Professor Akwasi Owusu-Bempah makes the case for pardons and preferential licensing in Canadian Cannabis legislation

Sociology Professor Akwasi Owusu-Bempah has recently authored an article in The Hill Times, discussing the need for pardons and preferential licensing in Canada’s cannabis legalization policy. According to Professor Owusu-Bempah, cannabis prohibition has had disproportionate and negative impacts on marginalized groups in Canada. In order to remedy these harms, Professor Owusu-Bempah emphasizes the need for legal pardons on convictions and charges related to cannabis offences, as well as the need to include communities and people negatively affected by cannabis prohibition in the new opportunities created from legalization.

Professor Owusu-Bempah is a professor of Sociology at the University of Toronto with teaching responsibilities at the UTM campus. His research focuses on policing, youth marginalization and exclusion, and race ethnicity and crime. The Hill Times is an independently owned weekly news publication based in Ottawa that reports on Canadian politics and government processes.

We have posted an excerpt of the article below.

Cannabis legalization in Canada: the case for pardons and preferential licensing

This law, and many that followed, had a considerable negative impact on the very groups that their proponents so often purported to help. At a time when Canada once again stands at the forefront of international drug law, we should set an example to the world by providing redress for the harms we now know we have inflicted.

AKWASI OWUSU-BEMPAH | Monday, Jan. 22, 2018

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s proposed date for legalizing the recreational use of cannabis is fast approaching and the Senate is debating Bill C-45, the Cannabis Act. Given the social harms associated with drug prohibition, legalization cannot come soon enough. We also need to go further and right past wrongs by pardoning those convicted of minor cannabis offences and by giving preference to those most targeted by Canada’s war on drugs when we issue cultivation and distribution licences.

Although unrecognized by many, the policing of cannabis and other drugs has been a priority for Canadian law enforcement agencies. According to Statistics Canada, Canadian police agencies recorded approximately 109,000 offences under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act (CDSA) in 2013, the most recent year for which comprehensive data are readily available. Of these, about 73,000 were cannabis-related cases and 59,000 were for possession. While many of these cases were cleared through police discretion (i.e. not taken to court), the number of people tried for simple possession was significant. Between 2008 and 2009 and 2011 and 2012, cannabis possession accounted for approximately 59,000 adult and 14,000 youth cases completed in our courts. Of these, 25,000 adults and almost 6,000 youth were found guilty. So, in less than half the time our prime minister has held office, more than 30,000 Canadians were branded with the marker of a criminal record for a “crime” committed by a significant proportion of the Canadian public, including Justin Trudeau when he sat as MP.

Unfortunately, these 30,000 people joined a lengthy list of Canadians who, like them, face difficulties travelling overseas, volunteering at their local schools and finding meaningful employment due to minor cannabis offences. We are legalizing the drug in part for this very reason; we acknowledge the harms caused by its current illegality. As we move towards legalization we should not forget those who have already been affected. Former Toronto police chief and current Liberal drug czar, Bill Blair, has himself pointed out these people are more likely to be drawn from the young, impoverished, and otherwise marginalized—the very people that we should be trying to better incorporate into our society, not working to exclude from it.

So how can we rectify this? By pardoning the convicted and providing opportunities for those personally affected by the war on drugs, as well as members of their communities, to benefit from a burgeoning industry.

Read the full article here.

Professors Ellen Berrey reviews the first year of Trump’s presidency in the USA and its future implications

Sociology Professor Ellen Berrey was recently featured with International Relations and Canadian History Professor Robert Brothwell in an article in the U of T News. The article discussed the first year of USA politics under President Trump, and the future implications of his legislation and rhetoric on USA and international politics.

Professor Berrey studies the effect of law, organizational practice, and culture on inequality. Her previous projects have involved research on topics such as diversity discourse, affirmative action politics, and corporate social responsibility.

We have posted an excerpt of the article below.

A U of T historian and sociologist look back at Trump’s year of chaos

Noreen Ahmed-Ullah | January 19th

It’s been a tumultuous year since U.S. President Donald Trump came into office. Between the daily Twitter drama, the nuclear face-off with North Korea, the probe into Russian involvement in the presidential election and the racist overtones spewing from the White House, it’s been exhausting to keep up.

U of T News spoke with historian Robert Bothwell and sociologist Ellen Berrey to unpack the year.

Bothwell, a professor of international relations and Canadian history at the Faculty of Arts & Science and the Munk School of Global Affairs, and Berrey, an assistant professor of sociology at U of T Mississauga, examined the extent of the damage left in the wake of Trump’s first year in office.

