Study provides insight to help parents reduce post-vaccination stress in young kids

A photo with a black backgroud that features two vials of COVID-19 vaccine and a syringe

Looking forward to a fall with hopefully one of the most important vaccination uptakes of children in a generation, a new study provides insights to help parents with reducing post-vaccination distress in younger kids. The study, published in the journal PAIN, looked at preschool children who were at least four to five years old and what their parents said that could help reduce distress during their vaccination.

This study is part of the largest study in the world – coined the OUCH Cohort – looking at caregivers and children during vaccinations from birth to the age of five. The OUCH Cohort originally followed 760 caregiver-child dyads from three pediatric clinics in the Greater Toronto Area and were observed during vaccinations during the first five years of a child’s life.

Rebecca Pillai Riddell
Rebecca Pillai Riddell

“What we found is that in the first minute after the needle, the more parents said coping-promoting statements such as ‘you can do this’ and ‘it will be over soon’ or tried to distract them with talking about something else, the higher distressed the children were. This really surprised us,” said Rebecca Pillai Riddell, senior author, professor in the Department of Psychology, Faculty of Health, and director at the OUCH Lab at York University. “We found, however, during the second minute after the vaccine when the child was calmer, these same coping-promoting statements resulted in them calming down faster. On the other hand, distress-promoting statements such as criticizing the child or reassuring them that they were fine had no relationship with child distress in minute one, but in minute two the distress-promoting comments were strongly predictive of higher distress in kids. We also showed with preschoolers that the more distressed they were prior to the needle, the more distressed they were after the needle – like a domino effect of previous pain.”

“Previous research has shown that the vast majority of preschoolers calm down within two minutes after a vaccination; however, about 25 per cent of children did not,” said Ilana Shiff, first author and master’s student in Pillai Riddell’s lab. “We wanted to determine what parents were saying before or during the vaccination appointment that could be leading to these children feeling distressed during and after a vaccination.”

Based on their findings, the researchers recommend that in first minute after a vaccine parents should not start encouraging coping right away, but rather keep children calm by using physical strategies such as hugging, cuddling or hand-holding. This should be done instead of trying to give a child verbal direction on how to cope when they are in peak distress. Once children get over that initial minute of high distress, Pillai Riddell says, they think children are more able to benefit from parents’ coping-promoting statements. The findings also provide insight for health-care providers and caregivers on how to support children during immunization appointments. 

Researchers say that because preschool children show the prior pain “domino effect,” it is critical for health-care providers to try to vaccinate calm preschoolers. Routinely adopting techniques that allow the child to be approached without distressing them prior to the needle (e.g. allowing a child to stay close to their caregiver while viewing a video on a smartphone as a distraction) will help minimize the pain domino effect these findings suggest. Moreover, for both groups, supporting caregivers to avoid distress-promoting behaviours before and during the vaccination will be critical.

“This type of data has never been found in preschoolers before,” said Pillai Riddell. “It’s important to understand post-needle reactions at this age because needle phobia and phobias in general start coming on at five to 10 years of age, so understanding how children can be coached and how parents can have a really powerful role in reducing stress post a vaccination is key.”

Professor Susan Dion appointed inaugural associate vice-president Indigenous initiatives

Artwork by Métis (Otipemisiwak) artist Christi Belcourt

York University Vice-President Equity, People and Culture Sheila Cote-Meek issues the following announcement to the community:

La version française suit la version anglaise.

Boozhoo, kwe kwe, bonjour and warm greetings,

I am delighted to announce the appointment of Professor Susan D. Dion to the inaugural role of associate vice-president Indigenous initiatives, effective Sept. 1.

Susan Dion
Susan Dion

Professor Dion is a Lenape and Potawatomi scholar with mixed Irish and French ancestry and was the first Indigenous tenure-track faculty member to be hired in the Faculty of Education at York. Professor Dion joined York in 2001 and was appointed to the rank of full professor this year (2021).

Early in her time at York, Professor Dion demonstrated her commitment to supporting Indigenous initiatives. She worked with Indigenous students and the University administration to address student-identified needs and interests through her advocacy for and support of the establishment of Aboriginal Student Services and the Centre for Indigenous Students at York. She was a founding member of York’s Aboriginal Education Council (presently York’s Indigenous Council) and served as co-Chair for three terms between 2004 and 2015. In 2014, Professor Dion served as the first academic director for the Centre for Aboriginal Student Services.

