Government of Canada’s increase to scholarships and fellowships has benefits for York

York U letters in Vari Hall

The Government of Canada has announced significant new investments to increase the value and number of scholarships and fellowships for master’s and doctoral students as well as postdoctoral fellows. This funding is critical for helping York University scholars advance their research leadership.

François-Philippe Champagne, minister of innovation, science and industry, and Mark Holland, minister of health, announced on May 31 that students receiving scholarships and fellowships from federal funding agencies will see an increase in the monetary value of the prizes they receive.

Starting September 1, the annual value of all current and new master’s and doctoral student scholarships will increase to $27,000 and $40,000, respectively, and current and new postdoctoral fellowships will increase to $70,000.

“By increasing the value of scholarships and fellowships provided by the government’s research-granting councils, the Government of Canada is reaffirming its support for Canadian research talent,” said Holland. “This will ensure the next generation of scientific leaders remain here in Canada, where their work has the potential to lead to a better quality of life and improved health for us all.”

Announced as part of the 2024 federal budget, the funding increase will come from Canada’s federal granting agencies – the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, the Natural Sciences & Engineering Research Council, and the Social Sciences & Humanities Research Council, all of which look to promote innovation in research and reward academic excellence by offering a number of valuable and prestigious scholarships and awards.

In addition to the increased award values, the Government of Canada’s budget plan for 2024 also proposed to increase the number of scholarships and fellowships provided, building to approximately 1,720 more each year.

The Vanier Canada Graduate Scholarships and Banting Postdoctoral Fellowships will continue under their current parameters, with funding of $50,000 and $70,000 per year respectively.

Additional details will be communicated to all award holders – including York University scholars who will benefit – in July.

Information on Tri-Council, provincial and other external scholarship funds available to graduate students at York University can be found on the Faculty of Graduate Studies website.

Schulich ExecEd partnership strengthens Nunavut’s project management capacity

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Recognizing the pivotal role of adept project management in propelling strategic initiatives forward, in Fall 2021 the government of Nunavut set out to empower its workforce by partnering with York University’s Schulich Executive Education (Schulich ExecEd) to offer specialized professional development through the Masters Certificate in Project Management program.

To help meet the territory’s demand for skilled project managers within the public sector, the Schulich ExecEd program – which recently saw its third cohort of students graduate – allows participants to delve into various facets of project management, gaining the insights, tools and techniques essential for navigating complex projects successfully. From project planning and risk management to stakeholder engagement and resource allocation, participants emerge from the program equipped with a comprehensive skill set tailored to the unique challenges faced within the public sector.

“Our students in the third cohort of the program came from far and wide across this massive territory to learn how to manage projects of all types, spanning government policy, health care, technology, construction, engineering and more,” says David Barrett, national program director of the Masters Certificate in Project Management program. “It is a delight to work with our graduates at the end of our program, as they embrace a new set of tools, a new language and a new method of approaching all of their projects – regardless of size.”

The third cohort of the Schulich ExecEd Masters Certificate in Project Management program in partnership with the government of Nunavut.

With over 100 employees from the government of Nunavut and affiliated organizations participating in the program since its inception, the initiative has had a profound impact on the territory’s workforce. From urban centres to remote communities, public servants have seized the opportunity to enhance their project management acumen, driven by a collective dedication to professional growth and service excellence.

“We are immensely proud of our enduring partnership with the government of Nunavut,” says Rami Mayer, executive director of Schulich ExecEd. “This collaboration stands as a testament to our shared commitment to empowering public servants with the essential tools and knowledge needed to navigate the complexities of project management within the public sector.”

Beyond mere skill development, Mayer says this partnership is about fostering a culture of innovation in the territory and planting the seeds for a new generation of professionals.

“We recognize the profound impact of efficient project management on the lives of the Indigenous peoples of Nunavut,” says Mayer. “Enhanced project management skills enable the government of Nunavut to execute initiatives that directly benefit the Indigenous community – from infrastructure projects to health-care initiatives and cultural preservation efforts.”

In providing these professional development opportunities, Schulich ExecEd and the government of Nunavut are not only building a more efficient public sector but also fostering a stronger, more resilient Indigenous community. And they are committed to continuing to do so – together.

