York students lead the way during “Refugees Welcome Here” week at the Keele campus

Some of the student leaders involved in Refugees Welcome Here Week

From March 6 to 10, a number of York University student groups and the Syria Response and Refugee Initiative (SRRI) at the Centre for Refugee Studies are collaborating in a week of activities under the banner of Refugees Welcome Here! The events have been planned to engage the campus and community in understanding refugee rights, welcome and protection.

Some of the student leaders involved in Refugees Welcome Here Week

“It is one of the biggest events this year, where we have different student organizations and student leaders come out to show support for refugees. It is a week full of activism, advocacy and educational activities,” says Humaima Ashfaque, SRRI student project ambassador and one of the students helping to organize the week of events. “The aim of the week is to educate people about the refugee crisis around the world, their rights, and their issues so that students are able to advocate for some policy changes.“

Canadian Council for Refugees (CCR) President Loly Rico is participating as a panelist at a major event on Violence in Mexico and Canadian Refugee Policy on Wednesday, March 8 at 5pm. The panel is part of the winter 2017 Michael Baptista Lecture organized by York’s Centre for Research on Latin America and the Caribbean (CERLAC).

Rico says that she applauds York’s research centres but most of all its students for their engagement, awareness-raising and activism. The week is in part inspired by a joint CCR-Amnesty International Canada campaign.

Loly Rico

“I am more than happy to be at York for this important Refugees Welcome Here! Week in which the focus will be on human rights and refugee policy,” said Rico. “It is more important than ever to see student leaders addressing issues and concerns like transportation loans.”

Such loans are charged to resettled refugees in Canada by the government for their travel to costs to come to Canada. For example, both York-sponsored Syrian refugees and WUSC-sponsored students are charged these loans.

Rico says that she finds it heartening to see the next generation of leaders in the country take the lead and address unjust policies and fundraising to help their fellow students while raising awareness to see transportation loans policy abolished. (This is also a demand of the CCR.)

“It is wonderful to see the full week of activities that they have put together for their community. I hope their events will be well attended and their hard work rewarded with progressive policy changes,” she added.

The UNICEF York student group is holding a doughnut sale fundraiser to help pay off the transportation loans of two WUSC-Keele sponsored refugee students on Monday from 10am to 4pm in the Bear Pit in Central Square. Vice-President, Amina Khan says “the biggest barrier in helping others is a lack of empathy. Through this week of events, panels and discussion- our goal is to assist in bridging that gap.” She encourages University community members to stop by the fundraiser to learn more about how they can assist in advocacy or making a contribution to help the students pay off their transportation loads. Postcards will be available for community members to use to write to the federal government about stopping the transportation loan policy.

Other activities on Monday in the Bear Pit include “Painting for Solidarity” with Amnesty International at York from 10am to 4pm. Participants can sketch, write, paint, and draw to their heart’s content on an interactive canvas. Messages of welcome for refugees are encouraged.

Student groups involved in the refugee effort will participate in a tabling event in the Ross Link and Bear Pit. The groups taking part in the tabling event are profiled at http://www.osgoode.yorku.ca/refugees/student-initiatives/.

Groups involved in organizing the week are Amnesty International at York, CARL Osgoode, Centre for Refugee Studies and its Student Caucus, CERLAC, Islamic Relief, RefugeAid, Refugee Health Outreach, U of Mosaic York U Fellows, UNICEF York and WUSC Keele.

On Tuesday, March 7, WUSC Keele and Islamic Relief will be screening a refugee-themed documentary, Cast from the Storm. The screening will take place from 4:30 to 6:30pm in 280N York Lanes. Refreshments will be served.

RefugeAid is organizing an educational “Footsteps of a Refugee” activity on Tuesday, March 7 from 10am to 4pm in the Bear Pit. The event focuses on the journeys refugees undertake. The student group is also organizing a speaker session on Thursday from 4 to 7pm pm in 280N York Lanes, which will feature experts speaking about the international and Canadian dynamics of the refugee experience.

Wednesday’s activities, which also mark International Women’s Day, will see the Osgoode Branch of the Canadian Association of Refugee Lawyers (CARL-Osgoode) hosting a panel on Women in Refugee Law and Advocacy from 3 to 4:30pm at the law school in Room 2027, Ignat Kaneff Building (Osgoode Hall Law School), Keele campus.

Participating in the panel are Barbara Jackman, Maureen Silcoff and Shalini Konanur, all are considered trailblazers in the field of immigration and refugee law. They will be speaking to students about their legal activism, the challenges facing women in law and advocacy, the needs of women migrants, and what needs to be done now. They will share their decades of experience leading litigation at all levels of court and advocacy on behalf of newcomers to Canada.

