Community-Based Research Program

The OPIRG Community-Based Research Program assists and connects students and community groups wishing to conduct research related to social, economic and environmental justice. OPIRG supports research which adds to our knowledge and helps us to call for or create policies, services or resources which bettter address the needs of our diverse community and ecosystem.

This program not only funds research but also offers mentoring (before, during, and after), offering support in areas such as writing research proposals, acquiring research skills, conducting ethical research, as well as sharing the  research results with the community. OPIRG-Ottawa accepts proposals from both students and community groups, and

  • matches students with community group proposals;
  • finds community groups for students to work with, depending on their research interests/proposals; OR
  • funds community group research projects which either don’t need student researchers or which have already identified their student researcher(s).

Requirements for Students:

  • Be undergraduate or graduate students at the University of Ottawa
  • Be willing to work in collaboration with and take direction from one or more community groups

Requirements for Organizations:

  • Be located in the National Capital Region
  • Be grassroots or non-profit organizations
  • Have a mandate oriented towards social, economic, and/or environmental justice

Application deadlines: Applications can be submitted at any time.

For more information, please contact OPIRG’s Research Coordinator at

(currently or formerly assisted by OPIRG-Ottawa)

“Safe and inclusive protest space for everyone: Women and the Occupy Movement”

In July 2011, protesters occupied major streets and parks in many American and Canadian cities. They did this to protest and raise awareness of corporate greed and the lack of social justice, both locally and internationally. The occupation movement was anarchist, horizontal and non-hierarchical, and female protesters were on the front lines and were performing all kinds of tasks.  Female protesters hoped that these camps would be free of misogyny, sexism, white supremacy and harassment. However, various famous female activists in North America published their testimonies about women experiencing both psychological and physical harassment (sometimes rape), or facing a considerable amount of misogyny and sexism.

Despite that fact, the numerous art projects and scholarly works about the occupy movement either ignore or minimize how  female protesters were often marginalized by their fellow protesters. Therefore, This interdisciplinary research/artistic project aims to accomplish the following goals:

  • Document the sexual violations and harassment experienced by female protesters in the Occupy Movement’s protest camps in 2011;
  • Develop strategies for safe and inclusive spaces for women to participate in protest movements; and
  • Amplify the voices of the female protesters who were silenced in various protest camps.   

We will first conduct archival research and qualitative

“Stories From Ottawa (Comic Booklet about Migrants)”

My research project with OPIRG consisted of the creation, publication and distribution of a comic book, titled Stories from Ottawa. The comics offer a contemporary, non-conforming and feminine interpretation of migration in the context of my own settlement story. The story unfolds to reveal many emotional, physical and evocative moments, leading into a sharp critique of  the very state-oriented and market-oriented concepts of “migrant” and “new comer”. The comic book challenges the inadequacy of the host city/culture/society,  and shows how the experiences of “migrants” and “new comers” may be hugely affected by negative perceptions in the host population regarding the success and social inclusion of migrants.  These negative perceptions lead to the creation of preventable social and cultural problems.


The aim of this project is to help emerging artists and activists to engage in story telling in various forms as a means for creating awareness and inclusivity.  This story telling can take place at community events and workshops in Ottawa and we can create some of these events and workshops.


From December 2016 to January 2017, I submitted the comic project to two different publishers: Creators for Creators (from the USA) and Adastra Comics (from Canada). I applied to Creators for Creators because they provide up to 30,000 dollars of funding for successful candidates to complete their projects. I applied to Adastra Comics because of their mandate to publish comics about socio–political struggle. Neither application was successful, but Adastra Comics suggested a few technical improvements which I shall make before finishing the entire book and re-submitting it. Another possibility is publishing the comics in zine format, but at this point, with the academic year coming to an end, it seems more professional and effective to begin improving on the existing comics and try approaching other publishing companies for next academic year.


I would like to thank OPIRG for recognizing my understanding of the dichotomy between formal representation and lived experience of migration, as well for the provided funding which in the long run will help to open avenues for better and broader inclusion of qualitative, participatory and non-linear methods in social research. I believe that we should remain persistent with providing grassroots platforms to those interested in telling their stories, in unique ways and forms, and the prolongation of this project should only encourage us to build our networks, bring potential authors together and make ready a community of story tellers for the coming year.