How would you summarize his year in office?

Ellen Berrey: Trump’s first year in office was America’s first year of rule by a reality TV billionaire with authoritarian tendencies. Trump created a lot of drama, and the news media sold us that drama. He governed by chaos, which mostly hampered his political agenda. He had few major victories on the legislative front, despite working with a Republican-controlled Congress. The big exception was a tax law designed for corporations and the wealthy, which the Republicans railroaded through Congress to finally get a win. However, Trump was quite successful at packing the judiciary and the executive branch with industry insiders and conservative ideologues, many of them unqualified for their jobs. In addition to his appointment of Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch, he selected a record number of federal judges, who have lifetime appointments. The effects of their legal decisions will play out for decades.

Really, Trump’s biggest accomplishment was debasing public discourse, promoting racism, and deepening political divides among Americans, with the complicity of the troubled Republican party. Another way to think about that, though, is that he stepped so far over the line of what’s acceptable that he created a lot of clarity for many Americans. We don’t know a 2017 without president Trump, but I’d venture to say that his bragging about grabbing women in the crotch helped to spark the #MeToo movement.

Robert Bothwell: Trump has been surprisingly consistent over the past year. Much of what he said he’d do, he has done. His basic attitudes, beliefs and behaviour appear to be unaltered. A striking example is his ludicrous promise to build “the Great Wall of Trump” along the border with Mexico. Many people – including some in his entourage – expected he would drop it, but whenever it is questioned he doubles down on it.

He has also been able to expand his control over the Republican party, thereby solidifying his political position. Because of his consistency, he has been able to degrade and/or dismantle key U.S. institutions like the EPA, the State Department and Obamacare, and he has successfully lowered America’s standing in the world.

Read the full article here.

Professor Jooyoung Lee Interviewed on CBC’s The National

Professor Jooyoung Lee appeared in an interview on CBC News’ The National, discussing the differential treatment of marginalized groups by the media and police, in light of the recent arrest and charging of a man in relation to the deaths of two LGBTQ men from the Church Wellesley community. According to reporters, members of the community have expressed criticism for the initial lack of attention that disappearances in the community had received.

Professor Lee is a Professor of Sociology at the University of Toronto St. George Campus. His research involves studying the effect gun violence on youth and communities.

Watch the interview here. The story begins at 18:55.

Professor Lorne Tepperman founds the “Lorne Tepperman Prize in Public Sociology” for Undergraduate students

Professor Lorne Tepperman has created the “Lorne Tepperman Prize in Public Sociology” award to highlight exemplary undergraduate student research. Professor Tepperman is a Professor of Sociology with teaching responsibilities on the St. George campus.

Below is the award description, and a quote from Professor Tepperman on what he hopes to achieve through the award, both from the University of Toronto ArtSci Effect website.


Professor Lorne Tepperman (BA 1965), former chair of U of T’s Department of Sociology, has set up a prize to shine a spotlight on exceptional undergraduate student research.

The $1,000 prize will be awarded to the undergraduate who submits the best paper on a topic of social significance in Canada. The winner will be coached by departmental members on how to prepare the paper for a general audience, and the resulting piece will be pitched as an op-ed to print media and published on the department’s website.

“I’m trying to get students to look at an issue like poverty or mental health, and examine it from a sociological perspective,” Tepperman said. “We live in an unequal society. I want students to investigate the consequences of this inequality.” The top paper will be one that showcases sociological concepts, theories and methods in an effort to promote an understanding among the broader public of what sociologists do.

Tepperman also wants to raise awareness of the contributions that young people make to the field of sociology. “Accolades are often granted to graduate and faculty researchers, and I believe we need to level the playing field,” he said. “So many of these undergraduate students are simply astonishing.”

Professor John Hannigan’s book “The Geopolitics of Deep Oceans” listed in International Affairs’ Top 5 Books of December

Congratulations to Professor John Hannigan for his book, “The Geopolitics of Deep Oceans”, making the Top 5 Books of December 2017 in the International Affairs Top 5 Books Series! Professor Hannigan’s book was featured in a review in the International Affairs Journal in November 2017 and has been listed as one of the Top 5 Books of December by International Affairs.

“The Geopolitics of Deep Oceans”, published in 2016 by the Cambridge Polity Press, examines how our different understandings of oceans are influenced by social, political, and environmental factors. Professor Hannigan is a Professor of Sociology at the University of Toronto with teaching responsibilities on the UTSC campus. He teaches courses on cultural policy, urban political economy and environmental sociology.

