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Capturing the Art of Research

Celebrating its fifth year, the Art of Research photo contest is open for submissions until March 12.

  • "Love Under the Microscope" by Dalila Villalobos, MD, Resident (Anatomical Pathology)
    "Love Under the Microscope" by Dalila Villalobos, MD, Resident (Anatomical Pathology)
  • "Santa Fina" by Una D'Elia, Faculty (Art History and Art Conservation)
    "Santa Fina" by Una D'Elia, Faculty (Art History and Art Conservation)
  • "A New Light" by Robert Cichocki, PhD Student (Civil Engineering)
    "A New Light" by Robert Cichocki, PhD Student (Civil Engineering)
  • "Window on a Window to the Universe" by Mark Chen, Faculty (Physics, Engineering Physics and Astronomy)
    "Window on a Window to the Universe" by Mark Chen, Faculty (Physics, Engineering Physics and Astronomy)
  • "Platinum Surface Electrochemistry" by Derek Esau, PhD Student (Chemistry)
    "Platinum Surface Electrochemistry" by Derek Esau, PhD Student (Chemistry)
  • "Keep Cool Boy - The Jets Aloft in West Side Story" by Tim Fort, Faculty (Dan School of Drama and Music)
    "Keep Cool Boy - The Jets Aloft in West Side Story" by Tim Fort, Faculty (Dan School of Drama and Music)
  • "Nano-dendrite Collision" by Hannah Dies, MD/PhD Student (Chemical Engineering)
    "Nano-dendrite Collision" by Hannah Dies, MD/PhD Student (Chemical Engineering)
  • "Exploring Worlds at Home" by James Xie, Undergraduate Student (Engineering Chemistry)
    "Exploring Worlds at Home" by James Xie, Undergraduate Student (Engineering Chemistry)

Researchers … ready your cameras. Returning for its fifth year, the Art of Research photo contest is looking to celebrate and creatively capture the research conducted by the Queen’s community.

Did you know that the university recently launched a new central website for Queen’s research? From in-depth features to the latest information on the university’s researchers, the site is a destination showcasing the impact of Queen’s research. Discover Research@Queen’s.

Hosted by the Office of the Vice-Principal (University Relations) and open to Queen’s faculty, staff, students, and alumni, the Art of Research provides a unique and accessible method of sharing ground-breaking research happening at the university. It also represents the diversity of Queen’s research, with winners representing multiple disciplines and submissions highlighting research happening at all career stages.

The contest is an opportunity for researchers to mobilize their research and spark curiosity. Visuals can create a more compelling and accessible research narrative. By looking at research from a different perspective, it is possible to find the beauty and art in any project.

Eligibility and Prizes

Any current Queen’s faculty, staff, student, or alumni are eligible to participate. Research depicted in the submissions must have been completed at Queen’s or while the submitter was affiliated with the university. More information about contest rules can be found on the Research@Queen’s website.

In addition to promotion across institutional channels and platforms, prizes of $500 will be awarded for the top submission in each of these categories:

Category Prizes

  • Community Collaborations: Research that partners with or supports communities or groups
  • Invisible Discoveries: Research unseen by the naked eye, hiding in plain sight, or only visible by using alternative methods of perception
  • Out in the Field: Research where it occurs, is documented, or discovered
  • Art in Action Prize: Research that is aesthetically or artistically transformed or research in motion as it happens
  • Best Description: To recognize the most creative and accessible description for an image
  • People’s Choice: Determined by an online vote by members of the Queen’s community

In honour of the fifth anniversary of the Art of Research photo contest, four special prizes of $500 each will be awarded to celebrate the diversity of research happening across the university.

  • The Innovation, Knowledge Mobilization, and Entrepreneurship Prize will be awarded to the submission that best demonstrates research that encompasses a spirit of the applied practices of innovation, entrepreneurship, and knowledge mobilization. (Sponsored by Partnerships and Innovation)
  • The Graduate Studies Prize will be awarded to the image submitted by a Queen’s graduate student or post-doctoral fellow that best embodies the School of Graduate Studies’ motto “Create an Impact.” (Sponsored by the School of Graduate Studies)
  • The Health Sciences Prize will be awarded to the image that best represents the Faculty’s mission of “ask questions, seek answers, advance care, and inspire change.” (Sponsored by the Faculty of Health Sciences)
  • The KGHRI Prize will be awarded to the image that best represents patient-oriented and clinical research. (Sponsored by Kingston General Health Research Institute (KGHRI))

The contest closes on March 12, 2020. The submission form can be found here and winning images from previous competitions are located on the Research@Queen’s website

International collaboration looks at the future of teaching

Participants in the first CANOPY meeting
CANOPY, an international collaboration between the Queen's Faculty of Education and Nord University in Norway, held its first meeting Jan. 13-14 to discuss educational leadership. (Supplied Photo)

The Faculty of Education at Queen’s University recently launched a new partnership with Norway’s Nord University, with a focus on better preparing the teachers of the future.

