Osgoode grad hopes scholarship will help inspire Indigenous youth

Osgoode Hall Law School graduand Justin Thompson hopes a major scholarship he recently won will help inspire other Indigenous youth to reach for the stars.

Justin Thompson portrait
Justin Thompson

The member of Nipissing First Nation near North Bay, Ont., who officially graduates from York University’s Osgoode at Spring Convocation, was recently named a recipient of the $10,000 John Wesley Beaver Memorial Award. John Wesley Beaver was a former chief of the Alderville First Nation in eastern Ontario who served as a fighter pilot in the Second World War and rose to become a high-ranking executive at Ontario Power Generation. The scholarship is offered annually by Ontario Power Generation through Indspire, a national Indigenous charity that invests in the education of First Nations, Inuit and Métis people.

“Indigenous students want to see someone like themselves who is achieving things,” said Thompson. “So getting the award helps to show that anything is possible for Indigenous students and the sky is the limit.”

Thompson, who is the first in his immediate family to attend university, said the award also represents for him one more sign of hope that Indigenous youth and their communities can look forward to a brighter future after many generations of suffering under colonial oppression. His own great-grandmother, Agnes, was a residential school survivor.

In 2014, for example, his community enacted its own constitution, effectively supplanting the federal Indian Act. In addition, Nipissing First Nation is currently developing its own citizenship law, which will allow the community – not the federal government – to decide who is a citizen. Alongside these developments, he added, the community is enjoying better times economically and is eagerly awaiting the results of the Restoule case, a landmark case currently before the Supreme Court of Canada that could see members of the Anishinaabe Nation in northern Ontario win better compensation for the lands they agreed to share with the Crown under the 1850 Robinson Huron Treaty.

“We’ve seen all these exciting changes,” said Thompson. “So I want to play my part in helping my community become more sovereign and to exercise its rights of self-determination, loosening the grip of the Indian Act.”

Even as a teenager, he said, that desire drove his decision to become a lawyer. The scholarship has helped him to realize that dream, he added. In July, after completing his bar admission exams, he will begin articling in the Toronto office of Olthuis Kleer Townshend LLP, one of Canada’s leading Aboriginal law firms.

As an aspiring Indigenous lawyer, Thompson said, Osgoode was his first choice of law school after he completed undergraduate and graduate studies at Trent University in Canadian and Indigenous studies. His graduate research there focused on the issue of Indigenous over-incarceration and the lasting impacts of the Indian Act related to the criminalization of Indigenous individuals.

“I came to Osgoode specifically for the Indigenous Intensive,” he said. “And the Indigenous faculty here have been an amazing source of support.”

The only program of its kind in North America, the Intensive Program in Indigenous Lands, Resources, and Governments (IPILRG) explores the legal issues related to Indigenous Peoples and Indigenous rights through the combination of a rigorous academic experience with challenging placements in Indigenous, Aboriginal or environmental law.

“The Intensive was my favourite aspect of law school,” said Thompson. “It was a bit disrupted by COVID, but [Professors] Amar [Bhatia] and Jeff [Hewitt] made sure we had all the support we needed.”

As an Indigenous law student, Thompson said, other highlights of his Osgoode experience included participating in the Kawaskimhon National Aboriginal Moot and his leadership roles with the Osgoode Indigenous Students’ Association (OISA).

“We took on a lot of important initiatives,” he said, citing in his third year the association’s ReDress Week event, its Moose Hide Campaign against domestic and gender-based violence and its Orange Shirt Day, which featured guest speaker and Osgoode alumna Kimberley Murray, the federal government’s Independent Special Interlocutor for Missing Children and Unmarked Graves and Burial Sites associated with Indian Residential Schools.

Students team with UNESCO for educational videos on sustainability

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York University Bachelor of Arts (BA) Educational Studies students teamed up with the UNESCO Chair in Reorienting Education towards Sustainability to create educational videos covering current global education themes.

Students in their final year of the BA Educational Studies degree program are required to take a capstone course (EDST4999). In keeping with the program’s goal to look at all aspects of education, including policy, the psychology of education, teaching and adult education, seven students from the program met with the UNESCO team to understand the organization’s role within the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and learn about the efforts in achieving quality education, in particular through the UNESCO Associated Schools Network of more than 12,500 schools worldwide.

