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Wilfrid Laurier University Faculty of Science
April 24, 2014
Canadian Excellence

Research Groups

Indigenous Health and Social Justice


The Indigenous Health and Social Justice Research Group (IHSJ) is a
group of faculty, students, and community members with a common
interest in researching the psychosocial, political, cultural, and spiritual
determinants of health for Indigenous peoples. Our mission is to advance
social justice through collaborative knowledge construction, dissemination,
and community engagement. We, as Indigenous and non-Indigenous
members, work with a consciousness of Canada’s colonial history, sensitivity
to Indigenous methodologies, and honouring of Indigenous voice. As
researchers and citizens we collaborate with local, regional and international
Indigenous organizations to advance understanding, within the dominant
society, of colonial trauma and Indigenous rights and to collectively work to
promote health and social justice.

Project Descriptions

Global Youth Network

Joel will be working with Global Youth Volunteer Network, a Canadian non-
profit that focuses on immersing youth in social justice issues through
community exchanges. Currently, a community exchange is planned for May
2013 to an Indigenous community in Saskatchewan. The focus will be for
university students to participate in on-going community initiatives as well
as engage in a cultural exchange. The goal is to help mobilize Indigenous
and non-Indigenous Canadians to build stronger and healthier relationships
through education and friendship in an environment that is inclusive,
accepting, and engaging. Participants in this project are welcome to join!
Please contact Joel at for more information.

Human Rights Initiatives

Jackson is developing a Human Rights framework which he will use in
assisting in the development of a Human Rights assessment tool. In
addition, Jackson is conducting media analyses of recent key events of
importance for Aboriginal Peoples across Canada including Stephen Harper's
apology on June 11, 2008, and the signing of the UN Declaration on the
Right of Indigenous Peoples on November 12, 2010, as well as media on
contemporary Aboriginal issues around Human Rights and self-governance.

Internationalization of Indigenous Rights and Governance Project

Aim: To establish an interdisciplinary and cross cultural research network
which examines the uptake, implementation, and impact of new global
governance frameworks, such as the UN Declaration of the Rights of
Indigenous Peoples, which are being developed for the first time in history.

IIRG will bring together the most current knowledge from leading scholars,
both Indigenous and non-Indigenous, to share original research on
Indigenous governance from multidisciplinary perspectives (poli sci,
environment, history, economics, psychology, human rights, global studies,
law, etc.). The collaboration of Indigenous and non Indigenous scholars will
produce a synergy of collective and comparative knowledge on Indigenous
governance issues within and across North America, South America, the
Circumpolar North, and Australasia. In particular, the research network will

- Identify the extent to which Indigenous people are aware of global
governance frameworks
- How, and to what degree, the frameworks being taken up in various
- Document impact of global governance frameworks for Indigenous peoples

Social Media

Robert is currently working on using social media to draw attention to the
work of the Indigenous Health and Social Justice Research Group. The
Facebook page for the group can be seen at
IndigenousHealthAndSocialJustice. On this page, Robert posts the work of
his colleagues in the research group so that the general public is able to
interact with the material, while also gaining awareness of issues in regards
to indigenous communities.

Water Security

Sheri will complete her PhD degree in geography (resource and
environmental management) at Laurier in December 2012. In January
2013, she begins coordination activities among the research team and
project collaborators, and will contribute to publication materials generated
through the project. She will bring to this role her personal and professional
experiences as a First Nations community member, and add to the research
project an investigation of the role indigenous rights and global governance
institutions play in water security for indigenous peoples.