Concurrent education students, faculty members, Dean Rebecca Luce-Kapler, and Paul Valle, Superintendent of Schools with the York Region District School Board, met with counterparts from Nord University on Jan. 13-14 to discuss educational leadership.

Rebecca Luce-Kapler speaks
Rebecca Luce-Kapler, Dean of the Faculty of Education at Queen's University, welcomes the members of the CANOPY partnership during the inaugural meeting. (Supplied photo)

This collaboration is part of the Canada-Norway Pedagogy Partnership for Innovation and Inclusion in Education (CANOPY), a four-year partnership funded by the Norwegian Agency for International Cooperation and Quality Enhancement in Higher Education (DIKU)’s NOTED program.

This partnership aims to address, from a holistic and international perspective, the most pressing issues currently facing the education sector to better prepare the next generation of teachers. Connecting educational research, classroom experience, student mobility, and institutional management, CANOPY will develop global competencies in pedagogy, research, and training through international collaboration.

Over the course of the two days, each member presented a half-hour session to learn about the similarities and differences between education in Norway and Canada.

“Having education students, faculty members, people who work in school boards and senior administrators of the Faculty of Education from two different countries be part of the same group created a dynamic environment full of exciting possibilities for future collaborations and wonderful ideas that each of us will be taking away with us in our practice,” says Dr. Luce-Kapler.

The group will meet again in Norway in May to further establish valuable relationships and research possibilities.

Innovation and inclusion are the guiding principals of CANOPY, and the initiatives of each year of the project will focus on a different priority area:
2020: Educational Leadership
2021: Digital Innovation and Educational Technology
2022: Indigenous Studies, Diversity, and Inclusion
2023: Exceptional Learners

To find out more about this exciting new partnership, please visit the CANOPY website

New internal funding for research

Queen's Vice-Principal (Research) launches Wicked Ideas Competition.

Wicked problems are issues so complex and dependent on so many factors that it is hard to grasp what exactly the problems are or how to tackle them. Wicked ideas are needed to solve these problems, and demand the input of multiple disciplines, multiple perspectives, and relevant practical expertise.

The Vice-Principal (Research) has launched the Wicked Ideas competition as a pilot initiative to fund and support research collaborations that respond to local, national, and global challenges. Aligned with the concept of the Government of Canada’s New Frontiers in Research Fund – Exploration program, the competition “seeks to inspire projects that bring disciplines together beyond traditional disciplinary or common interdisciplinary approaches by research teams with the capacity to explore something new, which might fail but has the potential for significant impact.” Along with both disciplinary and interdisciplinary funding streams, the competition offers a “global challenge” stream, featuring climate change as a global challenge area.  Teams of researchers are invited to submit notices of intent by Feb. 3, 2020.

“This funding is designed to remove some of the financial barriers to high-risk, high-reward research, allowing scholars to push the boundaries of knowledge into uncharted territory,” says Dr. Kent Novakowski, Acting Vice-Principal (Research). “I greatly look forward to hearing about some of the paradigm-shifting ideas that come out of this new exploratory opportunity.”

Up to 15 teams will be awarded $75,000 each in the first phase of the competition in spring 2020. The 15 teams then will be eligible to compete for one of an additional five awards of up to $150,000 in the 2021 Wicked Ideas competition. The competition is open to all Queen's faculty across all disciplines. Co-investigators and team members also must be Queen's faculty members.

This is just one of several internal funding programs that have been launched by the Vice-Principal (Research) recently.  Other programs include the Queen’s Research Opportunities Fund (QROF) Post-doctoral Fund, as well as the Catalyst Fund – designed to enhance areas of research excellence by giving scholars an opportunity to accelerate their research programs.

A revised Prizes for Excellence in Research competition, which has recognized scholarly achievement at Queen’s since 1980, is set to launch soon.