Charles Hopkins
Charles Hopkins

The students worked in collaboration with York UNESCO Chair, Professor Charles Hopkins, and Executive Co-ordinator Katrin Kohl, as well as UNESCO Project Officer Katja Anger during the 2022/2023 York U Capstone Course in Educational Studies led by Celia Popovic, course director and Faculty of Education professor. They explored how to best explain sustainability, the SDGs, education for sustainable development (ESD) or global citizenship education (GCED) in video segments and created three educational videos – from conceptualizing, scripting, performing, shooting, editing and finalizing the video product.

“Participating students had been passionate about sustainable development, climate action and social justice before. Yet, with their new knowledge and an opportunity to have an impact beyond the classroom, they saw that their voice was important and felt empowered to make a difference now and in the future,” said Popovic, undergraduate program director, academic programs in the Faculty of Education.

The student videos will now be shared with UNESCO Associated Schools in Canada and beyond, and other young people will have the opportunity to engage with the perspectives and perceptions of their peers.

One of several videos created by the students and featured on UNESCO Chair at York University Toronto YouTube channel

“The videos present young voices to the discussion of our global challenges today and tomorrow,” said Hopkins. “This project is one example of York University’s Faculty of Education seeking ways to respond to the pressing challenge inherent in United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.”

York University in the top 40 globally in Times Higher Education Impact Rankings 

Times Higher Education Impact Rankings banner

La version française suit la version anglaise.  

Dear colleagues,

York University is among the top 40 institutions for global leadership on advancing the United Nations 17 Sustainable Development Goals, according to this year’s Times Higher Education Impact Rankings, published today.

We recognize that this could not be accomplished without the support and dedication of our entire community. We would like to thank our faculty, students, staff, course directors, alumni and our many partners for their leadership and for prioritizing positive change in research, teaching, academic pursuits and community projects. Your individual contributions and partnerships to support these goals have been felt around the world and this is why York has maintained a strong position for the fifth consecutive year.

With 100+ additional universities joining the rankings this year, York has done exceedingly well to maintain its position of global leadership, placing 40th out of more than 1,500 competing institutions. York’s vision and values shine through in our performance, with the University placing in the top 100 in the world in nine of the 17 SDGs, and a strong global standing in the following categories:

• SDG 11 – Sustainable Cities and Communities, York ranks 12th in the world
• SDG 1 – No Poverty, York ranks 21st in the world
• SDG 10 – Reduced Inequalities, York ranks 25th in the world

This is an exciting recognition of the University’s interdisciplinary strengths in sustainability, inclusivity and equity that are amplified by meaningful collaboration with local and global partners and communities. Together we are building a better future by answering the call on some of our most pressing global societal challenges, advancing the University Academic Plan 2020–25 and the SDG Challenge.

We encourage everyone to learn more about what is happening across York to advance the SDGs, and how to get involved and take action.


Rhonda Lenton
President & Vice-Chancellor

Lisa Philipps
Provost & Vice-President Academic

Amir Asif
Vice-President, Research & Innovation

L’Université York se classe parmi les 40 premiers rangs du palmarès Times Higher Education Impact

Chers collègues,
Chères collègues,

L’Université York figure parmi les 40 meilleurs établissements au monde pour son rôle de chef de file dans la promotion des 17 objectifs de développement durable (ODD) des Nations Unies selon le tout dernier palmarès Times Higher Education Impact , qui a été publié aujourd’hui.

Ces résultats ne seraient pas possibles sans le soutien et le dévouement de toute notre communauté. Nous remercions les membres du corps professoral, de la communauté étudiante, du personnel, les directeurs et directrices de cours, l’ensemble des diplômés et nos nombreux partenaires pour leur leadership et pour la priorité qu’ils accordent à la création de changements positifs dans la recherche, l’enseignement, les activités universitaires et les projets communautaires. Vos contributions individuelles et vos partenariats pour soutenir ces objectifs ont eu des répercussions à l’échelle de la planète et ont permis à York de se maintenir en bonne position pour la cinquième année consécutive.

