Frost Report, 2020-2021
Message from Janet Miron, Out-Going Director
It has been a genuine pleasure to have served as director of the Frost Centre for Canadian Studies and Indigenous Studies for the last two and a half years. I would like to express my deep appreciation to everyone for their involvement in the Frost Centre. We are truly a special centre – vibrant, dynamic, innovative, and dedicated to addressing critical, and often very difficult, issues in both the past and present of the northern half of North America. The commitment of faculty, students, staff, community members, alumni, and emeritus professors to the Frost Centre is remarkable, and it is the work we do both individually and collectively that lies at the heart of our vitality.
Since the early establishment of the MA and PhD programs, the research and work done in the Frost Centre has contributed to the building of knowledges; served communities; fostered deeper understanding of Canada in local, national, and international contexts; challenged systems of oppression; worked for greater social, cultural, political, and environmental justice and transformation; contributed to Indigenous resurgence and the work of decolonization; and endeavoured to foster reconciliation efforts and address colonialism, inequality, and discrimination in Settler Canada. The work done by members of the Frost Centre carries both intrinsic and extrinsic value, and is measured by more than just successful funding applications, awards and honours, publications, and other professional accomplishments. Members of the Frost Centre also play important roles in community, whether it be as activists in the LGBTQ2S+ community, as artists, as fund-raisers or organizers, and as participants in critical conversations both at and beyond Trent University. Chi miigwetch and thank you all for the heavy work you do in contributing to and broadening knowledge, understanding, and dialogue.
The Frost Centre comprises two graduate programs, the MA in Canadian Studies and Indigenous Studies and the PhD in Canadian Studies (the latter offered jointly with Carleton University.) But we are also a vibrant research, cultural, social, and intellectual centre that fosters engagement and enrichment beyond graduate degree requirements. Our events and activities are diverse and broadly focused on building better pathways forward, whether it be at a talk at Art Space with Alice Olsen-Williams, a concert with Jeremy Dutcher, a visit to the Canoe Museum to learn from Prof. Laura Peers, or in a gathering for Peterborough’s Pride Parade under the Frost Centre banner. We are committed to complex and challenging conversations, but also to celebrations of joy. The drag show and cabaret in the Fall of 2019 was organized through the crucial work of PhD candidate Derek Newman-Stille, and definitely stands out for me as an especially joyous moment over the last two and a half years (the shopping trip for decorations with them was as fun as the drag show itself!)
Our guest speakers in the Frost Centre have greatly enriched our learning and understanding through their sharing of knowledge and fostering of important reflections and discussions. Cathy Schoel’s work and guidance for students and faculty have been essential to the Frost Centre, but I also want to acknowledge her amazing design skills and ability to create beautiful posters to promote our events and guest speakers. Cathy’s contributions to making the Frost Centre so vibrant truly go beyond day-to-day administration and ensuring program requirements are met. As well, I want to highlight the important work students do outside of their degrees, which over the years has included beading circles (miigwetch, Dominique O’Bonsawin, for sharing your skills with us in 2019-20!), professional development workshops (facilitated by Kate Viscardis in 2019-2020), the many activities of the Frost Centre Student Association (including their amazing work in organizing the Suds and Speakers Series and the graduate student conference held virtually in the Fall of 2020), and all of the other events and activities that strengthen relations and provide opportunities for learning and engagement. I greatly appreciated when people shared their time, space, thoughts, and energy as guest speakers, facilitators, organizers, participants, and audience members.
While director, I was very fortunate to witness the recognition of our graduate students at convocation, the last two of which unfortunately could not be held in person. I am so proud of all our graduates, and so grateful to their supervisors and committee members for all of their work with them. For the last two years, a student from the Frost Centre has received the highest university award at convocation: the Governor General’s Gold Medal. This award was received by Demi Mathias in 2020 and by Kate Viscardis in 2021. The research done by Demi on the birch bark canoe and cultural resurgence and Kate on institutionalized violence and the Orillia Asylum attest to the significant contributions Frost Centre students make and represent the importance and value of work that is grounded in respect, is reciprocal, and serves community, however we define community.
The spread of COVID has meant we have not been able to work together in person for over a year now. Faculty who taught in the Frost Centre during the past year were inspiring for their willingness and ability to learn new technologies and work in new mediums and forms of delivery over the Internet. They all did so with great flexibility, skill, and grace. Thank you so very much to Profs. Jonathan Greene, Margaret Steffler, Whitney Lackenbauer, Michele Lacombe, David Newhouse, Heather Nicol, Colleen O’Manique, Stephanie Rutherford, and Paula Sherman who taught courses this year that were incredibly rigorous and enriching. Thank you also to PhD candidates Sarah Jessup and Eric Lehman for serving as assistants and technical supports in several of our courses. Graduate students were resilient and dedicated to their studies in the face of COVID and the challenges it has entailed, and professors continued to supervise and navigate students through the requirements of their degrees without missing a beat. I am amazed by all of the adjustment, commitment, creativity, and determination everyone has demonstrated during this world-wide crisis.