Here is a link to the list of the Top 5 Books of December on the International Affairs Journal Blog, featuring Professor Hannigan’s “The Geopolitics of Deep Oceans”.


Professor Jooyoung Lee featured in The Hamilton Spectator

Jooyoung LeeProfessor Jooyoung Lee from U of T St. George’s Sociology Department was recently featured in a news article in The Hamilton Spectator weighing in on the recent rise in gun violence in Hamilton, Ontario. The article examines increasing statistics on crime and gun violence in Hamilton. Professor Lee outlines some reasons why people carry guns and methods through which guns are obtained by Canadians. Professor Lee teaches sociology at the St. George campus. His research involves studying the effects of gun violence on Black young men.

We have posted an excerpt of the article below.

Gun violence on the rise in Hamilton

NEWS Dec 27, 2017 by Nicole O’Reilly

Hamilton police believe there are more guns on city streets.

The evidence is in the numbers: 40 shootings this year.

The concerning statistic marks a rapid escalation of gun violence in this city, with shootings doubling year over year for the last several years. There were 22 shootings in 2016, 14 in 2015 and seven in 2014.

Four of this year’s shootings have been deadly, including the last three successive homicides between October and December.

“I think there are more guns on the street and more people to use them,” said Hamilton police Supt. Ryan Diodati, of the investigative services division.

Yet there is no singular reason for the increase in guns or shootings, or a clear indication if the trend will continue, he added.

These guns — typically illegal handguns — are often used not just in shootings, but in robberies and home invasions, which have also seen increases in specific areas.

…There is a whole school of research into why people carry guns — in particular handguns.

Most drug dealers are armed, but drug dealers aren’t the only people carrying guns, said Jooyoung Lee, an associate professor of sociology at the University of Toronto who has extensively studied the people’s experience with gun violence.

“The No. 1 reason why young people want to get a gun … the biggest reason is for protection,” he said.

Often young people, especially in marginalized communities, don’t feel safe and don’t have faith in police, he added.

Other reasons for carrying a gun include status and being involved in a particular argument or “beef.” Some marginalized youth who do not have good opportunities to “move up in the world” can see having a gun as a status symbol.

“Being perceived as tough or perhaps violent is its own form of social capital … a stand-in for other markers of achievement,” Lee said.

Accessing guns illegally is as easy as a drive over the border to a state with loose gun laws in the United States. The Hollywood movie-esque scene of traffickers hauling a huge shipment of illegal guns is not common, he said. What is common is people buying a couple of guns, perhaps at a gun show in Ohio where you don’t have to show ID, and smuggling them back to Canada illegally.

Illegal guns here tend to get passed around and can be shared within a criminal group, Lee said. Often being part of a criminal group means you get access to a cache of weapons. A spike in shootings can mean many things — that there are more guns available, or that there may be rivalry between rival groups.

“The other thing we know is that these patterns vary year to year,” Lee said. “It’s hard to abstract away from that and say that it’s predictive of a longer-term trend.”

Read the full article here.

PhD Candidate Anelyse Weiler co-authors Op-Ed about Migrant Workers and Food Policy

Anelyse WeilerPhD Candidate Anelyse Weiler and Professors Janet McLaughlin (Wilfred Laurier University) and Donald Cole (University of Toronto Dalla Lana School of Public Health) recently published an op-ed piece in the Toronto Star. The piece outlines the exploitative conditions experienced by Temporary Foreign Workers in the agricultural sector in Canada, and propose solutions to improve the conditions of workers in the upcoming National Food Policy.  Anelyse Weiler is a PhD Candidate in Sociology at the University of Toronto. She is currently working toward her dissertation on The Periphery in the Core: Investigating Migration, Agrarian Citizenship and Metabolic Rift Through a Case Study of the Apple.

We have posted an excerpt of the piece below.

Helping migrant workers must be part of new food policy

By Anelyse Weiler, Janet McLaughlin, Donald Cole
Dec. 22, 2017

To keep her job, Maria had to hide her pregnancy from her farm employer, work with chemicals and do heavy-lifting, and forgo prenatal care. Despite paying into Canadian EI for nine seasons, this single mom will be denied any benefits when she gives birth to her second child in Mexico this winter. Maria worries how she will feed her growing family.

