Communications, Media Relations and Public Affairs https://brocku.ca/media-room/media-releases/ Wed, 08 Apr 2020 15:09:14 +0000 en-CA hourly 1 The show must go on: Brock prof encouraged by theatre’s resiliency in midst of cancellations https://brocku.ca/media-room/2020/04/08/the-show-must-go-on-brock-prof-encouraged-by-theatres-resiliency-in-midst-of-cancellations/ Wed, 08 Apr 2020 15:09:14 +0000 http://brocku.ca/media-room/?p=1846 MEDIA RELEASE: 8 April 2020 – R0064

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a devastating blow on the performing arts, but a Brock University Dramatic Arts professor is encouraged by what she has seen from the industry.

“A vibrant industry went to ground over a matter of days, with theatres at first announcing cancelled or postponed productions and then, in most cases, cancelling the remainder of their winter-spring seasons,” says Karen Fricker, Associate Professor of Dramatic Arts and theatre critic for the Toronto Star. “Most performing artists are precarious gig workers who are seeing current and future bookings evaporate.”

In St. Catharines, arts organizations including the FirstOntario Performing Arts Centre, the Meridian Centre, Essential Collective Theatre and Carousel Players are among those that have cancelled or postponed programming through May.

The Stratford Festival has cancelled performances through to late May, and Niagara-on-the-Lake’s Shaw Festival through June. While Shaw has not laid off workers and is conducting rehearsals online, Stratford has temporary laid off 470 employees, including actors, technicians and box office workers.

But Fricker sees hope among the gloomy news.

“Theatre companies and artists have been demonstrating amazing resilience and ingenuity during this time of crisis,” she says. “A lot of activity has gone online.”

Essential Collective Theatre is turning its annual vaudeville fundraiser into an online affair. “Quarantine Cabaret” will feature short video recordings of various acts, including singing, magic, clowning, drag and melodramatic readings, which will be livestreamed at the end of April.

Several Toronto-based companies are putting on telephone plays: one-on-one shows in which an audience member gets a hand-made personal story delivered to them over the phone, says Fricker.

“DLT (DopoLavoro Teatrale), known to local audiences for their immersive shows including That Ugly Mess that Happened in St. Catharines, is producing a series of phone and online performances,” says Fricker. Some of the performances are inspired by Boccacio’s Decameron, a 14thcentury collection of novellas about a group of youth sheltering outside Florence to escape the Black Death.

“I have been uplifted by engaging with online theatre over the past few weeks,” Fricker says.

“Watching theatre this way is not the same as sharing the same physical space and time with fellow audience members and the artists themselves, but that doesn’t mean it’s a lesser experience. It’s different, and theatres and audiences alike are adapting to what is, for now, the new normal.”

Brock University Associate Professor of Dramatic Arts Karen Fricker is available for media interviews.

For more information or for assistance arranging interviews:

* Dan Dakin, Manager Communications and Media Relations, Brock University ddakin@brocku.ca, or 905-347-1970

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Brock team begins online study of children’s experiences during COVID-19 https://brocku.ca/media-room/2020/04/07/brock-team-begins-online-study-of-childrens-experiences-during-covid-19/ Tue, 07 Apr 2020 20:36:12 +0000 http://brocku.ca/media-room/?p=1844 Media Release: 7 April 2020 – R0063

It was a news report on the dramatic rise in calls to Kids Help Phone that moved Rebecca Raby to action.

As a researcher with a long history of working with children and youth, the Brock University Professor of Child and Youth Studies was concerned, and curious, about how young people are coping with the COVID-19 pandemic.

Raby and her research team of six graduate students have now launched their online study of children’s and young people’s experiences at home during the pandemic.

“Clearly, there are children who are in a lot of distress out there,” says Raby. “But I suspect we’re also going to hear stories about really cool, compelling things that kids have started to initiate at home with parents, siblings, on their own or online.”

Raby and her team are starting one-on-one online interviews this week with up to 30 children and youth from ages eight to 15.