Guest speakers were equally patient, understanding, and willing to share their work and insights remotely over the last academic year. Professor and Elder Doug Williams, with the assistance of Betty Carr-Braint of First Peoples House of Learning, helped us launch the 2020-21 academic year with a powerful fireside talk for students that transcended the distance remote technology can often entail. I am very grateful to Prof. Williams for sharing his time and knowledge with us at this event. In the following weeks and months of 2020-21, we were further privileged to learn from Dr. Lynn Gehl, Lisa Clarke, Prof. Lee Maracle, and Demi Mathias. We also had the opportunity to learn during research ethics workshops with Jamie Muckle, John Bessai (PhD candidate), Holly Brant (PhD candidate), and Prof. Nadine Changfoot. We greatly benefitting from collaborations with others at Trent, including working with the Indigenous Studies PhD and Sustainability Studies MA programs and FPHL to provide training for graduate students on Trauma-Informed Teaching for the second year in a row. As well, we are very grateful to FPHL for the “Get Over It” exercise they held, and to Betty who held numerous gatherings with Indigenous students over the last year. Thank you to everyone who helped make the last year as engaging, fruitful, and interactive as possible, who provided supports, and who shared their time and expertise in so many different ways.
The last few weeks have been an especially difficult time of grief, mourning, outrage, reflection, and awareness, as the work to identify the burial sites of Canada’s Residential “Schools” System is unfolding. There is much that needs to be done to address historic and on-going colonialism, to improve Indigenous-Settler relations, to heal, to find ways for justice. Regardless of the specific area in which our expertise lies and where our research focuses, we all have a role to play in these important processes as students, as educators, as community members, and as Indigenous or Settler people living in traditional Indigenous Territories.
As my term as director comes to an end, I would like to thank everyone for their work and contributions to the Frost Centre, and to welcome with great enthusiasm the in-coming director, Prof. Heather Nicol. Prof. Nicol has very generously agreed to serve in this role for the next four years. I am very grateful that students will be guided through the program under her leadership and look forward to all that lies ahead!
All the best,
Message from Nicole Covey, President of the Frost Centre Student Association and PhD Candidate
While student engagement looked different under COVID the Frost Centre students continued to be engaged and invested in the FCSA. Over the past year, the FCSA has dedicated significant effort in increasing its ties to the greater Trent community, specifically with the TGSA. Despite the limitations surrounding community socialization, the FCSA created a very popular weekly initiative called FCSA Peer Support; a weekly zoom meeting that allowed graduate students to come together (be it virtually) and share ideas, guidance, and helped to build a sense of community. Our monthly association meetings have continued to be well-attended in the virtual format even without the promise of pizza, a key motivating factor in obtaining graduate student attendance.
The FCSA has started working hard planning for the upcoming academic year. We have created social media accounts for the FCSA on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram (@TrentFCSA) in order to increase the visibility of our student association and be more accessible to incoming and prospective graduate students. Following the success of the 2020 FCSA conference, we are working to plan TWO graduate conferences for the 2021-22 academic year – “Canada in Times of Crisis” October 2021, and (theme to be determined) May 2022.
In terms of student engagement this past year has demonstrated that community can be found whenever and wherever people are willing to put the effort into finding it. Hopefully our graduate community continues to grow once we can safely meet in person again.
Message from Sebastian Johnston-Lindsay, Co-Organizer of the Frost Centre Student Association Conference, Past President of the Frost Centre Student Association, and PhD Candidate
Frost Centre Student Association Conference 2020
On November 12th and 13th, 2020, the Frost Centre Student Association (FCSA) hosted a virtual graduate student conference entitled “Uprooting Canada: Resistance and Resurgence.” This event brought students from universities across Canada together for a fully interdisciplinary conference reflecting the Frost Centre’s aim to highlight critical discussions on Canada’s past, present and future from a multitude of disciplinary approaches.
Planning for this event began in September of 2019 and had initially been scheduled for March of 2020. For obvious reasons, the event was postponed indefinitely as we all adjusted to the realities of life and survival during a global pandemic.
When the planning committee drafted and distributed the call for papers late in 2019, we hoped that it would evoke a range of responses from potential participants. However, we had no idea how prescient the topics of resistance and resurgence would become over the course of 2020. That this conference occurred at all is a testament to all those who helped to plan this event or participated, either as presenters or audience members. In coming together under such extraordinary circumstances, this group embodies the ideas of resistance and resurgence.
The tone of last year’s conference was set by a keynote reading and discussion between author, educator, and disability activist, Dorothy Ellen Palmer, and Frost Centre Ph.D. Candidate Derek Newman-Stille on the topic of disability justice. Centring the voices of disabled artists, activists and academics took on new meaning in the context of the pandemic and reminded us of the possibilities and urgent need for an accessible future where barriers to participation in events like our own can and must be broken down at all times and not only when it becomes the only option of able-bodied persons.
The virtual format also opened our event up to re-thinking what an academic conference can include. While we had the typical keynotes, panel presentations, and question and answer periods, we were also able to broadcast videos and multimedia presentations which were hosted on our website and available to the public both before and after the conference.
The FCSA could not have succeeded in this cause without the constant and steady guidance of Cathy Schoel without whose wise administrative advice was essential to the success of this event. We also want to thank Dr. Janet Miron, whose support as Director of the Frost Centre helped immensely in the planning for this event in both its physical and online manifestations. Finally, Dr. John Wadland provided early enthusiasm and helpful advice on how to imagine an academic conference.
We are also immensely grateful for the financial and institutional support of the Symons Trust for Canadian Studies, the Frost Centre for Canadian Studies and Indigenous Studies, and Traill College.
I’m looking forward to future incarnations of what myself and the 2020 planning committee hoped would become an annual graduate student conference. I’m certain that the lessons we have learned will prove invaluable moving forward!
FCSA President, 2019-21