Maria’s story shows how Canadian food, labour, and immigration policies create unique forms of food insecurity for low-wage migrant farm workers. She joins some 50,000 people who come to Canada each year through agricultural streams of the Temporary Foreign Worker Program.

Farm workers are “tied” to one employer and, unless they marry a Canadian, in most provinces they can never become permanent residents. By design, the program amplifies the power disparity between bosses and workers. It makes workers afraid to complain about bad working and housing conditions, sexual harassment, or injuries because they might get fired and deported, losing the chance to continue supporting their families from afar.

Yet in the lead-up to a national food policy, a new federal government Standing Committee report is oddly silent about the systemic inequities faced by low-wage migrant workers in Canadian industries, such as farming, meat packing and fast-food.

One of the report’s core recommendations is “to ensure sufficient labour is available in the agriculture and agri-food sector, including through the temporary foreign worker[s] program to attract and retain talent, with a possible path to permanent residency.”

It’s unclear if such “pathways” refer to low-wage streams. The stated purpose of Canada’s national food policy, which Ottawa will unroll in the next six months, is to provide a guide for decision-making across the food chain to support a healthy economy, society, and environment.

Reducing barriers to growth for Canada’s domestic and export food markets is a theme throughout the report. As we demonstrate in a study in International Migration, powerful agribusiness voices have declared Canada’s farming sector can only remain competitive by hiring racialized, non-citizen workers whose rights and freedoms are severely circumscribed compared to Canadians.

Pitting Canadian food security agricultural viability against the rights of migrant workers is a false ethical choice. While many agricultural businesses’ bottom lines currently depend on deportable workers, there are far more sensible paths for moving food from field to fork.

Read the full piece here.

Professors Judith Taylor and Ellen Berrey discuss the legacy and resurgence of feminism amid plans for 2018 Women’s Marches in Canada

Professors Judith Taylor and Ellen Berrey from U of T St. George’s Sociology Department were recently featured in an article in Toronto’s Metro News. The article highlights the legacy of the 2017 Women’s March on Washington and plans for further marches in 2018 in countries including Canada. Professor Taylor and Professor Berrey are featured in the article discussing what these marches and other recent movements can mean for feminism and social change.

Professor Taylor researches social movements and feminist activism. Professor Berrey’s research studies the effect of law, organizational practice, and culture on inequality. We have posted an excerpt of the article below.

‘Going to see a massive change:’ Women’s Marches planned across Canada for 2018

From the Women’s March to #MeToo, 2017 was a year for women fighting back. They’ll keep marching in 2018.

May Warren | Wed Dec 27 2017

…Women around the world are preparing to march again. There will be marches all over Canada, including in Toronto on Jan. 20, said Sara Bingham, one of two executive directors for Women’s March Canada. Marches are also planned across the U.S., including a signature one in Las Vegas, Nevada — a swing state that will be influential in the 2018 mid-term elections.

“The theme around the world is looking back, marching forward,” said Bingham.

They’ll be reaching out to local groups to get a diverse crowd, she added, a response to criticism the first time around that organizers and marchers were mainly white women.

Judith Taylor, an associate professor of sociology at the University of Toronto, sees a resurgence of feminism that builds on the work prior generations have done.

“I do think we’re going to see a massive change,” Taylor said, adding she believes the “cultural explosion” will filter down from elites like Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein and his actress accusers.

“That dialogue then translates into a shift in consciousness, a shift in what’s possible to say in your place of work, whether you’re paid by the hour or you’re a professional.”…

…Ellen Berrey, also an assistant professor in the department of sociology at U of T, sees clear links between Trump, who has bragged on tape about sexual assault, the Women’s March and #MeToo. But she’s not sure if this year’s news stories will lead to lasting impacts, especially for low-income women and women of colour.

“Is this going to become like, this thing that happened at the end of 2017, or is this a deeper sea change?” she asks.

Berrey said one of the paths to change, as well as revamping human-resources systems so they don’t protect employers, is to get more women in positions of political power…


Read the full article here.

Professor Jooyoung Lee on Serial Killers and Marginalized Communities

Sociology Professor Jooyoung Lee was recently quoted in an article in the Toronto Metro. The article reported on the arrest and charges of a man in relation to the deaths of two men from the Church and Wellesley community in Toronto. Both victims were also members of the LGBTQ community. Professor Lee is quoted in the article, discussing the difficulty marginalized groups face in receiving police and media attention, making them more likely to be targeted by serial killers.

