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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.

Description of ongoing activities 

1. Carol Kauppi and a team of researchers from Laurentian University, University of Sudbury and Public Health Sudbury & Districts were nominated in the spring of 2017 for a SSHRC Impact Award (Partnership Award) and selected by SSHRC for this award. It was awarded in September 2017 at an awards ceremony that was held at Rideau Hall, Ottawa. According to SSHRC, “The annual Impact Awards recognize the highest achievements in SSHRC-funded research, knowledge mobilization and scholarship”. The Partnership Award includes a research grant of $50,000. The start date for this grant was March 1, 2018. The project involves varied activities:

  • Workshops

  • Conference (Sessions at the Canadian Alliance to End Homelessness, 2018)

  • Conference proceedings (book project)

  • Symposium (Held March 20, 2018 at Laurentian University)

  • Laurentian University conference (to be held in the spring of 2019

2. CRSJP received 3 research grants for the enumeration of homelessness in northeastern Ontario. Data collection was intensive in the spring of 2018. Given an intensive period of data entry, cleaning, analysis, report preparation and community presentations required by July-October 2018, the first phase of these activities will be completed by the fall of 2018. A large database of several thousand cases is being generated. With research team members, we will publish articles from the data during the next two years.

       Data collection activities:

  • City of Greater Sudbury (March, 2018)

  • Manitoulin-Sudbury District (April, 2018)

  • Cochrane District (May, 2018)

  • Moosonee (June 2018)

This work is important as it builds on research activities for which we received the SSHRC Partnership Award. The project includes a comparison of two methods of enumeration. These results will have provincial, national and international implications as the research team will publish data regarding the effectiveness of Point-in-Time (PiT) versus Period Prevalence Counts (PPC).

3. With colleagues, CRSJP received a grant from the Local Health Integration Network for a study of homelessness and palliative care. We have completed an analysis of interview data and have given two conference presentations for this project. A third abstract was submitted to the Canadian Alliance to End Homelessness (CAEH18) conference which will be held in November, 2018.

As part of the enumeration projects on homelessness in northeastern Ontario, questions were added to the survey in order to gather data from people living with homelessness and life limiting illnesses. The data will provide information on the number/proportion of the homeless population that is living with a serious, life-limiting illness. With colleagues and partners, we will prepare a report and an article based on the data collected for this project.

4. CRSJP was invited to participate in an Ontario government funded study of hidden homelessness in northern and rural Ontario (Fall 2015 to Spring 2017). This province-wide study involved research in all parts of rural and northern Ontario through 2 surveys, interviews with people with lived experience and focus groups with service providers. The study was commissioned by the Government of Ontario’s Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing (MMAH). It is the first major Canadian study on hidden homelessness.

This project is now in the stage of additional analysis, presenting the findings and preparing journal articles with colleagues at Lakehead University and the University of Guelph. CRSJP is working with a research team comprising faculty members from Lakehead University and the University of Guelph on papers based on analyses of the data from this project.

Based on an expansion of the hidden homelessness project, additional interviews in Sudbury were conducted by CRSJP in the spring of 2017 and transcribed in the summer of 2017. We have been working on further analyses. Articles will be prepared for submission to journals and for a chapter in a book on homelessness in the Canadian north to be edited by Canada Research Chair Dr. Julia Christensen, Memorial University of Newfoundland.

5. The Centre for Research in Social Justice and Policy completed a needs assessment in the first phase of the project to establish a student-led clinic. We have presented and published on the results of the needs assessment. We are continuing data analysis and publication of findings. A presentation on the project at the International Congress of Arctic Social Sciences in Umeå, Sweden, in June 2017 (ICASS 2017, sponsored by the University of the Arctic and Umeå University) forms the basis for an article.

A team of university and community partners prepared and submitted a funding proposal in June 2017 for a project pertaining to an Inter-professional Student-Led Clinic (RAZ). Building on a first funding proposal submitted in June 2016, a second funding proposal was submitted to the Local Poverty Reducation Fund in the summer of 2017 to seek funds for implementation and evaluation. This project was not funded. Supported by CRSJP, the developmental work to establish a student-led clinic has enabled students to form a partnership agreement with a nurse-practitioner clinic in downtown Sudbury to begin operating in the fall of 2019.

6. A photovoice project received funding from the Ontario Arts Council to develop a travelling exhibition based on photographs from people with lived experience of homelessness. An exhibition was held in Sudbury, Timmins, Kapuskasing and Hearst in the summer, fall and winter (2016-2017) as a knowledge mobilization activity. Based on the photographs and findings of the photovoice project, CRSJP members wrote a book chapter for a book on health in the north edited by Drs. Rebecca Schiff and Helle Moller at Lakehead University. Given the large database (over 1,000 photographs and over 60 interviews) at least one other article will be prepared for publication.

7. Within the last year, CRSJP’s emphasis on homelessness has led to research conducted by graduate students at the masters and Ph.D. levels on food insecurity in Sudbury, homelessness amongst older women, and Indigenous world views on homelessness.

8. CRSJP members are working on a project pertaining to urban renewal in Sudbury, which focussed on the former Borgia Street area of downtown Sudbury. This project is in the analysis stage.