Alors que plus de 100 nouvelles universités se sont ajoutées au classement cette année, York a su préserver son statut de leader mondial en se plaçant à la 40e place parmi les quelque 1 500 établissements en compétition. La vision et les valeurs de York se reflètent dans les résultats de l’Université qui figure parmi les 100 premières pour 9 des 17 ODD et qui occupe une place enviable dans les catégories suivantes :

• ODD 11 – Villes et communautés durables – York est 12e au monde
• ODD 1 – Pas de pauvreté – York est 21e au monde
• ODD 10 – Inégalités réduites – York est 25e au monde

Cette distinction importante témoigne des forces interdisciplinaires de l’Université en matière de durabilité, d’inclusion et d’équité, qui sont amplifiées grâce à une collaboration fructueuse avec des partenaires et des communautés à l’échelle locale et mondiale. Ensemble, nous bâtissons un avenir meilleur en relevant quelques-uns des défis mondiaux les plus pressants et en faisant progresser le Plan académique de l’Université 2020-2025 et le défi des ODD.

Nous encourageons tout le monde à en savoir plus sur ce qui se passe à York pour faire progresser les ODD, et sur des façons de s’impliquer et d’agir.

Sincères salutations,

Rhonda Lenton
Présidente et vice-chancelière

Lisa Philipps
Rectrice et vice-présidente aux affaires académiques

Amir Asif
Vice-président de la recherche et de l’innovation

York ranks among top universities making global impact for positive change 

Times Higher Education Impact Rankings banner

By Ashley Goodfellow Craig, YFile editor

York University continues to stand out as a global leader in building a more just and sustainable future by driving positive change through the shared vision and collective actions of its faculty, course directors, staff, students, alumni and community partners.

The University is positioned among the world’s top 40 universities for advancing the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in the 2023 Times Higher Education Impact Rankings which measure how more than 1,500 universities work to address the most complex and compelling societal issues of our time.

The results of the rankings – the only global report of its kind – recognize York’s interdisciplinary research and innovation strengths in sustainability, inclusivity and equity that have earned the University placing in the top three per cent of universities in the world overall.

Work to advance the SDGs is rooted in the University Academic Plan as reflected in York’s vision to provide a broad demographic of students with access to high-quality education at a research-intensive University that is committed to enhancing the well-being of the communities it serves.

“York University continues to be recognized worldwide for its leadership in advancing the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. York’s top 40 ranking is a testament to the ongoing commitment of our faculty, staff, students and instructors who have taken up the challenge outlined in our University Academic Plan to strengthen our impact,” says President and Vice-Chancellor Rhonda Lenton. “I am grateful to the entire York community for driving positive change and building a better future for everyone.”

The Times Higher Education Impact Rankings considers factors such as research, stewardship, outreach and teaching to determine the rank for each institution. York’s position in the rankings speaks to its strong global standings in the SDGs, with nine of 17 ranked in the top 100. Learn more about the rankings here.

York’s commitment to answering the call to right the future reflects the dedication of faculty, instructors, staff, students and alumni to research, academic pursuits and campus initiatives that advance more inclusive, equitable and sustainable communities.

York community members are encouraged to update their email signatures with the latest rankings and see other ways to amplify this achievement by using this toolkit.

Dahdaleh Institute awards annual seed grants


Following its fourth annual Workshop on Critical Social Science Perspectives in Global Health Research, York University’s Dahdaleh Institute for Global Health Research awarded five researchers $5,000 seed grants to further develop grant proposals and research programs to carry out critical global health research.

All winners of the grants this year embody the critical social science perspectives in global health research that is representative of Dahdaleh’s three research themes: planetary health, global health and humanitarianism, as well as global health foresighting.

The recipients – largely representing the School of Global Health – and their projects are:

Syed Imran Ali, research Fellow in global health and humanitarianism, and Stephanie Gora, assistant professor in civil engineering, will explore community-based participatory water quality monitoring for safe water optimization in the Canadian North.

Chloe Clifford Astbury, postdoctoral researcher in the School of Global Health, will pursue mining, health and environmental change by using systems mapping to understand relationships in complex systems.

