New Project: “Laying Our Stories Bare: Explorations of Accountability, Social Justice Solidarity and Decolonization by Racialized Settlers”

The historical and present-day colonization of Canada has impacted every facet of life for Indigenous nations upon whose lands this country has been built through violence and genocidal policies and legislation. The systemic and structural violence of colonization and colonial practices that continue to act as the legal, political, and social foundations of Canada must be challenged. Currently, the discourse of settler responsibility in Canada focuses almost exclusively on white settlers, erasing the role of racialized settlers in Canada. “Laying Our Stories Bare”, will bring together racialized settler scholars, activists, community members, and service providers to explore our roles in historic and on-going colonization, as well our responsibility to actively contribute to decolonization in Canada.

The project will begin by inviting racialized settlers to participate in monthly discussion meetings about racialized settler colonialism, immigration, social justice, and decolonization. Secondly, there will be a creative/writing retreat for racialized settlers that will include daily sharing circles to explore the impact of structural and systemic colonial violence in our lives and on our work. Our roles in the historic and continued colonization of this country will be discussed, as well as the work we must do to support Indigenous-led decolonization.  Individual and collaborative written/spoken word pieces as well as other art-based items will be created at the retreat.  The creative pieces created within the project will be presented by a panel of participants at the 2015 Critical Ethnic Studies Conference, Sovereignties and Colonialisms: Surviving Racism, Extraction and Dispossession.  A paper focused on racialized settler accountability will be presented at the 2014 Strangers in New Homelands conference.

Ongoing Project: “Communities of practice, circles of change building dialogue on social justice, advocacy and activism”

“Structural violence” refers to social structures that cause harm and prevent people from meeting their basic human needs, and is seen in absolute and relative poverty and other forms of social disadvantage. Social institutions (e.g., economic, legal, educational, health care) that systematically harm some groups disproportionately contribute to structural violence.  Forms of discrimination such as racism, sexism, and classism, and forms of normativity (such as heteronormativity), are also structures that create such harm.

Structural violence is a major cause of premature death and unnecessary disability, and is a fundamental cause of mental health and substance use problems. Yet, most research, policy and social approaches to these problems focus on individuals, with little attention to these larger causal mechanisms. For example individuals are offered various forms of therapy, but poverty is unaddressed, and the ability to afford therapy unchallenged.

This project will identify strategies for affecting social change related to multiple forms of structural violence, such as racial violence and abject poverty that create and sustain inequities in mental health and problematic substance use.

The project will begin with the creation of dialogue in the investigators’ respective communities/ circles of practice aimed at bringing together multiple voices and perspectives re: addressing structural violence and structural inequity as it pertains to mental health and substance use with attention to causal relationships and strategies for change.

Next we will gather strategies from a wide range of service providers, policy makers, activists and academics from our areas of practice to create a foundation for action (just prior to the yearly CGSM Meeting). Lastly, we will focus on the creation of a book proposal from the compilation of voices/perspectives.

Ongoing Project: “The Methadone Mess: An international collaborative project to examine the social construction and lived experience of Methadone Maintenance for patients and providers through an intersectional lens”

Methadone Maintenance Therapy (MMT) is an effective, evidence-based medical treatment for individuals struggling with long-term opioid addiction. MMT involves the prescription of methadone as an opioid substitute to assist in the management, reduction and cessation of illicit opioid use; MMT is nationally and internationally the most widely used form of treatment for people who are dependent on opioids. Despite multiple demonstrations of its effectiveness at reducing the social, physical and fiscal harms associated with addiction to opioids, MMT continues to occupy a turbulent and often controversial position within health care and society.

To date, there has been relatively little critical examination of the social construction of MMT. There has also been very little examination of the factors that influence the way MMT is positioned, perceived, and experienced, by MMT prescribers and patients. The seed grant received by the Centre will facilitate the development of an international partnership Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) research proposal, which will serve to address this research gap.

The project plan directly responds to this critical research gap in three important ways:

1) by building on knowledge garnered at a preliminary two-day workshop forum hosted by the research team. This forum provided a platform for shared learning, knowledge exchange, discussion, and debate amongst researchers from across Canada, Australia, the United Kingdom, and the USA in dialogue with public service providers and persons with experience of MMT;

2) by further developing and supporting collaboration between the international community, service providers and persons who have experienced MMT; and

3) by developing a research agenda and specific CIHR funding proposal to examine the social construction and lived experience of MMT in an international context. Some of the core themes selected for incorporation in the CIHR research proposal are: social inequities, gender, mental health, injection drug use, intersectionality and violence.

This project will contribute to the establishment of a research program that will draw on varying perspectives and positions relating to MMT to inform the development of substance use treatment and policy strategies that better serve care providers and service users.

Completed Project: “Understanding the Links between Structural Inequities, Woman Abuse, Substance Use and Mental Ill Health”

The Violence, Mental Health and Substance Use team started their first seed project August 1st, 2010. A final project summary was posted in February 2012.

Proposal Summary: As part of the ”Building Bridges: Linking Woman Abuse, Substance use and Mental Ill Health” research project, the Woman Abuse Response Program at BC Women’s Hospital and Health Centre has recently completed focus groups with 100 women impacted by past and/or current experiences of abuse and substance use and/or mental ill health across BC. Preliminary findings indicate that women impacted by violence, mental ill health and/or addiction face multiple, serious structural gaps and barriers when trying to access services that address these overlapping issues. This project will further analyze this data in order to identify structural and health inequities faced by this vulnerable population of women. An intersectional framework will be utilized to strengthen our ability to understand the intersections among multiple forms of structural inequities, including gender, socioeconomic, and racialized inequalities.  As such, the main outcomes of the project will be a codebook and a summary document which outline the structural and health inequalities faced by women impacted by violence and mental ill health and/or substance use in BC. These will inform the future writing of scholarly articles and research such as pilot projects and grant applications undertaken by the Violence, Mental Health and Substance Use theme group. In addition, key gaps in research related to structural and health inequities affecting women with experiences of abuse, substance use and/or mental ill health will be identified, which will help define future research opportunities for the group.

At the May 2011 Critical Inquiries Workshop the project team presented a poster and handed out pamphlets on the progress of the project.