More information about all of these programs, including terms of reference, is available on the Vice-Principal (Research) website.

Hitting all the right notes

Queen's Faculty of Education unveils Cadenza Practice App, a new digital tool that helps students grow and blossom as musicians.

Through the Cadenza Practice App piano teachers and students can collaboratively plan each practice week and assign homework.

The weekly piano lesson, with no meaningful communication with the teacher between lessons, may soon be a thing of the past thanks to a new digital tool unveiled at the Faculty of Education at Queen’s University.

The Cadenza practice app, developed by Queen’s researchers in collaboration with researchers at Concordia and community partners, is a digital tool created to support music learning in studios, ensembles, and classrooms. The app incorporates several unique tools designed to help motivate music students to keep up with their studies, including a digital planner, online lesson assignments, an interactive notebook and a media annotation feedback tool.

Using the online tool, teachers and students can collaboratively plan each practice week and assign homework. Students can track their progress throughout the week, and parents can check their child’s progress.

The idea behind Cadenza was to develop a digital app to support students between lessons, motivating students to practice during the week and to stick with their musical studies. The research team was established over a decade ago and large-scale studies involving close to 20,000 participants were undertaken to see what students, teachers, and parents most needed. Smaller scale studies were also carried out where music studio teachers and their students were interviewed and followed for a number of years. Teacher and student advisors were also involved in developing the app and interpreting research results.

The project, which represents a great example of research translated to social innovation, received funding from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada and the Canada Foundation for Innovation. The project also includes partners in Canada, Ireland and the United Kingdom, with the goal of encouraging individual studio teachers and classroom music teachers to use Cadenza.

“What a privilege to see research turned into practice. There’s nothing more fulfilling than to see a young student using Cadenza, growing in musical skills and blossoming as a musician. After all, it’s not about falling in love with an app — it’s about falling in love with music,” says Rena Upitis, professor of Education at Queen’s and principal investigator on the project

The app makes it fast and efficient for teachers to plan lessons, assign homework, and provide feedback between lessons. The software also includes an annotation feature where students or teachers can add a written comment to a recorded video clip. Students are encouraged to reflect on their practice session and parents can check on their child’s progress.

“Knowledge mobilization programs are not limited to the traditional STEM disciplines,” says Kimberly Woodhouse, Vice-Principal (Research). “The Cadenza Community Project is an outstanding example of an important social innovation initiative based on pedagogical research. Queen’s is pleased to have support this important project. Congratulations to the Cadenza Community team members on the formal launch of this project.”

Incubating within the Faculty of Education, the Cadenza Community Project recently celebrated the formal launch at a reception held at Duncan McArthur Hall on December 2.  Now that the app is formally launched, the Cadenza team is seeking partnerships with music schools and organizations to identify teams of teacher users. Meanwhile, anyone can access the app at cadenzapracticeapp.com.

Research @ Queen’s: Empowerment through revitalization

Lindsay Morcom, Canada Research Chair in Language Revitalization and Decolonizing Education, has focused her research on the revitalization of Indigenous language and culture.

[Original image of two Indigenous speaking with plants blooming out of their mouths]
Illustration by Chief Lady Bird

“To do Indigenous research well, regardless of your heritage, you should never go in and tell the community what to do. Instead, you go in and you listen, and then you ask them what they want.”

Lindsay Morcom

Research at Queen's
Did you know that the university recently launched a new central website for Queen’s research? From in-depth features to the latest information on the university’s researchers, the site is a destination showcasing the impact of Queen’s research. Discover Research at Queen’s.

Lindsay Morcom (Education) thinks of the various aspects of her research as being like three strands of sweet grass braided together. “They’re three different streams, but closely connected,” she says, explaining that each explores an aspect of Indigenized education and reconciliation. “We can’t have one without the other.”

Since joining the Faculty of Education as an assistant professor in 2013, Dr. Morcom, who is also the coordinator of the Aboriginal Teacher Education program (ATEP) at Queen’s and a Canada Research Chair in Language Revitalization and Decolonizing Education, has focused her attention on the revitalization of Indigenous language and culture.

Continue the article on the Research at Queen’s website.

Showcasing stories of research and discovery

IGnite series logo

The successful IGnite series continues in its second year at Queen’s. Featuring topics from climate change to gender diversity, the events highlight the breadth of research happening at Queen’s to a public audience.