Godfred Boateng, assistant professor, director of the Global and Environmental Health Lab, and faculty Fellow at the Dahdaleh Institute, is studying Black anxiety with an exploratory and intervention look at Black families with children in and out of the criminal justice system in Canada.

Ahmad Firas Khalid, faculty Fellow in the Faculty of Health, will use experiential simulation-based learning to increase students’ ability to analyze increasingly complex global health challenges through a mixed methods study.

Gerson Luiz Scheidweiler Ferreira, a postdoctoral Fellow at Dahdaleh will examine how to break barriers to sexual and reproductive health by empowering Venezuelan refugee women in Brazil’s resettlement process.

2023 Critical Perspectives in Global Health Research banner

In keeping with the overall mission of Dahdaleh’s Critical Perspectives in Global Health’s (CPGH), these projects will seek to create greater effectiveness, equity and excellence in global health. The recipients of the seed grant share that in common with many of the projects presented at the Global Health Research Workshop earlier this year, which highlighted research looking at a broad range of issues.

Those included:

  • medical waste management practices in Accra, Ghana since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, presented by Jeffrey Squire, faculty member in the Department of Social Science;
  • the role of social media and how negative sentiments or misinformation contributes to vaccine hesitancy, presented by Blessing Ogbuokiri, postdoctoral Fellow in the Department of Mathematics and Statistics;
  • health-care inequity in post-slavery societies with a specific focus on Quilombolas populations, presented by Simone Bohn, associate professor in Department of Politics;
  • misoprostol and its use in providing reproductive health care during humanitarian emergencies, presented by Maggie MacDonald, associate professor and graduate program director in the Department of Anthropology; and
  • Indigenous Williche peoples acts of ecological repair and how it contributes to planetary health in the past, present and future, presented by Pablo Aránguiz, associate researcher with Young Lives Research Lab at York.

Watch a full recording of the workshop here.

For more information about CPGH, visit its project page.

Learn more about York’s Community Engagement Community of Practice

York's Community of Practice meeting

Members of York’s Community Engagement CoP (CE CoP) steering committee will present on the value and benefits realized by the University’s CoP at C2U Expo this June.

C2U Expo is Community Based Research Canada’s international conference providing leadership and space for both academics and communities to showcase community-campus partnerships that address local and global societal problems.

York’s CE CoP welcomes anyone across its campuses who work with external communities in their scholarship, teaching or professional role, or anyone with an interest in community engagement. The CE CoP provides opportunities for members to interact with colleagues from across the University that: are involved in community engagement; support capacity building and skill development for deeper engagement; facilitate peer learning; and create opportunities for collaboration.

Despite many institutions across Canada participating in community engaged work, few have incorporated a CoP model,” says Shawna Teper, assistant director, Community and Government Relations in the Office of the President. “Many are reaching out to learn more about York’s CE CoP as they contemplate what might strengthen community engagement within their own institutions.”

Presenting at C2U Expo is an opportunity for York to showcase its leadership in this area and share how, within a large and decentralized university, a CoP can serve an important convening and coordination role to support members that incorporate community engagement into their work or are interested in learning more about it.

Those interested in learning more about this presentation at C2U Expo, or would like to engage with others that are involved in community engagement work at York, are invited to the next meeting, which will be held virtually on Tuesday, June 27 from 10  to 11:30 a.m. The invitation link is enclosed here.

York University’s Markham Campus welcomes community to first Spring Showcase

Markham Centre Campus FEATURED image

York University’s Markham Campus held its first Spring Showcase on May 18, 2023, at Yspace Markham, inviting the community to learn about the new campus and its programs. The event drew in hundreds of community members eager to learn more about a world-renowned higher education institution like York University establishing roots in Markham and York Region.

Student volunteers, staff and faculty members showcased the unique programs and features that will make Markham Campus an exciting addition to the region. The buzz from families and prospective students contributed to an evening of excitement and anticipation for the new campus.

High school students shared enthusiasm for the convenient location of the campus, as well as the opportunity to learn more about the programs it will offer.

