ISA World Congress of Sociology

Canadian Thematic Sessions

Canadian Thematic Session will be held at 14:00-15:20, Monday through Thursday, July 16- 19, 2018

What Can Sociology Teach Us about Resettlement of Refugee Children and Youth?

Session Organizer: Lori WILKINSON, University of Manitoba, Canada

Refugee crises are certainly not new, but in 2015, the world’s attention turned to Syria and the events that led to over 7 million of its inhabitants to flee. This is in addition to the 8 million other refugees and 49 million internally displaced persons worldwide. Several countries opened their borders to the new refugee arrivals, but two countries stood out, Canada and Germany. This panel deals with two fundamental questions: How do sociologists understand and study resettlement and integration of refugees? What can sociology contribute to the successful resettlement and integration of refugees? These are the questions addressed to the four researchers in this workshop as part of their research in this area. Three researchers from Canada and one from Germany will provide an overview of their research on refugee children, youth and their families to date. The panel members are all working on large, national and longitudinal studies of refugee children, youth and their families in Canada and Germany. They use different methods, sociological theories, and lenses to understand the settlement conditions of the most recently arriving refugees who originate from almost a dozen different countries worldwide.

Canadian Sociology in Uncertain Times: Reflecting on the Past/ Confronting the Future

Session Organizer: Rick HELMES-HAYES, University of Waterloo, Canada

This session seeks to examine the future of Canadian sociology. It asks the question: “What can Canadian sociology’s unique past tell us about the kinds of substantive issues, theoretical frameworks, methodological approaches, and political causes that are likely to take centre stage in Canada and Canadian sociology in the near and not so near future?”
Over the past fifteen years, Canadian sociologists, French- and English-language alike, have engaged in an intense debate about what the nature and purpose of the Canadian discipline is – or should be. Contributions to the debate have ranged widely: from a heated assessment of Michael Burawoy’s advocacy of ‘public sociology,” to arguments about the wisdom of trying to maintain sociology as a “disciplinary silo” against the incursion of unbridled interdisciplinarity, to a critical consideration of the idea that national sociologies, Canada’s included, might not have a legitimate intellectual space in an increasingly globalized “field of science.” While the discussions have been respectful, feelings run high and opinions have been expressed in strong language because so much is at stake. We want to use the opportunity provided by the ISA meetings to bring these debates to an international audience. A session on the future of Canadian sociology framed in terms of insights gained from theoretical, political, methodological, etc battles we have fought in the past would both benefit Canadian sociologists and stimulate sociologists from other countries to think about the ‘state of the union’ in their respective national sociologies – regardless of the specialty area in which they work. We suspect that in some instances our foreign colleagues would see considerable overlap between the history and horizon of Canadian sociology and the past and future of sociology in their respective nations - and in others not.     
Sociology in Canada has some unusual characteristics. It has not one but two large and somewhat insular national sociological communities, one English, one French, with very different histories, intellectual touchpoints, and ‘objects of analysis.’ It has a strong radical political economy community and a large and vibrant political-intellectual feminist community that have made the discipline less ‘liberal’ or mainstream in orientation than might be the case in other countries. As well, of course, Canadian sociology shares many features with the sociologies of other countries (intellectual ‘dependence’ on an American, scientific model of the discipline, vibrant “nationalist” sensibilities, a strong community of scholars interested in postcolonial thought, many close ties with government research and policy bodies, a growing interdisciplinary culture related to the growth of cultural studies, etc.).  We would hope that the session would spur some international dialogue on the history of sociology in various countries and stimulate some cross-national debate and comparison of themes, practices, etc. as we move into the future.

How the State Shapes Social Movements

Session Organizer: Dominique CLEMENT, University of Alberta, Canada

This session is the culmination of a five-year research team project funded through a major grant from the Social Science and Humanities Research Council. We explore the changing relationship between the state and civil society by documenting how state funding for social movements differs across movements, regions, and time periods. Public funding in Canada has enabled a thriving social movement sector to emerge, but recent government policy changes have brought the sustainability of social movements to the forefront of public debate. Some organizations have struggled under these conditions while others have thrived because of innovations in leadership, governance, fundraising and community outreach. This is an ideal moment to consider the evolving relationship between social movements and the state. If social movements are essential to democracy and facilitating citizen engagement, then changes in state funding raises profound questions about how movements advocate for the interests of their constituents.
The papers in this session are based on the primary deliverable of this team project: a digital public database that lists state grants to NGOs in Canada since 1960. The presenters are the Primary Investigators for this project. The database/website will be a valuable resource for scholars and community organizations. NGOs can use the site to learn about funding opportunities; draw inspiration from other NGOs projects; enhance institutional memory; and share knowledge using integrated discussion forums. Scholars can use the database to produce studies on a broad range of topics such as: government priorities in social policy; how changes in government structure and ideology affect policy; comparisons between NGOs that use state funding with those that do not; the rise/decline of the voluntary sector; or how funding social movements in Canada differs from other countries. There is no comparable resource in Canada or abroad. This session will also be an opportunity to discuss the innovative methodologies and tools that emerged that made the project possible, including a process for digitizing/processing records and a unique database design that facilitated collaboration among a team across the country.

Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women in Canada: What Can Sociology Bring to the Table?

Session Organizer: Myrna DAWSON, University of Guelph, Canada

 Femicide, which refers to the killing of women, has become the focus of international attention, particularly in some world regions where women face a significant risk of death (e.g. Latin America, South Africa) (Garcia-Del Moral, 2015). The increasing focus on missing and murdered Indigenous women in Canada demonstrates that no country is free from this type of violence, however, underscoring the need to understand how states are responding to femicide, regardless of world region. The Sisters in Spirit initiative launched in 2005 by the Native Women’s Association of Canada (NWAC) documented that, by 2010, over 580 Aboriginal women and girls across Canada were murdered or went missing (NWAC, 2010). A more recent 2015 RCMP report determined that there were at least 164 missing and 1,017 murdered Indigenous women and girls in Canada. In 2015, the Government of Canada announced a national inquiry into the situation in response to the calls of Indigenous families and communities as well as national and international organizations. The inquiry is underway. It has long been recognized that historical and current impacts of colonization are a key contributor to the high femicide risk faced by Indigenous women and girls (NWAC, 2010). Further, similar to a key contributor for femicide identified in other parts of the world, inadequate state responses and the impunity of perpetrators continue to increase the vulnerability of Indigenous women and girls to all types of violence, including femicide (Dawson 2015; Murdocca 2013; United Nations 2011). Even among this group of women and girls, some are marginalized and further discounted as victims by virtue of their poverty or involvement in the sex-trade work (Jiwani and Young 2006). Arguably Indigenous women are also victims of carceral violence or carceral femicide through their over-incarceration and securitized conditions of confinement. Gender-responsive prison reforms have simply compounded the state's use of detention and punishment in Canada's women-centred prisons (Balfour 2014). Despite recent awareness of the issues that contribute to the vulnerability of missing and murdered Indigenous women, progress in reducing their risk or protecting them from further violence is slow and oftentimes seemingly absent. The discipline of sociology has positively contributed to the identification of this issue and the dialogue about what is needed to redress the situation, particularly from work by critical race, feminist, and intersectionality theorists and researchers. However, sociologists can do more, particularly at this point in time when a window has opened up and provided the opportunity to do so. This session brings together a number of sociologists and scholars who have focused on indigeneity and femicide as well as social and state responses to this violence. They will reflect upon past, current and/or future efforts to address the historical and current risk of violence faced by Canadian indigenous women and girls which perpetuates and maintains Canada’s Indigenous femicide.


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