News and events

  • Assistant Professor Joanne Heritz’s research shows lags and promise in municipal-Indigenous relations

    A new research paper suggests relations between municipalities and urban Indigenous populations can provide a means of enacting changes recommended by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) if appropriate steps are taken.

    In “Municipal-Indigenous Relations in Ontario: Initiatives in Brantford, Hamilton, and Niagara,” which will soon appear in the Journal of Canadian Studies, Brock University Assistant Professor of Political Science Joanne Heritz analyzes the current level of engagement with and representation of urban Indigenous populations in the single-tier municipalities of Hamilton and Brantford, and the upper tier of the two-tiered municipality of Niagara Region.

    The study looks at three key areas: government interface, Indigenous culture as a municipal asset and economic and social development. Contrasting these three categories, Heritz shows that while municipalities can be policy innovators with formal mechanisms for Indigenous inclusion, some — including Niagara — need more focus and action.

    “Some municipalities are taking the initiative in building relations with urban Indigenous Peoples by creating Indigenous Advisory Committees and responding to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Calls to Action,” says Heritz, noting that Hamilton has implemented an urban Indigenous strategy and has had an Aboriginal Advisory Committee in place for almost 20 years. “But others have yet to develop urban Indigenous policies.”

    The paper’s findings are in keeping with two previous studies Heritz has completed in this area, looking first at select urban centres across Canada and then at numerous municipalities in Saskatchewan. Because the provinces have no mandates related to urban Indigenous populations, each municipality has approached Indigenous relations in its own way.

    “Over half of Canada’s Indigenous Peoples live in urban centres and their numbers are growing, yet they are proportionately underrepresented in policy processes at the local level of government — even in municipalities that have significantly higher Indigenous populations,” says Heritz. “There are also comparatively few programs and services available for urban Indigenous Peoples.”

    Heritz also finds that the overall size of the municipality, rather than their proportionate population of Indigenous peoples, is often the biggest factor in the level of engagement shown.

    “Large municipalities like Hamilton, with proportionately lower Indigenous populations, have been most innovative in initiating Indigenous justice and health services,” Heritz says. “Compared to Hamilton, Niagara Region is lagging in building formal relations with Indigenous Peoples such as Indigenous advisory committees.”

    Heritz hopes her research will help municipalities understand the need to take up specific Calls to Action from the TRC. She gives the example of intercultural competency, or Indigenous awareness training, and notes that some municipalities provide education for management staff but not frontline workers, citing issues like shift considerations and budgetary concerns. But she adds that her interviews for the study took place prior to the pandemic and the broad uptake of digital platforms and asynchronous training options, which might be leveraged to overcome such challenges.

    She thinks the municipalities that have moved forward with formal policy processes to engage Indigenous communities can demonstrate for other municipal governments how to create meaningful and effective mechanisms by which Indigenous voices can be heard.

    “There are responsibilities for municipalities specifically included in the TRC’s Calls to Action,” says Heritz. “Displaying an Indigenous flag, making an Indigenous land acknowledgement or removing a statue are just the beginning of the responsibilities Canadians need to take to build relations with Indigenous Peoples in local government.”

    Heritz’s next phase of research will cover the provincial capitals of Atlantic Canada, where Indigenous-identity populations are increasing significantly and the process of “coming to terms with municipal-Indigenous relations-building” is just beginning, she says.

    Categories: News

  • Dec. 3 – Survival Governance in a Hotter World: Can China Lead?

    The Department of Political Science presents

    Survival Governance in a Hotter World: Can China Lead?

    A talk with Professor Peter Drahos on his provocative and necessary new book, Survival Governance: Energy and Climate Change in the Chinese Century (OUP, 2021).

    December 3 from 2-3 p.m. via Zoom

    Information poster and link to register here.

    Categories: Events, News

  • Stories of homelessness shared with community thanks to foundation laid by Political Science grad

    Madeleine Jones-Aceituno’s fourth year of university helped inspire change in her career trajectory — and perhaps in the community.