Students and professors mingle at the Markham Campus Spring Showcase
Parents and prospective students speaking with program representatives at the Spring Showcase information fair

Gordon Binsted, deputy provost for Markham Campus, kickstarted the event with an insightful information session delivered in the Markham Cineplex. He outlined the tech-forward and entrepreneurial programs and key features of the campus before inviting attendees to ask questions. Audience questions ranged from specific programs of interest to access to public transit to transportation between campuses to the campus’ anticipated opening date. Attendees also learned:

  • Markham Campus is located next to nearby transit options with increased service plans currently in the works for GO’s Unionville Station (only a five-minute walk from the campus);
  • plans are underway for a shuttle between the Keele and Markham campuses; and
  • future students can apply as soon as this fall for programs beginning at the campus in Fall 2024.

“Imagine having all the amenities and opportunities of a larger campus like Keele Campus, but in a more intimate setting at the Markham Campus,” says Binsted. ”You’ll have the opportunity to connect with professors and classmates on a more personal level and access a wide range of resources and amenities right on campus. Moreover, every program emphasizes experiential education, providing you with hands-on learning experiences in the community, labs, and work-integrated settings. This not only equips you with valuable work experience but also creates a positive impact on the surrounding community.”

One of the highlights of the evening was the information fair, featuring program booths representing Markham Campus programs. Prospective students and their parents were able to interact with faculty members and program representatives, gaining valuable insights into their programs of interest and empowering them to make informed decisions about their educational journeys. This interactive experience helped attendees envision the endless possibilities and opportunities that await them at the new campus.

Group photo of Markham Campus Spring Showcase volunteer organizers
Student volunteers, faculty, and staff members who contributed to the success of the event

“I’m really excited about the co-op placement aspect of the Markham Campus programs,” says Melissa Agaba, an international development studies student at York University. “This is especially helpful for newcomers and first-time students since they won’t have to wait until post-grad to gain valuable experience. They can avoid the frantic scramble in their final year to secure work experience.”

“This showcase was an excellent opportunity to share the excitement around art and technology, and to bring to life the collective vision we have been working on at Markham Campus,” says Rebecca Caines, professor, creative technologies. “It feels like we’re one step closer to moving into the campus and making exciting things happen.”

Anesa Albert, associate director of communications, recruitment and digital engagement, Faculty of Graduate Studies, says she was impressed with the turnout from those interested in graduate programs. Prospective graduate students expressed a keen interest in the integrated work experience component of programs, she said.

“As a biomedical student, I’m specifically interested in the new Biotechnology Management program,” says Oluwatimileyin Aina, a biomedical science student at York University. “I’m looking forward to seeing the new environment, meeting new people, and exploring new opportunities. I feel like Markham Campus will be the next big thing in Ontario.”

When Markham Campus opens its doors in Spring 2024, it will be a hub of innovation, learning and collaboration, further enriching the vibrant communities of Markham and York Region.

Visit www.yorku.ca/markham to learn more about Markham Campus.

National Indigenous History Month honours histories, cultures, contributions

La version française suit la version anglaise. 

Dear York community,

June is National Indigenous History Month. It is a time to honour Indigenous histories, cultures and contributions to society.

York University is taking important steps to integrate Indigenous knowledges and perspectives as part of our well-being strategy and commitment to decolonization.

In early May, the University launched the Decolonizing, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (DEDI) Strategy. York University is among the first post-secondary institutions in Canada to include decolonization in a meaningful and thoughtful way within an equity strategy. Doing so acknowledges that decolonization is essential to the principles of equity, diversity and inclusion.

We have continued to make progress on the recommendations in the Indigenous Framework and the Decolonizing Research Administration Report. In July, the first wholly autonomous Indigenous Research Ethics Board (IREB) will launch at York University – a first for a post-secondary institution in Canada. York also completed the pilot round of Indigenous Research Seed Grants and secured an additional three years of funding at $250,000 per year. A full-time traditional counsellor position was also created for the Centre for Indigenous Student Services. These actions will support decolonization in research and administration while enhancing the experiences of Indigenous students.

While progress is being made, the journey towards decolonization and reconciliation is ongoing and requires consistent action and a conscious commitment to meet our goals.