On Friday, March 10, Refugee Health Outreach, WUSC Keele, and U of Mosaic Fellows will host a bake sale fundraiser in the Upper Bear Pit from 10am to 2pm. All proceeds will go towards food vouchers for refugees living in the community.

Annual Melville-Nelles-Hoffmann lecture to explore light pollution

Light pollution across the world

Sara Pritchard, a leading Science and Technology Studies scholar and professor at Cornell University, will deliver the annual Melville-Nelles-Hoffman Lecture in Environmental History on March 20 at York University’s Keele campus.

Light pollution across the world

Pritchard is the recipient of the National Science Foundation Scholar’s Award in Science, Technology and Society. Her research explores the politics and science of light pollution.

The lecture will begin at 4pm in the Schulich Private Dining Room in the Seymour Schulich Building. This event is free and open to the public, all are welcome to attend.

Sara Pritchard

Pritchard’s lecture will explore the growing concerns of scientists in the early 1970s about light pollution and the astronomical, ecological and human health effects. These kinds of concerns have increased dramatically over the past decade. In her remarks, Pritchard will examine how the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and the U.S. National Park Service (NPS) visualize artificial light at night as an emergent environmental problem.

A close reading of several influential images shows how these institutions produce knowledge about light pollution. In particular, this lecture will explore how NASA and NPS’s regimes of (im)perceptibility shape what we know—and do not know—about artificial light at night in distinct ways. At the same time, Pritchard will consider the implications of these knowledge-making and visualization techniques for global social justice in the early 21st century.

The Melville-Nelles-Hoffman Lecture in Environmental History is an annual event that brings leading scholars in the field of environmental history to Toronto to speak about their latest research.

More about Sara Pritchard

Professor Sara Pritchard is a historian of technology and an environmental historian.  Her first book, Confluence: The Nature of Technology and the Remaking of the Rhône (2011), examines the history of the transformation of France’s Rhône River since the Second World War. She shows not only how technological development and environmental management were central to state building and shifting political identities in France, but also how historical actors reworked the boundaries of nature and technology, both materially and discursively.

The book’s introduction outlines a theoretical framework for enviro technical analysis, which scrutinizes the relationship between nature and technology, historically and analytically. Her second book project, From Blue to Black Marble: Knowing Light Pollution in the Anthropocene, explores how different scientific communities have studied artificial light at night and specifically environmental light pollution since the 1970s.

Her research has been supported by grants from the National Science Foundation, as well as Cornell’s Society for the Humanities and Institute for the Social Sciences.

Lassonde Dean Janusz Kozinski steps down to focus on new research projects

The following message to the University community is from York President and Vice-Chancellor Mamdouh Shoukri:

I am announcing that Professor Janusz Kozinski has informed me of his decision to step down as dean of the Lassonde School of Engineering, effective June 30, 2017.

Janusz Kozinski

He will be taking an administrative leave from the University to undertake new research projects and to share his experiences of creating a new school with engineering educators from around the world.

He remains committed to the continued success of the school and to the ideals on which it was founded.

A search committee for the next dean for the Lassonde School of Engineering will be developed and launched in the coming months. In the meantime, an interim dean will be identified and appointed as soon as practicable.

Dean Kozinski has requested, and I have agreed, that he begin work on his next projects starting March 20, 2017, prior to the formal end of his term on June 30, 2017.

First appointed as dean of the Faculty of Science & Engineering in 2010, and as founding dean of the Lassonde School of Engineering in 2012, Professor Kozinski has led the establishment of University’s 10th and newest Faculty with characteristic energy, enthusiasm and endeavour.

On behalf of the University, I would like to thank Dean Kozinski for the outstanding leadership he has provided to the students, faculty and staff of the Lassonde School of Engineering and to the wider community, seeing the remarkable Lassonde project through from its planning ideals. Few colleagues have the opportunity to lead such an endeavour.

We are grateful for his significant contribution to the University and wish him the best with all his future projects.

Welcome to Brainstorm for March 2017

Brainstorm, a special edition of YFile publishing on the first Friday of every month, showcases research and innovation at York University. It offers compelling and accessible, feature-length stories about the world-leading and policy relevant work of York’s academics and researchers across all disciplines and faculties, and encompasses both pure and applied research.

In the March 2017 issue, Professor Dan Adler teams up with the Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal to co-curate a ground-breaking exhibition on Canadian artist Liz Magor, one of Canada’s most important and influential living sculptors. Hired by the Ottawa Police to examine racial profiling, Professors Lorne Foster and Les Jacobs determine that police stop racialized minorities at a disproportionate rate, and propose evidence-based recommendations. Policy-applicable research by Professor Emeritus Joel Lexchin and others (part of a project led by York’s Pat Armstrong) examines the care received by clients of long-term care facilities and finds for-profit seniors homes fall short. Professor Benjamin Berger, Osgoode Hall Law School, edits a provocative new book on religion and public authority that promises to have a ripple effect on public policy as it cuts to the heart of religious pluralism. York Research Chair Shayna Rosenbaum teams up with Baycrest in a project that leads to major advancements in our understanding of amnesia.