York receives $300K boost for research commercialization

Concept of idea and innovation with paper ball

York University’s Office of the Vice-President Research & Innovation (VPRI) and the IP Innovation Clinic have received a second instalment – the first was received in 2023 – of $300,000 from the government of Ontario to advance its commercialization services, particularly for research and innovation related to artificial intelligence, automotive and medical technology.

The funding, announced on April 8 by Jill Dunlop, minister of colleges and universities, is from Intellectual Property Ontario (IPON), a provincial agency that provides IP support for Ontario businesses and researchers.

This marks the second year in a row the initiative has received $300,000 from the government as it works towards increasing patent filings, outreach and consultation.

“IPON’s continued and valued investment in York helps advance the University’s commitment to helping our researchers realize the full potential of their innovative work and amplify their community impact,” said Amir Asif, vice-president research and innovation. “Strengthening commercialization efforts at York and supporting entrepreneurs in the province through education and training create positive change for the people of Ontario and the province.”

The funding will enable the collaborating units to continue to provide a suite of intellectual property and commercialization services to researchers and their partners, with the goal of taking more of the University community’s great ideas from the lab to market. 

“Together with countless law students and our industry partners, we have saved over $2 million in legal fees to resource-scarce innovators seeking to commercialize their IP and grow Canadian companies. We look forward to fostering the success of many more,” said Pina D’Agostino, associate professor at York’s Osgoode Hall Law School and the founder of the IP Innovation Clinic. “We are grateful to Minister Dunlop and Intellectual Property Ontario for supporting the IP Innovation Clinic for a second year.”

D’Agostino continued: “Ultimately, this is also a big win for our students who can continue to get access to first-rate experiential learning to make them job-ready while helping those who do not have access to legal resources.”

York was one of 10 universities with an existing program to receive the renewed funding, totalling $1.7 million. IPON also announced a new investment of $2.9 million to help commercialize research at 10 institutions across Canada.

“This funding will help institutions across the province more effectively translate research into commercializable innovations, while ensuring the IP at their foundation is appropriately developed and protected,” said IPON CEO Dan Herman.

“Through the province’s support of IPON, our government is ensuring the social and economic benefits of publicly funded research stay in our province, so that Ontarians and the Ontario economy benefit from these new discoveries and innovations,” said Dunlop.

For the full announcement, visit the IPON website.

York entrepreneurs recognized by award, prime minister

BEA Demo Day image BANNER

York University alumni Yemi Ifegbuyi (BA ’10) and Zainab Williams (BA ’07) are among the top three Black entrepreneurs named the winners of a startup pitch competition hosted by the Black Entrepreneurship Alliance (BEA) founded by the Black Creek Community Health Centre in partnership with York University’s YSpace.

The competition, the inaugural BEA Investment Bootcamp Demo Day, is the final assignment of a four-month program run in partnership with YSpace for early-stage and capital-ready, Black-led startups.

The Investment Bootcamp program is aimed at supporting Black-led tech startups with training, mentorship and fundraising insights to secure early capital. With a community-driven approach, the program offers curated content and resources to support entrepreneurs through educational workshops, one-on-one coaching and peer founder circles, which provides a safe and open space for founders to connect and receive support.

The nine startup finalists in the BEA Investment Bootcamp program
The nine startup finalists in the BEA Investment Bootcamp program.

Applicants to the competition were narrowed down from the 17 Black entrepreneurs who participated in the program to nine finalists who pitched their businesses to a live audience at an event on Feb. 1 celebrating Black excellence.

The Demo Day event, which also marked the start of Black History Month, was attended by a number of government officials, including Filomena Tassi, the minister responsible for the Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario. Judy Sgro, member of Parliament for Humber River – Black Creek, was also in attendance and was impressed by the entrepreneurs. “Witnessing the dedication and leadership of these young entrepreneurs has not only inspired me, but it reaffirms my belief in the incredible potential of our community’s future leaders,” she says.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau with first place winner Yemi Ifegbuyi
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who met finalists at a special event before the awards were announced, with first-place winner Yemi Ifegbuyi.

First-place winner Ifegbuyi will receive $5,000 toward his business, Cozii Technologies, an artificial intelligence-driven property management platform tailored to multi-unit landlords. Ifegbuyi immigrated from Nigeria about 15 years ago and received his degree in international development and urban studies at York as well as a master’s degree in entrepreneurship and innovation. As a founder known for his entrepreneurial drive, Ifegbuyi is excited for the future as his business continues to grow.