We invite you to visit the Indigenous History Month website to learn about and participate in the events around campus, including a lecture titled “Writing Home: How to begin a conversation with the Land, a personal journey of walking, listening, looking and making” featuring keynote speaker Bonnie Devine, an Anishinaabe artist, painter and curator. The lecture will take place on June 12, 4 to 6 p.m. at the Helliwell Centre, Room 1014, Osgoode Hall Law School.

We are grateful for the opportunities to continue dialogue, raise awareness and take meaningful action.  

Thank you. Merci. Miigwech, Anushiik.

Rhonda Lenton
President and Vice-Chancellor

Alice Pitt
Interim Vice-President Equity, People and Culture

Susan D. Dion
Associate Vice-President Indigenous Initiatives

Déclaration à l’occasion du Mois national de l’histoire autochtone

Chers membres de la communauté de York,

Juin est le Mois national de l’histoire autochtone à York. C’est l’occasion de rendre hommage à l’histoire, à la culture et aux contributions des Autochtones à la société.

L’Université York prend des mesures importantes pour intégrer les savoirs et les perspectives autochtones dans le cadre de sa stratégie de bien-être et de son engagement en faveur de la décolonisation.

Au début du mois de mai, l’Université a lancé la Stratégie de décolonisation, d’équité, de diversité et d’inclusion (DEDI). L’Université York est l’un des premiers établissements postsecondaires au Canada à inclure la décolonisation de manière réfléchie dans une stratégie de DEDI. Ce faisant, elle reconnaît que la décolonisation fait partie intégrante des principes d’équité, de diversité et d’inclusion.

Nous ne cessons de mettre en œuvre les recommandations du Cadre stratégique autochtone et du Rapport pour la décolonisation de l’administration de la recherche. En juillet, un comité inaugural d’éthique de la recherche autochtone (IREB) entièrement autonome verra le jour à l’Université York, une première pour un établissement d’enseignement supérieur au Canada. York a également conclu le projet pilote du Fonds de stimulation de la recherche autochtone et a obtenu un financement supplémentaire annuel de 250 000 $ pour trois ans. Un poste de conseiller traditionnel à temps plein a également été créé pour le Centre de services aux étudiants autochtones. Ces actions soutiendront la décolonisation dans la recherche et l’administration tout en améliorant l’expérience des étudiantes et étudiants autochtones.

Bien que des progrès aient été accomplis, le parcours vers la décolonisation et la réconciliation se poursuit et nécessite une action cohérente et un engagement conscient pour atteindre nos objectifs.

Nous vous invitons à consulter le site Web du Mois de l’histoire autochtone pour en savoir plus sur les événements organisés sur le campus et y participer, notamment une conférence intitulée Writing Home:  How to begin a conversation with the Land, a personal journey of walking, listening, looking and making” avec l’oratrice principale Bonnie Devine, artiste, peintre et conservatrice anishinaabe. La conférence (en anglais) aura lieu le 12 juin, de 16 h à 18 h, au Centre Helliwell, salle 1014, École de droit Osgoode Hall.

Nous nous réjouissons des possibilités qui nous sont offertes de poursuivre le dialogue, d’encourager la sensibilisation et de prendre des mesures significatives. 

Thank you. Merci. Miigwech, Anushiik.

Rhonda Lenton
Présidente et vice-chancelière

Alice Pitt
Vice-présidente intérimaire de l’équité, des personnes et de la culture

Susan D. Dion
Vice-présidente associée aux initiatives autochtones

Congress 2023 celebrates Indigenous education initiative Wüléelham


By Elaine Smith

Join the Faculty of Education for “Presenting Wüléelham: The Gifts of Our People,” a May 31 celebration of the Faculty’s Indigenous education initiatives and the visionary behind them – Professor Susan Dion, York University’s inaugural associate vice-president, Indigenous initiatives and a Lenape and Potawatomi scholar, with mixed Irish and French ancestry.

Susan Dion
Professor Susan Dion, York University’s inaugural associate vice-president, Indigenous initiatives

Wüléelham translates from Lenape as “Making Good Tracks,” and the program has led many Indigenous students on a journey to becoming educators and academics themselves. Its options – the Waaban Indigenous teacher education program and the master’s and PhD cohorts – were developed to highlight the specific strengths of urban Indigenous communities. They are not intended to be taken in a linear sequence; instead, students make their own tracks, choosing to participate based on their timelines and interests. 

