The Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council along with Women and Gender Equality Canada recently launched a Knowledge Synthesis Grants competition specifically directed to mobilize social sciences and humanities research to examine and synthesize existing knowledge on gender-based violence. The goal is for grant holders to identify research gaps and opportunities and their work will inform and guide policy-makers and service providers contributing to ensuring a violence-free Canadian society.

Two University of Regina researchers received Knowledge Synthesis Grants focused on gender-based violence. Read more about the research projects below:

Gender-based violence in Canadian prisons

Canadian contemporary federal prison policies, programs, and practices have been shaped by the historical influences of sex-segregated prisons, yet this has not stopped gender-based violence from occurring against prisoners or correctional officers.

2SLGBTQIA+ prisoners are also at risk for violence perpetrated against them, by both prisoners and correctional officers.

Sex and gender regulation is a standard element of social control in prison systems, and cisnormativity and cisgenderism remain the norm, which creates real challenges for policies, programs, and practices in prisons that try to be more gender inclusive (cisgender refers to a person whose gender identity corresponds with the sex registered for them at birth, and cisnormativity is a societal bias that assumes all people are cisgender and so privileges cisgender identities and ignores or underrepresents gender variance).

For example, when sex-segregated prison systems are based on sex and gender being interrelated and indistinguishable, housing transgender prisoners in any part of that system presents challenges for prisons, correctional officers, and prisoners (trans and non-trans, alike).

Yet, there is also the question of whose rights “matter most,” be it an incarcerated self-identifying women with a history of sexual trauma at the hands of a male, or the right to live as the gender with which one identifies.

Prison policies and practices that assume a gender binary (male and female) are particularly problematic because they reinforce the idea that the norm is heterosexuality and/or cisgenderism. These kinds of policies impede shifts towards more progressive cultures and work norms, while also failing to recognize empathy, compassion, and respect towards 2SLGBTQIA+ people. However, these kinds of policies are also fundamental in protecting survivors of sexual violence. This is why it’s necessary to evaluate the policies and practices in the Canadian prison system, and to offer paths forward that do not repeat the harmful errors of the past.

Dr. James Gacek is looking into gender-based violence in Canadian prisons. (Photo by Trevor Hopkin)
Dr. James Gacek is looking into gender-based violence in Canadian prisons. (Photo by Trevor Hopkin)

Dr. James Gacek, an assistant professor in justice studies, received a Knowledge Synthesis Grant worth $28,963 for his project Pride, Prison, and Punishment: Exploring Gender-Based Violence in Canadian Prisons to get an accurate sense of what is happening in prisons and how policies need to change so there is a better future for prisoners, correctional officers, their families, and their communities.

To do so, his team will explore the role gender-binary prison systems and gender play in the historical and continued development of federal, provincial, and territorial prison policies, programs, and practices in Canada. Second, they will examine how prison policies, programs, and practices contributed (and continue to contribute) to the historical and contemporary exclusion, marginalization, and gender-based violence of particular individuals or communities.

Second-stage housing

According to Statistics Canada, Saskatchewan has the highest rates of gender-based violence of all of the provinces in Canada. Recently, the province announced much-needed funding for second-stage shelter housing  – a resource that is integral to gender-based violence survivors successfully leaving situations of domestic violence.

Stable second-stage housing supports survivors in their transition from emergency shelters to independent living. Securing second-stage housing helps survivors to retain or access employment, have consistent access to childcare and/or schools for children, access healthcare and/or substance-use services, and live in a household free from abuse in a safer community.

Dr. Emily Grafton is working to increase funding for second stage housing. (Photo by Shawn Fulton)
Dr. Emily Grafton is working to increase funding for second stage housing. (Photo by Shawn Fulton)

Without second-stage housing options, survivors are often unable to leave or must return to violent and unsafe relationships.

However, there is currently no information about second-stage housing and associated rates of gender-based violence in Canada. In order to identify, collate, and analyze existing research, Dr. Emily Grafton, associate professor in politics and international studies, received a Knowledge Synthesis Grant worth $29,999 for her project, Addressing Gender-Based Violence in Saskatchewan through Second Stage Housing: Mitigating Public Policy Deficits to Enhance Safety for Survivors.

The goal of this project is to impact Saskatchewan’s policy on second-stage housing funding.

With an increase in public funding earmarked to improve resources available to survivors of gender-based violence, other barriers to employment, healthcare, childcare, and education could also be diminished.

This project is a collaboration between the University of Regina, Provincial Association of Transition Houses and Services of Saskatchewan (PATHS), and SOFIA (Support of Families in Affliction) House.