“This fund will be channelled into our sales and marketing endeavours, with the goal of reaching and serving more small- and medium-scale rental property owners and managers,” he says. “It’s not just a cash prize. It’s an investment in Cozii Technologies’ vision to revolutionize the way we approach property management.”

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau with second place winner Zainab Williams
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau with second-place winner Zainab Williams.

Second-place winner Williams, the founder of Fundevolve Inc., a pioneering platform dedicated to empowering women in their financial journey, will receive $3,000 to further her company. Williams developed her passion for business while studying business administration and management at York. Born out of an investment gone wrong, Williams became an independent financial planner and was determined to empower individuals to make the right financial decisions. Her business is quickly building momentum as she works to further develop the web-based platform and equip women with the tools to take control of their financials.

“We plan to use the prize winnings for testing before launching our platform,” says Williams. “This investment in security ensures not only our project’s safety but also our users’ trust.”

Both Ifegbuyi and Williams cite the boot camp’s collaborative spirit as a contributor to their startup’s success. “Participating in the program has been a transformative journey,” says Ifegbuyi. “The unwavering support and mentorship we received are catalysts for long-term growth.”

Special guest Prime Minister Justin Trudeau also attended a private event – where York President and Vice-Chancellor Rhonda Lenton was also present – held before the awards to meet the finalists and learn more about their businesses.

“Meeting Justin Trudeau was a great honour and opportunity,” says Ifegbuyi. “It symbolized the recognition of our hard work and the federal government commitment to supporting the Black entrepreneurial community. It’s a reminder that our efforts are making an impact, and it inspires us to continue pushing boundaries and striving for excellence in everything we do.”

Both BEA and YSpace offer several innovative programs and events for entrepreneurs at all stages, including curated programming dedicated to under-represented groups like Black entrepreneurs and women founders.

To learn more about this partnership, visit BEA’s website at YSpace.

Schulich ExecEd expands health-care training partnership in Guyana

Schulich ExecEd Guyana group photo

Schulich ExecEd, an extension of the Schulich School of Business at York University, is building upon its existing partnership with the Government of the Co-operative Republic of Guyana by launching a new Guyana-Schulich ExecEd Masters Certificate in Physician Leadership Program and kicking off a second cohort of the Schulich ExecEd-Guyana Masters Certificate in Hospital Leadership Program. Both programs are set to begin their virtual classroom sessions this month.

Representatives from Schulich ExecEd travelled to Guyana last month to celebrate the new program launch with members of Guyana’s government. The attendees from Schulich ExecEd were: Rami Mayer, executive director; Dr. Susan Lieff, program director; Jeff MacInnis, facilitator; Robert Lynn, associate director; and Ai Hokama, program co-ordinator.

“I am excited to announce the continuation of our partnership with the Government of the Co-operative Republic of Guyana,” said Mayer. “Together, we are pioneering transformative learning programs focused on social innovation that are aimed at equipping health-care leaders with essential skills crucial for navigating the evolving landscape of health care in the Guyana region.”

The Schulich ExecEd-Guyana Masters Certificate in Hospital Leadership Program focuses on fortifying the administrative skills of health-care workers, equipping them with the knowledge to effectively manage health-care facilities, resources and personnel. Its sister program, the Guyana-Schulich ExecEd Masters Certificate in Physician Leadership Program, is a direct response to the needs of physicians in the region. The goal is to build up physicians’ leadership abilities, improve their decision-making skills, and sharpen their capacity to manage health-care facilities and resources. 

“These programs have been specifically designed to empower health-care professionals in Guyana and enhance the quality of health-care services they provide to their patients,” said Frank Anthony, Guyana’s minister of health. “We are grateful for the co-operation of the Ministry of Public Service and the Government of Guyana in delivering this training to the participants free of charge.”

Schulich ExecEd’s ongoing mission with this partnership is to transform Guyana’s health-care system to deliver more equitable, accessible and enhanced health care. The shared vision of these partners is to develop better health care and physician leaders in Guyana and to provide innovative health-care solutions to improve patient outcomes across the country. Program participants hail from all 10 regions of Guyana, including the country’s Indigenous communities.