The series is a collaboration between the Arthur B. McDonald Canadian Astroparticle Physics Research Institute and Queen’s University Relations portfolio. Each event features two researchers from different fields discussing their projects and what ignites their curiosity, while also including interactive demonstrations and poster presentations from students and additional researchers.

The next installment of IGnite will take place on Wednesday, Nov. 27 at the Kingston Frontenac Public Library’s Central Branch, and will feature Queen’s researchers Lindsay Morcom and Aaron Vincent.

Dr. Lindsay Morcom (Education) holds the Canada Research Chair in Language Revitalization and Decolonizing Education and will present “Niinwi-Giinwaa-Giinwi: Moving from We and You to Us” which focuses on ally-building in teacher education. Dr. Aaron Vincent (Physics, Engineering Physics & Astronomy) will ask “What is the flavour of a cosmic neutrino?” and take the audience on a journey to understand some of the most energetic particles ever seen in the universe.

At this event, attendees will also hear from two students working in the same areas as Dr. Morcom and Dr. Vincent. The talks will be followed by a reception featuring demonstrations from Queen’s Hyperloop Design Team, Global Physics Photowalk exhibit, Queen’s Art of Research photo exhibit, Queen’s Observatory, the Kingston club of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, and dark matter projects affiliated with the McDonald Institute such as NEWS-G and the particle cloud chamber.

Doors open at the Central Branch (130 Johnson St.) at 6 pm with the reception ending at 9 pm.

Registration is free on Eventbrite.

For more information on the series, visit the McDonald Institute’s website

Engaging in courageous conversations

In this piece for the Together We Are blog, Andrew B. Campbell, Adjunct Assistant Professor at Queens University, shares a set of recommendations to navigate the difficult conversations that lead us to positive change.

[Together We Are]After being involved in a number of conversations at workshops, conferences, and in classrooms, I wish to share eight of my personal principles. Five are postures and positions I have developed throughout my practice over the years, and the other three are from Singleton & Linton (2006).

Share Your Story
Black people, like myself, visible minorities, LGBTQ, Indigenous and the “othered” who do this work, often feel the need to be careful and cautious, often doing this work within predominant white spaces. Storytelling of others and self are powerful tools. Our lived experiences are valued. We live our stories. Often, our stories are situated and shared in deficit ways. It is therefore important and empowering to tell my own story. It is often one of the most courageous things we can do as we engage as our authentic self.

Come prepared to Learn
As I engage in courageous conversations, I am always prepared for learning. So much is happening and very fast, and it is therefore essential that we engage in these conversations from an informed place. Ignorance is poison to a courageous conversation. In the last three years, I personally have had so much learning around historical contexts, terminologies, identities and cultures. I am always excited to add something new to my toolbox. Learning is a change in behaviour brought about by an experience. How are we are changing?

Come Prepared to Unlearn
This process of unlearning is personal and calls for us to be reflective and reflexive about what we know and what has influenced our knowing. Nothing is more wasteful than people coming to conversations with deficit, oppressive or discriminating views, and after much engagement, leave with those same views. They consciously refuse to unlearn since they know that unlearning may cost them some loss of power, loss of privilege, provide truths they were not ready to face and force them to acknowledge others.

Check your Biases
The work to dismantle biases begins with you. It is an internal process. Way too often, when we seek change, we engage in an over dependency on policies, statements, and another checked-box. What we need is for us to foster a greater sense of self-examination within our work, knowing that acts of courage are centered on the individual and not a system. We change to change the system. Who you are impacts how you lead.

Stay Engaged
How many times do we hear of an incident of racism, homophobia, transphobia, xenophobia, micro-aggression, or any of the many “sisms”, and we share sentiments of shock and surprise, maybe engage in social media commentary and we move on. We move on very quickly these days and force others to move on as well. I have heard this statement many times, “are we talking about race again?” and my answer is always, yes! As a black professor, I am constantly engaged in the discussions on race. I do not get to skip it or avoid it. Each day I arrive at school, I arrive as a black man. We have to also sustain the conversation for many others inflicted and affected by institutionalized oppressive and discriminatory practices. We have to sustain the conversation for those who are marginalized and disenfranchised. We have to use the power, privilege and access that we have to sustain those conversations.

Speak Your Truth
Speaking your truth requires a willingness to take risks. Growing up in Jamaica, in a very homophobic environment, I learned how to not speak and live my truth. I knew my truth was dangerous and could easily cost me my life, family, and career. Today, as I engage in the work of equity, I am reminded of the power in truth, and I am also reminded of the possible danger in that very truth. Courageous conversations require truth – the whole truth and nothing but the truth.