Launched in January 2017, Brainstorm is produced out of the Office of the Vice-President Research & Innovation in partnership with Communications & Public Affairs; overseen by Megan Mueller, manager, research communications, and edited by Jenny Pitt-Clark, YFile editor.

York scholar curates high-profile Liz Magor exhibition in Montreal

York Visual Arts Professor Dan Adler
Dan Adler

Last year, York Professor of Modern and Contemporary Art Dan Adler, with Lesley Johnstone, curator and head of exhibitions and education at the Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal (MAC), co-curated a ground-breaking exhibition at on Canadian artist Liz Magor, one of Canada’s most important and influential living sculptors. The show, Habitude, ran from June 22 to September 5, 2016, and featured 75 pieces created from 1975 to 2016. It was the largest exhibition of this artist’s work to date.

Curator Lesley Johnstone
Lesley Johnstone. Photo by: Nat Gorry

The show, as well as the accompanying book − edited by Adler, Johnstone and others, offers a thoughtful and comprehensive exploration of Magor’s sculpture and installation work, produced over four decades, underscoring the tremendous range of her work.

Born in Winnipeg, Manitoba (1948), Liz Magor is a prolific sculptor who has influenced many generations of artists, having taught at Emily Carr University of Art and Design for years. She lives in Vancouver, British Columbia.

Exhibition is highly provocative, collaborative

Liz Magor. Images courtesy of Catriona Jeffries, Vancouver. Photo: SITE Photography and Kelly Lycan.
Liz Magor. Image courtesy of Catriona Jeffries, Vancouver. Photo: SITE Photography and Kelly Lycan

Habitude is special in many ways, not only in sheer scale. First, it is highly collaborative. Both the exhibition and book represent an international joint venture co-organized by Adler and Johnstone, alongside European peers at the Migros Museum für Gegenwartskunst in Zurich and the Kunstverein in Hamburg – destinations to which the exhibition will travel in 2017.

In fact, this is the first major exhibition of Magor’s work to hit European shores. “One of my roles as a curator, educator, scholar and critic is to bring Magor’s practice to the larger world,” Adler says.

“One of my roles as a curator, educator, scholar and critic is to bring Magor’s practice to the larger world.” – Dan Adler

Secondly, Habitude was curated in an original and thought-provoking way. It’s not a conventional, chronological retrospective that moves from early to middle to later work. Instead, the exhibition mixes and matches work from various time periods in Magor’s lengthy career.

“Wanting to do something different, we have really provocative mixtures of different kinds of work,” Adler explains. “Often, I think the visitor to the exhibition is struck by the fact that this is all by the same artist because the subject matter and the materials shift so dramatically,” he adds.

“How can we value material reality?”

As a result of this kind of inspired curatorship, Habitude offers a new and evocative perspective on Magor’s work.

“I’m a treasure hunter of trash, really…” the artist writes about one piece in the Habitude show, although this idea applies to much of her work. In her sculpture, she often repurposes items that were destined for the trash − damaged clothing, blankets and mittens beyond repair, cardboard boxes that have been reused one too many times.

But in reassembling these unwanted and unvalued items with conceptual and procedural rigour, Magor imbues new value in the resulting deeply introspective pieces that speak to both inner and shared history.

“York fosters scholarship, particularly in the visual arts.” – Dan Adler

Adler believes that Magor makes us think of all kinds of objects with reference to how they operate in society. “She wants us to look that these objects in ways that are analogous to the predicaments of people, or how they might struggle with desires, with compulsive and addictive behaviours and with the ideas of value, relevance and worth,” he suggests. The artist effectively asks, “How can we value material reality?”

To Adler, the exhibition is a strong argument for the importance of art that has a material presence in the world. “Magor’s work is more important than ever because the world we live in, with its focus on the online or virtual experience, is increasingly immaterial,” he explains.

Magor creates deeply introspective pieces

With pieces in the show titled Violator and Still Alive, the exhibition explores ideas of memory, history, shelter and survival. The visual language that this artist speaks is multi-layered and rich in narrative, easily shifting from social identity to psychological commentary.

