A Culture of Justice? Meaning of Penality in Canadian Penal History Museums

While prison museums have been the focus of academic work in criminology, sociology, tourism studies and related fields, there are other heritage sites where cultural representations of penalty are produced, communicated, consumed, and interpreted.  Penal history museums are important because they, like other cultural sites, shape public understandings of, and state responses to, law-breaking. Thus, museum representations can reinforce or challenge the legitimacy of punishment as a means of obtaining justice. It is with this in mind that Kevin Walby (University of Winnipeg) and Justin Piché established the Carceral Cultures Research Initiative (CCRI), which first studied representations of penalty in Canadian lock-up, jail, prison and penitentiary museums.  Extending this work, this new project explores how the notion of punishment as justice is negotiated in policing and court museums in Canada through an analysis of how the dynamics of heritage site emergence, along with curation, tour guide and marketing work, shape penal meaning making, including among visitors.  The insights generated from our field work in policing and court museums will then be compared to our findings concerning prison museums, which is a contribution that has yet to be made in penal tourism scholarship. Current and prospective University of Ottawa students interested in conducting research on cultural representations of penalty in museums and other tourist settings as part of the Carceral Cultures Research Initiative are encouraged to contact Professor Piché.

Abolitionist Thought and Praxis

While marginal in criminology, abolitionism continues to be a vital body of knowledge that informs thought and praxis challenging the necessity of prisons and penalty in contemporary times.  This area of Professor Justin Piché's work contributes to and critically examines the logics and strategies of contemporary prison and penal abolitionists. Central to this work is a commitment to ensuring that the insights of current and former prisoners are considered in societal and academic debates concerning criminalization and punishment, as well as related abolitionist struggles.  To this end, Professor Piché is involved in editing the Journal of Prisoners on Prisons (JPP), an academic and peer-reviewed journal published by University of Ottawa Press. A second project in this area includes the development of a book with American abolitionist and prison industrial complex critic Rachel Herzing, which is tentatively titled Abolish Prisons (under contract with Verso).  This study explores the strategies used by abolitionist groups in Canada and the United States to work towards a world without prisons. A third project on abolitionism with Nicolas Carrier (Carleton University) explores the logics that animate abolitionist organizing and scholarship.  Through an exploration of “academic” and “activist” abolitionism, we also critically examine the blind spots and tensions that characterize abolitionist thought, both in the past and at present. Another on-going project in this area includes a collaboration with the Hulsman Foundation to produce an English translation of Peines perdues : Le système pénal en question first published in 1982 by Louk Hulsman and Jacqueline Bernat de Cellis.  The project, tentatively entitled Pain in Vain: Challenging the Penal System – On the Legacies of Louk Hulsman (under contract with Red Quill Books), will also feature a dozen chapters by academics, activists, politicians, policymakers, and practitioners about the global impact of this founder of abolitionist thought and praxis, notably as it relates to developing alternatives to the ‘war on drugs’. Current and prospective University of Ottawa students interested in volunteering for the JPP and/or conducting research on abolitionism are encouraged to contact Professor Piché.

Aesthetics of Moral Indifference

Professors Maritza Felices-Luna and Sandra Lehalle are working on a project involving a visual analysis of the “jungle” in Calais, France.  It looks at the physical evolution of the site in regards to the broader local community’s response and legal and regulatory mechanisms that have been put in place by local and regional governments.  There are opportunities to have MA theses supervised on the topic.

Aftermath of the Bedford Decision

On May 5, 2008 Amy Lebovitch, Valerie Scott and Terri-Jean Bedford launched a Charter Challenge in Ontario. The three sex workers asserted that a number of Criminal Code (CC) provisions restricting prostitution (sections 213(1)(c), s. 210, and s. 212(1)(j) violated their right to life, liberty and security of the person, guaranteed under section seven of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. On December 20, 2013 the highest court in the land upheld the ruling by Justice Himel of the Ontario Superior Court declaring the laws unconstitutional because they “prevent[ed] people engaged in a risky - but legal - activity from taking steps to protect themselves from the risks” (Canada v Bedford 2013 at Introduction).  This project by Professor Chris Bruckert explores the aftermath of the Bedford decision.