“Our programs are meticulously designed to fill critical gaps in business education, addressing skill needs not traditionally covered in medical school,” explained Mayer. “We are committed to empowering physicians and health-care leaders with the tools to manage difficult conversations, solve complex problems, foster collaboration, lead effectively and elevate the overall quality of care in the country.”

Both programs are expected to graduate their current participants in September of this year.

For a closer look at the Schulich ExecEd team’s celebratory trip to Guyana last month, visit vimeo.com/901964260/c095aa81b2?.

Federal grant supports innovative project to improve Canadian digital health care

Medical,Healthcare,Research,And,Development,Concept.,Doctor,In,Hospital,Lab

A three-year grant totalling $500,000 will fund a collaborative project between York University Professor Maleknaz Nayebi and RxPx, a company that creates and supports digital health solutions.

Maleknaz Nayebi

Naybei is a professor in the Lassonde School of Engineering in the Department of Electrical Engineering & Computer Science and a member of the Centre for Artificial Intelligence & Society (CAIS). CAIS unites researchers who are collectively advancing the state of the art in the theory and practice of artificial intelligence (AI) systems, governance and policy. The research includes a focus on AI systems addressing societal priorities in health care.

The funding, awarded by the Natural Sciences & Engineering Research Council of Canada’s Alliance Grant program, will support the development of the Digital Health Defragmenter Hub (DH2).

Alliance Grants support university researchers collaborating with partner organizations to “generate new knowledge and accelerate the application of research results to create benefits for Canadians.”

This collaborative project aims to address the intricate challenges within the Canadian digital health-care landscape by integrating advanced software engineering principles with machine-learning algorithms.

The project’s goal is to develop a software platform dedicated to digital health services. Currently, digital health services are designed and offered in isolation from other social, economic or health services, says Nayebi, adding that this results in inharmonious digital health care where many services overlap, while many pain points and requirements remain untacked.

“Lack of co-ordination among providers, the inability of patients to choose services and make open decisions, the rigidity of the market toward digital innovations and isolation of providers are known as the main barriers in the Canadian digital health-care ecosystem,” says Nayebi. “In this ecosystem, the physicians act as service-supply-side monopolists, exercising significantly more power than their demand-side patients. A survey conducted by Price Waterhouse Cooper showed the unpreparedness of the ecosystem, where only 40 per cent could envision a collaboration with other organizations. This further leads to increased inequality within the health-care system. In contrast, 62 per cent of American-based active health-care organizations had a digital health component in their strategic plan.”

DH2 is a platform that brings together open innovation in health care, allowing health-care providers to deliver personalized services to the public. The project is aimed to provide software and AI-based technology that makes digital health services more affordable and accessible to a broader population, integrates innovative business strategies for new entrants or low-end consumers, and creates a value network where all stakeholders benefit from the proliferation of innovative technologies.

“DH2 serves as a marketplace where not only can individuals with basic health-care services contribute, but it also features AI-driven matchmaking services, connecting patients with the specific demands of health-care providers and caregivers,” says Nayebi.

In this capacity, DH2 addresses the defragmentation in the wellness and health ecosystem by enabling users and user communities.

“DH2 goes beyond just connecting people; it also uses machine learning to help patients make informed decisions about their digital health-care options. Such platforms can act as the governing and strategic solution for leading market and innovation, and provide faster time to market by assisting providers in their deployment, distribution and monetization processes. They provide even access to information for all parties and effectively reduce inequalities.”

In addition, platforms add to the geographic diversity of participants. Moreover, says Nayebi, the platform enhances the diversity of participants across different geographic locations, establishing an ecosystem that enables quicker responses to disruptive events such as the COVID-19 pandemic.

From practising law to innovating health care: York prof harnesses potential of genomic medicine 

Collage showing DNA, medicine and more

By Ashley Goodfellow Craig, YFile editor 

York University Assistant Professor Ian Stedman says the diagnosis of his first-born daughter’s rare disease likely saved his life – and now, he’s focusing his work on helping to do the same for others across Canada.

Ian Stedman
Ian Stedman

The Osgoode Hall Law School alum and lawyer – appointed as assistant professor in the School of Public Policy & Administration in the Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies, with graduate appointments at Osgoode, in Science and Technology Studies and in Socio-Legal Studies – is a co-applicant on a $15-million project that aims to disrupt the current health-care model through the development of a first-of-its-kind national genomics database. 

