Displacements, Emergence, and Change


Co-led by Leah Levac and Deborah Stienstra, the Displacements, Emergence, and Change cluster focuses on building inclusive cities, communities, towns and governance models to respond to displacements that result from resource extraction, lack of living wages, and other broad socioeconomic and political shifts and challenges. The cluster also examines how communities can be places where diverse families, livelihoods and all living environments thrive. The kinds of questions we think about include:

  • How/what are cities doing to build cultural / inclusive competencies?
  • How/what are cities doing to respond to the Truth & Reconciliation Commission’s Recommendations?
  • What does linking knowledge systems mean for political science scholarship? What does is mean for policy development?
  • How/in what ways is resilience evident in (social, or any) policy planning?
  • How do communities respond (short-term and long-term) to displacements – resource development, climate change, historical and pervasive practices of colonialism…
  • When change or traditional ways of knowing emerge, how do communities respond to ensure families, livelihoods and living environments thrive?
    • Who responds? How are their responses taken up? Who is invisible in these responses? (Reconciliation, local food systems, transitional economies…)
  • How do we sustain community/university collaborations?
  • How do we live well?

Current and Future Projects:

Gender-Based Indigenous Intersectional Impact Assessment Network (GiiiA Network)

Building on work on integrating Gender-Based Analysis Plus (GBA Plus) in impact assessments, we are forming a nationwide Network in collaboration with CRIAW-ICREF. The GiiiA Network is advised by Indigenous and non-Indigenous community organizations, public servants, and university-based researchers, and funded by the Impact Assessment Agency of Canada. Through the Network, we aim to share knowledge and develop tools to support good practices in GBA Plus and Culturally Relevant GBA Plus in impact assessment.  

Advancing Equitable, Inclusive and Impactful Participation in Municipal Governance

Projects under this umbrella include collaborations with municipalities and community organizations interested in shifting local policy and planning processes to more actively engage with diverse and often-excluded residents. Through these collaborations, we are focused on reforming governance structures that engage residents in shaping their towns’ and cities’ policies and strategic plans. 

Environmental Scan to Identify Domestic & International Good Practices to Integrate SGBA+ in Health Impact Assessment

SGBA+ is a means of identifying and analyzing how sex, gender, and other identity factors might result in different groups of people being affected by a designated project in different ways. Through a contract with Health Canada, this environmental scan (conducted by Marieka Sax, Jane Stinson, Deborah Stienstra, Leah Levac and Rebecca Tatham) supports the implementation of the new requirements in the federal Impact Assessment Act, with special attention on the intersection of sex and gender with other identity factors. Where possible, we align this work with SGBA+ policies and guidance documents from the Government of Canada, including the Impact Assessment Agency of Canada interim GBA+ guidance (IAAC 2020, sec. 2.1). This report aims to:

  • Highlight practical resources, guidance, and strategies that support the integration of SGBA+ in HIA from an intersectional perspective. In the context of impact assessment and/or HIA, an SGBA+ approach supports the analysis of health effects, both adverse and positive, and the distribution of those effects across population subgroups, including those who are particularly vulnerable based on socioeconomic and other factors that reflect social disadvantage.
  • Outline opportunities, innovations, and barriers in Canada to ensuring a gendered, intersectional analysis in HIA.
  • Identify actions or resources that may be required to ensure consideration of SGBA+ in the HIA of major development projects. This includes identifying what kinds of guidance or tools are needed to address gaps and lack of access to relevant data.

Read the final report and watch the related webinar.

Our Knowledge, Our Voices Postcard Series

Violence against women is a serious and persistent problem that is often plagued with stigma and backlash, particularly for women who face multiple forms of marginalization (i.e., due to race, disability, sexuality, etc.). The Community Vitality Index Project, in partnership with Violence Prevention Labrador, seeks to make the overly domestic issue of violence against women a visible problem with accessible social supports for victims.

The Our Knowledge, Our Voices Postcard series highlights the experiences of diverse women in Happy Valley-Goose Bay (HVGB) from survey data that was collected in 2018. Three postcards emerged from this project in April 2021, as a way to emphasize statistics surrounding unwanted sexual attention, access to relevant social services, and the strength of community connections amongst diverse women in the HVGB area.

Learn more and view the three postcards of the series.