Big Data Surveillance

The Big Data Surveillance project is a SSHRC-funded partnership that examines the relationship between big data and surveillance in three linked streams: security, marketing, and governance. Professor Valerie Steeves, together with Kevin Haggerty, is leading the stream on governance.  This part of the project examines the use of big data analytics in policing, schools and health care, with a special emphasis on how big data extends the scope of surveillance by co-opting individuals into participating in the surveillance of their own private lives.  A graduate scholarship at the PhD level (starting January or September 2017) is available to work on a project on “Big Data Surveillance” under the supervision of Valerie Steeves.

Biocriminology, Neurocriminology and Other Biological Explanations of Criminal Behaviour as Conceptualized by Science Studies: How Are Scientific Facts Born and How Do They Persist?

Locating the causes of social attitudes and behaviours in the genes is a project gaining in popularity. Focusing on the issue of aggression, Dominique Robert and Martin Dufresne want to identify and document the scientific as well as the public controversies raised by this interest for behavioral genetics and neurosciences. How do behavioral genetics and neurosciences explain aggression? What are the scientific, technological and social debates surrounding those explanations of aggression? And how do social services, schools, workplaces and health services integrate genetics and neuroscience explanations of aggression in their detection and prevention programs?

Collateral Consequences to Parents and Families of Young People who Sexually Offend

Christine Gervais (Associate Professor of Criminology) and Elisa Romano (Professor of Psychology, University of Ottawa) are working together to explore the challenges that parents of sexually offending youth face as they negotiate the best interest of their child, while at the same time attempting to manage the best interest of the children harmed, and of other affected children (including the offending child’s siblings, cousins, neighbours, and friends). The overarching goal of this study is to better understand the impact that a young person’s sexual offending behaviour has on his or her family members, especially on the parents.  Particular emphasis is placed on the silencing and stigmatizing effects, as well as on the institutional impediments that families encounter as they navigate the criminal justice, health care, social work and education systems. Data is being collected through qualitative interviews with parents in Eastern Ontario.  The study has been sponsored by the Interdisciplinary Research Laboratory on the Rights of the Child and The Law Foundation of Ontario. Undergraduate students interested in becoming involved in this study can do so through the Undergraduate Research Opportunity Program (UROP). Graduates students can also undertake M.A. or Ph.D. level research in this area under Professor Gervais’ supervision.

Interdisciplinary Research Laboratory on the Rights of the Child

Community-based social reintegration of First Nations in Québec: Experiences and perspectives of Indigenous people

To learn more about this study being conducted by Professor Bastien Quirion, please consult the French page.

Community sanctions

To learn more about this study being conducted by Professor Françoise Vanhamme, please consult the French page.

Criminalized Women

Professor Jennifer Kilty's primary area of research interest is criminalized women – their experiences of incarceration and reintegration, their adoption of self-harming behaviours, and their construction as ‘violent', ‘dangerous' and/or ‘risky'. Using identity and citizenship theories, Professor Kilty examines how different health and mental health statuses come to affect the construction, maintenance, and negotiation of identity in prison and post incarceration.  Much of this work is based on discussions of rights and ethics of care, and is framed by a prison abolitionist standpoint.

Cultural and visual criminology

To learn more about this study being conducted by Professor Françoise Vanhamme, please consult the French page.

Deaths that don’t count: A social and political autopsy of unclaimed bodies

To learn more about this study being co-conducted by Professor Isabelle Perreault, please consult the French page.

Does sexology exist? Materiality and definition of a professional field

To learn more about this study being co-conducted by Professor Isabelle Perreault, please consult the French page.

Drugs: Current Issues and New Reflections

To learn more about this study being conducted by Professor Line Beauchesne, please consult the French page.