In the Faculty of Education, Professor Dion has led development of the Wuleelham: Indigenous Education Initiatives including the Urban Indigenous Education MEd Cohort, an Indigenous PhD Cohort and the Waaban Indigenous Teacher Education Program. With a focus on Urban Indigenous Education, decolonizing systems of education, and most recently education sovereignty, her teaching, research and service deepens understanding of Indigenous epistemologies and ontologies; addresses gaps in educators’ knowledge of Indigenous peoples, histories, and cultures; and identifies and examines Indigenous students’ experiences, perspectives and hopes for education. Professor Dion has led numerous research projects including nIshnabek de’bwe wIn // telling our truths, (SSHRC, 2017) and inVISIBILITY INDIGENOUS IN THE CITY (SSHRC, 2013). She has followed up her successful book Braiding Histories: Learning from Aboriginal People’s Experiences and Perspectives (2009) with Braided Learning: Illuminating Indigenous Presence through Art and Story, expected out in January 2022. Professor Dion has expertise in the skillful cultivation of equitable and respectful relationships between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples.

Professor Dion holds a PhD, MEd and BEd from the University of Toronto, and a BA from the University of Waterloo. She is an internationally respected scholar and researcher in Indigenous relationships and education.

This is an important time for York as it works to decolonize and address issues of racism, including anti-Indigenous racism, and strengthen the community to be more welcoming, equitable and inclusive. In the role of associate vice-president Indigenous initiatives, Professor Dion will draw on her expertise, experience and energy to drive the further implementation of York University’s Indigenous Framework, support the implementation of the Decolonization of Research Administration Report recommendations, and several other Indigenous Initiatives across our campuses.

Please join me in welcoming Professor Dion to her new role. I look forward to working with her over the coming years as she works to advance Indigenous Initiatives across York and with our community partners.

Miigwech, merci and thank you.

Sheila Cote-Meek
Vice-President Equity, People and Culture

Nomination de Susan D. Dion, toute première vice-présidente associée aux initiatives autochtones

Boozhoo, kwe kwe, Bonjour, Warm Greetings,

J’ai le plaisir d’annoncer la nomination de Susan D. Dion (PhD) au poste nouvellement créé de vice-présidente associée aux initiatives autochtones à compter du 1er septembre 2021.

Susan Dion
Susan Dion

Susan Dion est une universitaire lenape et potawatomi d’ascendance mixte irlandaise et française. Elle a été la première Autochtone du corps professoral à être embauchée pour un poste menant à la permanence à la Faculté de l’éducation de l’Université York. Madame Dion a rejoint les rangs de York en 2001 et a obtenu le titre de professeure titulaire cette année (2021).

Dès son arrivée à York, Susan Dion a démontré son engagement à appuyer les initiatives autochtones. Elle a travaillé avec les étudiants autochtones et l’administration de l’Université pour répondre aux besoins et aux intérêts des étudiants par son plaidoyer et son appui en faveur de l’établissement à l’Université York des Services de soutien aux étudiants autochtones et du Centre pour les étudiants autochtones. Elle a été membre fondatrice du Conseil autochtone de l’enseignement de York (aujourd’hui Conseil autochtone de York), dont elle a également été la coprésidente pour trois mandats entre 2004 et 2015. En 2014, Susan Dion a été la première directrice aux études du Centre de services aux étudiants autochtones.

À la Faculté de l’Éducation, Susan Dion a dirigé la mise en place du cheminement Wüléelham : Initiatives autochtones en enseignement, notamment la cohorte de maîtrise en Enseignement autochtone urbain, une cohorte de doctorants autochtones, et le Programme Waaban de formation des enseignants autochtones. Ciblant l’enseignement autochtone urbain, la décolonisation des systèmes d’enseignement et, plus récemment, la souveraineté en matière de formation, son enseignement, ses travaux de recherche et ses services permettent d’approfondir la compréhension des épistémologies et des ontologies autochtones, comblent les lacunes des éducateurs relativement aux peuples, aux histoires et aux cultures autochtones, et déterminent, en les analysant, les expériences, les perspectives et les espoirs des étudiants autochtones en matière de formation. Susan Dion a dirigé de nombreux projets de recherche, parmi lesquels nIshnabek de’bwe wIn // telling our truths (CRSH, 2017) et inVISIBILITY INDIGENOUS IN THE CITY (CRSH, 2013). Après la publication de son livre à succès Braiding Histories: Learning from Aboriginal People’s Experiences and Perspectives (2009), elle a poursuivi avec Braided Learning: Illuminating Indigenous Presence through Art and Story, dont la publication est attendue pour janvier 2022. Susan Dion est une experte en culture maîtrisée des relations respectueuses et équitables entre les Autochtones et les personnes non autochtones.

Madame Dion détient un baccalauréat, une maîtrise et un doctorat en éducation de l’Université de Toronto, ainsi qu’un baccalauréat ès arts de l’Université de Waterloo. Elle est une universitaire et une chercheuse internationalement respectée dans le domaine des relations et de la formation autochtones.