The research team member is asking participants a number of open-ended questions, says Raby. Some example questions include:

  • How are you feeling?
  • What’s your favourite thing to do each day?
  • What are you finding hardest about this situation?
  • Have the rules of your household changed?
  • How has the situation changed your extra-curricular activities and your job, if you have one?

The team will do another round of online interviews in two weeks, asking the same questions, and then they’ll repeat that every two weeks over the next few months. In between the major sessions will be “mini-interviews” to stay in touch with participants, says Raby.

“I think that this is an opportunity for some kids to have extra social contact,” she says.

Raby and her team sought to recruit children and youth from a wide diversity of backgrounds and age ranges. They’re still seeking participants from lower-income families.

“The experiences of children during the pandemic are going to vary so greatly depending on a number of factors, including if they have disabilities, are lower income, the size of their living space, whether they are travelling back and forth between parents,” she says. “All of those kinds of things can shape what their experiences of the pandemic will be.”

Raby says the pandemic has greatly accelerated the team’s research process, and that she’s been “really impressed” that Brock’s Research Ethics Board has been open to quickly reviewing research applications related to the pandemic.

As soon as patterns and themes start emerging from the interviews, Raby plans on sharing the findings with media so that the wider public is aware of children’s and young peoples’ experiences right away.

“I suspect we’re going to learn a lot about personal coping, family dynamics and online peer friendships,” says Raby, “providing us with a sense of how children are dealing with this difficult situation.”

Such knowledge might help families by offering ideas and coping strategies arising from the young people themselves, she says, and provide government and service organizations with ideas on how to better support children who are having a hard time.

Down the road, the team aims to publish their findings, partly as an historical record of this time and also “to inform thinking about children’s experiences in social isolation in general,” says Raby.

“There are children who are in social isolation quite regularly, even in normal life.”

Professor of Child and Youth Studies Rebecca Raby is available for media interviews.

For more information or for assistance arranging interviews:

* Dan Dakin, Manager Communications and Media Relations, Brock University ddakin@brocku.ca, 905-347-1970

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Think there are no Tiger Kings in Canada? Think again, says Brock expert https://brocku.ca/media-room/2020/04/07/think-there-are-no-tiger-kings-in-canada-think-again-says-brock-expert/ Tue, 07 Apr 2020 16:05:22 +0000 http://brocku.ca/media-room/?p=1842 Media Release: 7 April 2020 – R0062

As the world reels from the physical, psychological, social and economic effects of COVID-19, millions of people are being temporarily distracted by the Netflix docuseries Tiger King.

For many, the show has a Jerry Springer effect, allowing viewers to watch — with their jaws dropped — people and places that seem so different and shocking. But Brock University Associate Professor and Labour Studies Chair Kendra Coulter says Tiger King is more of a reflection of Canadian society than many think it is.

“It’s legal to own tigers in most of Canada,” she says. “And lions. And monkeys. Trade, consumption and possession of wild animals is not simply ‘over there’ or the domain of Joe Exotic.”

Coulter, an expert in animal welfare issues, says that while precise numbers are difficult to obtain, the best data suggests there are more than 1.5 million privately owned exotic animals in Canada, including more than 3,000 big cats.

“Each province determines how or if it will regulate the importation and possession of exotic animals, so the specifics vary greatly around the country,” she says. “There is a 50-page list of banned species in B.C., but in Ontario, it’s only illegal to own two kinds of animals: orcas and pit bulls.

“The province’s 444 municipalities are empowered to make bylaws that prohibit or restrict exotic animal ownership and some have done so, but many have not.”

But Tiger King is connected to the COVID-19 pandemic in more ways than just being a distraction, Coulter says.

“Research suggests the trade and consumption of wild animals are the origin of this pandemic, and this has been true of most recent outbreaks,” she says. “But this zoonotic (human to animal) transmission did not occur in a vacuum. As the United Nations Environmental Program and many researchers have been pointing out for decades, rampant deforestation, industrial animal agriculture and the global trade in exotic species have combined to create a ‘ticking time bomb.’”