Emoting Technologies: Understanding the Regulation of Affect

New computer-based affective technologies marketed to express, to regulate and to manipulate human emotions continue to increase in availability.  From biometric emotion recognition surveillance cameras alleged to fight terrorism and to keep us safer by recognizing persons evidencing dangerous emotions such as rage, revenge and fear, to video games designed to allow players to experience depression for the purposes of developing empathy to consumer strategies designed to increase marketing share by engaging the potential consumers’ emotional responses to the marketed commodity, new information and communication technologies are heavily reliant on the attempt to understand contemporary “structure of feeling” (Williams, 1977).  Brave new possibilities are imagined for these technologies, from the protection of our national security to the improvement of our emotional intelligence and collective psychological welfare. Consistent with the SSHRC goal of examining the roles that “emerging and/or disruptive information and communication technologies play in learning for individuals, institutions and society,” Professor Shoshana Magnet’s project will examine the implications of new technologies aimed at automating emotions.  Grounding my project within a current cultural context that remains preoccupied with finding technologies that help us manage our emotions, and interrogating the relationship between these technologies and systemic markers of inequality, my project will investigate three institutional contexts. These include:

  1. Surveillance: one of the first uses of biometric technologies claimed to be able to identify persons who are security risks by recognizing negative emotion states
  2. Marketing: the expansion of technologies that can read consumer’s emotional responses in order to improve sales and
  3. Education: the pedagogical use of children’s literature and video games to teach affective states through an investigation of the development of “empathy games” and “empathy literature” aimed at teaching people how to navigate traumatic emotional experiences. 

Although the real-world deployment of technologies aimed at analyzing emotions is often described as being transparent and self-evident, I argue that their uses remain complex, ambiguous, differentially imposed and targeted to specific audiences and, as a result, inherently problematic.  As SSHRC highlights, these technologies are being developed “at breakneck speed.  In order to benefit from, integrate and adapt to these technologies effectively, we need to understand their ethical, environmental, economic, legal and social implications.”   The central problematic of my project is an examination of the implications of these new emotive technologies, the specific focus in this project is the differential implications these technologies have for communities marked by gender, race, sexuality, class and disability.  What are the implications for a surveillance society of biometric emotion technologies that are coded in order to identify anger and aggression in order to predict criminal behaviour? What are the costs, both financial and social, of keeping us safer?  Looking at the possibilities of these technologies aimed at automating emotions for providing us with new and richer understandings of our emotional worlds as well as the ways in which these technologies may serve to intensify existing inequalities, I aim to think about the social consequences of our longing for new technologies that are skilled at deciphering the complex world of our emotions.

Explaining Stability in Punishment

Cheryl Webster is interested in Canadian imprisonment policy.  In collaboration with Anthony Doob (Centre of Criminology and Legal Studies, University of Toronto) their broad research program has been focused on describing and understanding the use of imprisonment in Canada over the past 50 years.  Initial work adopted an inter-national comparative approach in an attempt to explain the anomalous nature of trends in Canadian incarceration rates since 1960 as contrasted with those of the U.S. and England/Wales. While they demonstrate that Canada has not been immune to pressure for harsher criminal justice practices and policies, it has largely been able to counter or balance these trends with other moderating forces. More recent work has adopted an intra-national approach in an attempt to describe and understand trends in imprisonment rates within the country. They have found that the various contributors to our rates of imprisonment show not only considerable diverging patterns but also significant variability across place and time. Further, these various stages in the criminal justice process are shown to have differential effects, depending on the characteristics of the offender or the offence. It is precisely the juxtaposition of this description of Canada’s penal landscape as one of considerable internal instability with that from their prior research of overall or aggregate stability which is their current object of study. Specifically, they have been attempting to go beyond a mere description of the various diverging trends in punishment and explain how they – in combination with each other – produce overall stability through various compensatory systems.

Feeling the Carceral

This project examines how incarceration, through its isolating and disciplining forces, shapes the emotional and affective experiences of former prisoners and correctional staff members. Carceral space is neither uniform nor orderly, however, and emotions and affects are felt differently depending upon the specific carceral setting, be it segregation, counselling or programming spaces, or an individual cell, among others. In addition to mapping emotions/affect through the carceral geography of federal prisons in Canada, we will conduct a case study to examine how emotions and affect structure the prison as an elevated HIV risk environment. There are significant policy insights that will be gleaned from the research, especially as they pertain to the use of harm reduction technologies, segregation, and the use of risk as a governing correctional management logic. Findings will be of use to scholars in the fields of carceral geography, criminology and correctional policy, as well as frontline correctional practitioners. Experiential accounts of the ways in which emotions, affects and carceral spaces are mutually constitutive remains underexplored in the existing literature. Notably, by using interviews conducted with a host of key correctional actors (e.g., correctional officers, nurses, educators, counsellors, psy professionals) and formerly federally incarcerated men and women, including a case study of HIV positive former prisoners, this research project is positioned to be the first large-scale study to map the “emotion culture” of the Canadian federal prison landscape. The project is led by Jennifer Kilty, and conducted with Michael Orsini, Justin Piché, Prashan Ranasinghe, and Howard Sapers.