9. A draft of a book is being submitted to Charlton Publishing which specializes in books on Indigenous people and social justice issues. The book is based on presentations at the Third PHM Conference. The final editing of the chapters is currently ongoing; the book was delayed by the new funding from SSHRC and from several other sources for the enumeration of homelessness in northeastern Ontario but is moving forward.

10. A book proposal based on a study of family homelessness in Timmins Ontario is being submitted to Canadian Scholars Press Inc. (CSPI).

The Poverty, Homelessness and Migration Study

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. 

Barb Ballantyne, Advanced Practice Nurse, Palliative Care, Northeast Cancer Centre, Health Science North and Palliative Care Clinical Co-Lead North East LHIN

Justin Brennan, Social Worker, Local Health Integration Network, Parry Sound

Gayle Broad, Emeritus Professor, Algoma University

Elizabeth Carlson, Assistant Professor, School of Social Work, Laurentian University

Angele Desormeau, Executive Director, South Cochrane Addiction Services

Kevin Fitzmaurice, Indigenous Studies, University of Sudbury

Cheryl Forchuk, Associate Director of Nursing Research, Professor, University of Western Ontario

Nawel Hamidi, Sessional Instructor, Department of Law and Justice, Laurentian University

Mike Hankard, Indigenous Studies, University of Sudbury

Patrick Harrop, McEwen School of Architecture, Laurentian University

Melanie Honsinger, Executive Director, Hospice West Parry Sound

Emily Faries, Indigenous Studies, University of Sudbury

Michel Giroux, Professor, Department of Law and Justice, Laurentian University

Sandra Juutilainen, CIHR Health System Impact Fellow, School of Public Health and Health Systems, University of Waterloo

Carol Kauppi, School of Social Work, Laurentian University

Suzanne Lemieux, Manager, Manager/Gestionnaire Research, Evaluation, and Knowledge Exchange, Public Health Sudbuty & Districts / Santé publique Sudbury et districts

Joshua Linklater-Wong, Nogdawindamin Family and Community Services, Sudbury

Clarke MacFarlane, Executive Director, Canadian Mental Health Association, Timmins

Brian Marks, CAO, Cochrane District Social Services Administration Board

Micheal Miller,Housing Director, Cochrane District Social Services Administration Board

Amanda McLeod, Architect, University of Toronto, Scarborough

Phyllis Montgomery, School of Nursing, Laurentian University

KayLee Morrisette, Coordinator, Cochrane District Social Planning Council, Timmins

Sharolyn Mossey, Associate Professor, School of Nursing, Laurentian University

Kim Nadeau, Living Space Coordinator, Timmins

Angela Nahwegahbow, Board President, Native People of Sudbury Corporation

Parveen Nangia, Associate Professor, Department of Sociology, Laurentian University

Henri Pallard, Professor, Department of Law and Justice, Laurentian University

Michael Robin, Shelter Coordinator, Ga Beh Shoo In Aboriginal Men's Shelter

RebeccaSchiff, Associate Professor, Faculty of Health, Lakehead University

Honarine Scott, Healing Programs Coordinator, United Church of Canada

Tanya Shute, Lecturer, School of Social Work, Laurentian University

Eric Souliere, Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, Toronto

George Stephen, Community member and person with lived experience of homelessness

Donna Stewart, Director of Integrated Social Services/Directrice des services sociaux intégrés Manitoulin-Sudbury District Services Board

Thomas Strickland, McEwen School of Architecture, Laurentian University

Mariette Sutherland, Public Health Manager, Indigenous Engagement, Public Health Sudbury & Districts

Eric Souliere, Social Worker, Health Sciences North and Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, Toronto

Gail Spencer, Coordinator of Shelters and Homelessness, City of Greater Sudbury

Lianne Valiquette, North East Regional Hospice Palliative Care Coordinator

Jorges Virchez, Professor, School of Northern and Community Studies, Laurentian University

Coordonnatrice régionale des soins palliatifs, Local Health Integration Network

Jeanette Waegemakers Schiff, School of Social Work, University of Calgary

Dennis Windego, Aboriginal People’s Training Programs, Thunder Bay


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. 

The objectives identified at the time that CRSJP was established are still relevant and will guide the future development of the centre. The present research directions provide a basis for the activities of CRSJP for the next two years, with a focus on aspects of homelessness: reconciliation with Indigenous people, palliative care, enumeration, migration, social policies affecting poor and homeless people, housing and social housing, and community action to address homelessness. 

The enumeration projects in the City of Greater Sudbury, the Manitoulin-Sudbury District and the Cochrane District led to new partnerships with approximately 50 organizations in the City of Greater Sudbury, 20 in the Manitoulin-Sudbury District and 50 in the Cochrane District. Outreach activities will continue as the CRSJP will hold community forums to present the results to the communities and engage with community partners in planning to address homelessness through the development of appropriate social policies. The Ontario Ministry of Housing and the Homelessness Partnering Strategy of Canada are partners on the enumeration projects and it is hoped that the enumeration results will impact on the formation of social policy initiatives, fulfilling a key goal of CRSJP.

An area for future development is environmental and climate justice. The CRSJP has conducted research involving Kashechewan First Nation to examine policies on flood prevention. Examination of environmental/climate change issues will be a focus in future projects.

Carol Kauppi, Ph.D.

Professor, School of Social Work | Director, Northern CURA on Poverty, Homelessness and Migration