Coulter believes Tiger King is also a reflection of society.

“Both have misogyny and domestic violence, people marginalized because of their sexual and gender identities, disabilities and criminal records and people desperate for income and a job, a sense of belonging, love, status and respect,” she says. “Most glaringly, the selfish use and abuse of animals, to their detriment, and to our own, is all too real.”

Coulter says Canada needs integrated health and economic programs that take seriously the well-being of humans, animals and the environment.

She would also like to see more laws and regulations, and along with that, enforcement around exotic animal ownership and treatment.

“Many kinds of animal cruelty and quiet, ubiquitous harm are perfectly legal and deemed normal or necessary,” she says.

 

Brock University Associate Professor and Chair of Labour Studies Kendra Coulter, Fellow of the Oxford Centre for Animal Ethics, is available for phone and video interviews.

 

For more information or for assistance arranging interviews: 

* Dan Dakin, Manager Communications and Media Relations, Brock University ddakin@brocku.ca, 905-688-5550 x5353 or 905-347-1970

Brock University Marketing and Communications has a full-service studio where we can provide high definition video and broadcast-quality audio.

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Brock prof says back-to-basics approach can promote sustainability, curb boredom https://brocku.ca/media-room/2020/04/06/brock-prof-says-back-to-basics-approach-can-promote-sustainability-curb-boredom/ Mon, 06 Apr 2020 16:11:18 +0000 http://brocku.ca/media-room/?p=1840 MEDIA RELEASE: 6 April 2020 – R0061

 

As physical distancing measures continue and more people are forced to stay home, now is a great time to go back to basics, says Brock University Professor Liette Vasseur.

 

“Many people are living simpler lives and focusing more on necessities during this time, which provides us with a unique opportunity to closely assess our consumption patterns and ecological footprints,” she says. “While the current limitations will not be in place forever, we can use this time to assess what is critically important to our daily lives and what, ultimately, we can live without or do differently when things start to return to normal. This can help reduce waste and lessen our impact on the planet in the future.”

 

People can also do more than they think — and with less — during this unusual time, Vasseur points out. She believes many people have either abandoned or never learned traditional skills such as sewing or gardening because it was never a necessity or came with a time commitment.

 

“Engaging in these simple and practical hobbies can help you to stay busy, connect more deeply with nature and your surroundings, and give a boost to your mental health,” she says.

 

Home gardening is a relatively inexpensive, educational and practical hobby that the household can do together. For families with kids, it’s also a great way to keep the little ones entertained while learning some basics about natural systems and sharpening math and science skills.

 

“Gardening allows you to learn about different growing seasons, what grows well in Canada and what is needed to sustain their growth,” Vasseur says. “It also teaches you what it takes to grow the food we eat every day.”

 

The activity isn’t restricted to those with large backyards or access to expensive equipment, either.

 

“Even someone in an apartment with a small balcony or a spot next to a window with lots of natural light can grow their own plants,” she says. “You can reuse some of the things you already have at home, such as poking a few holes in the bottom of an old yogurt container and then adding some soil and the seeds of your choice.”

 

Vasseur suggests starting off slow with a few easy-to-care-for varieties at first, such as radishes or living lettuce. She also encourages people to apply the knowledge gained about plant life cycles while gardening to contribute to citizen science initiatives like PlantWatch in the future.

 

Liette Vasseur, Brock University Professor of Biological Sciences and UNESCO Chair in Community Sustainability: From Local to Global, is available for interview requests.

 


For more information or for assistance arranging interviews:

* Dan Dakin, Manager Communications and Media Relations, Brock University ddakin@brocku.ca, or 905-347-1970

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MPs should consider online voting during COVID-19 pandemic, says Brock researcher https://brocku.ca/media-room/2020/04/03/mps-should-consider-online-voting-during-covid-19-pandemic-says-brock-researcher/ Fri, 03 Apr 2020 17:05:51 +0000 http://brocku.ca/media-room/?p=1838 MEDIA RELEASE: 3 April 2020 – R0060

Online voting is entirely possible in parliamentary settings, according to Brock University Assistant Professor of Political Science Nicole Goodman.