Liz Magor, Being This, 2012. Installation view, Liz Magor: Habitude, Musée d'art contemporain de Montréal, 2016. Photo: Richard-Max Tremblay. Images courtesy of Catriona Jeffries, Vancouver. Photo: SITE Photography
Liz Magor, Being This, 2012. Installation view, Liz Magor: “Habitude”, Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal, 2016. Photo: Richard-Max Tremblay. Images courtesy of Catriona Jeffries, Vancouver. Photo: SITE Photography
Liz Magor, Being This, 2012 (detail). Image courtesy of Catriona Jeffries, Vancouver. Photo: SITE Photography.











When discussing Being This, 2012, which features thrift-store garments tucked into 22 cubbyhole-like boxes evenly distributed across the gallery’s broad white wall, the artist describes the gaudy and overly decorated clothes as “anxious.”

In fact, she created this piece to neutralize the showy voices of these discarded items. “That drive to appear, and appear as significant, again it’s a never-ending drive. It causes a lot of pain or anxiety; it’s difficult to accomplish it,” she writes in the accompanying text.

Book features many voices, multilayered content

Liz Magor, Edited by Dan Adler, Lesley Johnstone, Heike Munder and Bettina Steinbrügge. Published by the Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal in 2016

The 2016 book – the largest publication on this artist – was highly collaborative. In consultation with Lesley Johnstone, Liz Magor and peers at the Migros Museum für Gegenwartskunst and the Kunstverein, Adler decided to offer a mixture of scholarly essays as well as the perspectives of artists.

“We invited artists to write a short text about one particular work that they felt is important,” he explains. “We liked the idea of having different voices. That kind of multilayered content was really important to us,” he adds.

Magor was artist-in-residence at York

As this show circulates in Zurich and Hamburg, Adler emphasizes, once more, the value of mobilizing and giving visual arts practices a wider audience – traits fostered at York University’s School of the Arts, Media, Performance and Design. “This exhibition is a perfect example of that,” he says. “York fosters scholarship, particularly in the visual arts.”

Interestingly, Magor was an artist-in-residence in York’s sculpture studio about 15 years ago, during which time her work was featured in several exhibitions at the Art Gallery of York University (AGYU).

Liz Magor, Keep, 2000. Photo courtesy: YFile.

While at York, Magor produced Keep, 2000, commissioned by AGYU. It is now part of the permanent collection on campus, installed in the courtyard of Central Square.

To read about Habitude, visit http://www.macm.org/en/expositions/liz-magor/ and http://www.macm.org/lizmagor/. To find the Liz Magor book, visit http://www.abcartbookscanada.com/MAC.html To read more about Dan Adler, visit http://www.yorku.ca/dadler/

By Megan Mueller, manager, research communications, Office of the Vice-President Research & Innovation, York University, muellerm@yorku.ca


Racial profiling study offers roadmap for bias-free policing

Lorne Foster

York University is known for leading scholarship in equity and human rights. Its researchers are nationally recognized for their policy-relevant contributions. As two of Canada’s foremost equity scholars, Professors Lorne Foster (Department of Equity Studies) and Les Jacobs (Department of Social Science) were hired by Ottawa Police Services to examine traffic stops along racial lines.

The Ottawa Police turned to Foster and Jacobs because they bring “a combination of research experience and knowledge on the issues of race and ethnic relations, human rights, data collection, empirical research, social justice and public policy,” said the Ottawa Police statement.

Les Jacobs

Foster and Jacob’s research (2013-2015) determined that Middle Eastern and black drivers, particularly young men, were being stopped at a disproportionate rate. While emphasizing that the study was intended to inform future studies, not to prove racial profiling, Foster and Jacobs provide recommendations that will be of great value to policy-makers across Canada.

“This pioneering research project constitutes the largest and most comprehensive race data collection in Canadian policing history,” says Foster, cross-appointed to the School of Public Policy and Administration. “The findings enable evidence-based policy- and decision-making with regard to bias-free policing,” he adds.

Racial profiling, and how to combat this form of institutionalized racism, are of paramount interest within and outside of academia, including civil and human rights groups, politicians and members of the public.

Racial profiling is defined by the Ontario Human Rights Commission as “Any action undertaken for reasons of safety, security or public protection, that relies on stereotypes about race, colour, ethnicity, ancestry, religion, or place of origin, or a combination of these, rather than on a reasonable suspicion, to single out an individual for greater scrutiny or different treatment.”

<Caption> Chad Aiken’s case spurred the Traffic Stop Race Data Collection Project. Photo reproduced with permission of CBC.
Chad Aiken’s case spurred the Traffic Stop Race Data Collection Project. Photo reproduced with permission of CBC.

This research study, the Traffic Stop Race Data Collection Project, which Foster and Jacobs undertook with adjunct Professor Bobby Sui, was spurred by a particular case in 2005: 18-year-old Chad Aiken, a young black man who was pulled over while driving his mother’s luxury car in Ottawa. Aiken, who filed a human rights complaint against Ottawa police, said that he was punched in the chest by the police.