Poverty Reduction

The Poverty Reduction Research Group is a group of faculty, students, and
community members with a commitment to addressing poverty through
community-university research partnerships which will inform social policy.
From a social determinants of health perspective, poverty and income
inequality (and the policies that promote either) are the root causes of
many social and health problems. As such, public policy change has been
identified as a central strategy for poverty elimination. The mission of the
PR Research Group is to shift social policy through community–engaged
research, policy analysis, knowledge mobilization and advocacy. The main
initiative of the PR group at this time is the Poverty Policy Project (P3). P3 is
an action research project conducted by doctoral students in the Community
Research and Action (CRA) course in Laurier’s Community Psychology
program in partnership with Opportunities Waterloo Region. Opportunities
is a local charitable organization committed to the prevention and reduction
of poverty through multi-sector collaborative efforts involving people with
lived experience of poverty, government, business, and the non-profit
sectors. CRA students and professors have worked collaboratively to design
and conduct a community-based participatory research study to examine
the role of policy in poverty reduction. Methods include: document review,
focus groups with people experiencing poverty, and key informant interviews
with local service providers and Municipal government staff. The CRA
group, Opportunities Waterloo Region, and the Awareness of Low-Income
Voices (ALIV(e)) network will identify policy recommendations that will be
integrated into an existing Regional poverty reduction strategy and shared
with all levels of government.

Research Projects

Building Bridges

Building Bridges to Success (BB2S) is a program by Pathways to Education-
Kitchener in conjunction with Wilfrid Laurier University. This program was
designed as an extension of the Pathways to Education program, created to
assist students in low-income neighbourhoods to achieve academic success.
As a result of this program, students with an 80%-average or higher are
accepted to an Introduction to Sociology course at Wilfrid Laurier University.
Pathways to Education is designed to keep students in high-school and
increase their performance, while Building Bridges to Success is designed
to foster opportunities for students to experience an easier transition to
university or college through the accomplishment of the following objectives:

1. Assisting students to gain first-hand knowledge about university education
2. Allowing
students to gain university credit on a university transcript
3. Enhancing students’ study
and time-management skills; and
4. Giving high-school students an opportunity to take
part in student life opportunities outside of the classroom (ie. athletic centre activities)

This project involves the evaluation of approximately 20-25 students, led by
the CCRLA research team, Dr. Terry Mitchell, Ravi Gokani and Shaan Dhillon
(2011) and Courtney Arseneau and Radha Sayal (2012). The program is
currently being evaluated, using quantitative measures, focus groups and
interviews of students, parents and instructors with the two broad objectives

1. What outcomes result from the BB2S program?
2. How is the BB2S program
experienced by stakeholders?

Societal Attitudes

The Societal Attitudes Project measures Wilfrid Laurier University
Community Psychology undergraduate students’ attitudes of people living in
poverty through the administration of a ten image Thematic Apperception
Test (TAT). Since very few studies have investigated the use of projective
techniques on societal attitudes, the results of this project will be important
to determine various attitudes and beliefs students’ may have about those
living in poverty. Currently, Dr. Colleen Loomis and Dr. Terry Mitchell are
the principal investigators of this project, assisted by research coordinator
Courtney Arseneau, research assistants Jackson Smith and Alexia Polillo and
Mary MacKeigan from our community partner, Opportunities Waterloo.

Steps to Success (S2S) Project

Steps to Success (S2S) is a collaborative research project run between
the Corporation of The City of Brantford’s Community Project personnel
and the Centre for Community Research Learning and Action at the Wilfrid
Laurier University Waterloo campus. This project, run in Brantford, Ontario,
adopts an intergenerational approach in developing an intensive, settings-
based case management and community developing program for individuals
receiving OW & ODSP assistance.

Participants in the program include male and female adults between the
ages of 25-65, employed in the City of Brantford who are working in either
the social services or adult program participants between the ages of 20-55
who are living on social assistance. Data is collected and recorded through
participant observation and consultation, specifically by conducting 1.5 hour
long focus groups with service providers/representatives of Municipal and
Federal government programs, staff of Steps to Success (S2S) and advisory
group members. Early anecdotal evidence has stated that the project has
much to offer individuals and their families facing complex challenges, with
the potential to impact change at individual, family, and social levels across
a wide range of domains. The central aim of this program is to evaluate
poverty reduction strategies in order to improve local services and eliminate
intergenerational or cyclic poverty.

Steps to Success (S2S) is an internship program funded by Mitacs-
Accelerate Graduate Research Program and the Corporation of the City of
Brantford for recipient, Courtney Arseneau, supervised by Dr. Terry Mitchell.
Co-applicants also include poverty research coordinator Dr. Zinnat Bader and
research assistant Alexia Pollilo.