    It was in early 2020, as part of her POLI 4P95 winter internship placement, that Jones-Aceituno (BA ’20) spent time laying the foundation for a project that would see stories of social housing and homelessness shared with the Niagara community.

    The Living Library would welcome seven ‘Living Book’ participants to open up about their experiences of homelessness or accessing Niagara Regional Housing or Homelessness Services with members of the public. But just two days prior to the event date, the COVID-19 pandemic brought everything to a halt.

    The timing was heartbreaking for Jones-Aceituno, who was eager to share the important messages the Living Library had to offer.

    Now, nearly 20 months later, she was thrilled to see the project come to fruition, albeit in an online form.

    A joint initiative by the Niagara Falls Public Library, Niagara Region and Niagara Regional Housing, the Virtual Living Library — Stories of Housing and Home launched on the Niagara Falls Public Library’s website Oct. 20.

    The website includes participants from the Lived Experience Advisory Group and the Niagara Regional Housing Tenant’s Advisory Committee and is available virtually for viewing and interaction.

    Jones-Aceituno says that working on the project, including preparing and conducting interviews with participants, helped her see beyond stereotypes about homelessness. She hopes that visitors to the Living Library website will have a similar experience.

    “Homelessness can happen to anyone at any time, as one of the participants actually helped me understand,” she says. “It is not something someone chooses for themselves. Social programming such as Housing and Homelessness Services are extremely valuable and necessary.”

    Jeffrey Sinclair, Homelessness Action Plan Advisor in Community Services at the Niagara Region, who supervised Jones-Aceituno during her time with the project, said her contributions have not been forgotten.

    “Madeleine’s work created the foundation for the partners to complete the project a year later as a virtual Living Library,” he says. “Niagara Regional Homelessness Services and Housing Services strive to provide meaningful experiential education opportunities when we engage with post-secondary students, and because affordable housing and homelessness are priority issues in the community, we’re finding students coming forward who are really passionate about these issues.”

    Laura Martin, Manager of Community Development and Programming at the Niagara Falls Public Library, agrees.

    “The framework Madeleine helped build for the original project created a road map for Living Libraries that enabled both the transition to this virtual presentation and future Living Library collaborations, either virtual or in person,” she says. “We appreciate that foundational work, which will empower other organizations to bring their lived experiences into a Living Library.”

    After graduating in June 2020 with a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science, with a minor in History, Jones-Aceituno is pursuing a teaching certificate at the University of Ottawa with a focus on supporting marginalized communities.

    “I chose to become a member of the Urban Communities Cohort (UCC), so all of my classes are taught with a social justice lens focusing on racism, classism, ableism and more,” she says. “My experience with Niagara Region Homelessness Services had a huge impact on me when I chose the cohort, and it has enhanced and transferred over to my learning.”

    Joanne Heritz, Assistant Professor in the Department of Political Science and a researcher with a strong interest in housing issues in Niagara, says there are benefits on all sides when students have the chance to engage practically with the concepts they have studied for years.

    “The experiential education aspect of 4P95 Internship creates opportunities for Political Science students to partner with a variety of social services, legal and political organizations to link the knowledge and skills they have acquired in their undergraduate studies to real life situations,” says Heritz, who supervised the Living Library project from the Brock side. “It also provides a keen source of talent for partners in our community who are seeking assistance with short-term projects.”

    Sinclair says the benefits of the Living Library project are also many and varied for different stakeholders.

    “This is a really important initiative because it allows for people with direct experience of either homelessness or community housing to share their stories and perspectives on these topics,” he says. “It helps us better design programs and policies to meet the needs of the community members they are intended to benefit, and it helps increase understanding by addressing biases, stigma and misunderstandings that other community members may have.”

    Cara Krezek, Director of Co-op, Career and Experiential Education at Brock, is always pleased to see how students’ experiential learning opportunities contribute to building their skills and enhancing their knowledge of course materials through applications in real-world settings.

    “It opens the students’ minds to new pathways for their career and their learning,” says Krezek. “When students encounter an experience that excites them, it can light a spark of passion that they follow which is where they find purposeful work that they enjoy and excel at.”