Forced Detention of “Foreign Enemies” in Canada during the Two World Wars

To learn more about this study being conducted by Professor Sandra Lehalle, please consult the French page.

Gender-Based Criminalization and Discrimination against Women in Religious Institutions

Christine Gervais’s research explores gender-based criminalization and discrimination against women in religious institutions, especially in the Roman Catholic Church.  She employs participant-inclusive qualitative methods involving interviews and field research with current and former Catholic sisters/nuns in the province of Ontario in order to shed light on the Canonical criminalization of women’s ordination and the gendered exclusion of women religious and lay women by the male hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church. Professor Gervais also examines the patriarchal constructions of the “deviant nun”, sisters’ resourcefulness and resistance against patriarchal control, as well as sisters’ progressive roles at the forefront of feminist and social justice activism, and among imprisoned and victimized populations. Undergraduate students interested in becoming involved in this study can do so through the Undergraduate Research Opportunity Program (UROP). Graduates students can also undertake M.A. or Ph.D. level research in this area under Professor Gervais’ supervision.

Harnessing Evidence for Smarter Crime Control in Latin America, China and USA

Irvin Waller is engaged actively across the world on ways to invest in evidence based prevention as an alternative to overuse of reactive police and prison policies that are costly to human rights and taxpayers.  The research focuses on the application of the conclusions from his books Less Law, More Order, Smarter Crime Control and Rights for Victims of Crime, which are available in Spanish and Chinese.  In Latin America, the two day tribute in 2016 to this work organized by the research institute (INACIPE) of the government of Mexico is expected to generate consolidation of this work.  He is working with universities in Beijing and Chongqing.  He participates in activities of the World Health Organization, UN-Habitat and UNODC, including efforts to invest in achieving the violence prevention targets of the Sustainable Development Goals (3, 5, 11, 16 and 17).  From time to time, these lead to research assistantships, particularly for graduate students with advanced knowledge and Spanish.

Historical Sociology of Suicide in Quebec, 1763-2000

Learn more about this study led by Professor Patrice Corriveau by clicking on the title above.

Homelessness and Time: On (Not-)Doing

Prashan Ranasinghe has recently completed an ethnography about the way an emergency shelter is ordered on a daily basis and what this ordering means to the deployment of care. Based on this research, I have also completed a book manuscript provisionally titled Helter-Shelter. My next project is indebted to, and draws upon, this previous work. In it, also involving ethnography, I plan to spatialize the time of homelessness by theorizing the dialecticism of doing and not-doing that concurrently constitutes the condition of homelessness.

If Dance Could Help: Experience and Project Sharing

To learn more about this study being conducted by Professor Sylvie Frigon, please consult the French page.

Inequalities in adolescent mental health between boys and girls in Canada

Val Steeves is involved in this research project with William Pickett from Brock University. The project includes intersectional qualitative work on the mental health of young people sitting at a variety of social locations. The team is also involved in youth-led participatory action research and in community outreach.

Intuition and Public Support for Harsh Criminal Justice Policy

Increasingly punitive political responses toward crime is suggested by growing prison populations in the U.S. and the UK, and the introduction of harsh penal policies in Canada (e.g., increasing minimum sentences). Yet, the public tends to believe that the courts are not 'harsh' enough in dealing with criminals and that sentences are 'too lenient'. Such public attitudes contribute to the implementation of increasingly harsh criminal justice policies that are socially damaging and economically costly. Punitive attitudes are understood as being reflective of cognitive ‘shortcuts’ or assumptions (e.g., underestimating actual sentencing trends, overestimating crime rates). Still, little is known about intuitive or very rapidly formulated punitive attitudes. Professor Carolyn Côté-Lussier’s research will be the first to identify the role of instantaneous responses in linking social structural factors (e.g., social inequality) and criminal stereotypes to punitive intuitions. It will also make important advancements in terms of establishing the role of intuition in explaining public support for harsh criminal justice policy. The planned studies have received funding from a SSHRC Insight Development grant and will use cutting edge methodologies (e.g., facial electromyography) from the University of Ottawa’s INSPIRE laboratory to detect individuals' rapid intuitive punitive responses. Beginning in Fall 2017, Professor Côté-Lussier will be accepting undergraduate and graduate level research assistants, and graduate level students who wish to work on this project for their thesis.