Goodman and her research partner, Aleksander Essex, Associate Professor of Software Engineering at Western University, recently wrote in Policy Options that “even institutions steeped in tradition must consider technology” and asserted that “a secure, remote voting solution for online voting is viable.”

On April 1, The Hill Times reported that while some members of parliament (MPs) believe that the country is lagging in this area and due for reform, as evidenced by the difficulties created by the current COVID-19 crisis, other MPs are reluctant to entertain the possibility of changing procedures and would not consider debating the topic unless the suspension of parliament is required to last into the fall.

Goodman and Essex contend that while the European Union’s recent decision to move to email voting is not without its problems, a more thoughtful and permanent solution is available to members of Canadian parliament for three reasons:

  • Parliamentary votes are part of the public record, and therefore easily verified.
  • The cybersecurity infrastructure needed to protect electronic information is readily available.
  • With specific training, MPs can ensure that their own votes are correctly recorded.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has placed limits on legislative democracy to ensure the safety of MPs, but technology can provide a solution that will allow MPs to continue to vote on bills and also promote enhanced representation of members in votes,” says Goodman.

While online voting doesn’t need to happen all the time, and it doesn’t replace parliamentary debate, she says “it is a solution to the current situation wherein MPs can continue to social distance at their homes while passing necessary emergency measures.”

Findings from Goodman’s research have been presented in testimony to the Standing Committee on the Legislative Assembly (Ontario) and the Special Committee on Electoral Reform. She is a member of the advisory board of the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance (International IDEA) and the director of the Centre for e-Democracy.

Brock University Assistant Professor of Political Science Nicole Goodman is available for interviews through email

For more information or for assistance arranging interviews:

* Dan Dakin, Manager Communications and Media Relations, Brock University ddakin@brocku.ca, or 905-347-1970

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Quality time, structure important for families during COVID-19 pandemic, says Brock researcher https://brocku.ca/media-room/2020/04/02/quality-time-structure-important-for-families-during-covid-19-pandemic-says-brock-researcher/ Thu, 02 Apr 2020 16:52:36 +0000 http://brocku.ca/media-room/?p=1836 MEDIA RELEASE: 2 April 2020 – R0059

One of the many challenges facing families due to the COVID-19 pandemic is finding new ways of living together while letting go of old expectations.

Brock University Associate Professor of Sport Management Dawn Trussell says one solution is to set a structured schedule and rethink recreation and sport.

“There is an important opportunity to strengthen familial bonds and create a sense of unity,” says Trussell. “Research shows us that families need a sense of familiarity and stability in their lives; these experiences can foster feelings of family closeness.”

Trussell recommends planning a consistent hour or two every day that all family members can look forward to. She suggests the time being low-cost, home-based leisure activities that align with individual interests and require little planning, such as board games, a game of soccer in the yard or reading together.

Earlier this week, the Ontario government announced it was extending the provincial state of emergency for at least another two weeks. The new order closed all outdoor recreational amenities and public facilities, such as sports fields, playgrounds and parks. Additionally, schools across the province are now closed until at least May 4, though that could be extended further.

“For parents in particular, creating a consistent strategy is essential as children look for structure,” says Trussell. “Families are a primary source of companionship and gratification. Now more than ever, families are the primary pillar of support as people are instructed to ‘go home and stay home.’”

Amid growing pandemic fears and restrictions, Trussell affirms when families spend quality ‘play’ time together, it can build and strengthen the family unit which, in turn, may alleviate stress.

She also notes that too much time together isn’t necessarily ideal, especially for parents working from home full-time or essential workers who still must leave their house for work.

She urges parents to practise self-care, as research suggests that parents, especially mothers, often sacrifice their own leisure in support of their children.