#MaketheShift (Right to housing)”

The United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Right to Housing serves the international community, and their mandate is to promote the full realization of adequate housing as an essential component of the right to an adequate standard of living. The Special Rapporteur works in both domestic and international contexts to identify best practices and concerns and obstacles regarding the full realization of the right to adequate housing. Moreover, the Special Rapporteur works to provide practical solutions with regard to the implementation of the right to housing. This is done through tools like the Plain Language Reports. This will be the focus of the research presented in this proposal. Plain Language Reports are also a tool to disseminate information and engage communities.


In our working group about the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Right to Housing, we focused on the effectiveness and the availability of the Special Rapporteur’s message found within her reports on The Right to Housing and Homelessness and the indivisibility of the Right to Housing and the Right to Life. In this process, we have developed a series of postcards that will be combined with a social media campaign named #MaketheShift. The students have also collected personal testimonies from people all over the world on what housing means to them. We hope to create a short film with these testimonies for an upcoming strategy meeting hosted by the Special Rapporteur. The film and the postcards will be presented in this strategic meeting to a representative of the Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights, the European Federation of National Organisations Working with the Homeless, ActionAid, Habitat International Coalition (HIC), representatives of the Canadian government, and more.




We believe the work carried out in the last four months will have a great impact on the spread of the Special Rapporteur’s message. We also hope that we have exposed the students to practical knowledge dissemination tools, as well as to the exciting world of international human rights.

“The Collective Intercultural Community Kitchen (CICK)”

The Collective Intercultural Community Kitchen (CICK) members enjoy gathering together to cook, eat, discuss and socialize as a way of coping with the crisis in our community. Independence and empowerment are the main values for our group, and we have gone through a long journey to achieve that.

 The CICK started as a program of the Lowertown Good Neighbours Community House (LGNCH) in 2014, initiated as an outcome of the Food Security Strategic Priority. We partnered with OPIRG to obtain assistance with identifying the strengths of the program and making plans for future action. This piece of research helped us to realize our own strengths and the independence that we could have in developing a program that would suit us.

After our CICK meeting in June 2016, we were informed that the Lowertown Resource Centre (LRC) was going to take over the LGNCH immediately. Our director lost her job in June 2016. Our Board of Directors was disbanded in August 2016. The control of the house as well as our funds, were transferred to the LRC for the provisionary director to administer.

As far as we knew, there was no prior community consultation prior to this transfer. A petition circulated by volunteers and signed by 200 people was addressed to City Counsellor Matthieu Fleury, but it was ignored.

The CICK funds that were received from OPIRG were also transferred to the LRC, so we had real trouble getting the money we needed to buy food for our monthly cooking. This caused the meetings to be suspended, and this caused a drop in attendance. Then a new program coordinator was hired to supervise the activities at the LGNCH. Members of the CICK met with her, and even though she appeared to understand the independence of the program and promised to write up a contract for CICK to sign, in fact she interfered with CICK’s activities, required the participants to sign waivers and other paperwork and also assigned an intern to the program without consulting the group.

At this time we are looking for alternative meeting places. CICK has continued using space at the LGNCH, but it is a constant struggle to maintain our independence and our social ease under the bureaucratic requirements of the LRC. Their interference is detrimental to the community growth and dignity that CICK requires in order to thrive.

Here is a link to the complete research paper:

*Beyond food security: A Participatory Study Of Ottawa’s Lowertown East Community Kitchen Program, by Rosalind Ragetlie, University of Ottawa, December 2015

Given the community interest in bettering food-related programming, and the financial obstacles to providing this service, this project emerged from a partnership between the Ontario Public Research Interest Group (OPIRG), the Lowertown Good Neighbours Community House (LGNCH), and researchers from the University of Ottawa’s Department of Geography. As a non-partisan group dedicated to social, economic and environmental justice, OPIRG was initially approached by LGNCH regarding food security-related questions. The idea for this research project emerged through a series of conversations between researchers and community representatives to focus the research on community needs. Given the significance of adequate food security and its particular importance in low-income neighbourhoods, this project aimed to actively engage low-income populations in Lowertown East, Ottawa in the participatory development of successful community programming. For the program to be considered successful, it must be tailored to meet the community’s needs, have a positive impact on health and food security, must also encourage social cohesion through social and cultural interaction. The long-term goal is to inform funding decisions to support populations in the Lowertown East neighbourhood, and other similar communities, in gaining/sustaining access to more effective community food programs.