Lived Experiences of Prisoners’ Loved Ones

To learn more about this study being conducted by Professor Sandra Lehalle, please consult the French page.

Mapping the Naturalization and Expansion of Imprisonment in Canada

Although the object of sustained critiques, imprisonment is commonly presented by its proponents as being necessary to the functioning of communities and states, whether democratic in name or not.  This study examines state discourses and processes facilitating the continued existence and expansion of imprisonment in Canada.  As part of the No On Prison Expansion (#NOPE) Initiative, the contemporary dimension of this work analyses the justifications for and consequences of jail, prison, and penitentiary construction.  This research aims to open-up spaces to contest the Canadian state’s capacity to confine human beings through carceral divestment and justice reinvestment strategies.  Drawing on the growing number of studies on carceral geography, the historical dimension of this work examines how Kingston, Ontario became home to nine federal penitentiaries since Confederation.  In working towards a social geography of these prisons, this study examines the architecture and spatial practices that shape interactions within these facilities, explores how staff and prisoners resist these structures that aim to control their lived geographies, and investigates how these institutions are depicted in local culture and contribute to the formation of the region’s identity.  This work aims to generate insights about how the prison idea has been reproduced through the establishment of new penitentiaries at different moments in Canada’s history and the material impacts penal necessity has had on the diverse geographies that shape social life, both inside and outside penitentiary walls. Current and prospective University of Ottawa students interested in joining the #NOPE Initiative and/or conducting research on contemporary and historical prison expansion in Canada are encouraged to contact Professor Piché.

Miscarriages of Justice

Professor Kathryn M. Campbell’s primary research interest for the past fourteen years has involved examining different facets of miscarriages of justice. She has published research papers on how the wrongly convicted cope with imprisonment, Canadian policy responses to this problem, the impact of errors in pediatric forensic pathology on convictions, how the courts treat expert evidence and how preventive detention strategies may contribute to wrongful convictions. In 2016, she was awarded a European Institutes of Advanced Studies (EURIAS) fellowship as part of the Legitimization of Modern Criminal Law research group at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, Israel. While there she undertook a study considering the extent to which strategies of exoneration and compensation for the wrongly convicted enhance procedural justice. Professor Campbell is currently working on a joint comparative law project with Professor Fiona Leverick at the Faculty of Law, University of Glasgow, examining strategies of compensation for the wrongly convicted in both the UK and Canada. Professor Campbell’s other research interests are in the areas of youth justice, Indigenous justice and animal law.

Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Strategies for Change

The issue of missing and murdered Indigenous women across Canada has been given substantial national media and public attention in the past few years, including the recent government announcement of a National Inquiry on Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls. Today, a significant amount of research and a number of reports document the role that colonialism, policing, systemic violence and media complacency have played in making Indigenous women more vulnerable to violence. Historically, the murders and disappearances of Indigenous women were widely neglected or ignored or were treated as a domestic violence issue or as an “Aboriginal community” problem. This historical lack of attention and neglect of the issue largely resulted in Indigenous families and communities developing their own initiatives and strategies to address the disappearances and murders. Despite the increased focus on the issue today, there has been little public awareness of or research done into how Indigenous families and communities have been addressing the disappearances and murderers of Indigenous women or their related experiences. Through a media scan and interviews, this project being undertaken by adjunct professor Vicki Chartrand will address this gap in knowledge and awareness by considering

  1. what initiatives have Indigenous families and communities developed to address the murders and disappearances of Indigenous women?
  2. What have been the personal experiences of Indigenous families and communities from carrying out this work and how has this strengthened or built community?
  3. How can these initiatives inform a more inclusive approach of justice for Indigenous women and girls and provide a broader understanding of the experiences and contributions of Indigenous peoples in Canada today?

