 15 per cent were feigning or exaggerating. That percentage is a bit higher than the estimated range suggested in a survey of disability services personnel at 122 Canadian post-secondary institutions: the majority (90 per cent) reported they suspected fewer than 10 per cent of students to be feigning disabilities; however, a sizeable minority (10 per cent) of respondents suspected that between 10 – 25 per cent of students receiving accommodations were not genuine.

Respondents felt learning disabilities and ADHD were the most vulnerable to feigning, followed by psychiatric disorders. A sizeable number also believed parents were diagnosis shopping to get the diagnosis they wanted for their child.

Certainly, it’s understandable that in the face of unexpected learning struggles students (or their parents) would search for answers. But why might students or parents intentionally exploit a diagnosis? The rewards at the post-secondary level include not only more time on tests, but also memory aids for exams, a government bursary to purchase a new laptop or financial supports and government-funded disability bursaries.

Even when students are being honest, many studies show that clinicians have a diagnostic bias: for example, a survey of 119 clinicians who authored learning disability or ADHD-specific documentation submitted by students seeking academic accommodations at Canadian universities found 55 per cent of clinicians already believe that the purpose of an evaluation is to help secure accommodations for their clients. This same study found that 14 per cent of psychologists admitted that they would lie (or at least bend the rules) in order to obtain accommodations for their clients.

What should change?

We need to find a way to ensure equal access for students with genuine disabilities while de-incentivizing false disability diagnoses among post-secondary students. This means rethinking how we evaluate students.

Let’s start by getting rid of time as a test-taking variable. Let’s also give all students use of word processors when writing essay-type tests.

The U.S. College admissions scandal has shown that accommodations for invisible disabilities are set up in a way that could allow non-disabled people to exploit such diagnoses for a perceived benefit. This is not what disability accommodation was supposed to do.The Conversation


Allyson G. Harrison, is an Associate Professor of Psychology at Queen's University and Clinical Director, Regional Assessment & Resource Centre.

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

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Championing career development with tailored support

The 2nd annual Queen’s Psychology Careers Conference held on March 22, with approximately 100 students attending. From left: Andrea Labelle, Undergraduate Assistant in Psychology; Stephanie Manuel,  Department Student Council Co-President; Meghan Norris, Undergraduate Chair; and Megan Herrewynen,  Department Student Council Co-President. (Supplied Photo)

Meghan Norris, Chair of Undergraduate Studies in the Department of Psychology, is creating tailored career supports and teaching students how to apply academic knowledge to future careers.

“The discipline of psychology is both broad and deep; students learn rigorous research methodologies and data analytic techniques in tandem with learning about the subtleties of complex behavior,” says Dr. Norris. “As a result, our students are uniquely suited to lead initiatives aiming to solve many global challenges, yet it can be hard for them to identify how to translate their training into their next career steps.”

Dr. Norris has implemented a number of new initiatives including a career conference, a new course and a new open-source textbook.

The 2nd annual Queen’s Psychology Careers Conference held on March 22, had approximately 100 students register, with faculty and alumni in attendance. They spent the morning engaging in professional development training with Career Services, had a keynote luncheon with guest and alumni Michael Seto, and they spent the afternoon discussing traditional and non-traditional career options in the field of psychology through small group mentoring with industry professionals. The day ended with a larger networking session with industry professionals.

The new course, PSYC 204: Applications and Careers in the Psychological Sciences, teaches students to take action and think about a variety of career options. To support this course, Dr. Norris assembled a new psychology textbook focused on how psychological sciences are applied in practice. The Canadian Handbook for Careers in Psychological Science was written by experts across Canada, and is open-sourced, which means it is free to access, and will be available online at eCampusOntario this summer.

“Students receive training in the skills most desired by employers but, despite this, students sometimes have a hard time seeing the relevance of this training ,” says Dr. Norris. “By integrating lecture, active-learning, and guest speakers, this course strengthens student awareness of the link between the content they are learning and the many ways that this knowledge can be translated into a broad range of applications and careers.”

Through the development process of these initiatives, Dr. Norris took advantage of the consultation services of Career Services, who can help with creating tailored career support, including forming learning outcomes and designing activities to help students explore career options and articulate the value of their university experience. Miguel Hahn, Head Career Counsellor, then contributed to the conference and the course with customized career workshops, and also to the textbook with a chapter on career development.

“Dr. Norris’ initiatives are all great examples of how faculty can champion career education on campus,” Hahn says. “Bringing career education into the classroom is a crucial component in developing student career readiness before graduation. By meeting student’s needs early on, they are supported in exploring career options, reflecting on who they are, and making plans towards meaningful career goals.”