Data collected from 80,000+ traffic stops

The researchers reviewed data from 81,902 traffic stops of Ottawa residents by the Ottawa Police Force between June 27, 2013 and June 26, 2015. They examined the relationship between race, sex, age and traffic stops. Officers were asked about the driver’s race, gender, age, the reason for the stop and if the stop resulted in charged.

The researchers looked at the data in three different ways: incidences, reasons and outcomes.

Analysis A: Data by incidences of traffic stops

The data showed that the Ottawa police stopped Middle Eastern drivers over 10,000 times, which represented over 12 per cent of the stops. (See table.) These drivers represent less than 4 per cent of the general population, which means that they were stopped 3.3 times more than what you would expect based on the population.

Similarly, black drivers were stopped over 7,000 times or 8.8 per cent of the time, which was about 2.3 times more than you would expect based on the population of Ottawa. (See table.)

Table: Proportionalities of incidences of traffic stops, by race, in Ottawa   
Negative percentages = low proportionalities
Positive percentages = high proportionalities
Shaded area = disproportionately high incidences of traffic stops 
Race group Proportionalities of incidences Ratio of share of traffic stops to share of population
Middle Easterner 229.44 per cent 3.3
Black 134.80 per cent 2.3
Other racialized minorities     8.61 per cent 1.1
White  -12.51 per cent 0.9
S. Asian  -19.06 per cent 0.8
E. Asian/S.E. Asian  -26.14 per cent 0.7

The disparities were even more pronounced when the researchers looked at the drivers’ age: Middle Eastern men, ages 16 to 24, were 12 times more likely to be stopped; while black men, 16 to 24, were over eight times more likely to be stopped.

Analysis B: Data by reasons for traffic stops

The data also showed that 2,299 cases involved “suspicious activities,” and in this category, a disproportionate number were racialized minorities.

However, the vast majority of traffic stops (97 per cent) were for municipal and provincial offences, such as not wearing a seatbelt, and no particular group was disproportionately stopped.

Analysis C: Data by outcomes of traffic stops

Outcomes of traffic stops can be no action, warned or charged. Forty-four per cent of stops ended in charges, while 41 per cent ended in a warning – and in these cases, race did not play a part.

However, black and Middle Eastern drivers were more likely to have a “no action” outcome. So these groups are being stopped more readily by Ottawa police, but not being charged or being given a warning.

This research showed that Middle Eastern and black drivers, particularly young men, were being stopped at a disproportionate rate.
This research showed that Middle Eastern and black drivers, particularly young men, were being stopped at a disproportionate rate.

Recommendations geared towards bias-free policing

The report, submitted to the Ottawa Police Services Board and the Ottawa Police Services in October 2016, makes six recommendations:

  1. Through examining the psychological, organizational and social issues within the Ottawa Police, determine the sources for the disproportionate traffic stops. This will involve looking at systemic biases in police practices, police leadership and corporate culture, etc.
  2. Develop and implement solutions to address the situation in consultation with stakeholder groups, race and ethnic communities and the public.
  3. Increase positive police-community contact through regular, relationship-building meetings; training officers and community members together; holding ‘critical incident’ discussions; etc.
  4. Continue monitoring race data in traffic stops, and regularly communicate this to the public through quarterly bulletins, press releases, etc.
  5. Build on community engagement and develop an action plan to address the issues raised in the report.
  6. Within legal limitations, make the data in this research readily available to facilitate future studies.
Ottawa Police Chief Charles Bordeleau. Reproduced with permission of the Ottawa Police.
Ottawa Police Chief Charles Bordeleau. Reproduced with permission of the Ottawa Police.

“We have received the report, and we are committed to working with the community and our members to develop an action plan,” said Ottawa Police Chief Charles Bordeleau in a press release issued after the report was released by the York University researchers.

Foster and Jacobs are optimistic. “The very undertaking of a racial profiling study is essentially a reaffirmation of this multicultural community value,” says Jacobs, cross-appointed to the Department of Political Science. “Such a process promises to promote effective bias-neutral policing and strengthen community-police relations.”

For more information, the full report is available at http://bit.ly/2ijAdAr. A shorter executive summary of the report is available at http://bit.ly/2hveBkt. To see slides presented by the report authors, visit http://bit.ly/2hgu6kx.