Having examined the Collective Intercultural Community Kitchen in the Lowertown East neighbourhood as an example of a program that has evolved to meet community needs, it is clear that the context and process of this particular community kitchen has generated positive results. Despite the challenges of implementing the program, the participants felt that the program had a significant positive impact on their lives in terms of social interaction, cultural learning, skill-building and validation, empowerment, and both direct and indirect aspects of food security. This research highlights the importance of prioritizing social networks, community strengthening, empowerment and individual skill-building when designing community food programs. 

Organizations and funders who implement programs need to recognize that food security results from an interaction of multiple factors, and that there is no single solution to this issue. This needs to be taken into consideration when measuring the success of community food programs, rather than focusing only on how much food is provided, or how much money it saves the participants.

This study has also demonstrated the importance of qualitative participatory action research. Stakeholder perspectives provide a more accurate understanding of the issues at play in a given community, and also identify the issues that are of real concern to community members. Without this understanding, there will continue to be a gap between what the community wants and what the community programs are providing to address issues such as food security. This type of research also brings a richness and depth to the discussion, and aims to contribute positively to the community. Participatory action research and capacity-building takes time, however, and we were not able to fully incorporate this component into the research given the time constraints. It is important that this part of the research be continued with the aid of OPIRG, and that the results of the process be evaluated.

It is hoped that the results of this research and the ongoing participatory action project will help to inform the programming goals of the Lowertown Good Neighbours Community House, and influence funding decisions for community-based programming related to food security issues, ultimately making healthy and affordable food more accessible and creating stronger more empowered communities. This research may also be shared to benefit other Community Houses and vulnerable populations throughout the city. It is our hope that this research can improve policy and funding decisions at a broader level, and have a positive contribution to the continuation of programs that empower, validate, and enrich the lives of their participants.

“The Chaudière Falls and the Islands’ International Implications (Urbanisation of a sacred area)”

The recognition of Indigenous rights and land claims has become a central and sensitive topic in today’s society, for many countries including Canada. Many countries and governments are trying to find ways to recognize and work with their Indigenous populations and their claims, while still trying to maintain and promote economic development and stability. The Algonquin Nation is currently trying to assert their rights to the Chaudière Falls area prevent its development by the Windmill Development Group and Dream Unlimited Corporation. The development group is planning on building new world-class condominiums and low rise buildings next to Chaudière Falls.  One of its islands, Victoria Island, holds special and important meaning to the Algonquin Indigenous people. This island was a meeting place for negotiating peace between Indigenous populations from across Canada. Victoria Island and the Chaudière Falls were, and still are, considered a sacred site to these Indigenous populations, and specifically those of the local Algonquin Nation.

Relations between Nation-states and Indigenous populations are still proving to be problematic and difficult in today’s world. Although progress has been made in recognizing the rights of Indigenous peoples in many countries, in many cases the rights and history of the Indigenous populations are ignored or disregarded. The media keeps telling us about new cases of Indigenous rights and land being violated. In a globalized world, it is easier to see the steps and stance other countries are taking in working with and recognizing the rights of Indigenous populations. Some countries and Indigenous groups have chosen to try and work out disputes between themselves, while other Indigenous groups have felt the need to seek assistance from the international community, such as the United Nations. UNDRIP provides a good example of steps countries can take to preserve the interests of Indigenous nations, while working to repair relationships. It is important that nation-states around the world learn from each other’s experiences and mistakes, and find a way to cooperate and respectfully work with Indigenous populations.

Condos and Hydro Expansion: How Green compared with Restoration?

The Zibi development, as described in their master plan, would be an urban “eco-community”, under the non-independently verified “green” development label, called One Planet Living. This label has some subjective targets in terms of the management of ecological health, such as reducing wastes and energy consumption. These goals of the somewhat greenwashed plan could lessen the ecological damage to the region, promoting sustainability and reducing the anthropogenic environmental modification of the Ottawa River. However, this development ultimately demands the urbanisation and destruction of the habitat of the region.  “Urbanisation represents another intensive land use, with strong effects on freshwater biodiversity, resulting in consistent declines in the richness of algal, invertebrate, and fish communities” (Paul and Meyer, 2001). Also, “human land use, in particular urbanisation and intensified agriculture, are widely recognised as major threats to freshwater biodiversity worldwide,” (MEA, 2005; Dudgeon et al., 2006; Vörösmarty et al., 2010) and have been found to impact the integrity of freshwater ecosystems. These detrimental effects also apply to the proposed expansion of the hydro dam by Energy Ottawa. The expansion of this dam would be further accentuate these ecological effects . The alteration of flow regimes is often claimed to be one of the most prevalent and continuous threats to the ecological sustainability of rivers and their associated wetlands (Naiman and others 1995, Sparks 1995, Lundqvist 1998, Ward and others 1999). However, some steps are planned to manage the ecology of the river, such as a proposed fish ladder, and possible implementation of spawning beds past the dam. Both developments may considerably reduce the damage, but do not compare to the benefits of cancelling the urbanisation plans.