“Rather than thinking you have to be together all the time, recognize that short, scheduled moments in a day are more meaningful for everyone,” says Trussell, a family of two elementary school-aged daughters. “Prioritizing and scheduling even a short amount of time for yourself will help you navigate this difficult time and contribute to the collective well-being of the family unit.”

For families on the COVID-19 frontline or who are just seeing their children through a video camera, Trussell emphasizes this consistent time of scheduled connection may provide an important sense of togetherness, even if online.

“The COVID-19 restrictions can still provide us with the opportunity to reconnect and strengthen our relationships and communication among family members through emails, letters, phone calls and social media,” she says.

Brock University Associate Professor of Sport Management Dawn Trussell is available for phone and video interview requests.

For more information or for assistance arranging interviews:

* Dan Dakin, Manager Communications and Media Relations, Brock University ddakin@brocku.ca, or 905-347-1970

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University sends its supplies to Niagara’s front-line workers https://brocku.ca/media-room/2020/04/01/university-sends-its-supplies-to-niagaras-front-line-workers/ Wed, 01 Apr 2020 13:27:52 +0000 http://brocku.ca/media-room/?p=1834 MEDIA RELEASE: 1 April 2020 – R0057

Brock University — Communications & Public Affairs

Research labs across Brock University have emptied their supply rooms to help the people who are leading Niagara’s fight against COVID-19.

Thousands of gloves, hundreds of lab coats and goggles, and cartons of face masks were loaded into a truck on Tuesday, March 31, and sent to Niagara Health, who will distribute it to front-line health workers at the region’s hospitals.

It was the result of a campus-wide response to the request for much-needed personal protective equipment (PPE) for Niagara’s health-care providers.

“A lot of it is people feel the need to be part of the solution and do something,” said Dawn Zinga, Brock’s Acting Associate Vice-President, Research, who was tasked with heading up the University’s response to the call.

Brock’s Vice-President, Research, Tim Kenyon, said the University is doing what it can to support the Niagara region through the pandemic.

“As a research institution, we’re obviously very fortunate to have the materials on hand to be able to do this,” said Kenyon. “We are the community’s university, and the community needs these resources. They need them right now.”

The PPE being donated came from a wide range of faculties and departments such as research labs and services, teaching labs, science stores, the electronics shop, and the Campus Store.

“We are extremely grateful to Brock University for this remarkable show of support and generosity,” said Niagara Health President Lynn Guerriero. “We have always valued our strong partnership with Brock University, and this is another example of that. These donations will help as our health-care team responds to the COVID-19 pandemic.”

In order to limit the risk to front-line staff, much care was taken around how many people were handling the goods and to keep everything in their exterior packaging.

“It’s all about controlling the exposure to the supplies,” said Zinga. “It has been noticeable how conscious people are in not affecting those supplies because the last thing you want to do is cause more risk.”

Zinga thanked everyone involved in the collection and transfer of the PPE, including everyone who identified and provided equipment and those involved in handing the gear over such as Campus Security, Custodial, Facilities Management and others.

“We’re lucky in that we can work remotely, but those medical professionals in front-line roles can’t do that,” she said. “People want to support them and recognize the great work they’re doing out there and the risk they’re taking in doing that.”

Roger Ali, President and CEO of the Niagara Health Foundation said he was “deeply grateful for the support.”

“We are so grateful for the community leadership of Brock University and their dedicated staff and students,” he said. “It is at times like this that Niagara is so fortunate to have a world-class institution stepping up to supply our front-line heroes with the critical protective equipment they need. These items will truly support the health-care professionals as they treat our friends, neighbours and loved ones.”

The Niagara Health Foundation is taking the lead on securing protective equipment and raising funds to purchase additional urgently needed equipment.

Guerriero said “it’s inspiring to see how the Niagara community is pulling together in so many different ways to support each other. A challenging time is bringing out the best in everyone.”

