New Project: “At the intersection of violent crime, mental heath and the media: The case of Vincent Li”

This study will examine how the mainstream media portrayed the case of Vincent Li and how race, gender and class differences shaped the outcome. Li’s case made national headlines due to the grisly nature of his crime. He was found not criminally responsible for the offence due to his diagnosis of schizophrenia. Media and public reaction to his case was harsh, with many people dismissing his mental health issues and demanding punitive treatment. Mentally ill offenders, or dual deviants, such as Vincent Li, are in a unique position at the intersection of both the mental health and legal systems. How they are understood greatly affects how they will be dealt with. Using Vincent Li as a case study, this project will explore how the mainstream news media represents issues of mental health and crime, how race, class and gender differences shaped these views, and the impact this representation has on prevailing myths and stereotypes about mentally ill offenders.

Ongoing Project: “Drug Prohibition, Addiction and the Regulation of Reproduction and Mothering”

Through a one-day workshop and one evening public lecture, this project aims to foster critical dialogue about the intersections of drug prohibition, crime/criminality, women, drugs, addiction, and the regulation of reproduction and mothering. The workshop will bring together academic and legal experts, program directors and service providers of innovative harm reduction maternity units, and outreach programs for women. The main aims of the workshop are to continue to build upon previous seed-grant projects by gaining new knowledge about women and drugs in an under-researched area: the intersection of drug prohibition, criminalization/crime, and the regulation of reproduction and mothering; to expand on gender and social inequities perspectives; and to provide a forum for leading edge experts to come together to learn from one another and to use the workshop as a tool for community engagement and social change. The workshop will be open to CGSM members, with a limit of 75 participants, including speakers. The evening lecture will be open to the public (about 50 participants) and co-hosted and coordinated with the Canadian Drug Policy Coalition.

Completed Research: “Reel Lives: Madness, Addiction and Crime in Canada One-Day Workshop”

Kathy Kendall led the team in hosting a one-day workshop titled Reel Lives: Madness, Addiction and Crime in Canada on May 11th 2013 at SFU Harbour Centre. The workshop built upon the work of Wendy Chan and Dorthy Chunn and Susan Boyd by bringing together academics, documentary filmmakers, individuals with lived experience of madness and/or addiction and/or criminalization and their advocates and service providers to engage in critical dialogue about Canadian documentary films depicting madness, addiction and crime.

The morning sessions explored the theme ‘From Projection to Participation: Critical Engagement with Documentary Film’ through presentations by Mona Gleason, Harry Karlinsky, Lanny Beckman and Megan Davies. The afternoon sessions centered around the theme, ‘Reframing Madness, Addiction and Crime Through Social Issues Documentary Films’ by exploring the views and experiences of award-winning documentary filmmakers Janis Cole, Coleen Rajotte and Nettie Wild as well as the subject of one of Wild’s film, Dean Wilson.

Overall, the workshop moved analysis of documentary films toward an intersectional analysis and demonstrated the potential for such films to facilitate community engagement and social change. An online archive of the workshop is under development.

Completed Research: “Addiction and Drug Crime: Radio Documentaries, 1920-1969”

The objectives of the “Addiction and Drug Crime: Radio Documentaries, 1920-1969” project is to build on an earlier CGSM seed grant project: “Media Representations on Madness, Addiction and Crime/Criminalization: A Preliminary, Intersectional Analysis of Documentary Films Used for Public Education in Canada.” That project created the foundation for a complimentary pilot project on addiction and drug crime radio documentaries.

The pilot project goals are:

  1. Conduct a systematic search and compile a chronological bibliography of radio shows about illegal drugs used for public education in Canada from 1920 to 1969 (even if they were originally produced elsewhere (e.g. the U.S. or Britain);
  2. Develop a literature review on radio educational/documentaries, time line, and investigate and track historical reports and discursive shifts in legislation and broadcasting;
  3. Listen to, transcribe and analyze a small sample of radio documentaries;
  4. Prepare a coding manual and a coding sheet for a thematic, intersectional analysis of the larger radio sample;
  5. Organize two researcher-run focus groups at Vancouver Area Network of Drug Users (VANDU) to listen to and discuss the themes that emerge from select documentary/educational radio shows;
  6. Review and analyze newspaper/magazine coverage of the radio documentaries in the sample and their reception;
  7. Analyze study guide materials for each documentary (if available).

The project findings will be disseminated at several public gatherings, CGSM, referred articles in appropriate academic journals, and professional conferences.

Completed Research:  “Media Representations of Madness, Addiction and Crime/Criminalization:  A Preliminary, Intersectional Analysis of Documentary Films Used for Public Education in Canada, 1920-1969”

The Criminal Justice System, Mental Health and Substance Use research team started their first seed project in May, 2010.

The proposed research is the first of a two-part project that will provide the foundation for a more comprehensive analysis of documentary films on madness, addiction and crime/criminalization used for public educational purposes during the period from 1920 to 2010.  We will look at films that focus on madness and addiction alone or in tandem and in relation to the presence or absence of a link to crime/criminalization.

Our goals are: (1)  to examine depictions of and investigate linkages between madness, addiction and (violent) crime in educational media;  (2)  to track historical and discursive shifts in perspectives on madness, addiction and criminalization; and (3)  to analyze the gender dimensions of the above in relation to race, class, and other social relations.

At the May 2011 Critical Inquiries Workshop the project team presented a project poster and handed out project pamphlets that contain the most up to date material currently available on this project.