Valerie Korinek of the College of Arts and Science is studying the history of same-sex marriage in Canada. (Photo: USask)

History of same-sex marriage project among $1.3 million in USask research grants from SSHRC

Canada became global ‘destination’ for lesbian and gay weddings after legalization, researcher says.

The history of same-sex marriage in Canada is among eight research projects at the University of Saskatchewan (USask) awarded a total of $1.36 million  in Insight grants by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) of Canada.

The federal program supports research that deepens understanding of individuals and societies.

“USask’s research addresses unanswered questions about the human condition, the way we live today and our history,” said Karen Chad, Vice President Research. “These funding awards will help top researchers promote positive societal change and delve deeper into the human character.”

History professor Valerie Korinek, of the College of Arts and Science, will chart the history of same-sex marriage in Canada and the legal machinations that brought it about, in research entitled Love + Litigation = Marriage.  She has been awarded $151,739 to explore the international repercussions of Canada’s 2005 decision to legalize marriage for gay and lesbian couples, including those from overseas. 

Canada was the third jurisdiction in the world to enshrine same sex marriage in law, and the move has been influential worldwide. Over 1,000 same-sex couples travelled from abroad to tie the knot within a few years of the Canadian laws changing, making Canada an international ‘destination’ for lesbian and gay weddings. Internationally, campaigners for social justice for queer couples and politicians have cited Canada as a positive paradigm.

Korinek’s research project will look at how Canada played a pivotal role in making gay marriage a social norm, along with the human stories that made this possible.

Psychology professor Mark Olver, of the College of Arts and Science, has been has been awarded $84,052 for his study: a Tripartite Model of Risk Reduction in High Psychopathy Men Who Have Sexually Offended.  The study of adult male sex offenders in Canadian prisons will examine strategies for reducing reoffending in psychopaths.

Psychopathic offenders may be more likely to return to crime, commit future acts of violence, escape from prison or breach conditional release, Olver says. He will research whether psychopathic offenders become less likely to commit crimes as they get older and whether treatment programs, including counselling and cognitive behavioural therapy, can increase the development of protective factors and reduce reoffending in psychopaths.

History professor Simonne Horwitz, of the College of Arts and Science, has been awarded $86,806 to research how kidney transplantation became a symbol of white supremacy in South Africa during the apartheid regime in Kidney Transplants, Research and White Supremacy under Apartheid.

Horwitz will look at how transplants became an elite medical procedure, performed by a select group of white doctors, in a country where the black majority were excluded from all but the most basic healthcare. Most transplants performed by a team at the University of the Witwatersrand were for white patients with renal failure, according to Horwitz.

The apartheid government supported developments in transplantation, and South African surgeons became international players in medical research, travelling internationally despite the academic boycotts then in place.

Dawn Wallin, associate dean of the College of Education, is the principal investigator of a four-year research project in collaboration with Chris Scribe, director of the Indian Teacher Education program for the Saskatoon Public Schools, Greater Catholic School Division, and Kakhewistahaw First Nation.

Wahkohtowin: Decolonizing Teacher Education will support culturally responsive teacher education, work to improve educational outcomes for Indigenous learners, and increase recruitment of Indigenous teachers in public, Catholic, and First Nations school systems. The study will investigate a model for training Indigenous teachers.

The model, called Wahkohtowin, inspired by a Cree world view, encourages student teachers to share the gifts and skills they bring to the school setting. Student teachers are also encouraged to ‘come home’ to traditional teaching as they engage in cultural learning. Ceremony, Indigenous languages and culture are integral to the model and to the research which will inform teacher education and policy in Canada. Wallin was awarded $365,097 by SSHRC.

Jay Wilson, of the College of Education, has been awarded $53,178 to study how experiential learning of ‘land-based’ courses, which include field-work and practical study outside, is assessed. Experiential learning is perceived as an effective way of teaching, particularly at the post-secondary level.  More and more universities are promoting this teaching method, but there is limited understanding of how to accurately assess students’ progress beyond traditional ways.

This research program will examine which tools for evaluating experiential learning are most effective, and the best ‘match’ for the teaching methods used. USask has an expressed commitment to experiential learning in a range of disciplines, from education to agriculture.  For example, students in a soil science course may spend much of their time studying outside. Wilson’s research findings will benefit both Indigenous and non-Indigenous scholars.

Beverley Brenna, of the College of Education, has been awarded $165,792 for her study: Radical Change in Canadian Picture Books. She will study patterns, themes and potential trends in more than 600 Canadian children’s picture books, published between 2018 and 2020, to understand how the content of these books has been changing and how they might influence children’s thinking. She will focus particularly on books that present diverse characterizations including titles written and/or illustrated by Indigenous authors.

Marcia McKenzie, of the College of Education, has been awarded $279,170 to research The Influences of Policy Actors on UN Policy Programs on Climate Change Education.

McKenzie, director of the Sustainability Education Research Institute, leads an international study examining the influences of governmental and nongovernmental policy-makers on three U.N. policy programs, with a focus on climate change education.

Through network analysis of social media, U.N. meeting observation, and interviews with decision-makers, the researchers will address a current gap in knowledge on the influences of these policy makers on U.N. education policy programs. The results are expected to strengthen the transparency and quality of U.N. policy programs, contributing to more effective and far-reaching education, training, and public awareness on climate change, both in Canada and globally.

Haizhen Mou, of the Johnson-Shoyama Graduate School of Public Policy, has been awarded $170,715 for a three-year research project on Fiscal Governance in the Canadian Provinces. Her project will evaluate whether fiscal rules work the way they are intended in the Canadian provinces.

The effectiveness of such rules (for example requiring governments to balance their budgets annually or within a specific time period) depends on their design and the fiscal governance regime in which they work. Mou’s research team, including co-investigator  Michael Atkinson, will develop a set of metrics to evaluate fiscal rules, examining their stringency, clarity and transparency. The team will also interview key finance officials and politicians to further evaluate the norms that keep a ‘deficit bias’ under control.

The SSHRC is the federal research funding agency that promotes and supports research and training in the humanities and social sciences. 

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