    With her theoretical background in Political Science, History and now Education, Jones-Aceituno hopes to have an impact on policy and practice.

    “With an understanding of the past and attempting to unravel where our present systemic barriers stem from, I hope to work to change education in Ontario,” she says. “I am very passionate about equality within education and believe that my experience in the UCC, learning politics at the undergraduate level and my experience with Niagara Regional Housing and Homelessness Services have given me the tools to do so, perhaps at the curricula level.”

    Categories: News

  • Congratulations Felisia Milana

    For Felisia Milana (BA ’20, MA ’21), being awarded the graduate student Board of Trustees Spirit of Brock Medal from the institution that has inspired her since she was a child feels like “the perfect farewell.”

    “When I found out I would receive the Spirit of Brock medal, I had a moment of reflection on what the past five years at Brock have given me and all that has been accomplished during that time,” says Milana, who was born and raised in St. Catharines and completed both her undergraduate and master’s degree in Political Science at Brock. “I could not feel more honoured to be the recipient.”

    Milana was named the graduate recipient Friday, Oct. 15 during Brock’s 110th Convocation ceremony. It came after she had previously received the Faculty of Social Sciences Graduate Student Researcher Award, the Graduate Students’ Association (GSA) Community and Engagement Award and the David C. Murray Scholarship in Political Science.

    In addition to working as a research assistant and a volunteer dance teacher assistant, and providing service on the Brock Student Conduct Council from 2018-21 to work on restorative justice for students during her time at Brock, Milana also became an award-winning teaching assistant (TA), receiving the Novice TA Award from the Centre for Pedagogical Innovation last year.

    “During my time as a TA, I wanted to highlight the importance of acknowledging human emotion in the university setting and to let students know that asking for support was normal and I would be there to help them through it,” says Milana. “Each class, I spent time checking in with students, and I sent reminders on assignments, was available to schedule meetings when needed and really made it known that I cared for their success.”

    Milana says her graduate experience was shaped by two Indigenous Spirituality courses that she took in her fourth year, which changed her understanding of her own privilege and gave her a new appreciation for Indigenous communities and traditions.

    “One of my Political Science professors suggested that I look at restorative versus conventional approaches to justice with attention to Indigenous offenders in preparing my MA application,” she says. “Once I found out that Indigenous Peoples made up five per cent of the general Canadian population but accounted for 30 per cent of the federal incarceration population, I knew something wasn’t right and it seemed necessary to research it further.”

    Milana completed her major research paper under the supervision of Assistant Professor Liam Midzain-Gobin. She says he gave her valuable insight into how to “respectfully come into this space as a white-settler researcher and do work that aims to help the Indigenous population as an ally,” something she plans to carry forward as an aspiring lawyer.

    While Milana says she can’t pin down a single favourite memory of her time at Brock, her involvement with the GSA stands out as a highlight of her last year as a student.

    “I wanted to join student government in university but was too nervous during my undergraduate degree, so I’m so glad I took that leap this year and feel very grateful for my time on the GSA Board of Directors throughout my year of graduate studies,” says Milana, who served as a Faculty representative, Deputy Returning Officer, Vice-Chair of the Board and Board Chair. “It was such a great experience to work with a group of knowledgeable students who strive for the best interest of current graduate students and future cohorts to come.”

    Categories: News

  • Professor Goodman creates a unique educational experience for her students

    Brock University students will be on the front lines of a landmark election, the first entirely digital vote with end-to-end verifiability held by a Canadian municipality.

    The mock vote, which will focus on pizza, is non-binding and non-political — but that doesn’t make it any less significant in the rapidly changing digital-voting landscape. The project is part of Nicole Goodman’s Canadian Politics in the Digital Age course.

