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Centre for Research in Social Justice and Policy



The Centre for Research in Social Justice and Policy (CRSJP) supports research about issues pertaining to social justice and social policy. The aim of such research is to inform social policy, to enhance social inclusion and to promote social justice.

The CRSJP brings together researchers, professors, students, policy makers and practitioners to participate in a critically meaningful and ongoing dialogue on social issues of fundamental importance to the community and to societal development in northeastern Ontario and more broadly across Canada. It seeks to produce original research and innovative policy ideas to help build a just, democratic and sustainable world. 


The CRSJP undertakes research, theoretical or practical in nature, qualitative or quantitative in approach, discipline-based, interdisciplinary or multidisciplinary, pertaining to social well-being. It helps participants to develop expertise in fields of interest to the CRSJP, such as power relations, oppression, and self-determination; it provides them with information to facilitate social transformation and social justice; and it develops tools to facilitate analysis and research.  

The study of social policies sheds light on whether they are appropriate and responsive to human needs and values and on how they maintain or transform social structures and social dynamics. The CRSJP focuses on issues affecting northern Ontario while recognizing the importance of understanding how local issues and problems extend beyond territorial borders and are connected to aspects of global justice. 


1.    To facilitate the research of professors in the areas of social justice and social policy.

2.    To build critical knowledge about social justice and social policy in order to lay the foundations for organising and advocating for social change.
3.    To create strategic relationships with public service agencies, government ministries, volunteer and other community organisations in the area of social justice and social policy that will benefit students, researchers and the community.
4.    To provide a forum to help students at the undergraduate and graduate levels interested in issues pertaining to social justice and social policy:
a.    to deepen their knowledge and to develop critical insights into these issues,
b.    to assist professors in the conduct of their research,
c.    to develop research projects for undergraduate and graduate theses,
d.    to identify knowledgeable faculty with interests similar to their own,
e.    to obtain advice on the conduct of their research projects, and
f.    to become competent practitioners, administrators, policy makers and researchers.
5.    To build awareness in the community at large about the relationships between social justice and social policy, to identify obstacles to the development of good social policies based on social justice outcomes and to develop strategies to overcome these obstacles.


1.    To encourage research on issues pertaining to social justice and policy by preparing and submitting funding applications to granting bodies.
2.    To conduct individual and joint research projects on issues pertaining to social justice and policy.
3.    To disseminate knowledge about social justice and policy by hosting public forums, holding conferences, meeting with the media, publishing papers, and maintaining a web site.
4.    To facilitate contact and exchanges between students, researchers and professors at the local, regional, national and international levels about social justice and policy.
5.    To develop institutional relations with other partners working in the area of social justice and policy at the local, regional, national and international levels.
6.    To provide a space where students at the undergraduate and graduate levels can develop their ability to conduct research on issues pertaining to social justice and policy.



What is Social Justice and Policy?

Social justice speaks to 1) the allocation of resources within society, 2) the quality of life of various groups in society and 3) the responses of individuals and groups to the distribution of resources. 
Social policy speaks to choices between competing social visions at the government, community and individual levels. Social policies are planned responses, or planned decisions not to respond, to issues that arise around the allocation of resources. Each response or lack of response can influence the direction of the choices that are made. 



In the past, social justice seemed to center itself on two specific social problems: 1) poverty and 2) inequality.  At first, social policy was thus seen as a search for means to reduce social inequalities by addressing material, cultural or emotional needs. It was traditionally conceived as a field used to examine public intervention in key areas of material and social need. The focus was primarily on understanding the measurable actions of government as well as the political reasons underlying them. 


The scope of social policy has broadened considerably. It now encompasses not only social welfare, but a wide range of issues and government activities affecting social life. Moreover, it now includes economic policy as well as the impact of economic issues and growth on social development. Even more broadly, social justice can encompass work at the international level, such as global development and peace.
Questions of social justice and policy cover a wide range of topics such as wealth and poverty, marriage and divorce legislation, children and families, gender and sexuality, welfare and public finance, economics and taxation, transportation, democracy and governance, citizenship and immigration, corrections and justice, education, health and social care, domestic and international human rights, the environment and climate justice, housing and communities, culture and the arts. 
Commonly associated with social policy are expensive functions carried out by the state in advanced capitalist societies, whether broadly distributed to the population at large or only provided to certain segments of the population. Together they comprise the dimensions of state activity, conventionally labelled the welfare state. While providing benefits for some citizens, the welfare state is also a site for differential inclusion and exclusion of various groups.


