Students win academic prizes in Canadian Studies

Two students have won major academic prizes for their work in Canadian studies at York University.

Odessa Prize

Jesse Thistle
Jesse Thistle

History student Jesse Thistle has won the Odessa Prize for 2014-2015 for his paper, “We are children of the river’: Toronto’s Lost Métis History.” Thistle wrote this paper for an Independent Studies Course in History, directed by Professor Victoria Freeman.

The Odessa Prize is given to the best essay completed by a fourth-year student on a topic related to the study of Canada. Consisting of a cash prize of $1,000, it was established through the generosity of York alumnus Irvin Studin, editor of What is a Canadian? Forty-Three Thought-Provoking Responses (McClelland & Stewart, 2006). The son of Russian-Jewish immigrants, the book is dedicated to his parents, who were from Odessa.

The prize committee examined papers dealing with Canadian topics from the following undergraduate programs:  English, History, Political Science, Communication Studies and Dance.

“In this well-researched paper, Thistle examines what he terms the ‘lost history’ of the Métis of Toronto.  He examines the current definition of Métis by the Métis National Council and then explores the evidence for the presence of people of mixed Indigenous and European heritage in Toronto. Looking at newspapers and published sources, he examines the important river trade system that passed through Toronto and the significant Métis presence on the Carrying Place,” said the adjudication committee about the essay. “The paper ends with an examination of rising intolerance in the nineteenth century. In addition to significant primary research, this essay also demonstrates a mastery of the secondary literature.  Most importantly, this paper provides a new way of approaching the history of Canada’s largest city.”

Thistle has been accepted into the MA program in History at the University of Waterloo.  His paper is the York University nominee for the Canadian Studies Network – Réseau d’études canadiennes best undergraduate Canadian Studies essay prize.

Barbara Godard Prize

Ameil Joseph
Ameil Joseph

The second award, the Barbara Godard Prize for the Best Dissertation on the Study of Canada, was awarded to Ameil Joseph.

The Barbara Godard Prize recognizes a PhD candidate whose doctoral dissertation on a Canadian topic best advances the knowledge of Canada, transcends disciplinary boundaries, and demonstrates innovation in thought and/or methodology.

This cash award of $500 commemorates the late York Professor Barbara Godard, who made many contributions to the multidisciplinary understanding of Canada. Her many friends and colleagues have donated generously to establish this prize.

Joseph completed his dissertation, “Authorities on the Subject: Deportation and the confluence of violence within forensic mental health and immigration systems” in the School of Social Work in 2014.

“Ameil provided a very thorough explanation and application of inter-disciplined theories and demonstrated innovation in thought by identifying the common denominator of power as exercised and articulated in the three separate bureaucracies of the mental health, justice and immigration systems. To identify how these worked together as ‘technologies of population control and nation building’ is a necessary contribution to the established knowledge of Canada, and, as the author emphasizes, it contributes to a ‘history of the present’ by critically exposing its foundations of systemic violence,” wrote the prize committee in their citation. “The extensive literature review and theoretical framework of post-colonialism is skillfully woven together to provide solid support for this contextualization of the research and its inter-disciplined approach. Given the recent ‘revelations’ of the violence of the Residential Schools, this dissertation is certainly an important and timely contribution to understanding the thought and actions of these forms of violence, and how they have been institutionalized and continue to underpin the practices and policies in Canada. It is thus also makes a significant contribution to identifying what needs to be changed today.”

Joseph is assistant professor in Social Work at McMaster University.  His thesis is York University’s nominee for the Canadian Studies Network – Réseau d’études canadiennes prize for the best PhD in Canadian Studies.

Both the Odessa and Godard prizes are awarded through the Robarts Centre for Canadian Studies at York University.