Experience Discomfort
Courageous conversations will be uncomfortable at times. When I teach a class or deliver a workshop, and I sense that discomfort, I allow the participants to understand the value in that discomfort. I never hasten to change the topic or move away from it. I articulate the need to sit in it for a while. I remind them if these are issues that make us uncomfortable – imagine those directly affected and inflicted.

Move to Action
In 2016 Nike engaged in a courageous conversation and designed the first sport hijab to be worn at the 2016 Summer Olympics. The Toronto Raptors made history by being the first NBA team to have their own licensed line of the traditional Muslim head covering. We have to engage in conversations that are tangible – conversations that lead to change.  We are big on conferences, workshops, seminars, councils, committees, symposiums and working groups. All that is necessary and needed, however, let us ensure our conversations are intentional and deliberate and lead to real action.

Children’s books nurture grit, determination, and hope

Helping children develop strategies for personal resilience has become a vital part of parenting and education. (Photo by Annie Spratt/Unsplash)

According to the Public Health Agency of Canada, 68.8 per cent of mental health problems have their onset in childhood and adolescence. Helping children develop strategies for personal resilience has become a vital part of parenting and education, but it can be challenging to know where to begin.

Angela Duckworth, professor of psychology at University of Pennsylvania, and bestselling author of Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance says grit has four main components: interest, practice, purpose and hope. The combination of these traits help individuals develop grit, which is a particularly strong, scrappy form of resilience.

According to Duckworth, grit is a major determinant to success. More importantly, she believes that grit can be developed over time; it’s something we can learn. However, in order to develop grit, we must first have the chance to see it in action.

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.

This is where books come into play. Picture books and children’s novels offer multiple ways to enter these tricky conversations about resilience and wellness.

We are educators and literacy researchers with a shared love of literature and exploring the role of books in children’s learning. Jen has master’s degrees in library science and children’s literature, and Clarissa has a master’s in education that examined reading experiences of anxious adolescents.

We examined how the children’s books in a large cross-Canada reading program might help parents and educators spark necessary dialogue about resilience in classrooms and communities.

Forest of reading

In the Ontario Library Association’s Forest of Reading program, librarians curate book lists for different age groups of readers from kindergarten right up to adults.

Readers register to read the books in their level. Across the country over 270,000 readers participate annually in libraries and schools. Participants, including whole classes, can vote for a favourite book among the reading list for their level, and these reader-voted awards are presented at The Festival of Trees, a three-day book celebration held in Toronto each spring.

‘Shark Lady’ by Jess Keating. (Sourcebooks Jabberwocky)

We analyzed books nominated betweeen 2013 and 2018 in the Blue Spruce category, for ages kindergarten to Grade 2, to gauge how the protagonists of these books show grittiness and resilience.

We wanted to see how these books might offer entry points for teachers, librarians and parents to talk to kids about overcoming adversity or developing resilience and wellness.

To guide our analysis, we used Duckworth’s grit scale for children, which contains self-assessment questions that align with the characteristics she identifies with grit.

Out of a possible grit score of five, 19 of the 28 books scored a four or higher. We rated the top “grittiest” books as: Shark Lady, written by Jess Keaton; Stop, Thief! by Heather Tekavaek and Butterfly Park by Elly MacKay.

And, we found four themes repeatedly appeared in the grittiest books from our analysis:

The Natural World

‘The Owl and The Lemming’ by Roselynn Akulukjuk. (Inhabit Media)

The Owl and the Lemming by Roselynn Akulukjuk, is about a lemming that outsmarts an owl trying to catch it for a meal.

This book portrays grit in two ways. First, the lemming persists despite initially failing to trick the owl. Second, the owl loses his meal but optimistically plans to improve his hunting. This book draws upon Inuit oral tradition and ecological relationships to provide readers with examples of grit.

This book was among 10 that we identified as highlighting the lead characters’ connections to the natural world.


‘The Most Magnificent Thing’ by Ashley Spires. (Kids Can Press)

Ashley Spires’ The Most Magnificent Thing follows a girl as she attempts to create an idea she has for a contraption.

The girl becomes frustrated when her first attempts do not match her vision, but eventually, she observes the small successes in her past attempts, and finally makes “the most magnificent thing.”