Cette nomination constitue un moment crucial pour l’Université York, qui travaille à la décolonisation et à la résolution des problèmes relatifs au racisme, notamment au racisme anti-Autochtones, ainsi qu’à un renforcement de la communauté afin que celle-ci soit plus accueillante, équitable et inclusive. Au poste de vice-présidente associée aux initiatives autochtones, Susan Dion s’appuiera sur son expertise, son expérience et son énergie afin de poursuivre plus avant la mise en œuvre du Cadre autochtone de l’Université York, d’appuyer la mise en œuvre de la décolonisation des recommandations du Rapport d’administration des travaux de recherche, et de soutenir plusieurs autres initiatives autochtones sur l’ensemble de nos campus.

Veuillez vous joindre à moi pour accueillir Susan Dion à son nouveau poste. J’ai hâte de collaborer avec elle au cours des années à venir dans le cadre de ses travaux pour faire progresser les initiatives autochtones sur l’ensemble de l’Université York et avec nos partenaires communautaires.

Miigwech, merci et thank you.

Sheila Cote-Meek
Vice-présidente de l’équité, des personnes et de la culture

Pop-up Pfizer-BioNTech Vaccine Clinic planned for July 8 on Keele Campus

A photo with a black backgroud that features two vials of COVID-19 vaccine and a syringe

On Thursday, July 8, York University is hosting a pop-up COVID-19 vaccine clinic at the Keele Campus. The clinic is being held in partnership with Humber River Hospital. Vaccines play an important role in protecting ourselves as well as those around us and all members of the community who are eligible, will be welcome. As well, York branded water bottles will be offered to the first 200 people who come down to receive first doses. Here are the details:

Dates: Thursday, July 8
Hours: 12 to 6 p.m.

  • First doses for: anyone 12 years of age and older at the time of vaccination, in any M postal code.
  • Second doses for: anyone 12 years of age and older at the time of vaccination who lives/work/attends school at Keele and Glendon Campuses or in a listed hotspot below and:
      • received Pfizer at least 21 days ago and wants Pfizer;
      • received Moderna at least 28 days ago and wants Pfizer;
      • received AstraZeneca at least 56 days ago and wants Pfizer.

Eligibility: Second doses are available for anyone living/working/attending school in a hot spot listed below:


Location: York Boulevard parking lot (near the Northeast corner of York Blvd. and Ian MacDonald Blvd.) Adjacent the York University subway station. Parking is free on York’s Keele Campus.

Bring: ID that shows where you live, work, or attend school.

  • York University ID/YU cards
  • Driver’s licence
  • Passport
  • Birth certificate (for proof of age)
  • Health card (optional)
  • Report card

York University does not deliver the vaccines, nor does it determine eligibility for vaccinations. For all of the latest updates and information on York’s safe return to campus, continue to visit the Better Together website

What the Step 2 reopening means for York University

A photo with a black backgroud that features two vials of COVID-19 vaccine and a syringe

The following is a message to the University community from Provost and Vice-President Academic Lisa Philipps:

The province officially moved into Step 2 of its Roadmap to Reopen on Wednesday, June 30. Last week as well, all Ontarians aged 18 years and up became eligible to receive their second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. This was very exciting news for the York community, as it means that all who are able can access first and second doses before a return to campus in September.

We are thrilled to announce that there will be another pop-up vaccine clinic on the Keele Campus this week on Tuesday, July 6 and Thursday, July 8 from 12 to 6 p.m. Our partners at Humber River Hospital will be administering the Pfizer vaccine and more details, including time and eligibility criteria (if applicable), will be shared with the York community.

A preliminary review of the impacts of Ontario’s Step 2 for York suggests that there are no major impacts posed to the University’s operations. The Summer term will continue to be delivered for the most part remotely as planned, with the following in place:

  • While gathering limitations now allow up to 50 people indoors, indoor gathering for in-person instruction will continue to abide by existing gathering limitations (10-person maximum), with a maximum of 50 persons allowed in the School of Nursing.
  • All indoor gatherings must still abide by two-metre physical distancing, masking/face covering requirements and/or the proper use of personal protective equipment.
  • Students filming outdoors or undertaking other activities outdoors must abide by the 25-person outdoor gathering limit.
  • In-person research involving human participants continues to be suspended at this time.
  • If you do need to come to campus, please request access through the Campus Access system or have pre-existing approval to access campus spaces. Completion of daily screening is also part of this process.

We continue to await guidance from the Ministry of Colleges and Universities (MCU) on what will and will not be permitted for the Fall 2021 term and anticipate that this information will be shared with Ontario’s post-secondary sector in early July. As soon as this information is available, we will be sure to update you on any impacts this may pose for the York community.