Building on existing research

Social justice and policy questions may be usefully studied from a broad variety of approaches: philosophical and practical, theoretical and applied, quantitative and qualitative. Many faculty members at Laurentian University carry on research in these areas with a focus that may be characterized as being based on social justice and social policy. The CRSJP brings together researchers from various disciplines in order to allow them to take on more complex and challenging projects. 
Competing conceptions of social justice and civic virtue play a profound role in structuring human attitudes to basic social problems. The CRSJP builds on the commitment and research interests of faculty conducting projects in these areas as well as on the work of faculty members in other schools and departments with related and overlapping interests. The continuing development of the CRSJP at Laurentian University reflects a growing world-wide trend to integrate considerations of social justice into broader social policy questions.
The CRSJP thus seeks to address the various aspects of social justice

  • by examining the connection between social values and policies in an innovative manner that brings together a broad spectrum of faculty with a variety of academic perspectives, 
  • by sparking creative thinking about complex social problems, and 
  • by reflecting critically on the models that structure perceptions of social justice and on the norms at the origin of the policies that are constructed to act on these perceptions.

1.    Poverty, Homelessness and Migration

A research team led by Dr. Carol Kauppi, was awarded $1 million by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC) to address poverty, homelessness and migration issues in northern Ontario.

This Community-University Research Alliance (CURA) project brings together a variety of partners: First Nations, First Nations service organisations, municipalities, health organisations and universities. The research team is composed of twelve professors from Laurentian University as well as professors from the University of Sudbury, Nipissing University, Université de Hearst and the University of Western Ontario. The associate directors, Dr. Emily Faries, Department of Native Studies, and Dr. Henri Pallard, director of the International Centre for Interdisciplinary Research in Law (ICIRL), are key members of the research team assisting Dr. Kauppi in managing the project.

Partners are Aboriginal Community Advocates and N’Swakamok Native Friendship Centre from Sudbury, Timmins Native Friendship Centre, Moosonee Native Friendship Centre, Ininew Friendship Centre and Ga Beh Shoo In Aboriginal Men’s Shelter in Cochrane, Good Samaritan Inn in Timmins, James Bay General Hospital, Sudbury and District Health Unit, CMHA Sudbury, Centre de santé communautaire de Sudbury, the towns of Timmins and Smooth Rock Falls, and three First Nations in the western James Bay region – Kashechewan, Fort Albany and Moose Cree.

Mobilizing communities and developing practices and programs to address poverty, homelessness and migration issues in northern Ontario are key goals for this team of researchers. The five-year project will examine the underlying causes of poverty, poor housing, homelessness, and out-migration in northern Ontario to gain knowledge on these issues, understand their impact on northern Ontario, and give communities the tools they need to ensure that the most basic human needs of their citizens are met. 

The project partners use traditional and innovative research methods in the communities, including design charrette, an intensive, hands-on workshop that bring people from different disciplines and backgrounds together to explore design options for housing within a particular area or site. The goal of the charrette process is to capture the vision, values, and ideas of the community while professional designers and architects sketch-out in real-time the visions expressed by the participants. Community members will also use cameras and recorders to capture their environment through the use of photo-voice and digital story-telling techniques.


2.    Inaugural Forum

To mark its launch, the CRSJP hosted a forum on Mining Companies and Soil Pollution: The Rhetoric and Science of Health and Ecological Risk Assessments.The event was held on Wednesday, November 18, 2009. The inaugural forum was co-sponsored by the Community Committee on the Sudbury Soils Study. It featured presentations by Dr. Philippa Spoel and Glen Fox.