The Pan-Canadian Human Genome Library (PCHGL), funded through a five-year grant from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, will bring together human genome sequencing initiatives across the nation to enhance the collective well-being of people in Canada. 

It will have huge implications for health care, says Stedman, especially for those living with rare diseases and struggling to find a diagnosis – an experience he’s lived through. 

Beginning at a young age, Stedman suffered from a host of symptoms that grew in severity as he got older – frequent rashes, periodic fevers, headaches, bloodshot eyes, arthritis and eventually hearing loss – that had doctors and specialists stumped for more than 30 years. 

Looking back over his health records from the first 18 years of his life, Stedman noted 190 separate visits to his family doctor, walk-in clinics and specialists – not to mention the many visits to emergency departments when his pain became unbearable – that had him seeking answers to his ongoing progressive illness. 

“So, my story is 30 years undiagnosed, having no idea what was going on, and then just giving up,” says Stedman. 

That was, until his daughter Lia began exhibiting similar symptoms during her first year of life. When her health declined a few months before her first birthday, she was brought to the SickKids emergency room, which marked the beginning of their diagnostic journey together.

Ian Stedman's daughters Ivy, Ainsley and Lia.
Lia (right) with sisters Ivy (left) and Ainsley (middle).
Lia Stedman
Ian Stedman’s daughter Lia.

In 2014, both father and daughter were diagnosed with a one-in-a-million genetic disorder called Muckle-Wells syndrome (MWS), a member of the family of genetic disorders known as cryopyrin associated periodic syndromes. Thought to be the 12th and 13th in Canada to receive the diagnosis – with the confirmation of Lia’s MWS leading to his same diagnosis – Stedman learned that if left untreated, the syndrome results in premature death before the age of 36 for one in three people.  

He was 32. 

After diagnosis, and with the realization that his daughter had potentially saved his life, Stedman began his advocacy work through the Canadian Organization for Rare Disorders, where he forged connections with those in the health-care space. He met computer scientist Michael Brudno from the University of Toronto, who, at the time, was the scientific director for SickKids’ Centre for Computational Medicine and co-founder of PhenoTips, a Toronto-based team that provides software and services to genetic health-care providers. 

PhenoTips takes your genetic information and your list of symptoms and uses machine learning to search for other individuals with the same symptoms (phenotype) to then compare whether there are similarities in the related genomes (genotypes). The goal is to offer a potential differential diagnosis or to reveal a possible genetic marker for future research. 

After hearing Stedman’s story at a conference, Brudno approached him and asked if he could digitize his medical records. 

“He wanted to run my information through PhenoTips to see whether the software would be able to suggest a diagnosis,” says Stedman. “It took the software eight visits to figure out what was wrong with me … because he had a dataset of genomes that he could run it against, and so that was the moment where I thought, ‘OK, I’m not just doing law, I’m doing law and health policy now.’ ” 

This experience inspired Stedman to pivot his professional focus and learn how to actualize this type of groundbreaking health-care tool for all Canadians.

Ian Stedman with daughter Lia. Both father and daughter are in good health with the right treatment for their diagnosis of a one-in-a-million genetic disorder called Muckle-Wells syndrome.
Ian Stedman with daughter Lia. Both father and daughter are in good health with the right treatment for their diagnosis of a one-in-a-million genetic disorder called Muckle-Wells syndrome.

“It took me 32 years to get a diagnosis, and it doesn’t seem like it has to be like that anymore. If I could enter the health-care system now, and if that system was allowed to learn from everyone’s health data, I could be diagnosed in one visit,” he says. “It’s actually my mission in life to figure out how that could be possible so that people like me – those coming up behind me – don’t have to tell a story like the one I tell.” 

Drawn to the possibility of creating positive change in the health-care landscape, Stedman became more involved in advocacy work, learned more about health research, joined several boards related to rare diseases and genetics in medicine, and advanced his learnings as a social scientist in a new discipline. 

Now, Stedman will lead a team responsible for patient partnership, participant engagement, training and outreach for the national genome database PCHGL.  

Stedman emphasizes the significance of involving patients in scientific research and highlights the need for patient involvement, and education, in the PCGL initiative. This approach challenges the traditional health-care model and aims to enhance the role of patient partners. 

The project provides an opportunity to empower patient partners in various aspects of the initiative and seeks to ensure their voices are heard in matters including technical decisions, ethics and policymaking.  