In the coming weeks, more information will be shared via weekly Wellness Wednesday Return to Campus Special Issues and on the Better Together website. Please stay tuned for updates on our plans for a safe return to campus this fall.

Lisa Philipps
Provost and Vice-President Academic

Two extraordinary professors recognized with title of University Professor

Vari Hall

Two professors from the Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies (LA&PS) have been honoured with the title University Professor. This year’s recipients are professors Carl S. Ehrlich and Carolyn Podruchny.

A University Professor is a member of faculty recognized for extraordinary contributions to scholarship and teaching and participation in university life. The award is conferred upon long-serving tenured faculty members who have made extraordinary contributions to the University as colleagues, teachers and scholars.

Such achievement fulfills the following requirements: significant long-term contribution to the development or growth of the University or of its parts; significant participation in the collegium through mentorship, service and/or governance; sustained impact over time on the University’s teaching mission; and recognition as a scholar.

Carl S. Ehrlich
Carl S. Ehrlich

Carl S. Ehrlich of the departments of Humanities and History is a highly influential scholar of the Hebrew Bible and Israelite civilization who has published extensively in these fields. He has held several appointments as visiting professor at institutions in the United States, Germany and Switzerland. As director of the Israel and Golda Koschitzky Centre for Jewish Studies, Ehrlich has demonstrated outstanding leadership in building scholarship and research in Jewish Studies at York, and in creating and fostering greater links between Jewish communities and the University. Throughout his university career, Ehrlich has twice served as Chair of the LA&PS Faculty Council and he provides ongoing contributions to the departments of Humanities and History. More recently, Ehrlich served as Chair of the Academic Policy, Planning and Research Committee, which, in 24 Senate Committee on Awards Report to Senate 2019-20, was tasked with the responsibility of developing and shepherding the approval of the new University Academic Plan 2020-25.

Carolyn Podruchny
Carolyn Podruchny

Carolyn Podruchny of the Department of History is an award-winning scholar, teacher, practitioner of community outreach and engagement with Indigenous peoples, and a leader in building Indigenous studies at York University. She has produced groundbreaking and award-winning scholarship for more than 20 years, including a serious and important body of scholarship in Indigenous and colonial histories of northern North America before 1900, published in books, articles and book chapters, blog posts, media interviews, newsletter contributions and webcasts. This scholarship has earned awards and award nominations from the lieutenant-governor of Ontario, the Canadian Historical Association and the Manitoba Historical Society. York University has also recognized Professor Podruchny with eight Faculty of Arts Awards of Merit and a Dean’s Award for Outstanding Research.

President and Vice-Chancellor Rhonda L. Lenton congratulates York’s Class of 2021

Convocation 20221 Featured image for YFile

The following is a message from President and Vice-Chancellor Rhonda L. Lenton to York University’s newest alumni:

On behalf of the entire York University community, I would like to offer my sincerest congratulations on your graduation, and to welcome you to the York alumni family.

York University President and Vice-Chancellor Rhonda L. Lenton
York University President and Vice-Chancellor Rhonda L. Lenton

Although the circumstances you are graduating into today are truly extraordinary, I am confident that your education at York has prepared you to succeed, whether you choose to pursue a career, further education or another endeavour. While the pandemic has had profound effects on the ways we live and work, many of the changes we have experienced over the past year were underway long before the first lockdown – the pandemic has simply exposed them or increased the speed at which we felt their effects.

Trends in automation and artificial intelligence, for example, were already changing the ways we looked at work, and the types of roles we were preparing our students to take on. The abilities you have developed during your time at York – like problem-solving, critical thinking and language skills – are broad and transferable, and will serve you well no matter your path through life.

Similarly, York’s commitment to excellence, access, connectedness and impact has ensured that you are graduating as a globally minded citizen with a strong appreciation for serving the public good. Throughout your time at York, you have also demonstrated courage, perseverance and resilience in myriad ways, never more so than over the past year. I hope you will maintain these values throughout your lives and careers, and that you will continue to draw on them to help address the complex global challenges we face today, from homelessness to inequality to climate change, and of course the pandemic.

I look forward to seeing the many ways you will continue to drive positive change in the future, and remain confident that you possess the skills and experience necessary to navigate any challenges you might encounter along the way.

As our university motto reminds us, Tentanda Via: the way must be tried.

Congratulations once again to all of our Class of 2021 graduates, and all my best for a healthy and prosperous future.