For more information or for assistance arranging interviews:

* Dan Dakin, Manager Communications and Media Relations, Brock University ddakin@brocku.ca, or 905-347-1970

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Niagara community encouraged to contribute to Brock’s COVID-19 archive https://brocku.ca/media-room/2020/03/30/niagara-community-encouraged-to-contribute-to-brocks-covid-19-archive/ Mon, 30 Mar 2020 19:33:08 +0000 http://brocku.ca/media-room/?p=1832 MEDIA RELEASE: 30 March 2020 – R0056

From bare grocery store shelves to playgrounds with warning signs, workplace and school closures, and unlimited social media and news content about COVID-19, it’s hard not to feel the impact of the pandemic.

Brock University’s Archives and Special Collections and Digital Scholarship Lab have created a website to gather and preserve photos, text, video and other forms of capturing the experience of living in the Niagara region during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“In the near and far future, students, researchers, authors and other curious folks will be looking for such materials to retell the history of this challenging time,” said David Sharron, Head of Archives and Special Collections at the University’s James A. Gibson Library. “It was recently the 100th anniversary of the Spanish flu, and people relied on our archives to see what Niagara did in 1918. We want to capture the history of COVID-19 as it’s happening.”

Sharron says inviting the Niagara community to contribute their materials to the archives will allow for more organic, accurate history.

“Archives usually receive historical documentation years after something has happened, but doing it in the moment allows primary reaction to be genuine and truly historic,” said Sharron. “It allows people to share their thoughts, feelings and experiences in real-time, and in a novel way.”

He adds that giving people a platform to share their experiences while also learning about the experiences of others can allow those feeling isolated to feel less alone.

Tim Ribaric, Acting Head, Digital Scholarship Lab, has been leading the technical side of the website

“We have an open access platform at Brock called Omeka, which is an exhibit platform that allows us to showcase digitized materials,” said Ribaric. “You take that history and information and retain them for people who want to do research about how things such as normal everyday life felt for people in the moment.”

A couple of key, recent examples in the Brock archives from people who self-submitted are the Occupy Wall Street protest movement in 2011 and the Ferguson Unrest protests and riots in 2014.

“I see people posting on social media every day about what they’re thinking and feeling,” said Sharron. “It’s front and centre on our minds. To capture these raw emotions is more telling than writing this months later when we polish our thoughts. How we’re living right now is true to history.”

There are two ways to contribute to the project.

 

David Sharron, Head of Archives and Special Collections at Brock University’s James A. Gibson Library is available for phone and video interviews.

For more information or for assistance arranging interviews: 

* Dan Dakin, Manager Communications and Media Relations, Brock University ddakin@brocku.ca, 905-347-1970

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Brock expert believes pandemic is being used to further complicate border issues https://brocku.ca/media-room/2020/03/30/brock-expert-believes-pandemic-is-being-used-to-further-complicate-border-issues/ Mon, 30 Mar 2020 18:26:11 +0000 http://brocku.ca/media-room/?p=1830 MEDIA RELEASE: 30 March 2020 – R0055

An instructor in Brock University’s Centre for Canadian Studies believes the U.S. is using the COVID-19 pandemic as an excuse to strong-arm Canada.

Ibrahim Berrada, who teaches Canadian Studies at Brock and is a former staffer on Parliament Hill, says President Donald Trump’s threat of a military presence along the U.S./Canada border is a heavy-handed response to illegal border crossings.

Last week, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced Canada would no longer accept asylum seekers during the pandemic, instead sending them back to their country of origin.

“This is a huge reversal from the approach adopted in the past,” says Berrada, who spent seven years working with different members of Parliament on various national and international portfolios. “It is too early to tell whether Canada will reverse this policy after the crisis, but it is unlikely, pending bilateral border negotiations.”

The decision, he notes, goes against several United Nations conventions, in particular the 1951 Convention on Status of Refugees, which has been ratified by Canada. Returning asylum seekers may also be difficult as many international flights remain grounded.

The Canada/U.S. border is governed by a Safe Third Country Agreement, meaning that if a refugee claimant enters the U.S., they can’t claim asylum in Canada since the U.S. is deemed a safe country. Refugees must claim asylum in the first safe country they land in.