To explore opportunities and resources for creating tailored career supports, contact Career Services.

Funding new scientific frontiers

New Frontiers in Research Fund fuels Queen’s research in topics ranging from Lyme disease to climate change.

Early-career researchers are the backbone of Canada’s research infrastructure. Recognizing this area of research strength and its potential, the Government of Canada has launched the New Frontiers in Research Fund (NFRF) to support early-career researchers as they pursue the next great discovery in their fields.

[Minister Kirsty Duncan]
Kirsty Duncan, Minister of Science and Sport

Seven Queen’s University projects earned a $1.72 million portion of the $38 million in NFRF funding announced by the Honourable Kirsty Duncan, Minister of Science and Sport, earlier this week. The successful Queen’s researchers are: Chantelle Capicciotti (Chemistry) and Mark Ormiston (Biomedical and Molecular Sciences), Robert Colautti (Biology), Samuel Dahan (Law), Lindsay Morcom (Education), Jessica Selinger (Kinesiology and Health Science), Kevin Stamplecoskie (Chemistry), and Laura Thomson (Geography and Planning).

“I am pleased today to celebrate the very first researchers to benefit from the New Frontiers in Research Fund. Our government’s vision is for our researchers to take risks and be innovative,” says Minister Duncan. “We want our scientists and students to have access to state-of-the-art laboratories and equipment, and we want the halls of academia to better reflect the diversity of Canada itself. This new fund will help us achieve that vision.”

Drs. Capicciotti and Ormiston are studying how cancer cells change the sugars that they express on their surface to avoid detection by the immune system. The researchers will work to develop technology to screen hundreds of sugar structures, with the ultimate goal of creating new cancer therapies that function by boosting an individual’s immune response.

As a member of the Canadian Lyme Disease Research Network (CLyDRN) based at Queen’s, Dr. Colautti is leading a diverse and multidisciplinary group of researchers to disrupt the way that tick-borne diseases are identified and managed in Canada. Their approach includes the use of handheld DNA sequencers and cloud computing for rapid detection of known or potential tick-borne pathogens, summarizing this information into a risk assessment framework for medical practitioners, public health officials, and the general populace.

Professor Dahan, in collaboration with Xiaodan Zhu (Electrical and Computer Engineering) and a team of 25 data scientists, Artificial Intelligence researchers, and law students, is working on an open source AI-tribunal for small claims in Ontario. This digital dispute-resolution platform will provide predictive legal services and negotiation support for self-represented plaintiffs. The NFRF funding will help develop the first stage of the product, focusing on severance pay and termination negotiation.

Using the skills of an interdisciplinary team of Indigenous and non-Indigenous scholars and visual and digital media artists, Dr. Morcom and her team will work to create a network of virtual reality spaces across the country. The newly-created spaces will be used to stage cross-cultural, interdisciplinary, and cross-generational encounters.

Dr. Selinger has formed an interdisciplinary team that combines expertise in fundamental human biomechanics, clinical rehabilitative medicine, and applied robotic control. The research has the potential to revolutionize the next generation of rehabilitation strategies by focusing on how people re-learn to walk after a stroke.

Focusing on a new area of research, Dr. Stamplecoskie and partner Guojun Liu (Chemistry), are researching new electrochemical devices, capable of capturing the tremendous amount of energy available in rainfall, waves, and evaporating water. The research is working to create new devices capable to meeting global energy demands.

Dr. Thomson has amassed an interdisciplinary team that will integrate modern glacier research practices and inter-generational perspectives on climate, to improve environmental monitoring in Canada’s high-Arctic. This initiative will provide open-access, real-time climate data for the first time in this part of the Arctic, and provide public access to rare historic data.

All of the Queen’s projects are funded under the Exploration stream of the NFRF program. The second stream is the Transformation stream that provides large-scale support for Canada to build strength and leadership in interdisciplinary and transformative research. The third stream, International, will come online later, according to Minister Duncan.

“Through the NFRF program, early-career researchers at Queen’s are bringing new ideas and methodologies to critical issues from Lyme disease to climate change,” say Kimberly Woodhouse, Interim Vice-Principal (Research). “Importantly, they are increasing the potential impact and application of their work by collaborating across disciplinary boundaries.”

For more information, visit the NFRF website.

Don’t miss out on research funding opportunities, subscribe to the University Research Services Funding Opportunities listserv.


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