This research will provide an original contribution to understanding the strategies and experiences of Indigenous families and communities to address the disappearances and murders of Indigenous women and how these experiences are more broadly linked to colonialism and other historical and social processes. By exploring and highlighting the contributions of Indigenous families and communities, this work is also part of a broader project to address Canada’s history of colonialism that has created large scale discrepancies in treatment, opportunities, and justice for Indigenous peoples and to help identify the internal strengths and resiliencies present in Indigenous communities, as outlined by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC). “The urgent need for reconciliation runs deep in Canada. Expanding public dialogue and action on reconciliation beyond residential schools will be critical in the coming years. …Too many Canadians still do not know the history of Aboriginal peoples’ contributions to Canada” (TRC, 2015: 4-5).

NETWORK 16-35: Understanding and Supporting Community-based Social Reintegration of Criminalized Young Adults aged 16 to 35

To learn more about this study being conducted by Professor Bastien Quirion, please consult the French page.

Political and Legal Representations of Public Opinion and their Influence on the Choice of Sanctions

To learn more about this study being conducted by professors Richard Dubé and Margarida Garcia, please consult the French page.

Prison Pandemic Partnership

The Prison Pandemic Partnership between the Centre for Access to Information and Justice (CAIJ) at the University of Winnipeg, the Criminalization and Punishment Education Project (CPEP) at the University of Ottawa, and the Canadian Civil Liberties Association (CCLA) examines the measures adopted by federal and provincial-territorial prison authorities in Canada to prevent and manage the spread of COVID-19, along with their information management strategies during the crisis. Current and prospective University of Ottawa students interested in conducting research on imprisonment, alternatives to criminalization and incarceration or government transparency during the COVID-19 pandemic are encouraged to contact Professor Piché.

Quebec-Catalonia comparative analysis of programs and strategies for the recognition of national specificities and the experiences of belonging of Muslim communities

This comparative study, conducted by Leila Benhadjoudja and David Moffette, looks at the relationships between programs and strategies put in place to promote the recognition of national specificities in Quebec and Catalonia (language, values, history, etc.), and the experience of belonging and non-belonging of Muslim communities. The research is based on two datasets: one about public programs, training, and discourses promoting national specificities (through a narrative analysis of institutional documents collected in Quebec and Catalonia), and one about the experiences of Muslim communities (through interviews in Montreal and Barcelona). The research engages with questions of nationalism in minority nations, narratives about the nation and the construction of national subjects, racism, Islamophobia, and belonging. 

Resistance and Advocacy in the Carceral City

This study documents how a select group of six local volunteer, peer-based, and unfunded community-based advocacy groups working with and for people at risk of imprisonment challenge carceral power logics and practices and resist carceral expansion – specifically in the City of Ottawa. As part of this community-based case study, we concentrate on organizing efforts that challenge carceral expansion as it occurs by way of the criminalization of health (Overdose Prevention Ottawa) and mental health issues (Justice 4 Abdi), poverty (Ticket Defence Program) and immigration (Ottawa Sanctuary City Network), all of which have contributed significantly to the increasing number of prisoners held at OCDC (Criminalization and Punishment Education Project) and the pain experienced by their loved ones (Canadian Somali Mothers Association). There are four specific objectives guiding this research:

  1. To describe and conceptualize carceral power, logics, and practices as they are understood by local Ottawa-based grassroots, volunteer, peer-based, and unfunded advocacy/activist groups that work with and for people at risk of imprisonment and in opposition to carceral expansion;
  2. To document the specific objectives of these community organizers, the tactics devised and deployed to meet their goals, and the outcomes of their work;
  3. To identify concrete alternatives to confinement being developed ‘from below’ that aim to foster inclusive responses to complex social challenges facing communities; and
  4. To document the possibilities and constraints these groups face as they operate without the restrictions and limits on political activity that come with state subsidies. 

The project is led by Jennifer Kilty, and conducted with Justin Piché, Dominique Robert, Bastien Quirion, Maritza Felices-Luna, Sandra Lehalle, Baljit Nagra, David Moffette and Geneviève Nault.

Restorative Justice - The Process of Asking a Third Party in the Case of Conflict: Experiences of Mediators and Facilitators

To learn more about this project being conducted by professors Véronique Strimelle and Françoise Vanhamme, please consult the French page.

