Ottawa pledges almost $5 million to Queen’s researchers

Christine Moon, Lee Airton among those to receive historic funds 

Lee Airton. 
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Queen’s will receive nearly $5 million for research as part of a nation-wide, $141 million investment.

Minister of Science and Sport Kirsty Duncan announced the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) investment at the Agnes Etherington Centre on Wednesday. She highlighted the work of two Queen’s recipients, Christine Moon and Lee Airton.

“We have worked hard to return research to its rightful place,” Duncan said, adding the “historic investment” will change research in Canada. 

Along with 92 other researchers at Queen’s, Airton and Moon will use the support to pursue research in the social sciences and humanities. 

Airton’s research will analyze how hundreds of school-board policy and guideline documents across 76 Canadian school boards define gender expression.

The researchers also addressed the audience on Wednesday, adding the research will look at how school boards are “interpreting, but more importantly shaping, the new human rights concept of gender expression.”

“Schools already know this guidance is needed,” they said. “It’s needed because gender is changing, and the future of gender is walking into Canadian schools every day.” 

Airton’s research will determine whether school board policy discriminates on the grounds of gender expression or gender identity—two different aspects of human rights. The Journal spoke to Airton and Moon after the conference. 

“Regardless of whatever political winds are blowing, schools and other public sectors need to understand and learn about what their legal responsibilities are,” Airton said. “Regardless of whether there’s public outcry about topics related to my research and that of others, this is still necessary.”

Moon will also receive funding to perform policy-informing research.   

She’ll examine how Medical Assistance in Dying (MAID), which was legalized only three years ago, shapes questions concerning death. She’llinvestigate the presence, or absence, of racialized minorities in access to, and conversations about, MAID. 

“My goal is to complicate the whiteness of national discourses surrounding assisted dying by exploring the absences, erasures, and insertions of racialized voices,” she told the audience.

Moon noted an early study at one Canadian hospital system showed 95 per cent of MAID recipients were white.

“I hope to examine how presumptions of a universal whiteness, under the guise of multiculturalism, affect the health and end-of-life care of racialized Canadians,” she said.

Her project will focus on how Korean Canadians interact with MAID and death, eventually influencing Canadian public policy and informing physicians and hospitals about how to enact the new legislation. 

She told The Journal she was “really fortunate” to have the support but wished there was a way to make these kinds of funds equitable for graduate students. 

“Graduate students often face housing and food insecurity,” she said, adding they struggle with accessing childcare and are six times more likely than the general population to face mental health issues. 

“If there was a way for grants like this to be distributed more equitably across graduate students, I think that would be great,” she said.

Following the conference, Duncan told The Journal that students considering pursuing research projects of their own should “take time to dream [their] greatest dreams.”

“Possibility’s there,” she said. “We can’t wait to see what you do next.”

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