“The issue remains whether asylum seekers will be returned to an unsafe country, violating international refugee laws,” says Berrada.

Trump is using the pandemic situation to enforce policies that would otherwise be shelved, Berrada says. Any changes to border crossing protocols require calm and composed negotiations.

“Strong-arming Canada into accepting a proposal during this pandemic is inappropriate,” he says. “It devalues Canadian-American relations and threatens their stability.”

While Berrada is confident current restrictions on travel between Canada and the U.S. will eventually be removed, he warns that U.S. plans to militarize the border will possibly continue if negotiations aren’t fruitful. Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland’s position as Canada’s chief negotiator is a sign that Canada will not take the issue lightly.

“Canadians should be wary about the possibility of a lingering military presence that may stretch beyond the pandemic,” says Berrada.

The U.S. military has no domestic policing capabilities and can only serve as a support force within American borders.

“Donald Trump is pulling out all the cards in an attempt to have a policy objective implemented and to be seen as a ‘tough on immigration’ leader prior to the fall election,” says Berrada.

 

Ibrahim Berrada, Instructor with Brock’s Centre for Canadian Studies, is available for phone and video interviews.

For more information or for assistance arranging interviews: 

* Dan Dakin, Manager Communications and Media Relations, Brock University ddakin@brocku.ca, 905-347-1970

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Brock gearing up to contribute to COVID-19 response https://brocku.ca/media-room/2020/03/27/brock-gearing-up-to-contribute-to-covid-19-response/ Fri, 27 Mar 2020 17:00:09 +0000 http://brocku.ca/media-room/?p=1828 MEDIA RELEASE: 27 March 2020 – R0054

Brock University’s research community is stepping up to contribute supplies, facilities and expertise to Canada’s fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.

Brock has made available supplies of gloves, masks and chemicals to Niagara Public Health, and researchers are also discussing ways to use the University’s Level 3 containment laboratory (CL3).

The Canadian government has already approved Brock’s CL3 lab to be used for COVID-19 research.

“We’re taking a range of steps to prepare for requests that might emerge for research and testing,” says Vice-President Research, Tim Kenyon. “We have a wide variety of expertise and facilities here that can be deployed in the greater fight against this virus.”

Brock’s Office of Research Services has put out a call for researchers to submit research proposals in response to the provincial government’s COVID-19 portal, which was posted Thursday, March 26.

Regarding the CL3 facility, Biological Safety Levels in a lab are ranked from one to four depending on the potential threat of organisms or agents being studied. The labs have increasing protection levels.

Level 3 enables Professor of Biology Fiona Hunter to study the Zika and West Nile viruses, but she and her students are willing to put those studies on hold temporarily should the facility be required for research on the COVID-19-causing virus, called SARS-CoV-2.

Brock also has several Level 2 laboratories that can potentially support a scale-up of COVID-19 testing if demand from Public Health rises. Immunologist and Associate Professor of Health Sciences Adam MacNeil says his lab has the equipment to do this, but needs critical testing materials that are in high-demand globally.

A potential local source has emerged in Norgen Biotek, a company that is working with the University on producing COVID-19 test kits.

“Members of my team would be happy to help at locations outside of Brock as much as here at Brock,” says MacNeil. “They have critical skills that are useful right now, and that realization – within the developing crisis — has empowered them.”

“As well, we are pursuing institutional steps to secure the appropriate license modifications permitting work with SARS-CoV-2, and to modify and upgrade the facilities themselves as needed,” says Kenyon.

Beyond the biological laboratories is a pool of expertise that can address a wide variety of facets of the unfolding pandemic, including financial data analysis, risk management and children’s mental health.

Kenyon continues to receive expressions of interest from across the research community at Brock in response to the pandemic.

“We continue to explore ways to support innovative research projects that can help in the fight against this pandemic,” he says.

For more information or for assistance arranging interviews:

* Dan Dakin, Manager Communications and Media Relations, Brock University ddakin@brocku.ca, or 905-347-1970

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