Dangerous Disruptions: Local Intersections of Poverty and COVID-19 in Guelph-Wellington and Dufferin

Living with poverty makes everyday life difficult. The concept of “livelihoods” helps capture this. Livelihoods are the means to secure the necessities of living for individuals, families and communities. Together with an intersectional policy analysis, this research examines how COVID-19 has impacted the livelihoods of people living with poverty. This research was conducted in partnership with A Way Home Canada, the Guelph-Wellington Taskforce for Poverty Elimination, and Services and Housing in the Province.

The project, funded by a University of Guelph COVID-19 Catalyst Grant, had two central aims: 1) to better understand the impacts of COVID-19 on the day-to-day lives of people living with poverty in small urban and rural communities; and 2) to identify and respond to policy gaps in government responses to the pandemic. From July to September 2020, the research team conducted in-depth focus groups and interviews with people who self-identified as living with poverty in the City of Guelph, Wellington County, Dufferin County, and Peel Region. The insights they shared illuminate the depth and breadth of experiences among those coping with the COVID-19 pandemic while experiencing poverty.

In March 2021, three mini-reports were launched at a panel event with researchers, community leaders, and MPP Mike Schreiner. Read the reports and view a video of the launch event

The Wellbeing Experiences of Women and Girls in the Haisla Nation and Kitimat

Over the past three years, this collaboration between Tamitik Status of Women, the Haisla Nation, and the University of Guelph has focused on better understanding diverse northern and Indigenous women’s wellbeing in times of rapid economic change, and on ensuring that local planning and decision-making better accounts for their experiences.

Storied Lives: Shifting Perspectives on Poverty

The Storied Lives project is SSHRC-funded and is a partnership between the Live Work Well Research Centre (within the Displacements, Emergence and Change Research Cluster) and the Guelph & Wellington Poverty Task Force for Poverty Elimination that developed a collection of composite stories of those living in poverty in our community. Why stories? Stories have the power to transform narratives and shift perspectives on critical issues. Stories have the ability to shine a light on the different dimensions of complex experiences, such as living in poverty. Stories shared by families and individuals with different work and income experiences, with different life histories, contexts, and at different life stages are important. Such stories have the power to increase awareness, shift attitudes, and further system and policy change that address the root causes of poverty. With recent changes to addressing poverty in Ontario, humanizing the diverse stories of those living in poverty is now even more important. This project is an urgent, meaningful and inclusive response to the substantive political and social changes currently underway in Ontario. 

Listen to the Storied Lives podcasts

Changing Public Services

Changes to public services in Canada have reshaped and narrowed support programs that serve broad groups of people. These changes have considerable impacts on the lives of women, as public sector employees and also as significant users of public services. Choices about how and what public services to change need to be examined using a gendered and intersectional lens.

Changing Public Services (CPS) was a three-year Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) funded project, researching and documenting:

  • What we know about what is changing in public services
  • What the impacts are on diverse groups of women
  • What actions we can take to respond to these changes

For more infomation on the project, visit the Canadian Research Institute for the Advancement of Women.

Exploring Promising International Practices in Gender and Intersectional Impact Assessments

This knowledge synthesis project will inform best practices in environmental and impact assessments by turning to international literature for examples of promising practices to address gender and intersectionality or the ‘plus’ in gender-based analysis plus in impact assessments. Particular attention is paid to the experiences of historically marginalized groups who have more commonly experienced negative effects of resource extraction, including Indigenous women and two spirit persons, youth, and people with disabilities and whose expertise has not been often included in impact assessments. 

To date, there has been no collection of international literature related to gendered and intersectional impacts of resource extraction or of promising practices to address these impacts. Our research will tackle this significant gap and provide Canadians with alternative ways to address these critical issues by drawing on experiences in other countries. To achieve that, we will conduct a review of academic, policy and community literature from outside of Canada to identify and assess existing international practices in impact assessments. We will also reach out to key informants from organizations who have conducted and published work in this area to ask for further sources and ideas about promising practices.

We will draw together internationally-focused research, policy, practices, and proposals to highlight:

  1. participation and engagement processes and practices that attend to the inclusion of Indigenous women, youth, and others often excluded from the impact assessment processes;
  2. strategies for making resource-affected communities more inclusive of and safer for women, non-binary, transgender and two-spirit people, people with disabilities, and others; and
  3. engagement with Indigenous groups and/or Nations in ways that recognize nationhood (and relatedly, Indigenous knowledges).

This SSHRC-funded project is a partnership between the Live Work Well Research Centre, the University of Guelph, Amnesty International Canada, the Disabled Women's Network of Canada, the Canadian Research Institute for the Advancement of Women, and Pauktuuit Inuit Women of Canada


Cluster Leaders:

Leah Levac

Deborah Stienstra


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