“Susan [Dion] saw the opportunities to develop these programs and made it happen,” said Pamela Toulouse, a visiting scholar at the Faculty and the emcee for the day’s events. “We want to celebrate these programs and honour her for seeing the possibilities.”

The event takes place from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. in the McEwen Auditorium, Room 141 in the Seymour Schulich Building and is open to Congress 2023 attendees and the local community. It features a traditional opening and closing by Elder Pauline Shirt, three panel discussions and a Circle on the Gifts of Our People, where Dion will be awarded with a Star blanket at 2 p.m.

“The Star is about being visionary and it is a reminder of the possibilities Susan gave us,” said Toulouse. “When we wrap her in it, it is letting her know that the community will always hold and take care of her and that we are okay, too.”

Students in the Wuleelham program
Participants in the Wuleelham program

The three panels will demonstrate the benefits of the Wüléelham programs. A Waaban panel happening at 10:30 a.m. will feature alumni from the teacher education program discussing what they learned and the gifts gained and carried into the workplace. A second panel at 11:45 a.m. will include graduate students from the Master of Education (Med) Urban Indigenous Cohort, focusing on the opportunities they have had. Finally, a faculty-staff panel will start at 1:15 p.m. and this group will share their stories about working with the students who have come through Wüléelham.

Shirt, who will open and close the program, is one of the driving forces behind the Wandering Spirit School, a learning environment that is culturally safe and nurtured their child’s Indigenous identity.

“There is a special relationship between Elder Pauline, Susan and Wüléelham,” Toulouse said. “Wandering Spirit School is the place where many of the Wabaan students go to do their teaching placements; it’s a downtown school. Pauline is a main reason that the school came into being and a leader in Indigenous education.”

York University and the Federation for Humanities and Social Sciences will host Congress 2023 from May 27 to June 2. Register here to attend, community passes are available and term dates have been adjusted to align with timelines for this year’s event.

Microlecture Series in Sustainable Living: Building a better future with Lina Brand Correa

Globe and York branded box for the Microlecture Series launch

York University’s free Microlecture Series in Sustainable Living is an innovative, interdisciplinary and open access program that gives participants the opportunity to earn a first-of-its-kind digital badge in sustainable living.

Throughout the Microlecture Series in Sustainable Living, six of York University’s world-renowned experts share research, thoughts and advice on a range of critical topics related to sustainability. Their leadership and expertise, however, extends beyond the six-minute presentations.

Over the next several weeks, YFile will present a six-part series featuring the professors’ work, their expert insights into York’s contributions to sustainability, and how accepting the responsibility of being a sustainable living ambassador can help right the future.

Part two features Assistant Professor Lina Brand Correa.

Lina Brand Correa, photo by Joseph Burrell
Lina Brand Correa

Lina Brand Correa is an assistant professor in the Faculty of Environmental & Urban Change (EUC) and a coordinator for the Business and the Environment graduate diploma. Her research uses an ecological economics lens and focuses primarily on energy and well-being issues, and their intersection. She is interested in exploring topics all along the energy chain, from “EROI” – or energy return on investment – on the energy supply side, to “energy poverty” on the energy demand side, and many other topics in between.

A champion of energy transformations, rather than simply reforms or transitions, Brand Correa’s work is as illuminating as it is pressing. Warning her students and contemporaries about the dangers of the rebound effect – whereby advances in energy efficiency result in greater energy use due to reductions in cost, such that any possible energy savings are undone before they are realized; the necessity for reductions in overall levels of energy use, particularly in the Global North; and the injustices embedded in an extremely unequal energy landscape – she demonstrates the immediate need for perspective shifts, not just in the realm of technology, but in the social, economic and political spheres as well.

Q: What does it mean to be a “sustainable living ambassador” and how does it foster positive change? 

A: To me being a sustainable living ambassador means enacting, in your day-to-day life, the type of world you would like to live in. Every day we play all sorts of different roles. Yes, we are consumers and our consumption choices matter, but we are so much more than that: we are citizens, friends, family and community members, students, teachers, employers and employees, activists, teammates, carers, neighbours, campaigners, customers, constituents and voters, and so on.