Philippa Spoel spoke about "Rhetorics of Public Communication and Community Engagement in the Sudbury Soils Study." This talk drew on recent theoretical work in environmental risk communication and citizen engagement in science communication as the framework for reviewing key aspects of public communication and community engagement in the Sudbury Soils Study. This was discussed both in terms of the main public communication / community engagement activities undertaken by the Study for its Human Health Risk Assessment and in terms of the rhetorical assumptions and language used by the Study to describe these initiatives.
Dr. Philippa Spoel of the Laurentian University English department works in the field of rhetorical studies. Her main teaching and research interests are in science, health, and environmental communication.

The talk by Glen A. Fox was titled "I am the Lorax, I speak for the Trees". His presentation focused on his evaluation of the Ecological Risk Assessment of the Sudbury Soils Study as well as the proposed Biodiveristy Action Plan for Greater Sudbury undertaken for the Community Committee on the Sudbury Soils Study. 

Glen Fox has an MSc. from the U of Alberta in Ecology and environmental physiology; and an MSc. from the University of Surrey, UK.  in Biochemical Toxicology. He has spent his professional career with the Canadian Wildlife Service of  Environment Canada where he investigated the effects of environmental contaminants on the health and reproduction of fish-eating birds on the the Great Lakes. He retired in 2005.


3.    Event in support of United Steelworkers Local 6500

Standing Together: Striking Back for a Stronger Future was held on Saturday, February 27, 2010. The event was an evening of music and stories in support of Local 6500 of the United Steelworkers. It included musical performances by Stéphane Paquette, Billy John, Ryan Levecque and the Women of Steel, as well as videos including "One Day Longer", a clip from "A Wives’ Tale," and scenes from the present strike. The speakers included Jamie West (Local 6500 USW), Kari Ann Cusack (Family Support Group for the Strike), Carolyn Egan (President of the United Steelworkers Toronto Area Council), Gary Kinsman (editor of Mine Mill Fights Back), Linda Obonsawin (Wives Supporting the Strike, 1978-79), Richard Paquin (president of Mine Mill/CAW Local 598), a former worker from Ravenswood, and Pete Wade (USW local 6500). 

The event was organized by the Centre for Research in Social Justice and Policy, Labour Studies, the Graduate Students’ Association, the Laurentian Association of Mature and Part-Time Students (LAMPS), Association des étudiantes et étudiants francophones (AEF), and the Laurentian University Faculty Association (LUFA) in collaboration with Local 6500 of the USW.


4.    Book Launch, Ontario Works—Works for Whom?

An event was held on March 23, 2010 to launch the book Ontario Works—Works for Whom? An Investigation of Workfare in Ontario by Julie Vaillancourt.

This book is an institutional ethnographic investigation of the Ontario Works program and the problems that it creates in the lives of people on social assistance. Ontario Works is a work-for-welfare program that was implemented in Ontario in 1996 as part of the neoliberal restructuring of the welfare state. The book shows that Ontario Works has not, in reality, been used to help people on assistance and rather has been used as another means of facilitating an attack on them, while providing subsidized and cheap labour for companies and social agencies.

Julie Vaillancourt is a recent graduate of the Masters in Applied Social Research program at Laurentian University. She has been active in local anti-poverty groups and participated in a number of local anti-poverty forums. 

The book launch was organized by the Sociology Department and the Centre for Research in Social Justice and Policy. 



The members of the CRSJP have been working with various researchers at Laurentian University in addition to researchers at other universities located in several provinces across Canada as well as in North and South America, Europe, Africa and Asia.  Members are collectively connected to numerous research networks which provide links at regional, national and international levels. 


Community Organizations

CRSJP members have also established collaborative relationships with a broad range of community organizations. These agencies and organizations deal with issues such as arts and culture, physical and mental health, children and families, trade unions, human rights, literacy, services for Francophones, poverty, homelessness, sexuality and gender, violence against women, social activism, social policy and social planning. 


Contact Us

Carol Kauppi, Ph.D.
Professor, School of Social Work
Director, Northern CURA on Poverty, Homelessness and Migration
Laurentian University
935 Ramsey Lake Road, Sudbury, ON, P3E 2C6
Tel (705) 675-1151, ext. 5058
Fax (705) 671-3832