I am a settler Canadian of mixed European ancestry and an Associate Professor of Sociology at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario (Dish with One Spoon territory).
Broadly speaking, my research investigates the social processes that shape the well-being of historically marginalized communities and the strategies, alliances, policies, and practices that can bring about more just and sustainable societies.
Born and raised in Toronto, I majored in Sociology and Psychology at the University of Toronto. My first foray into sociological research involved documenting the transformation and forced closure of the Wellesley Hospital, a major teaching hospital in Toronto that had been a leader in HIV treatment and innovative approaches to community participation in decision-making.
Encouraged by my mentors at U of T (especially Dennis Magill), I then completed my MA and PhD degrees in Sociology at Harvard, under the supervision of William Julius Wilson and Michèle Lamont. While in graduate school, my attention shifted from a general concern with racism, inequality, and health to a specific focus on Indigenous-settler relations and decolonization.
My PhD research involved 18 months of fieldwork, 160 interviews, and a photovoice project with Anishinaabe, Métis, and white residents of Northwestern Ontario (Treaty #3 territory). This research formed the basis of my book, Canada at a Crossroads: Boundaries, Bridges, and Laissez-Faire Racism in Indigenous-Settler Relations. Drawing on group position theory and other critical perspectives, this book examines the sources of conflict and cooperation between Indigenous and settler communities in a small-town settler-colonial context and the promise and pitfalls of commonly proposed “solutions” to white racism, such as intergroup contact, education, and collective action.
In other research, I have conducted in-depth interviews with settler Canadians who participated in Truth and Reconciliation Commission and Idle No More events, with the goal of understanding the experiences and conditions that lead to engagement in solidarity activities with Indigenous peoples. Based on this research, graduate students (Kerry Bailey and Mollie McGuire) and I have published a series of papers on the pathways whereby some settlers come to seek reconciliation and how they understand their roles in the process. Along with Lynne Davis and Raven Sinclair, I also co-edited a special issue of Settler Colonial Studies on Pathways of Settler Decolonization (now available as a book through Routledge).
I have also collaborated on multiple community-based research projects with Indigenous communities. The Poverty Action Research Project (PARP), led by Fred Wien at Dalhousie University, involved working with five First Nations across Canada to develop poverty reduction and community development strategies and to monitor changes in community well-being. The Two-Eyed Seeing Project, also led by Dr. Wien, is a partnership with 13 Mi’kmaq communities in Nova Scotia seeking to document the causes and consequences of economic poverty and to support the development of a culturally appropriate social policy framework.
Most recently, in partnership with the non-profit group Reconciliation Kenora, I received a SSHRC Insight Development Grant to conduct a series of sharing circles with Anishinaabe, Métis, and settler residents of Kenora, Ontario (Treaty #3 territory) on local community understandings of and barriers to reconciliation. I am also a co-investigator on another SSHRC-funded project, "For the Long Haul" (led by Lynne Davis at Trent University), about the conditions that foster long-term Indigenous-settler alliances, how such alliances develop over time, and the role that alliances can play in achieving social change.