Rhonda Lenton
President and Vice-Chancellor

A statement from President Rhonda Lenton on the discovery of the Marieval (Cowessess) Residential School unmarked graves

Flag at half mast Keele campus FEATURED
Flag at half mast Keele campus FEATURED

The following statement from President and Vice-Chancellor Rhonda L. Lenton, was issued on June 25:

La version française suit la version anglaise.

Today we are once again confronted with the truth of the residential school system and the devastating impact on Indigenous peoples and communities across Turtle Island.

More than 750 unmarked graves, primarily of children, were announced to have been found on or near the grounds of the Marieval (Cowessess) Residential School.

York University grieves with the families of the victims, all survivors of the residential school system, and Indigenous communities everywhere. We share our condolences with the Cowessess First Nation, and with all those affected by the more than 100 years of loss and trauma caused by the residential school system.

As a place of higher learning, we must take time to reflect on our role as part of a colonial system of education, as well as the part we must play in fulfilling the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada’s Calls to Action. Let us all identify ways to decolonize our practices and systems, and to learn and understand the ongoing impacts of Canada’s colonial history.

York will be lowering its flags on Monday, June 28, to acknowledge and honour those lost to the residential school system and to recognize its devastating impacts on families and communities.

I would ask that our community members be mindful that this news may trigger trauma for many Indigenous members of our community, especially those who are survivors or with close personal or family ties to experiences in residential schools.

Support is available for survivors and those affected through the Indian Residential Schools Survivors Society at 1-800-721-0066 or on the 24-hour crisis line at 1-866-925-4419. There are also a variety of supports available to the York community, which are listed on the Mental Health and Wellness site and through the Employee and Family Assistance Program.

For those who have not yet had a chance to read Vice-President Equity, People, and Culture Sheila Cote-Meek’s statement on National Indigenous Peoples Day from earlier this week, I recommend that you do so — in it she shares a number of further resources on the history and continuing experiences of colonization of Indigenous peoples in Canada and describes actions you can take to help change the existing systems and sources of continued oppression of Indigenous peoples.

Thank you, merci, and miigwetch.

Rhonda L. Lenton
President and Vice-Chancellor

Déclaration de la présidente Rhonda Lenton au sujet de la découverte des tombes anonymes du pensionnat pour Autochtones de Marieval (Cowessess)

Aujourd’hui, nous affrontons une fois de plus les réalités du système des pensionnats et l’impact dévastateur de celui-ci sur les peuples et les communautés autochtones de l’île de la Tortue.

Plus de 750 tombes anonymes, principalement des tombes d’enfants, ont été découvertes sur le site de l’ancien pensionnat pour Autochtones de Marieval (Cowessess).

L’Université York partage la douleur des familles des victimes, de tous les survivants du système des pensionnats et des communautés autochtones du monde entier. Nous offrons nos condoléances à la Première nation de Cowessess et à toutes les personnes touchées par les pertes et les traumatismes résultant du système des pensionnats qui a duré plus d’un siècle.

En tant qu’établissement d’enseignement supérieur, nous devons prendre le temps de réfléchir à notre rôle dans le cadre d’un système d’éducation colonial et à celui que nous devons jouer pour répondre aux appels à l’action de la Commission de vérité et de réconciliation du Canada. Identifions ensemble les moyens de décoloniser nos pratiques et nos systèmes, d’apprendre et de comprendre les impacts continus de l’histoire coloniale au Canada.

Le lundi 28 juin, York mettra ses drapeaux en berne afin de rendre hommage aux victimes du système des pensionnats et de reconnaître ses effets dévastateurs sur les familles et les communautés.

Je demande aux membres de notre communauté de garder à l’esprit l’effet traumatisant de cette nouvelle pour les membres autochtones de notre communauté, notamment pour les survivants ou les personnes ayant des liens personnels ou familiaux étroits avec les expériences vécues dans les pensionnats.

Les survivants et autres personnes touchées peuvent obtenir du soutien auprès de la Indian Residential Schools Survivors Society en composant le 1-800-721-0066 ou avec la ligne d’écoute téléphonique disponible 24 heures sur 24 au 1-866-925-4419. Il existe également de nombreuses possibilités de soutien pour la communauté de York : vous en trouverez une liste sur le site de la santé mentale et du bien-être à York et dans le cadre de notre Programme d’aide aux employés et à la famille.

Pour ceux et celles qui n’ont pas encore eu l’occasion de lire la déclaration de la vice-présidente de l’équité, des personnes et de la culture, Sheila Cote-Meek, publiée en début de semaine à l’occasion de la Journée nationale des peuples autochtones, je vous recommande de le faire. Cette déclaration propose notamment des ressources additionnelles sur l’histoire et les expériences de la colonisation des peuples autochtones au Canada et décrit les actions que vous pouvez entreprendre pour contribuer à changer les systèmes existants et les sources d’oppression permanente des peuples autochtones.