By Megan Mueller, manager, research communications, Office of the Vice-President Research & Innovation, York University, muellerm@yorku.ca

Policy-applicable research finds for-profit seniors homes fall short

Dr. Joel Lexchin
Joel Lexchin

With the aging population, new research by York University Health Professor Emeritus Joel Lexchin and others that examine the care received by clients of long-term care facilities is growing in relevance. Lexchin, also an emergency doctor at University Health Network, joined forces with researchers from the Universities of British Columbia, California and London (United Kingdom) to provide evidence that links for-profit long-term care facilities with inferior quality of care.

Faculty of Health Professor Pat Armstrong
Pat Armstrong

The research − part of a seven-year project led by York Sociology Professor Pat Armstrong and supported by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSRHC) − points directly to policy interventions that could arm decision-makers in building a better future for the aging population.

“Decision-makers have a responsibility to ensure nursing home public policy is most consistent with the available evidence and least likely to cause harm,” says Lexchin. “It’s time to re-align policy with evidence. Our seniors deserve better,” he adds.

Nursing homes or long-term care facilities are regulated institutions that provide around-the-clock care for the elderly as well as for those who are unable to live independently due to mental or physical disability.

For-profit institutions have garnered public concerns about the quality of care for senior clients.
For-profit institutions have garnered public concerns about the quality of care for senior clients.

Although these institutions can be owned and operated by the government (public), privately owned for profit, or privately owned not-for-profit, the trend in many industrialized countries is private for-profit.  This has garnered public concerns about the quality of care for these clients.

Challenges of measuring quality, determining causality

While research in this area is not new – American and British researchers began to look into this in the 1980s – this study is unique. This is because Lexchin and others sought to evaluate the evidence, provided in existing research, for an association between for-profit ownership and inferior quality of care.

“Decision-makers have a responsibility to ensure nursing home public policy is most consistent with the available evidence and least likely to cause harm.” – Joel Lexchin

How does one measure quality of care? There are a number of ways to look at this. Indicators of quality include:

  • Structural indicators, such as staffing levels and training;
  • Process-based indicators, including inspection violations, continuity of care and prevalence of daily physical restraints; and
  • Outcome indicators, such as the prevalence of pressure sores, urinary tract infections and dehydration.

Researchers use causation framework from British epidemiologist

As well as indicators, observational studies can be used to measure the quality of care. In this research, the team used the Bradford Hill’s framework for examining causation – defined as the act of causing something to happen. British epidemiologist, Sir Austin Bradford Hill, developed these guidelines in the mid-1960s to evaluate evidence for a causal effect. Interestingly, Bradford Hill was using the guidelines to address the causal link between tobacco and lung disease.

Quality of care can be determined by indicators such as staffing levels and training, continuity of care, etc.
Quality of care can be determined by indicators such as staffing levels and training, continuity of care, etc.

Bradford Hill proposed that nine relevant factors should be considered before causation can be determined. These factors included:

  • Plausibility or the inference of a logical relationship between, for example, characteristics of the sample population in a study.
  • Consistency, which refers to things that are observed repeatedly, prospectively and retrospectively, in different populations and situations.
  • Temporality, which refers to how things unfold over time and become observable only after a certain lapse of time.
  • Experiment, referring to randomized experiments (randomized is a method of assigning people to different treatments in scientific experiments).

Link found between for-profit and reduced quality of care

The team looked at existing research on long-term care facilities with the Bradford Hill lens. For the purpose of this article, four of the nine are showcased:

In terms of plausibility: Research showed that to generate profits, for-profit facilities tend to have lower costs and lower staff-to-patient ratios. Money diverted to shareholders and investors leaves less money to pay for staff, and in turn, having fewer or untrained staff is associated with lower quality.

In terms of consistency: Parallel studies in other sectors found for-profit services to be of inferior quality. (For example, studies looking at the Canadian daycare sector found a similar quality gap between for-profit and nonprofit ownership.) Most American studies, as well as those in other industrialized countries including Canada, Israel and Australia, have reported the association between for-profit status and inferior care.

In terms of temporality: Long-term observational research from the United States and Sweden found that nursing homes converting to for-profit ownership showed a subsequent decline in some quality measures. Conversely, nursing homes converting from for-profit to nonprofit status generally exhibit improvement both before and after conversion.

In terms of experiment: Two studies that the researchers examined looked at newly admitted residents to short- and long-stay facilities, including almost 14,000 US nursing homes. Both found higher rates of hospital admissions and one study demonstrated inferior outcomes for mobility, pain and function measures among residents living in for-profit facilities compared to nonprofit facilities.

The researchers concluded that many of Bradford Hill’s guidelines for causation can be found in published studies supporting a causal link between for-profit ownership and inferior care.

One study demonstrated inferior outcomes for mobility, pain and function measures among residents living in for-profit facilities compared to nonprofit facilities.
One study demonstrated inferior outcomes for mobility, pain and function measures among residents living in for-profit facilities compared to nonprofit facilities.