Stedman will also contribute to a working group overseeing ethical and regulatory compliance for the library to meet its goal to collect, store and improve access to Canadian genomic data in a way that is equitable, secure and sustainable. 

One of the key questions of the project is “How do we build a more inclusive genomic infrastructure in Canada?” says Stedman. 

“Part of our project is to look at who is represented and who is not represented in the genomes we’ve sequenced in this country. With this library, we can start to take control over improving our representation within the data.” 

Dr. Guillaume Bourque, director of the bioinformatics department at the McGill Genome Centre, will lead this initiative, collaborating with researchers from various partnering institutions. The database project is an extension of the Government of Canada’s Drugs for Rare Diseases Strategy. Its aim is to create a centralized genome library that reflects Canada’s diverse population and empowers researchers and health-care professionals with invaluable insights. 

“The real vision of this library is that it’s going to break down all the silos, so when someone gets diagnosed in Ontario, their doctor can say, ‘Let me go to the library and see what’s out there. Let me see who I can find, and whether they’ve consented to be contacted. Let me see if I can find other physicians who are affiliated with those genomes,’ ” says Stedman. “And it’s a lot easier, because it’s one massive registry.” 

The library will be behind a secure infrastructure that allows researchers and medical professionals to access information, but not remove it. There are interdisciplinary experts in data infrastructure, ethics and governance, patient partnership and operating principles teaming up to realize this shared vision for this life-changing resource. 

The team already has commitments from a few groups willing to share, with patient consent, genomic data. The hope is that within two years, PGCL will be close to launching. 

“When you realize the power genomic data holds to help improve people’s health – and when you’ve lived that realization – it’s a lot easier to buy into the big idea,” says Stedman. “It’s visceral, it’s real. That’s what makes this project so powerful and that’s what I think will ultimately make this library successful.” 

Stedman also serves on the executive of both the Centre for AI & Society and Connected Minds (CFREF) at York University. 

Osgoode prof advocates for access to legal information

Office clerk searching for files in a filing cabinet drawer

Osgoode Hall Law School Assistant Professor Patricia McMahon is calling for key changes to Canada’s Access to Information Act after it took her more than five years to acquire information about a significant court case that dates back more than 100 years.

Patricia McMahon
Patricia McMahon

McMahon said certain provisions in the law are stifling research and she is organizing an interdisciplinary group of fellow academics to advocate for changes to the law.

“When I started this project, I had no idea that it would be harder to get information about what happened during the First World War than it was to get access to the documents I relied on to do my PhD dissertation on nuclear policy,” she said. “We’re trying to come up with some easy fixes that could make a big difference in the way access-to-information claims are processed.”

McMahon filed the first of several access requests in 2011, when she started researching an article about the use of habeas corpus during the First World War. She decided to focus on two cases heard by the Supreme Court of Canada in 1918 and filed an access-to-information request for the respective Department of Justice files. The cases were brought by two farmers – George Gray from Ontario and Norman Lewis from Alberta – who challenged the federal government’s move to revoke exemptions from compulsory military service when conscription failed to raise a sufficient number of troops to fight overseas.

She received almost the entire file on the Gray case but nothing for the Lewis case because, the government stated, it contained personal information. When she challenged that finding, she received about half the file. The rest was withheld on the grounds of solicitor-client privilege. It took five years to get the full file.

McMahon said different government officials review different access-to-information requests, even ones that are related like hers, and often come up with different conclusions as to what and how much can be released. That’s why she received most of the Gray file but had problems getting documents from the Lewis file, notwithstanding that each contained the same types of records.

“When in doubt, people typically take the cautious and most conservative approach and don’t release documents,” she said. “Everybody is afraid of releasing something that shouldn’t have been released.”

She said the interdisciplinary group of scholars she has helped to organize is hoping to shed light on the problems that the Access to Information Act is posing for researchers.

“It’s not just about access for journalists, which is really important,” she said, “but it’s also affecting the work that social scientists and others can do.”

McMahon said the group hopes to hold a symposium in the spring that will give researchers an opportunity to discuss the access-to-information problems they’re facing and some possible solutions.  

For McMahon’s research, the challenge was the way government relied on solicitor-client privilege to withhold select documents.