Merci, thank you, miigwetch.

Rhonda Lenton
Présidente et vice-chancelière


‘Welcoming YU Back’ to campus

Bergeron Centre with the words Welcoming YU Back

Bergeron Centre with the words Welcoming YU BackSharing information with the York University community is vital in the lead up to the safe return to our campuses and as we continue with planning efforts over the summer months. This inaugural special issue is one of the many ways we are sharing what we know and what we are working towards with respect to this return.

Parissa Safai
Parissa Safai

There is a tremendous amount of behind-the-scenes and collaborative work involved in pandemic-related response and planning at York University. We are actively planning for a fall term that, while still not like what we have been accustomed to from pre-pandemic times, will be quite different from the difficult year that is nearly behind us.

I hope you enjoy this issue and that it gives you a greater sense of the work being done to prepare for a safe return to campus life. More issues will be coming over the summer months and in the meantime, please continue to follow the Better Together website and look for the weekly Wellness Wednesday Return to Campus Special Issue, where we will be sharing more updates. 

Parissa Safai
Special Advisor to the President for Academic Continuity Planning and COVID-19 Response

Featured in this issue of Welcoming ‘YU’ Back

The Welcoming YU Back Roadmap

The Welcoming YU Back Roadmap aims to offer a clear picture of how York University is planning to welcome students, staff, faculty and instructors back safely in the 2021-22 academic year.

The top 12 ways York is ‘Welcoming YU Back’ 

With more in-person learning expected on campus this fall, the University is getting ready to welcome students, faculty and staff back safely. Enhanced cleaning procedures, mandatory face coverings or masks, physical distancing and plexiglass barriers, and touchless building entrances are just some of the preparations outlined on this comprehensive list.

Creating a community of care at York

As planning for the return to campus continues, one thing is clear – all members of the York community will share in the responsibility of keeping others safe on the University’s campuses in the Fall and Winter terms.

Q-and-A with Vice-President Research and Innovation, Amir Asif, on returning to campus

York University’s Vice-President Research and Innovation, Amir Asif, sits down with YFile to discuss what a return to campus will mean for researchers at York. He feels optimistic, proud of the research community’s performance in the face of the pandemic, and is ready to welcome academics, scholars and researchers back when the timing is right.

Then and now: The teams that keep York safe

Over the past year, York University has continued to operate safely. Maintaining operations in a fast-moving pandemic is no easy task. It requires careful monitoring of safety requirements, a great deal of logistical planning and professional dedication.

Vaccination required for students living in York University’s residences

York University is requiring all students living in residence for the 2021-22 academic year to be vaccinated. This requirement is supported by Toronto Public Health, as it is recognized that vaccines are a safe and effective way to protect those who come in contact with others.

York’s University’s virtual assistant, SAVY, wins prestigious innovation award


York University’s virtual assistant, SAVY, has won the 2020 Canadian University Council of Chief Information Officers (CUCCIO) Innovation Award. The award recognizes innovative information technology (IT) projects or initiatives that have significantly advanced teaching, learning, research, or administration within an institution or in the community. It assesses the innovativeness of the technology and the impact in terms of benefits.

Donald Ipperciel
Donald Ipperciel

“Innovation has become a major theme here at York and in UIT [University Information Technology]. This award is a testament to the creativity, passion and perseverance of individuals in our department and at the University,” said Donald Ipperciel, chief information officer. “SAVY has performed exceptionally well since its implementation, averaging 80 per cent accuracy with its responses. SAVY is still young, and the future is bright. Our undergraduate students have a lot more to look forward to in the coming year from SAVY.”

SAVY is a bilingual software-based agent that leverages artificial intelligence to provide student advising. It acquired its name following a very successful naming contest in September 2020. SAVY, which is built on IBM’s Watson platform, was a collaboration between York’s Division of Students, UIT and York’s Faculties, and it was guided and informed by students. It is populated with content designed to help students perform tasks related to their academic journey at York. SAVY points students toward accurate information relating to the questions asked, recommends relevant resources, offers directions and way-finding, provides reminders about upcoming deadlines, and connects students to other resources, people and places on campus.

With SAVY, students can get 24-7-365 general information via mobile phone and online. It serves as students’ first point of contact, designed to provide relevant, targeted information without the need for searching

Since the launch of SAVY, the top three topics have been about Moodle/eClass, arranging meetings with advisers and information about fall/summer courses, with more than 896 instances of students thanking SAVY – confirming that some of the best, most polite students in post-secondary can be found right here at York.