“Maximum security penitentiary: human rights violations”

This project was looking for resources about violations of human rights throughout Federal institutions in Canada. Through investigating specific institutions, their regulations and past violations of these regulations, we were able to get a better understanding of how each institution operates versus how each institution should operate.

After doing some collection of information we were able to summarize several issues within the prison system concerning: mental health struggles not being addressed, Indigenous prisoners without access to programs, a lack of access to religious materials and many others. From this, we set out to provide inmates with as much information as possible to challenge these breaches in human rights.

We were able to gather examples of national and international human rights acts, as well as real life examples of court cases about human rights violations in penal institutions. We discovered “how” inmates could realistically make claims on their own behalf. 

Our findings were astounding. We were able to analyze documents such as the CCRA, The Charter of Rights and Freedoms, etc. We found rules for the treatment of inmates: equal access to health care, religious freedom, refrain from cruel and inhumane punishment, and more. Some examples of past legal cases were found, for example, in the case of Mcmaster v. Canada, the inmate’s medial meniscus ligament tore because he was repeatedly given shoes that did not fit. He took the case to court and succeeded. These examples could serve as a helpful guide for inmates who want to assess the likelihood of success before taking their own concerns to court. The goal of this project is to help those who are serving time to demand the rights that they deserve.

“Outreach trip to Kitcisakik: Reconciliation processes in the decolonization era”

Anicinapek members of Kitcisakik have set up an innovative economic project offering visitors opportunities to raise their awareness of Anicinape culture and knowledge and to learn about the local historical and political situation. From February 20 to 22, 2017, OPIRG, in collaboration with professors in Human Kinetics and Geography, organized an outreach trip to Kitcisakik with 19 students from the University of Ottawa. The various activities with community members have proven to be most fascinating and transformative. Sharing circles on topics of academic interest such as land claims and our relationship with the land, purification ceremonies, storytelling and legends with a local elder, testimonials of experiences at residential schools, snowshoeing to a log house on the edge of a lake, marten skinning, observation of winter traps in the forest, knowledge sharing about medicinal plants, ice fishing, a traditional meal of moose, a night in a prospector tent, a dream catcher making workshop and a guided tour of the community are examples of experiences that helped the students to see the world through an Anicinape lens.

The main lesson of this immersion was undoubtedly to begin to understand that at the epistemological heart of the Anicinapek culture is their relationship with the land. This small Algonquin community prefers to “occupy” its ancestral land with indefinite boundaries by maintaining the struggle for its restricted Indigenous hunting and fishing rights and living in the abandonment of the money, infrastructure and services normally provided by the government to “reserves” governed by the Indian Act. The vast ancestral lands of the Anicinapek of Kitcisakik in the heart of the La Vérendrye Wildlife Reserve have been the subject of a long series of invasions that have led to the semi-settlement of the families. Formerly nomadic and dispersed on the territory, they are now concentrated in the present village of Dozois. Since the early 20th century, forestry intensification, mining and hydroelectric development, railways, road networks and recreational tourism development have contributed to the shrinking of the territory, the transformation of lifestyles and traditional activities of hunting, fishing and trapping, in addition to leading to the loss of the identity and cultural foundations rooted in the land (St-Arnaud et al., 2005). The resistance to be displaced to a reserve and the continuing struggle against the reduction of its territory means that this community of 463 inhabitants lives today in conditions of extreme economic poverty in a temporary village near a water retention basin which controls the current for the Rapide 7 hydroelectric dam. The territory is Anishnabe, but is administered as Crown Lands, and is partly leased by Hydro Québec for its activities where, ironically, family homes have no electricity or running water. Added to this are the often-tragic repercussions of the residential school experienced by many adults in the community.

The students were able to physically and spiritually live a great lesson of resilience by being confronted with the neocolonial realities of our modern world. This reflection and reassessment is necessary and is at the very heart of reconciliation processes in the decolonization era.  

“Living and Coexisting Well (Indigenous teachings)”

This project involves building a good understanding of how “well-being” is lived and experienced by mature Indigenous cultures.  In ancestral times, humans and non-humans coexisted well and in harmony. Our project relies on the collection of wisdom kept by Indigenous Elders from different Indigenous backgrounds. Almost of all these cultures are actively resisting the imposition of coloniality in different degrees. By means of this project we deliberately seek to create a network of front line protectors of the land, the waters and all expressions of life and living systems.