    “Our course is all about the impact of digital technology on politics in Canada, and for the Service Learning assignment, students are examining how technology is changing elections, notably through online voting,” says Goodman, an Associate Professor in Brock’s Department of Political Science who holds a Chancellor’s Chair for Research Excellence for her work in this area. “In the last municipal election in 2018, four companies had market share among municipalities, but now at least 14 are bidding on contracts in the run-up to the 2022 election. The nature of the market is changing significantly, largely in response to COVID-19 and the pressures that it has put on governments to offer more accessible voting.”

    To create a unique educational experience for her students, Goodman has joined forces with Woolwich Township and Neuvote to host and analyze a mock election.

    Between Tuesday, Oct. 12 and Friday, Oct. 15, residents of Woolwich will use Neuvote’s voting platform with end-to-end verifiability, which allows individual users to confirm that their votes were correctly received, to participate in the mock election.

    Brock students will also take part in voting and then assess the entire process from the standpoint of both policy analysts and private consultants, zeroing in on one key issue and preparing a report with their findings and actionable recommendations for both public- and private-sector partners.

    Working in groups, the students will examine the election’s accessibility, security and privacy, turnout and convenience, election evaluation and user experience.

    “I’m excited to partner with Brock University in this mock election and experiential learning project,” says Jeff Smith, Clerk for Woolwich Township. “We are reviewing ways to provide an exceptional election experience for our voters, and we welcome the feedback and analysis provided by students for the 2022 municipal and school board elections.”

    Any voters from Woolwich Township and beyond who would like to participate in the mock election are encouraged to check the Woolwich Township website for more information.

    Matthew Heuman, CEO at Neuvote, says he is eager to see how regular voters understand and respond to using the end-to-end verifiable technology.

    “To verify that your vote was recorded as cast and then counted as recorded is critically important, and the process is quite simple,” says Heuman. “The voters themselves then have the confidence to know — because they’ve checked — that their vote truly was counted exactly as they cast it. What we hope to gain through this project is feedback on how to make that process as simple as possible for voters, in order to help embed that verification step into habit.”

    To prepare for the mock election, the class of fourth-year and master’s students have had visits from both partners to demonstrate the technology and discuss each organization’s priorities, as well as from multiple experts, including a computer science professor sharing insight on security and authentication, a municipal clerk from Ajax with experience in digital voting and speakers from Brock’s James A. Gibson Library.

    Students also received training in writing policy reports, one of the many hard skills they will gain because of this experiential project.

    Goodman — who has worked in many levels of government, international consulting and the private sector, in addition to her work in academia — knows what skills employers in the field are looking for and built this experience to maximize learning and training opportunities.

    “I created this project to better equip students for the job market, to give them the skills they need to be able to go out and land a job,” says Goodman. “Building strong critical thinking, learning how to write analytically and developing presentation style are all essential skills we teach at the University traditionally, but it’s also really important to learn other practical skills.”

    Last year, as a student in Goodman’s Canadian Politics in the Digital Age class, Political Science major Noah Nickel participated in a class-wide experiential education project with Neuvote to create Canada’s first-ever remote election using end-to-end verifiable technology at Brock. He says the opportunity came as an unexpected surprise as part of the course.

    “I had never had such an experiential assignment in any of my classes up to that point, so I really appreciated having the chance to develop some practical, workplace skills in an academic setting,” says Nickel. “I think that all of us in that class were better off for having had the opportunity.”

    Cara Krezek, Director of Co-op, Career & Experiential Education at Brock, calls the current project an excellent example of how quality experiential learning benefits students by building skills and knowledge and also impacts industry in meaningful ways.

    “Experiential learning supports advanced skill building as students are engaged in cutting-edge technology that provides them with the know-how that today’s employers are looking for,” says Krezek. “This is precisely the type of experiences that Brock has become known for by our industry partners.”

    Goodman says her top priority is to help students hit the ground running when they graduate.

    “At the end of the day, I want to empower my students to be able to leave the course and better understand, interpret and explain the ways in which technology is affecting our state, and also to empower them with the skills and knowledge to be able to go out there and pursue whatever path they would like,” says Goodman. “If I’ve done that, then I’m a happy professor.”