Lucy Fromowitz
Lucy Fromowitz

“Unlike other online sources of information, interactions with SAVY are warm, inclusive and conversation-like, which helps students feel comfortable when they ask questions,” said Vice-Provost, Students, Lucy Fromowitz. “Throughout the pandemic our undergraduate students have had 24-7, uninterrupted support, information and resources through the virtual assistant. In the 16 months since SAVY was introduced, there have been more than 50,000 conversations and 120,000 messages from 20,000 students.”

What’s next for SAVY?

In the coming year, a content management system will be added, providing an opportunity for subject matter experts from across the University to contribute toward expanding information in SAVY. In addition, there will be a notification enhancement that will provide alerts to students on important dates related to their program, courses, finances and other relevant details about their specific circumstances. The individuals behind SAVY are also in the developmental stages of a version that would enable staff to assist students; this is expected to be available by winter 2022.

A statement from Vice-President Equity, People and Culture, Sheila Cote-Meek, on National Indigenous Peoples Day

Artwork by Métis (Otipemisiwak) artist Christi Belcourt

Today marks the 25th anniversary of what is now known as Indigenous Peoples Day. This is a day for all Canadians to recognize and celebrate the unique history, diverse heritage and cultures, and outstanding contributions of First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples.

Portrait of Sheila Cote-Meek, York University's inaugural VP Equity
Sheila Cote-Meek

This year, however, the celebration of the survival of many distinct heritages, languages, cultural practices and spiritual beliefs will be taking place under the shadow of the hundreds of children who did not survive the Residential School system. In particular, the discovery of a mass grave of 215 children at the former site of the Kamloops Indian Residential School, the subsequent discoveries in Manitoba and Saskatchewan, and those yet to come, are a stark reminder of the trauma inflicted on many Indigenous peoples across Canada. The ongoing impact of the Residential Schools has been very challenging for many Indigenous peoples as we struggle to reconcile this difficult news.

First, I would ask that as part of the celebration, you take the time to learn more about the history and continuing experiences of colonization of Indigenous Peoples in Canada, including but not limited to the Residential Schools and the Sixties Scoop. Secondly, I request your support in calling on government(s) to take the necessary steps and actions required to change the existing systems and sources of continued oppression of Indigenous Peoples, especially children.

First Nations, Métis and Inuit children continue to be disproportionately represented in child welfare systems across the country, and Indigenous children living on-reserve receive less money for health care and education than other children across Canada. There is also  a need for greater awareness and understanding about the reality and the root causes of the violence against Indigenous women, girls and 2SLGBTQQIA people – who experience violence at a rate that is disproportionately higher than the general Canadian population.

On this, the 25th anniversary of National Indigenous Peoples Day, let us first celebrate, then learn more and take action:

Learn about the ongoing impacts of systemic racism:

Learn more about the Indigenous experience:

  • Take a course at York University – there are many that have an Indigenous focus (search here) and read the Indigenous Framework for York University: A Guide to Action.
  • First Nations University of Canada (FNUniv): Nisitohtamowin ᓂᓯᑐᐦᑕᒧᐃᐧᐣ An Introduction to Understanding Indigenous Perspectives in Canada. In partnership with BMO and Reconciliation Education, FNUniv is bringing this introductory eLearning opportunity to organizations and communities across Canada. The eLearning course is a free public resource for all Canadians and is available June 1 to July 15 in recognition of National Indigenous History Month. It is an hour-long overview.
  • University of Alberta course: Indigenous Canada is a 12-lesson massive open online course (MOOC) from the Faculty of Native Studies that explores Indigenous histories and contemporary issues in Canada. From an Indigenous perspective, this course explores key issues facing Indigenous Peoples today from a historical and critical perspective, highlighting national and local Indigenous-settler relations. If you take a course in audit mode, you will be able to see most course materials for free.

Donate to Indigenous scholarships or an Indigenous-led organization.

Write to elected representatives.

Attend Indigenous community events with respect and openness.

Read books, watch films or television programs and view art by Indigenous Peoples.

Support is available for survivors and those affected through the Indian Residential Schools Survivors Society at 1-800-721-0066 or on the 24-hour crisis line at 1-866-925-4419.

There are also a variety of supports available to the York community listed on the Mental Health and Wellness site and through the Employee and Family Assistance Program.

Let us celebrate the strength and resilience of Indigenous Peoples at York and across Canada today and every day.

Miigwech, merci and thank you.

Sheila Cote-Meek
Vice-President Equity, People and Culture

Déclaration de la vice-présidente de l’équité, des personnes et de la culture, Sheila Cote-Meek, à l’occasion de la Journée nationale des peuples autochtones

Nous célébrons aujourd’hui le 25e anniversaire de la Journée nationale des peuples autochtones. Cet événement permet à tous les Canadiens et Canadiennes de reconnaître et de célébrer la richesse de l’histoire et la diversité de l’héritage et du patrimoine, ainsi que les contributions exceptionnelles des peuples des Premières Nations, des Inuits et des Métis.