Our activities include interviewing and speaking with Indigenous Elders and learning the wisdom of their cultural ethos about how humans are just one of the many species that make up the wheel of life. We are learning how to become good ancestors to our future generations. 

We are living on unceded and unsurrendered Algonquin territory, and one of our main concerns is to understand the multiple dimensions of Mino Bimaadiziwin (living well).

“Participatory Evaluation Analysis: Case of a Youth Intervention Program “

The purpose of this report is to recount and analyze a participatory evaluation process of an intervention program of yoga, meditation and art expression designed for street youth (offered in Ottawa, winter 2013 & spring 2014). This example effectively illustrates a participatory process. The process starts from the premise that the youth and other people involved in the process have the ability to share and learn from each other. Relationships are to be established and developed in the most equal way possible, based on trust and reciprocity. The participatory process requires awareness of power in relationships, the different agendas of the people involved, and  the roles played by the participants. Flexibility and an acceptance of the inherent messiness of the process are also required.

The approach taken by this research was participatory, with the idea of creating an opportunity for the youth to express themselves and lead the process of reflecting on the proposed program.

The participatory framework was understood as an opportunity for all of the participants to have a voice and be an active part of the process. In this specific case, we acknowledged several limitations.

The most important limitation was the fact that the youth were not full participants in every stage of the process.  The youth did not participate in the development of the full participatory framework. Designing, collecting analyzing, writing and disseminating are the different stages involved in a participatory research process. It is necessary that all participants are present from the beginning to define agendas, interests, roles and responsibilities. As Rogers Hart’s ladder shows, we were aiming for rung #6 (Figure 1), where even though adults could initiate the actions, they can still share decision-making with youth. “Full involvement of youth in participatory research requires that they be involved in all aspects of the research process from inception to dissemination” , (Funk, 2012) and when youth are at that level of engagement they are empowered by their participation (p. 289).

Secondly, the team felt very strongly that there was no agreed method of handling youth interventions, and no common understanding of youth. The traditional top-down approach was very clear at times. The use of terms such as “youth at risk” could really describe the two different visions present within the process. The greater part of the knowledge produced about teenagers and youth describes their realities according to a number of problems (dropout, harassment, substance abuse, depression, suicide, violence, eating disorders, uses of technologies, etc.). This certainly provides relevant knowledge for intervening and alleviating these difficulties, but also develops a vision of young people as frail, in danger or “at risk”. This negative perspective becomes the dominant paradigm for the discussion of adolescence and youth (Caron and Soulière, 2013). Critical Youth Studies has been attempting since the 1990s to recognize youth as social actors capable of reflection and action, able to make choices, express themselves and give meaning to their lives. From this perspective it is essential to include the youth and their experiences in the development of research and programs. It is by multiplying these experiences rooted in youth-lived realities that we can develop positive perspectives and knowledge that can change and redefine language concerning youth (Caron and Soulière, 2013).

As a team we acknowledged that these limitations could have been addressed by allowing more time to create a safe space where people would be able to openly talk about their positions so that it would not be a place for assumptions. It would have been necessary for the “adults” in the team, including the instructor, to receive some training regarding power dynamics and youth engagement dynamics. This would have helped them to better understand what the youth members of the team were trying to tell them. That would also have addressed the power dynamics issues as well as the concerns about equality, trust, and reciprocity. 


The recommendations are inspired by the experience we have had with this program. Recommendations include ideas for the evaluation process and the way of collecting information for the program. The same structure can be used for any type of program YSB could develop with youth.

  • Supported by YSB staff, youth could develop a self-care program including topics such as healthy mind, healthy body. Before the planning begins, youth could be recruited among different programs, aiming at few key youth leaders to recruit among their own networks.
  • The program of yoga and mediation sessions could be offered weekly.
  • The Yoga instructor could be a young instructor, part of the programs at the YSB. Recruitment of the instructor should be first done at YSB. In case the yoga instructor comes from somewhere else, the instructor will have to receive youth engagement and “power with” training.
  • Young people involved and the yoga instructor should receive training in participatory action research and evaluation.
  • Youth participating in the program and the yoga instructor should develop the yoga and meditation program. They will have to decide if they want to set themes in advance for each session or if they prefer to identify the theme during the check-in time of the session.
  • The sessions should be structured in ways that allow young people to give feedback to the instructor every session (e.g. debriefing session at the end or check out time). Feedback should be taken into consideration in the remaining sessions.
  • A midterm debriefing session could help to improve the process and raise possible concerns.
  • Final debriefing session would also help to collect information for the evaluation of the program.
  • Collectively the group should be able to put together a short report indicating the benefits of the program and how to improve it. 

