York research projects honoured by lieutenant-governor of Ontario

The Lieutenant-Governor’s Ontario Heritage Awards for Excellence in Conservation celebrate outstanding contributions to cultural and natural heritage conservation, environmental sustainability and biodiversity. This year, York University’s Department of History was honoured with two of these awards.

From left: Postdoctoral Fellow Gilberto Fernandes, Associate Professor Carolyn Podruchy and Thabit A.J. Abdullah, Chair of the Department of History

Gilberto Fernandes, a postdoctoral Fellow at the Robarts Centre for Canadian Studies and the History Department, was recognized for his work on “City Builders: A History of Immigrant Construction Workers in Post-war Toronto.” The project highlights the history of Toronto’s construction industry with a focus on the Irish, Italian and Portuguese immigrant workers that helped build many of the city’s historic landmarks. Fernandes and his research team put together a comprehensive travelling multimedia exhibition and website, including an oral history series and documentary. City Builders was awarded for contributing “to the conservation of the individual and collective memories of all Torontonians, but especially of the hundreds of thousands of immigrant workers, their families and communities.”

Carolyn Podruchny, associate professor of history, also won an Excellence in Conservation Award for her project, “The Manitoulin Island Summer Historical Institute,” a seven-day summer project focused on promoting critical dialogue between Anishinaabe elders and knowledge carriers and university-based scholars and students. The summer institute explored Anishinaabe worldviews through clans, generations and interconnectedness from a multidisciplinary perspective. Podruchny’s team included graduate students Alan Corbiere and Anon Beam, as well as elder Lewis Debassige (M’Chigeeng First Nation) and Osgoode Hall Law School Professor Deborah McGregor (Canada Research Chair in Indigenous Environmental Justice). Co-sponsored by the History of Indigenous Peoples Network, the project was recognized for creating “opportunities for Anishinaabe Elders and knowledge-carriers to teach university faculty and students, and for faculty and students to then employ Anishinaabe ways of knowing in their research and teaching.” The project was acknowledged for the promotion, celebration and preservation of cultural heritage.

The City Builders website contains a series of interactive digital resources, including photographs and audio recordings. For more information, visit the project’s web page on the Robarts Centre for Canadian Studies website.