    Categories: News

  • Professor Tossutti wins SSHRC Insight Development Grant

    Congratulations to Livianna Tossutti, Associate Professor in the Department of Political Science who recently received an Insight Development Grant from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC).

    Insight Development Grants support research in its initial stages. The grants enable the development of new research questions, as well as experimentation with new methods, theoretical approaches and ideas.

    The name of Professor Tossutti’s grant is: “COVID19 and pathways to city and neighbourhood resiliency in Toronto’s social and community services.”

    Project summary:

    As cities have accounted for 95 percent of COVID-19 cases around the world, resilient cities are critical to the global recovery from the pandemic (UNHabitat, 2020). Resiliency refers to the capacity of systems, communities and individuals to survive, adapt, and/or transform in response to dangerous and disruptive events such as natural disasters, economic crises, demographic changes, health epidemics and others (Figuereido, Honiden and Schumann, 2018). This study employs geospatial data mapping and analysis, archival and interview research techniques, to explore city and neighbourhood­-level understandings and pathways to urban resiliency in the face of the pandemic in the Municipality of Toronto.

    At the city level, the study will examine how resiliency was understood by municipal officials responsible for social and community services prior to the declaration of a global pandemic, how units responsible for those functions adjusted their structures, policies, programs and services in response to the pandemic, and whether the responses reflected a form of equilibrist or evolutionary resilience (Béné, Newsham, Davies, Ulrichs and Godfrey­Wood, 2014; Meerow, Newell and Stults, 2016). Equilibrist resilience refers to resisting (surviving) the disturbance and returning to the previous state following the crisis or challenge. Evolutionary resilience refers to transition and transformation of structures and practises following the disturbance (Nunes, Pinheiro and Tomé, 2019). In sum, which, if any, aspects of municipal social and community service operations were permanently transformed as a result of the health crisis?

    Toronto is a city of diverse neighbourhoods that vary in terms of their socio­economic profiles and experiences with the pandemic. In general, case counts and case rates (per 100,000 population) have been higher in the city’s lower income, high density neighbourhoods with large racialized populations. Racialized Torontonians are more likely to live in poverty and poor housing, be employed in precarious work, encounter difficulties getting nutritious food and be victims of crime and discrimination (Cheung, 2020). Since intra­urban disparities could influence ideas and pathways to resiliency, a second principal objective of this study is to understand how neighbourhood social and community service agencies and associations adapted to the crisis. Did they return to their pre­pandemic states, or did they evolve into a new state? These questions will be explored in two neighbourhoods with similar socio­economic profiles  and vulnerabilities, but different experiences with COVID. While one neighbourhood has experienced some of the highest case rates and fatalities in the city, case rates and fatalities in the second neighbourhood are considerably lower (City of Toronto, n.d; 2018a; 2018b). This case selection strategy has the potential to illuminate whether neighbourhood conceptions and pathways to resiliency were related to health outcomes on the ground.

    Categories: News

  • Brock students make mark at international leadership competition

    A team of six Brock students virtually participated in the international Collegiate Leadership Competition (CLC) on Saturday, April 10. The group met weekly and worked throughout Winter Term with Student Life and Success coaching staff member Kristen Smith to learn the CLC leadership curriculum and practise their leadership skills through a variety of experiential challenges. Although the team grew close over the term, geographically they were quite spread out, with members joining each week from Nigeria, United Arab Emirates and across the Niagara region. This was the first time the competition and full semester experience were offered entirely online. The international event saw Brock compete against 32 schools from across North America, finishing eighth overall. Earlier this week, the students, including Aishah Sonekan, Jessica Scott, Luca D’Amico, Krithika Chandrasekaran Iyer, Annilea Purser and Ashley Giroux, reconnected virtually to celebrate their success and reflect on their collective learning.