Role of Mental Health Experts in the Legal Decision-Making and Justification Process

This initiative led by professor David Joubert includes a number of inter-related projects in which the evidence presented by mental health or “psy” experts is used in the legal decision-making and subsequent justification for the decision. The role and place taken in Court by such experts has historically been the focus of much discussion and debate. The main purpose of the studies is to examine how psychological and mental health constructs, as well as values and social concerns, become interwoven within the fabric of legal decision-making. Thus, we are looking at the ways in which such constructs may be arranged so as to reinforce the appearance of internal consistency within legal discourse. Ongoing projects are looking at evidence presented by psy-experts in cases of dangerous offender designation, criminal responsibility, mental health review hearings, as well as institutional infractions by inmates and sexual misconduct by mental health professionals. The projects make use of mixed frameworks of analysis, harnessing the best features of both quantitative (latent semantic analysis, multidimensional scaling) and qualitative (latent content analysis) methods.  

Securitized Citizens: Canadian Muslims Experiences with Counter Terrorism Policies

Dr. Baljit Nagra is currently working on a nationwide qualitative study, consisting of nearly 100 interviews with Canadian Muslim community leaders living in five major Canadian cities (Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal, Calgary, Vancouver). This study examines the impact of recent changes to citizenship and security laws and policies (i.e. security certificates, passenger protect list, airport/border security, Bill C24, Canadian secret service investigations and visa sponsorship policies) on Muslim communities in Canada. Theoretically, this study explores how racial discourses in state policies and laws reinforce racial hierarchies and social inequalities, altering the meaning of Canadian citizenship and reproducing racialized practices of nation state building in Canada. Ultimately, this research will in specific recommendations on how to improve Canadian state law and policies that disproportionately affect minority communities. This research has been presented at both domestic and international conferences.  A chapter from this research titled National Security: Exclusion and Isolation Among Muslims in Canada’will be published in the forthcoming edited book collection titled Canada Among Nations on terrorism and counterterrorism, Furthermore, Dr. Nagra is preparing several sole-authored and co-authored papers based on this research that speaks to the changing political landscape in Canada, which includes ideological shifts in citizenship, immigration, refugee settlement, religious freedom and national security.


To learn more about this study being conducted by Professor Françoise Vanhamme, please consult the French page.

Sociotechnical controversies in green criminology

Using scientific and public debates on environmental harms caused by practices such as pesticide use and nuclear waste management, Dominique Robert and Martin Dufresne document the way science and technology produce entities that are multiple and saturated with ontological uncertainties, entities that redefine our common world.

Suicide, Abortion and Non-Normative Sexuality: A Sociohistorical Analysis of Fields of Criminal Jurisdiction in the 20th Century

To learn more about this study being conducted by Professor Isabelle Perrault, please consult the French page.

Trajectories of Institutionalization in Forensic Mental Health Patients

This project by Professor David Joubert is intended to examine the associations between episodes of institutionalization in forensic mental health units in Ontario, mental health indicators, behavior problems, life history, use of treatment and control/disciplinary measures. The study is based on systematic data collection efforts within Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care forensic mental health facilities, over the last 10 years. The project thus allows a prospective look at several dimensions determining the experience of mental health care within close facilities. The analytic method is quantitative, using. This study is relevant in the context of social concerns regarding the use of therapeutic, control and disciplinary measures in forensic and prison institutions.

Urban governance and public action concerning youth in trouble. Research on participation policies and proximity programs in Montreal

To learn more about this study being conducted by Professor Eduardo González Castillo, please consult the French page.

eQuality Project

Valerie SteeveseQuality Project is a SSHRC-funded partnership that examines the economic model behind e-commerce (i.e. disclosure of information in exchange for service) and maps the ways in which e-marketing analytics sort youth into categories that often reproduce real-world patterns of discrimination and set up young people for conflict. Working with partners in civil society, education and government, we use our data to create educational materials that will help young Canadians push back against online harassment, racism, homophobia and misogyny, and make the most of their digital media experiences.  The project also provides opportunities for students to intern at civil society organizations seeking to fight back against cyber-harassment as well as traditional research assistantships.