By realizing that we play all these roles, and thinking about how we can work to create the world we would like to live in in all the spheres where we interact with others, I think sustainable living ambassadors can foster positive change. However, this work requires asking difficult questions, of ourselves and of others, and actively deciding to do things differently. Importantly, this will likely include increasing the spheres where we interact with others, as it is only as broader communities, rather than as individuals, that we will foster true change.

Q: What would make you most proud for viewers to take away from your lecture, and the series as a whole?

A: From my lecture in particular, I would be very proud if viewers could take away a critical lens on current energy issues, questioning proposed solutions that focus exclusively on technological improvements. Our climate and energy issues are not a technological problem which we can engineer ourselves out of. Our climate and energy issues are embedded in broader social, economic and political issues, and this is the time to tackle them. And I think that is the message of the series as a whole: we cannot forget about people and society when we are thinking about solving environmental challenges.

Q: Equity and equality are a common theme throughout these sustainability lectures. Why is that such a critical component of sustainability? 

A: In my view, equity and justice are central to sustainability for two main reasons. On the one hand, we cannot achieve sustainability with high levels of inequality. High concentrations of income and wealth are linked to disproportionally high levels of environmental impact. This is certainly true for greenhouse gas emissions and energy use. Both between and within countries, there are certain segments of the population who are disproportionally driving emissions. So tackling carbon and energy inequalities is key for sustainability, including addressing extravagant levels of wealth accumulation and income inequality.  

On the other hand, addressing inequalities is the ethical thing to do. We can’t focus on saving our ecosystems without focusing on bringing everyone along. Many climate and energy policies are proposed and assessed in relation to their environmental outcomes. However, the social outcomes of climate policies are just as important, if not more. That means, amongst other things for example, correcting the wrongs of the past at an international level – including extractive colonial practices that remain today as unequal terms of trade and debt-based financing – and lifting people out of poverty and deprivation, for example, through guaranteed access to basic services.

Q: Are there changes you’ve made in your work at York that other York community members can learn from? 

A: In my work at York, I’ve tried to change my teaching style to focus on preparing students to deal with real-life situations, rather than staying in a conceptual world. I encourage students to relate what we are learning in class to their day-to-day lives and to what they are seeing around them, in the news, on social media, in politics, at the workplace. I also try to encourage them to be creative about change, how it can happen and what can the future look like. 

Moreover, I try to engage with initiatives that seek to generate change at a broader level. For instance, I follow the work of YUFA’s Climate Emergency Committee and York U Fossil Free, and will also be following the work of York University’s Office for Sustainability.

Q: How do you view collective responsibility vs. personal responsibility in creating a more sustainable future? 

A: I think we need both, in tandem. Collectively we need to enable and support people to be able to make individual decisions that support a more sustainable future. And individually we need to make changes that will push the collective to take the responsibility for creating the conditions for such a future.

Q: How is York leading the way towards a more sustainable future?

A: Sustainability is a key area of focus in my own Faculty (EUC), where many of my colleagues and I research and teach with a focus on environmental and social justice. York U’s Chief Sustainability Officer, Mike Layton, is an alum from EUC’s Master’s in Environmental Studies (MES). Like Mike, many of our alumni go on to make real change towards sustainability in their communities and work environments. It is there, in our alumni, where I see York having the greatest impact towards a more sustainable future. 

York is also considering questions of sustainability across its own operations, taking important and commendable steps. The University has an Office of Sustainability, tasked with collegially developing a shared vision of a sustainable future, setting targets and strategies, implementing and promoting them, and monitoring the University’s progress towards that vision. However, given the scale of the interlocked crises we are facing, there is still much more to do (for example divestment from fossil fuels). I think York has the potential to truly lead the way towards a more sustainable future, in all aspects of University life, but it requires bold and brave actions from everyone in the University community.

Visit the Microlecture Series in Sustainable Living to see Brand Correa’s full lecture, as well as those by the other five experts, and earn your Sustainable Living Ambassador badge. Watch for part three of this series in an upcoming issue of YFile. For part one, go here.