Gaining Insight: A Community-Based Approach to Understanding Physical Activity and Weight Gain in Pregnancy of First Nations and Métis Women 

I (Francine Darroch) completed 15 interviews with professionals who work with pregnant urban First Nations women in Ottawa. These interviews were intended to gather professional perspectives concerning the factors that interact to influence urban First Nations women’s weight gain in pregnancy.  I have completed critical discourse analysis of this data and discussed the findings with the project advisory board.  In the second phase of the project a community member and myself conducted semi-structured interviews and focus groups with a total of 20 pregnant women/mothers in the community. The focus groups suggested what resource pregnant women/mothers would find beneficial for them and their communities. Then I created an on-line resource for urban First Nations and Métis women about pregnancy and health.

Francine Darroch defended her PhD dissertation in 2016. Francine is from the Department of Human Kinetics at the University of Ottawa.  Read her dissertation here: 

Gaining Insight: A Community-Based Approach to Understanding Physical Activity and Weight Gain in Pregnancy with First Nations and Métis Women

National Survey of Queer Student Service Operations

This project focused on two conversations, one with the University of Ottawa Pride Centre and one with the LGBTQ Centre at Carleton University, to discuss what it is like to operate a queer student centre.

The presence of queer student centres (QSCs) across Canadian universities and colleges is largely unknown. It is an important area of investigation since queer-identified students have previously identified several benefits of these services, including receiving support from other queer individuals. The focus of the current study was to determine (a) the number of QSCs in Canadian universities and colleges; (b) factors predicting their existence; (c) types of support they receive; and (d) future directions. A national online survey of 156 institutions and two in-person focus groups 2) were conducted. Descriptive analyses and a logistic regression were completed, and qualitative responses of the survey and the focus groups were thematically coded. Results demonstrate that universities and institutions with larger student populations are more likely to have a centre and that institutional support is crucial for their operations. Implications for the sustainability and creation of centres are discussed.

The research has been presented at the GSAED conference and at the Society for Community Research and Action conference in June 2013.  A journal article has been published by Higher Education and the paper has been circulated to Pride Centres across the country.

Translations by activists

Translation and ideologies (religious or secular), have always had a complex and tortuous relationship. When translators don’t fully understand a philosophy or ideology or religion, their translations will be inaccurate and insatisfactory. Collaborative, community or voluntary translations done by activists are essential, and translators can be real agents of change in translation called

A journal peer review article from my presentation at the 2013 Glendon College Conference was published in Tradução em Revista18, 2015/1, at page 160. As a result of my participation in the Congress of Brazil (2013), I contacted the Brazilian Belas Infieis translatological review and an article has been translated into Portuguese and will appear in the next issue. Another, related to the presentation in the conference (on the subject at hand), is also being considered for publication.

“Hidden Bruises (HIV & AIDS film) “

About the film:

Hidden Bruises is an independent documentary film which is being produced in order to portray Caribbean persons who are survivors of HIV/AIDS and Violence.

A pervasive culture of violence exists in the Caribbean region, including gun violence, intimate partner violence and sexual abuse. Murder rates in the Caribbean are higher than in any other region of the world, and assault rates including rape are significantly above the world average. With an HIV prevalence rate averaging 1%, the Caribbean is also the world’s second most affected region by the AIDS epidemic.

The question therefore arose, “What are the intersections that exist between HIV and Violence in the Caribbean?”

Hidden Bruises seeks to promote discussion, engagement and awareness about the intersections that exist between HIV and Violence with specific emphasis on the inadequate systems, practices and policies that hinder the fight to end HIV & AIDS and Violence in the Caribbean region.

Why are we fundraising? 

We need your help to complete the full-length documentary film. Through fundraising events, it is our hope that the team will be able to return to the different Caribbean countries and communities to complete the filming. The funds raised will also help to cover the costly post-production phase, which includes archival footage and regional television segments, voice-over narration, composing, picture and sound editing, and translation.

About us: 

Skylarc Pictures is a small activism-oriented independent film company from Canada and Barbados that uses film and arts education to create social and environmental change across the Caribbean region and beyond.