“It’s time to re-align policy with evidence. Our seniors deserve better.” – Joel Lexchin

Pushing for policy change

Having proven the causal relationship between for-profit facilities and inferior care, although the relationship is not a simple one, the researchers advocate for change. More specifically, they recommend:

  • Selling government savings bonds to raise public funds for capital construction;
  • Supporting nonprofit societies with the necessary expertise for them to make competitive bids on requests for proposals; and
  • Valuing social capital and links with the community in the bidding process.

They also recommend that all jurisdictions require public funding be earmarked and spent on mandated minimum direct care staffing levels consistent with the evidence, with no possibility for facilities to re-direct this money to other budgetary items (including profit generation).

“At the very least, the precautionary principle should apply to this highly vulnerable population,” says Lexchin. “This shifts the debate by calling for preventive action based on the obvious premise that harms to the public’s health should be avoided and that society should not have to wait for conclusive evidence before acting to protect itself,” he adds.

This SSHRC-funded research was published in PLOS Medicine (2016), under the title “Observational Evidence of For-Profit Delivery and Inferior Nursing Home Care: When Is There Enough Evidence for Policy Change?” To read the article, visit http://journals.plos.org/plosmedicine/article?id=10.1371/journal.pmed.1001995.

By Megan Mueller, manager, research communications, Office of the Vice-President Research & Innovation, York University, muellerm@yorku.ca

Community Safety issues a statement on hate graffiti

Samina Sami, executive director, Community Safety, sends the following message to the York University community:

We stand against all forms of hate, and anti-Semitism is not tolerated on our campuses and does not reflect our value of inclusion.

On Monday, Feb. 27, in the morning, swastika symbols and an anti-Semitic statement were found in a classroom on the Keele campus.

York Community Safety responded immediately to the report of the hate graffiti and reported it to the Toronto Police Service (TPS). The scene was secured and the areas that were defaced are being repaired. We will continue to work closely with TPS as the investigation unfolds.

We have been working proactively with Jewish students and other campus groups to support a safe and inclusive campus. The safety of our students, staff and faculty is taken seriously and we support a community where everyone can learn, work and live safely.

Anyone with information about this incident should please contact Toronto Police Services or York Security Services 416-650-8000.

Lions and Lancers to battle for Queen’s Cup berth in OUA West Final

The York University Lions men’s hockey team will battle the Windsor Lancers for a spot in the Queen’s Cup in their Ontario University Athletics (OUA) West Division final best-of-three series this week.

York Lions Men’s Hockey players celebrate their success in advance of their OUA West Final Game March 3

The Lions are the home team in the series after their second-place finish in the OUA West Division standings but due to the distance between the two cities, Game 1 will be played in Windsor, Ont., on Wednesday beginning at 7:30pm and the Lions will host Games 2 and 3 at Canlan Ice Sports this weekend. Game 2 is set for Friday night at 7pm and Game 3, if necessary, will go on Saturday at 7pm.

The Lions have been on a roll since the playoffs began, putting up four straight victories to earn series sweeps over the Lakehead Thunderwolves ?and Guelph Gryphons. After three straight narrow wins, two in which they came from behind, the Lions cruised in the series clincher over the Gryphons by scoring five unanswered goals in the second period as part of a 6-2 win.

Those six goals equaled the Lions’ highest offensive output this year and it was a rare outcome for a team that owes most of its success to a stellar defence that allowed fewer goals than every other OUA team in the regular season. Rookie goaltender Mack Shields was solid throughout the regular season, finishing first in save percentage (1.78) and second in goals against the average (.930), and has shown no first-year jitters now that the stakes are higher by leading the Lions to four straight wins.

The team’s regular-season scoring leader, third-year defenceman Derek Sheppard, has picked up right where he left off, putting up five points in four games, including three goals. Teammate Colton Vannucci is on the same pace with five assists, tied for the most in the OUA playoffs.

Like the Lions, the sixth-seeded Lancers earned a two-game sweep in their semifinal series, knocking off the top-seeded Ryerson Rams in back-to-back games to advance. Their first-round series was much tighter as they played three one-goal games against the Laurier Golden Hawks and needed an overtime winner from Tyson Ness in Game 3 to move on.

Ness is their overall scoring leader in the playoffs thus far with five points (three goals, two assists) in as many games.

The two squads split their regular-season series, with the home team winning each game by a single goal. The Lions earned a 3-2 double overtime victory at Canlan Ice Sports in late November, and the Lancers posted a 1-0 triumph in mid-January.

The Lions are looking to reach the Queen’s Cup for the first time since winning the OUA championship in 2004, while the Lancers were last in the contest in 2014 when they made a surprise run to the title as the seventh seeds. They were also bronze medallists the following year.

