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Social Justice Symposium 2019

The third annual Social Justice Symposium took place on September 20th 2019, in the Students' union Ballrooms from noon till 4:00pm. The afternoon was made up of short talks and hosted group discussion surrounding a variety of topics all related to social justice. Our keynote speaker was Jackson Leween 2Bears. The symposium is free to attend, but please RSVP your attendance here!

Click the following link for the conference schedule: 

2019 Key Note Speaker - Jackson 2bears

Jackson 2bears is a Kanien'kehaka (Mohawk) multimedia installation/performance artist and cultural theorist from Six Nations. He holds a BA in Art & Art History from the University of Toronto, a Diploma in Fine Arts from Sheridan College, an MFA from the University of Victoria, and a PhD in interdisciplinary studies at the University of Victoria. His PhD used a cultural and multi-disciplinary approach to questions of contemporary Indigenous identity, technology and interactive/performance art. Since 1999 he has exhibited his work extensively across Canada in public galleries, museums and artist-run centres, as well as internationally in festivals and group exhibitions. 

More information on Jackson 2bears can be found at his website  


2019 Speakers

Dr. Robbin Gibb, Neuroscience Dept., U of L. "Building Brains and Futures: One Connection at a Time."

Abstract: Building Brains and Futures was founded after the Alberta government collected early developmental data on the kindergarten children in Alberta and identified children in Lethbridge as scoring below Alberta norms and Alberta's children as scoring below Canadian norms. A committee with representatives from two school divisions, the University of Lethbridge neuroscience department, and other early-learning groups was established in order to equip families and improve kindergarten readiness for children. A curriculum of activities that aimed to improve children's executive function skills was adopted in an effort to enhance executive function in preschoolers. The simple activities were  easily incorporated into classroom routines, and the curriculum was implemented at four early-learning sites within the city. Children were tested before and after participating in the program. Results showed that children who were exposed to the curriculum experienced an increase in executive function and self-regulation scores, relative to developmental norms. The project has now expanded to Building Brains Together with a focus on sharing activities to promote positive brain development with parents and childcare workers. 


Paul McKenzie-Jones, Dept. of Indigenous Studies, U of L. "Rights of Nature Movements in Contemporary Indigenous Legal Systems. Social Justice for All?"

Abstract: Rights of nature have been intrinsically woven into Indigenous epistemologies since time immemorial. Pre-settler Indigenous cultural and legal frameworks fully incorporated the non-human world into all aspects of community existence. In the settler-colonial era, imposed western legal systems designed specifically to eradicate those cultural and legal frameworks have also systematically stripped the natural world of its inherent rights in the process. 

Over the past several decades, however, Indigenous communities and social justice movements have sought to reclaim their kinship relationships of grounded normativity within the land, and stewardship, equality, and interconnectedness with the non-human world. This talk will argue that the decolonial aspects of contemporary Indigenous Rights of Nature movements represent social justice for all people and the planet as we strive to negotiate the doomsday scenario of the climate crisis.  


Rumi Graham, U of L Library. "Social justice in scholarly publishing: Open access is the only way."

Abstract: The working title for this talk is, in fact, the title of a 2017 article in The American Journal of Bioethics, which opens with the incontrovertible observation, "we live in an unequal world." The arenas in which inequality plays out are many and varied, but one of them happens to be our intellectual heartland of scholarly publishing. If social justice is an end we believe in, then open access is a means by which we, as researchers and teachers, can meaningfuly move the dial toward equality. In this talk we'll sketch some ideas that show how we can do that together, and why we should try. 


Gabriel Asselin, Alberta Community Council on HIV. "Substance Use, Stigma, and Access to Health Care Services."

Abstract: Principles of harm reduction are progressively becoming accepted as good practices in relation to providing health care services to vulnerable populations such as people who use drugs. One of the barriers to access services is that of the stigma experienced by these individuals. In 2018-2019, the Alberta Community Council on HIV conducted a public awareness project in which young Albertans involved in substance use contributed to a photo-voice project which was published on social media. This campaign aimed to share the voices and stories of its participants to contribute to their de-stigmatization in the wider public. This talk will discuss the philosophy of harm reduction guiding this project as well as some of the learning acquired through its implementation.