This book emphasizes the importance of grit by highlighting how the creative process is a series of failures that we can learn from. It’s among nine books we identified with similar themes.

Gender identity and performance

‘Henry Holton Takes the Ice’ by Sandra Bradley. (Dial Books)

In Sandra Bradley’s Henry Holton Takes the Ice, Henry demonstrates grit when he insists on using figure skates and doing ice dance even though it goes against his family’s hockey tradition and the gender roles associated with ice dancing.

Henry Holton takes the Ice has the potential to be a powerful example of grit for children regarding commonly gendered activities that may seem exclusionary.

This book was one of six we rated for grittiness that features protagonists who face situations in which they challenge heteronormative gender roles and identity.

Intergenerational relationships

‘The Branch’ by Mireille Messier. (Kids Can Press)

In The Branch by Mireille Messier, the protagonist develops a relationship with her neighbour as they work together to make something from a branch that has snapped off her favourite tree.

Mr. Frank helps the protagonist develop her grit by encouraging her to find a solution for the broken branch problem and by helping her complete her project.

The Branch was one of seven titles we found in five years of Blue Spruce award nominees that focus on the importance of intergenerational relationships.

When adults encourage children to read about grit, and children can talk about their reading experiences, our society takes an important step towards normalizing conversations surrounding failure and growth.

Such discussions in turn play a part in helping students develop their own understanding and expression of resilience and hope.


Jen McConnel is a PhD candidate in Literacy Education at Queen's University and Clarissa de Leon is a PhD student in Education at Queen's University.

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

Like what you’ve read? Want more? Sign up for The Conversation’s daily newsletter. ]The Conversation


International faculty and staff supports

The Human Rights & Equity Office is holding discussion sessions about developing and strengthening supports for employees coming to Queen's from abroad.

Staff and faculty participating in the first brainstorm meeting
Queen's faculty and staff participating in a brainstorming session about supports for international employees.

The Human Rights & Equity Office (HREO) recently invited international staff and faculty to engage in an initial conversation about what potential supports or groups could be created or strengthened to assist those moving from abroad for employment at Queen’s University.

A group of international faculty and staff gathered on Sept. 30 for a brainstorming session facilitated by Queen's Human Rights Advisor Nilani Loganathan, who guided the group in an exercise to begin to identify gaps in services and programs, and suggest ways that could better support international employees.

“I’m very pleased with the ideas brought forth by those who attended our first session,” says Loganathan. “We touched on a number of areas, including issues concerning relocating to Kingston, settling in at Queen’s, employment and education supports for families, and much more. We’re looking forward to continuing the conversation and collecting more feedback that will best inform our path forward.”

Employees who identify as international staff and faculty will have additional opportunities to provide their input. The next session is to take place on Friday, Nov. 15 in Mackintosh-Corry Hall, B176 from 12pm – 1pm. Please email hrights@queensu.ca to confirm your attendance.

Teaching truth and reconciliation in Canada


Drum Circle for Truth and Reconciliation Commission
Students, faculty members and staff take part in a drumming circle hosted by the Aboriginal Teacher Education Program to mark the release of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Final Report in December 2015.

Where do we start?

Our question echoes our larger work supporting and educating teacher candidates, and our personal commitments seeking to act as witnesses to the need for reconciliation in Canada.

As researchers, teachers and administrators — one of whom is of Anishinaabe, German, and French heritage and one of whom is a longstanding non-Indigenous ally of Irish, Scottish and English ancestry — we have dedicated our careers to education for and about Indigenous people, and to Indigenous-led ally-building in education.

So, we start by acknowledging the situation. We are acutely aware of the historic and ongoing legacy of colonialism and racism that pervades Canadian society, and the specific role that education had in creating and perpetuating this legacy. Indeed, in Canada the education system has been a tool for genocide through the residential school system.

Truth and reconciliation

At the same time, we acknowledge that we have tremendous hope. We see self-determination and resilience in Indigenous communities, and increasing willingness, unimaginable a generation ago, in the general Canadian population to acknowledge history and move forward in a better way. And we acknowledge that we are teaching and learning in an era where, after the findings of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, we know more about colonial legacies. We have more guidance on what to do moving forward than ever before.