The Queen’s Cup will be played on Saturday, March 11 at the home of the highest remaining seed in Ontario, while the loser from this series will play for OUA bronze that same day. The victor will also earn a berth at the U SPORTS championships in Fredericton, with a third berth available to the team that wins the bronze medal.

Inaugural Graduate Student Research Conference features high-profile speakers

word collage for connection grant story
word collage for connection grant story

The inaugural York University Graduate Student Research Conference in the Social Sciences and Humanities (GSRC), titled “Visions, Collaborations, & Transformations”, will feature two high-profile speakers during a two-day event, April 6 and 7. The conference, which is a special multidisciplinary event that aims to connect participants within the social science communities at York University and beyond, will present Kent Monkman as the keynote speaker, and Eddy Robinson as a guest speaker.

Kent Monkman

Monkman, who is well known for his provocative reinterpretations of romantic North American landscapes, will present the talk “Shame and Prejudice: A Story of Resilience” on April 6 from 3 to 4:30pm.

Themes of colonization, sexuality, loss, and resilience – the complexities of historic and contemporary Native American experience – are explored in a variety of mediums, including painting, film/video, performance, and installation.

Kent Monkman, The Subjugation of Truth

His glamorous diva alter-ego Miss Chief appears in much of his work as an agent provocateur, trickster, and supernatural being, who reverses the colonial gaze, upending received notions of history and indigenous people. With Miss Chief at centre stage, Monkman has created memorable site specific performances at the McMichael Canadian Art Collection, The Royal Ontario Museum, The Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian, Compton Verney, and most recently at the Denver Art Museum.

His award-winning short film and video works have been screened at various national and international festivals, including the 2007 and 2008 Berlinale, and the 2007 and 2015 Toronto International Film Festival.

Monkman has been awarded the Egale Leadership Award, the Indspire Award and the Hnatyshyn Foundation Visual Arts Award.

His work has been exhibited internationally and is widely represented in the collections of major Museums in Canada and the U.S.

He is represented by Pierre-Francois Ouellette Art Contemporain in Montreal and Toronto, Trepanier Baer in Calgary and Peters Projects in Santa Fe.

Robinson is a York University alumni, noted Anishinaabe artist, musician, educator, facilitator, trainer and speaker. Born and raised in Toronto, Eddy Anishinaabe/Muskegowuk Cree did not enjoy a childhood of privilege. This narrative is not unique and is shared in similar ways by many other Indigenous people throughout Canada. Robinson will be the guest speaker on April 6 during the Welcome and Acknowledgement of the Land, from 9 to 10am.

Eddy Robinson

Over the past 25 years, Robinson has worked on the front line of social services advocating for Indigenous communities locally, provincially, and nationally. He’s involved with numerous school boards, colleges, universities, corporate institutions, and several Indigenous organizations.

With the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada putting forth the 94 Calls to Action Eddy engages Truth and Reconciliation through a personal narrative of his journey not only growing up as an urban Indigenous person, but also reflecting on his professional experience with Indigenous organizations on local, provincial and national levels. He discusses the utter importance of engaging Indigenous people in a respectful and reciprocal way when it comes to educational institutions and child protection agencies. Reconciliation for Robinson is not only a personal journey of forgiveness of self and others in support of past generations but is very much about being mentally, physically, emotionally and spiritually part of this legacy of resurgence.

The power of the Dewegun (drum) brought Robinson to the doorway of ceremony and other aspects of his Indigenous Way of Knowing. It was during the early years of his adolescence that he was first exposed to the sound of the Dewegun (drum) calling him to a heritage that he now credits with saving his life and setting him on a good path in life.

In addition to the featured speakers, the event will host an exciting Panel on April 7 from 9:15 to 10am titled “Putting Your Research To Work”. It includes Michael Johnny and Krista Jensen (Knowledge Mobilization Unit, York University), Carolyn Steele (Career Centre, York University) and a number of graduate students (to be announced).

Registration for the Graduate Student Research Conference is now open. For more background on the event, visit this story.

For the full event program and the conference details, visit gsrc.info.yorku.ca.

The event is a pay-what-you-can admission (a suggested donation of $15 to $20), and registration includes two light breakfasts, two lunches, as well as a reception at The Underground on April 6. Registration also includes entry to panel sessions, Kent Monkman’s keynote address, Eddy Robinson’s speech and performance, as well as, the innovative and open space sessions.

Register online at gsrc.info.yorku.ca/registration.

Questions about the Graduate Student Research Conference can be sent to gradconf@edu.yorku.ca. Follow news about the GRSC on Twitter @gsrc_yu.