Hidden Bruises is produced in formal partnership with The Institute of Gender & Development Studies: Nita Barrow Unit (University of the West Indies, Cave Hill Campus, Barbados).

Director/Cinematographer/Co-Writer: SKYLARC, a Canadian-Barbadian film company

Co-Writer: Dr. Charmaine Crawford, Director of the Institute for Gender and Development Studies (University of the West Indies, Cave Hill Campus, Barbados).

Producer: Jessica Jaja, MA Candidate in Human Geography (University of Ottawa)

Narrator: Adrian Green, Award-Winning Barbadian Spoken Word Poet


Clarity (sexuality & identity theatre)

This project aimed to create and sustain a dialogue between the youth of today and our culture, so that a healthier future could be created. It is our belief that we cannot start this dialogue without having a clear and unbiased view of community realities related to sexuality, identity, relationship styles, social dynamics, stigma and oppression. The resulting play was performed during the Ottawa Fringe Festival 2014.

Stories of the Land (Cree youth and land-based initiatives)

Strengthening and Highlighting Traditional Healing Practices for Indigenous Youth: This research project with the Moose Factory First Nation proceeded in the spirit of community engagement, in the direction selected by the community. Seeking to honor the community’s request for meaningful research, I made a third field trip into the Cree community to confirm the data collected and to ensure that it supported the community’s work of cultural renewal and land-based programming. The research includes an examination of the relationship between grandmother songs and cultural healing methods. In July 2014, I attended the community’s annual Gathering of our People event to share the research findings. I appreciate OPIRG’s support, which allowed me to offer stipends to the research participants. 

Janice Cindy Gaudet defended her thesis in 2016: An Indigenous Methodology for Coming to Know Milo Pimatisiwin as Land-Based Initiatives for Indigenous Youth 

Round Dancing in the Rotunda (Decolonizing the U. of Ottawa campus)

Decolonizing space at the University of Ottawa: The goal of this research was to understand how Indigenous students at the University of Ottawa experience exclusion spatially on campus. The project generated recommendations for organizing more acts of cultural resurgence and transforming the physical environment of campus in order to help decolonize the space.

The project also produced a Zine Decolonizing Space at the University of Ottawa April 2016

Mining Watch (Canada exploiting Mexico’s resources)

Canadian mining companies are exploiting resources all over Mexico, despite the wishes of Indigenous populations, and this is documented by this research.  Unfortunately the University of Ottawa pension funds are invested in many of these mining companies. This link offers a report about the research a student did on the subject.

“Developing a Food Policy for U of Ottawa”

The goal of this project is to identify the organizations, programs, and activities on campus related to food issues, and to make this information available and visible. We hope then to meet and work with various concerned campus groups, professors and students to develop a food policy for the University of Ottawa campus.

“Organizing ICOPA 15 (Penal abolition conference)”

Exploring Social Identity Dynamics, Collective and Horizontal Leadership Issues, and Fluidity at the International Conference on Penal Abolition (ICOPA): This research project used a participation-action method to explore abolitionist social identities, the dynamics of collective and horizontal leadership structures (very common in activist organizing) as well as the relationships, tensions, and cooperation between the less-involved international group and the local committee taking responsibility for the next conference. We examined the possibilities of producing critical knowledge that might serve future ICOPA committees as well as other activist organizations. Further, we explored the possibility and importance of sharing the research results. The lead researchers recruited six participants from the local ICOPA organizing committee who, collaboratively set out the parameters of the project . We prepared a number of resources to present to the group which assisted us in tracking our thinking and feelings about our conference preparation activities.

We used journal-writing as a way to track our activities and our thinking during the preparation work and also during the  conference, which was held June of 2015. We were pleased to transmit the findings and best practices gleaned from our research to ICOPA, and especially to the organizers of the next ICOPA conference in 2016.

This project produced a peer reviewed article published at Penal Field/Champs pénal Journal: “The International Conference on Penal Abolition (ICOPA): Exploring Dynamics and Controversies as observed at ICOPA 15 on Algonquin Territory”

“Theatre of the Oppressed (penal abolition)” To create awareness about penal abolition, we presented Theatre of the Oppressed during a session of the 2015 International Conference on Penal Abolition (ICOPA).