“Solicitor-client privilege survives for all time and belongs to the client,” she explained. “In the case of government lawyers, the government is the client. Solicitor-client privilege is a discretionary ground under the Access to Information Act, which simply means that government may withhold documents but has the discretion to release them, too.”

In McMahon’s view, solicitor-client privilege should not be used to protect government documents from permanent scrutiny. Even a temporal limit – like 20 or 30 years – would go a long way toward improving the situation.

“Whether the right amount of time is 20 or 30 years is a matter of debate,” she said, “but few could think it justified to withhold documents from researchers that are almost 100 years old.”

Employment Equity Report 2022 now available

Two women chatting over coffee

The Annual Employment Equity Statistical Report for 2022 details the workforce analysis for equity-identified groups at York University. The report for the period Jan. 1 to Dec. 31, 2022 is now available here: Employment Equity and Diversity.

The report highlights representation at York University for the four federally designated groups – women, Indigenous Peoples, racialized persons and persons with disabilities – under the Employment Equity Act, and representation rates for the 2SLGBTQIA+ community. It also highlights some of the employment equity initiatives undertaken in 2022 and identifies future employment equity goals.

As part of its obligations under the Federal Contractors Program, the University is required to conduct a workforce analysis to identify areas of under-representation of designated group members in its workforce. The Annual Employment Equity Statistical Report details this workforce analysis.

The report also notes the recommendation from the Decolonizing, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Strategy to develop a pan-university employment equity action plan. The action plan would include benchmarks for recruitment, hiring and retention of equity-deserving individuals, as well as qualitative and quantitative reporting mechanisms, with the goal of increasing representation, career progression, success and retention across all employee groups. 

To find out more about Employment Equity at York and to view past reports, visit: yorku.ca/vpepc/employment-equity-and-diversity.

k2i academy’s Bringing STEM to Life empowers young minds

Two young woman work on a technical project

Bringing STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) to Life, a program run by the k2i (kindergarten to industry) academy at York University’s Lassonde School of Engineering, allows students entering grades 11 and 12 to participate in a one-month paid summer research experience while earning an Ontario high-school course credit in physics or English. This year, 100 per cent of high-school students earned their credit with a cumulative course median over 91 per cent across all programs.

Bringing STEM to Life, a work-integrated learning program, was designed in collaboration with the Toronto District School Board, York Region District School Board and Peel District School Board, with a specific focus on providing opportunities for students from marginalized communities. Black and Indigenous youth, students from priority communities and girls, who are traditionally underrepresented in STEM, were invited to partake in the program, to help break down systemic barriers and create more equitable access to STEM education.

“Together with our valued school boards, teachers, undergraduate students, faculty members and Lassonde staff, we are united as a community in our collective efforts to address inequities in STEM career pathways and open up opportunities for high-school students,” says Jane Goodyer, dean of Lassonde.

K2i academy Lisa Cole
Lisa Cole

“By creating a program where students can gain valuable work experience while earning a high-school credit, especially a prerequisite credit to STEM pathways, we help level the playing field for those who may otherwise have been pushed out of post-secondary STEM pathways,” says Lisa Cole, director of programming for k2i academy.

Throughout the summer, students worked as high-school lab assistants together with a dedicated team of undergraduate STEM student mentors, k2i academy staff, Lassonde faculty advisors, as well as high-school physics and English teachers. Guided by the program’s focus on sustainable development, students explored diverse research topics such as robotics, to understand space, designing smart power grids for sustainable cities and engineering brain-like tissue for simulations and testing.

The program culminated in a symposium at the end of the summer, which provided an opportunity for young researchers to showcase their hard work and present their findings to a wider audience, discussing their research and its potential impact on society, the environment and various industries.

The event aims to not only celebrate the students’ accomplishments, but highlight the importance of collaborative efforts between educational institutions, government bodies and private organizations to advance STEM education and empower young minds to shape a sustainable and equitable future.

k2i academy’s partnership with the Ontario Ministry of Education has enabled this program to reach 400-plus high-school students with a team of 130-plus undergraduate STEM student mentors since June 2020.

“The Ministry of Education’s partnership with k2i academy has become one of the most consequential relationships that the ministry has,” says Patrick Case, assistant deputy minister of equity secretariat at the Ministry of Education. “This program is the face of change in STEM – breaking down barriers and opening doors that were previously closed for so many deserving but often overlooked young people. This is what change looks like.”