Teacher education offers a path forward

In our personal actions, we start where we are. For us, this means working together and with the teachers and teachers-to-be whom we encounter in our work at our Faculty of Education at Queen’s University. The Aboriginal Teacher Education Program (ATEP) at Queen’s University that we both work with qualifies graduates for Ontario College of Teachers certification and provides a focus on Indigenous education in their teacher preparation. This program has over 400 primarily Indigenous graduates. We stand in awe of the change they have made at all levels of education; we are excited to follow where this change leads next. We deeply believe in decolonized, self-determined, authentically Indigenized education.

At the same time, it is unfair to expect already marginalized people to shoulder the full burden of educating the mainstream population and creating social change, as is often the case. We believe it is a vital part of our jobs to facilitate the learning of settler teachers so they can see their roles and responsibilities in the reconciliatory process. As Senator Murray Sinclair, Chair of the TRC, told the Standing Senate Committee on Aboriginal Peoples:

“I’ll tell you what gets me through it now and got me through it then, and that is the belief that you don’t have to believe that reconciliation will happen; you have to believe that reconciliation must happen … and you have to do what you can to make it happen.”

Our teacher candidates come from a variety of backgrounds. In addition to the teacher candidates who come from diverse Indigenous nations and heritages, we work with teacher candidates who are racialized, some of whom also carry post-colonial histories both internal to and external to North America. However, the majority of teacher candidates in our faculty are settler people of diverse European heritages. Given their diverse backgrounds, our teacher candidates engage with Canada’s legacy of colonization in different ways. We also spend time working with qualified teachers to respond to inquiries about how to address truth and reconciliation in their teaching practice.

Overcome guilt, find courage

For many teachers and teacher candidates, especially those who are non-Indigenous, the biggest obstacle we now see is fear — these educators want to do the right thing but they are afraid of making the problem worse, of being guilty of cultural appropriation, of offending or misinforming.

Many teachers have come from educational backgrounds that offered little in the way of Indigenous education content, and have not been challenged to think about power and privilege, or how various kinds of privilege intersect. They are now called to include Indigenous perspectives that they didn’t have the opportunity learn themselves, which presents an obvious challenge. As educators still learning (as we all are), we empathize with feelings of anxiety and inadequacy.

In addition to a lack of education, we are aware that another barrier can be caused by what University of Washington whiteness studies scholar Robin DiAngelo describes as “white fragility,” which includes “anger, withdrawal, emotional incapacitation, guilt, argumentation and cognitive dissonance, (all of which reinforce the pressure on facilitators to avoid directly addressing racism).”

These emotions can be paralyzing. We tell our settler students: You can cry. You can feel angry. You have a huge burden to carry. But do not stop at guilt. Guilt is unproductive. Even if the ongoing legacy of colonization is not your fault, it is your responsibility, and you do benefit from it. So to move forward in a spirit of right relations, it’s important to recognize what is going on and what you can do about it. That doesn’t mean taking over, or taking charge of the reconciliatory process, since meaningful reconciliation needs to be led by Indigenous people. It does mean listening, really listening, in the effort to find fitting paths forward. We know that inaction in itself is a choice and an action.

No reconciliation without truth

So, the first step in becoming an ally is witnessing. Being a good witness involves deep listening — full attention, openness, the ability to be present without judging and accurate recall. Sharing what is witnessed is about enacting the responsibility to promote right relations by widening the circle of learning and understanding.

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada (TRC) gifted us with 94 Calls to Action that have provided valuable guidance on how to proceed in supporting and furthering truth and reconciliation. The Calls to Action are practical, easy to understand and apply to all Canadians.

Inspired by the Calls to Action, an abundance of resources exist to help guide action. For example, The National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation produces invaluable resources to help people grow as allies. The Assembly of First Nations and the Montreal Indigenous Community Network have also both created outstanding resources for aspiring allies.

We understand that for many Indigenous people, reconciliation is a meaningless term in a time when social inequity is still rampant and the legacy of residential schools and Indian day schools is still so visible. There cannot be reconciliation without truth. There can also be no reconciliation without Indigenous leadership, language and culture perpetuation, equal sharing of resources and meaningful consultation on issues such as resource extraction and relationships to land, air and water.

If we want to build something better for generations yet to come, each person must answer their own unique call to work for truth and reconciliation, which means noticing and responding to the particular circumstances and realities surrounding them.

The work has started. We have nowhere to go but forward.


Lindsay Morcom is an Assistant Professor at the Faculty of Education at Queen's University. Kate Freeman is the Manager of the Aboriginal Teacher Education Program of the Queen's Faculty of Education.

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.


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