“UOttawa Restorative Garden (nature & concentration, stress)”

University of Ottawa Restorative Garden campus pilot project seeks to understand the potential positive impacts of contact with nature at the university, with a view to creating an environment which helps to restore the following:

  • physical and mental energy
  • the ability to cope with and recover from stress
  • cognitive vitality and improved capacity to process information
  • natural diversity and beauty
  • human-nature interaction

Healthy Transportation and Vulnerable Populations

Update 2017

University of Ottawa students continue to volunteer and work to bring improvements to lower income neighbourhoods in Ottawa, through a variety of actions intended to help make communities better for pedestrians, cyclists and public transit users. 

Significant accomplishments have included convincing the City of Ottawa to introduce a monthly transit pass for people living on low incomes. The EquiPass, introduced in April 2017, costs $57 per month, and support for it was gained by students who helped in the collection of 3,000 signatures on a petition calling on the City to create the pass. The EquiPass should help part-time students, in addition to thousands of working poor people, and others struggling to afford the necessities of life.

The Healthy Transportation Coalition has helped to coordinate these activities, and in some cases, students have been hired to work at OPIRG in a paid position for the summer months to do outreach in the lower income neighbourhoods where the Coalition is working. 

The six neighbourhoods (Heron Gate, Bayshore, Vanier North, Cummings, Bells Corners West and Hawthorne Meadows) were selected thanks to an analysis provided by Dr. Elizabeth Kristjansson and the Ottawa Neighbourhood Study. Kristjansson is a full Professor in the School of Psychology, Faculty of Social Sciences at the University of Ottawa. She is a health measurement expert whose place-based research focuses on the socio-economic determinants of health. Data she provided detailed the 15 neighbourhoods in Ottawa that are the least socio-economically advantaged as well as the neighbourhoods with the worst walkability.

Students with Geographic Information Systems (GIS) knowledge and skills then helped to create maps of the neighbourhoods showing what exists in terms of pedestrian, cycling, and public transit infrastructure, and what was planned in terms of improvements between the present day and 2031, according to the City’s Transportation Master Plan. The Coalition then selected six neighbourhoods to work in, based on which of the 15 neighbourhoods were the most neglected under the City’s Transportation Plan.

In the months and years ahead, the Healthy Transportation Coalition hopes to work with the City to ensure the following improvements are made:

  1. Inclusive PUBLIC TRANSIT: OC Transpo single fare discount for low-income people, reduced cost EquiPass ($42/month), on-line booking system for Para Transpo (similar to Toronto’s Wheel-Trans Online Trip Booking system);
  2. CYCLISTS, PEDESTRIANS: We need excellent safe cycling and pedestrian connections from low income neighbourhoods to Rapid Transit Stations;
  3. Affordable housing in transit-oriented developments near LRT Stations, ensuring that the ‘air space’ the City owns is filled with as much affordable housing as possible; and
  4. HOW TO HELP PAY FOR IT: Consider road user fees which people on low incomes would be exempt from paying.

The involvement of student volunteers in working to achieve these policy priorities will help to ensure that these things happen more quickly than would otherwise be the case. 

Ongoing volunteer and potential summer job opportunities for students should continue for the months and years ahead. For more information, please don’t hesitate to learn more about the Coalition at or contact

Update 2016

The goal of this project is to determine whether or not vulnerable populations are well-served by a healthy transportation network of sidewalks, walking paths, multi-use paths, bike lanes and public transportation in Ottawa, and what improvements are needed in policies, infrastructure, access and affordability.

For that purpose, six neighbourhoods have been identified as a priority. During this last year we surveyed and developed neighbourhoods profiles for four of these neighbourhoods (Herongate, Bayshore, Cummings and Vanier North). Surveys have helped us to learn about their needs and access to healthy transportation. We held 10 sharing circles between Heron Gate and Bayshore. During the summer, active transportation audits were done at both neighbourhoods. At Bayshore we presented the findings, and neigbourhood members have prioritized their needs and formed working groups to actively address those priorities. The working groups will be developing pop-up projects around the neighbourhood.

The two main general outcomes from this project so far are the Ottawa low-income transit pass petition with more than 1500 signatures and persuading Ottawa’s City Council to assess the feasibility of toll roads.  Our work to support healthy transportation solutions for Ottawa continues.

” It’s Not a Death Sentence (HIV/AIDS)”   

It’s Not a Death Sentence is a  60 second public service announcement created by Skylarc Pictures for the AIDS Committee of Ottawa. It challenges viewers to change their perceptions of living with HIV from that of a death sentence to a life of fulfillment. The purpose is to suggest ways for the activist community and the general public to participate in reducing HIV-related stigma and discrimination.

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