    Political Science student Annilea Purser shares her experience:

    “Over the winter semester, I have had the privilege of representing Brock University alongside 5 other students in the Collegiate Leadership Competition (CLC), an international leadership competition geared towards post-secondary students. Through weekly meetings, the team joined together to learn a series of leadership-related concepts as a part of the CLC curriculum. We then applied these concepts in real-world leadership simulation challenges, such as the IMPACT challenge which required the team to partner with a local non-profit organization to host a virtual event. The season ended off with the head-to-head competition day, where teams from around the world were challenged with two exercises (including a Mount Everest simulation and escape room), judging both our execution of the CLC curriculum and our ability to deliver results.

    Being able to represent Brock on the CLC team was an incredible opportunity. I was not only able to learn alongside highly motivated students within the Brock community, but I gained invaluable leadership skills. In particular, the curriculum related to leading a team through stressful situations, including the importance of celebrating small wins, will be highly applicable to leadership roles that I take on in the future. The CLC is a growing case study for U.S-based research on student leadership, and I can’t wait to see the findings that they release on the impact as I have truly seen improvement in my leadership capabilities!”

    Categories: News

  • Professor Livianna Tossutti in The Conversation

    Livianna Tossutti, Associate Professor of Political Science and Louis Volante, Professor of Education at Brock University, along with Don Klinger, Pro Vice-Chancellor of Te Kura Toi Tangata Division of Education; Professor of Measurement, Assessment and Evaluation at the University of Waikato and Melissa Siegel, Professor of Migration Studies and Head of Migration Studies at the Maastricht Graduate School of Governance and UNU-MERIT, United Nations University, had a piece recently published in The Conversation about factors outside school systems that affect schools’ capacity to meet students’ needs and support academic achievement.

    They write:

    There is a large body of research that underscores the importance of particular policies that can support low socio-economic students as well as policies that align with the most effective education systems globally.

    These areas include investing in quality early childhood education, providing adequate mental health and technology support to benefit children in primary and secondary school and funding for post-secondary students. Policy in all these areas can be considered social protection policies. According to UNICEF, such policy reduces “the lifelong consequences of poverty and exclusion.”

    Read the full article here.

    Categories: News

  • Crossing Borders Conference – Best Paper Award

    The Crossing Borders Conference was held at Niagara University on Saturday, March 27. Congratulations to Matt Beard who was recognized with the best paper award at the conference.

    Beard took part in a panel on Citizenship and Immigration in Canada and the U.S., moderated by Ibrahim Berrada, Niagara University/Brock University Therese Purcell (University at Buffalo, State University of New York).

    Below is his abstract:

    Citizens and Market Men: Civic Unity in the Twenty-first Century 

    The roles of populism and polarization in liberal democracies are often discussed in the literature, but a deeper question is less frequently asked— what is citizenship? And how do competing conceptions of it influence political life? This article examines two philosophical ideals of citizenship and uses them to evaluate civic unity in The United States and Canada. In the first conception of citizenship, human beings are political animals who become citizens by transcending the private realm and deliberating about the common good in public. In the second conception, human beings are a bundle of passions who become citizens by securing equality under the law and the right to private autonomous lives. While both strands of citizenship are necessary, this essay argues that the health of liberal democracies depends on a reinvigoration of that first Aristotelian conception of citizenship. For decades, an individualistic and market-based view has turned the “citizen” into a taxpayer and consumer. This essay will examine how civic republican thought aimed at the common good presents a viable alternative.

    Categories: Events, News

  • Panel discussion: Canada and the 2020 US election, Thurs., Oct. 22, 12-1 pm

    The US election on November 3 is shaping up to be an event of historic importance, with potentially far-reaching consequences for the US, Canada and the world.

    The Brock University Department of Political Science invites you to join us for an online discussion and Q&A session of the possible implications of the US elections. Our panel:

    Prof. Leah Bradshaw, Brock University
    Associate Prof. Charles Conteh, Brock University
    Assistant Prof. Will Greaves, University of Victoria
    Associate Prof. Blayne Haggart (moderator)

    For a link to the event, or for further information, please email politicalscience@brocku.ca.

    The Brock University Political Science
    Department presents Canada and the 2020 U.S. Election, October 22, 12 pm-1 pm

    Categories: Events