New program represents ‘cutting edge’ in social justice studies

On October 1, York will launch an innovative Race, Ethnicity & Indigeneity (REI) undergraduate program – the first of its kind in Canada. Housed in the School of Social Sciences in the Atkinson Faculty of Liberal & Professional Studies, the program examines Canada’s history of colonization and racism while exploring the ways in which inequality exists and can be challenged today.

Members of the York community are invited to attend the program launch at 6:30pm in the Price Family Cinema, room 102, Accolade East Building. The launch will be opened by Anishinabe elder Jacqui Lavalley, followed by remarks from York President & Vice-Chancellor Mamdouh Shoukri, Atkinson School of Social Sciences Chair Tania Das Gupta and Atkinson Dean Rhonda Lenton.

“Atkinson’s new Race, Ethnicity and Indigeneity Program represents the cutting edge in social justice studies,” said Lenton. “The only one of its kind in Canada, it sets a unique precedent by bringing together established strengths in anti-racism and social justice with the growing opportunities for indigenous studies at York. By challenging inequality and reaching into our past, students will be able to understand the present more comprehensively, and work toward the development of more inclusive communities.”

Left: Atkinson Dean Rhonda Lenton

The launch will feature two keynote speakers, Professor Robert Keith Collins of San Francisco State University and York Professor Haideh Moghissi. Both are acclaimed internationally for their studies on race and identity. Following the speakers, there will be a question and answer period, as well as a reception with light refreshments.

Collins is the founder and director of Homalusa: Center for African and Native American Research. For the past four years he lectured at UC Berkeley in Native American Studies. Currently, he teaches in the American Indian Studies department at San Francisco State University. He is currently working on a book, Sapokni pit Huklo: Race, Family and Identity Resolution in a Choctaw Community. Collins will present a talk titled, “Between Racial Recognition and Self Understanding: The Salience of Race, Ethnicity and Indigeneity in Black Choctaw Self Understandings”.

Moghissi is a sociology professor in the Atkinson School of Social Sciences and the Faculty of Graduate Studies at York. She was a founder of the Iranian National Union of Women and member of its first executive and editorial boards before leaving Iran in 1984. Moghissi has served as coordinator for Atkinson’s Certificate in Anti-Racist Research and Practice (CARRP), Chair of the executive committee of the Centre for Feminist Research, and a member of the executive committee of the Centre for Refugee Studies at York. Currently, she is working on two international comparative projects, “Diaspora, Islam and Gender” and “Muslim Diasporas: Heightened Islamic identity, gender and cultural resistance”. Moghissi will discuss “Muslims in Canada: The Politics of Adopted and Ascribed Identities”.

Left: Atkinson School of Social Sciences Chair Tania Das Gupta

Despite Canada’s reputation as a “multicultural” country, there are profound inequalities among Canadians, as well as between Canadians and Aboriginal Peoples. York’s REI program challenges these inequalities by examining how they thrive in our everyday experiences and addressing how they are promoted by Canadian governments, institutions and our economy.

“Students pursuing REI can expect to receive sophisticated training in anti-racist education and practice,” said Mona Oikawa, program coordinator. “As well as developing a greater understanding of the effects of colonization and inequality in Canada, students will also develop an awareness of how their own experiences intersect with these realities. The program will provide students with an extensive look at how inequality is played out in our communities, institutions, workplaces and homes, while encouraging them to strategize for meaningful economic, social and political change.”

 Right: REI program coordinator Mona Oikawa

The program is offered in double major and major/minor options. Students take courses in three challenging fields: Indigenous Studies, Diaspora Studies and Globalization and Migration Studies. Courses are taken from a wide range of disciplines and draw on expertise from across campus in areas such as social sciences, anthropology, sociology, humanities, political science, social work and women’s studies.

The program launch is co-sponsored by Atkinson’s Dean’s Office, the School of Social Sciences, the Student and Alumni Relations Unit, the Certificate in Anti-Racist Research and Practice and the Faculty of Arts Dean’s Office. To RSVP, visit  

For more information about REI, please contact Mona Oikawa at or visit the REI Program Web site.