Portrait of Sheila Cote-Meek, York University's inaugural VP Equity
Sheila Cote-Meek

Cette année toutefois, cette célébration de la survie des héritages, des langues, des pratiques culturelles et des croyances spirituelles est assombrie par la nouvelle des centaines d’enfants qui ont perdu la vie en raison du système des pensionnats. En particulier, la découverte d’une fosse commune de 215 enfants sur le site d’un ancien pensionnat autochtone à Kamloops, les découvertes qui ont suivi au Manitoba et en Saskatchewan — et celles encore à venir —, sont un rappel brutal des traumatismes infligés aux peuples autochtones partout au Canada. Les pensionnats ont eu des répercussions dramatiques pour de nombreux peuples autochtones et nous avons tous du mal à gérer ces terribles nouvelles.

Tout d’abord, je vous demande de prendre le temps, dans le cadre de cette célébration, d’en apprendre davantage sur l’histoire et l’expérience des peuples autochtones au Canada, notamment sur la colonisation et sur les pensionnats et la rafle des années 1960. Je sollicite aussi votre soutien pour demander aux gouvernements de prendre les mesures et les dispositions nécessaires pour changer les systèmes en place et les sources d’oppression contre les peuples autochtones, surtout chez les enfants.

De nos jours, les enfants des Premières Nations, des Métis et des Inuits continuent à être surreprésentés dans les systèmes de protection de l’enfance partout au pays : les enfants autochtones qui vivent sur une réserve reçoivent moins d’argent pour leurs soins de santé et leur éducation que les autres enfants dans l’ensemble du Canada. Il est également important de connaître et de comprendre la réalité et les origines de la violence contre les femmes, les filles et les personnes 2ELGBTQQIA autochtones qui la subissent à un taux beaucoup plus élevé que le reste de la population canadienne.

En ce 25e anniversaire de la Journée nationale des peuples autochtones, célébrons d’abord, puis renseignons-nous et passons à l’action :

Apprenez-en plus sur les impacts permanents du racisme systémique :

Renseignez-vous sur les expériences des peuples autochtones :

  • Université York : Suivez l’un des nombreux cours axés sur les études autochtones (cherchez ici) et lisez le Cadre stratégique autochtone pour l’Université York : Un guide d’action (en anglais).
  • First Nations University of Canada (FNUniv) : Nisitohtamowin ᓂᓯᑐᐦᑕᒧᐃᐧᐣ An Introduction to Understanding Indigenous Perspectives in Canada. En partenariat avec BMO et Reconciliation Education, FNUniv offre ce cours d’introduction en ligne d’une heure aux organisations et aux communautés partout au Canada. Cette ressource est gratuite pour tous les Canadiens et Canadiennes et est offerte du 1er juin au 15 juillet 2021, pour souligner le Mois national de l’histoire autochtone.
  • Université de l’Alberta : Indigenous Canada est un cours en ligne ouvert à tous (CLOT). Offert par la Faculté des études autochtones, il explore en 12 leçons l’histoire des peuples autochtones et les enjeux contemporains au Canada. Ce cours prend en compte la perspective autochtone et traite des principales difficultés rencontrées par les peuples autochtones de nos jours. Il utilise un point de vue historique et critique pour examiner les relations entre les Autochtones et les colonisateurs au niveau local et national. Si vous suivez ce cours en tant qu’auditeur libre, vous pouvez consulter la majorité du matériel didactique gratuitement.

Faites un don pour les Bourses pour étudiants autochtones ou à des organisations dirigées par des Autochtones.

Écrivez à vos représentants élus.

Assistez aux événements de la communauté autochtone avec respect et ouverture d’esprit.

Lisez des livres, écoutez des films ou des émissions de télévision et admirez les œuvres d’art des peuples autochtones.

Les survivants des pensionnats autochtones et autres personnes touchées peuvent obtenir du soutien auprès d’Indian Residential Schools Survivors Society en composant le 1 (800) 721-0066 ou en appelant la ligne d’écoute 24 heures sur 24 au 1 (866) 925-4419.

La communauté de York offre aussi plusieurs services de soutien que vous pouvez trouver sur le site Mental Health and Wellness de York et par l’entremise du Programme d’aide aux employés et à la famille.

Célébrons la force et la résilience des peuples autochtones à York et partout au Canada, aujourd’hui et tous les jours.

Miigwech, merci et thank you.

Sheila Cote-Meek
Vice-présidente de l’équité, des personnes et de la culture