Professor Lee teaches sociology at the U of T St. George Campus, including courses such as the Sociology of Serial Homicide. His research involves studying the effects of gun violence on Black youth and communities.

We have posted an excerpt of the article below.

Serial killers target people from marginalized communities, experts say

“Serial killers are opportunists and this is part of the reason why they target marginalized groups,” said Jooyoung Lee, of the University of Toronto.

Serial killers often target people from marginalized groups because of the lack of attention their cases receive from media and law enforcement, experts say.

“This is something we see time and time again,” said Jooyoung Lee, an expert on serial killers at the University of Toronto. “Serial killers are opportunists and this is part of the reason why they target marginalized groups.

“They know that people who are from marginalized populations won’t get the same attention, whether they are marginalized for their sexuality, gender or their race.”

Toronto police arrested a man Thursday and charged him with the deaths of two men. Police say they believe there are more victims, leavng Torontonians to wonder if the deaths of Andrew Kinsman and Selim Esen were the work of a serial killer.

Both men were from the Church and Wellesley community and both were members of the LGBTQ community.

Bruce McArthur, 66, a self-employed landscaper, was charged in the murders of Andrew Kinsman and Selim Esen. Investigators have said they believe there are more victims.

McArthur appeared to be connected on Facebook to Skandaraj “Skanda” Navaratnam, one of three middle-aged men active in the Church and Wellesley area who went missing between 2010 and 2012. The others were Abdulbasir “Basir” Faizi, and Majeed “Hamid” Kayhan.

Police haven’t labelled McArthur a serial killer. But they didn’t discourage use of the term, saying it was up to the media to decide.

Lee said he could not comment on the McArthur case because there is no conviction yet.

However, he said that, generally speaking, serial killers target people from certain groups or communities.

“Sometimes there is evidence that they target a certain type of people and it becomes a very ritualistic thing, where they continuously look for that certain type of victim; once they find them, that becomes their obsession,” he said.

“In other cases, it really is a matter of practical access; they were around; they were easy victims; they were people who they had access to.”

He added: “It really comes down to the pragmatics of murder; serial killers are often very smart and intelligent and they target communities that won’t get the attention.”

Lee said that if McArthur is guilty and has targeted members of the LGBTQ community, the case really “underscores the frustration this community has, because they think police are not really taking their concerns seriously.”

“What we see is that people from marginalized groups don’t get that same kind of attention until something like this comes to light,” he said.

Read the full article here.


Congratulations to recent PhD Alexandra Rodney on her postdoctoral position at the University of Guelph

Congratulations to Alexandra Rodney, who has started a postdoctoral position on the Gender Equity and Excellence through Leadership initiative at the University of Guelph. Alexandra recently received her PhD after completing her dissertation, Healthy is the New Thin: The Discursive Production of Women’s Healthy Living Media, under the supervision of Josée Johnston (chair), Shyon Baumann, and Elaine Power. Her dissertation abstract is as follows:

Dissertation Abstract

This dissertation explores how food and fitness discourses are produced in the contemporary healthy-living mediascape for women. This is done through a content and discourse analysis of 640 blog posts from six foundational healthy living blogs and 230 articles from two high-circulation health and fitness magazines. In the first of three papers, I compare how food is framed in the magazines and blogs. I find that healthy-living magazines frame food as pathogenic, disease-promoting and dangerous in relation to body composition. In contrast, healthy living blog posts present food as a relatively “salutogenic” (Antonovsky 1996) force that promotes health and wellness. I argue that healthy living blog prosumers (who both produce and consume social media) are able to broaden the range of public health discourses, albeit without critiquing the moralization of health or thinness as an overarching goal. In the second paper, I use the analytical tool of biopedagogy to understand what bloggers are teaching readers about how to manage their bodies. I argue that, in order to generate the authority to disseminate health information bloggers, laypeople who are not health professionals must produce health media that includes a distinct knowledge base and evidence to support their recommendations. I offer the concept “blogspert” to describe the way in which bloggers’ authority to disseminate biopedagogy is produced through anecdotal evidence of successfully and intentionally cultivating bodily knowledge towards losing or managing weight. In the third paper, I study the construction of authenticity, a highly-valued trait in contemporary culture. I find that an authentic healthy persona is produced on healthy living blogs through “calibration” (Cairns and Johnston 2015) — a gendered self-presentation process whereby women continually work to position themselves away from pathologized extremes of feminine excess (e.g., obsessiveness perfectionism) and apathy (e.g., laziness, insufficient self-monitoring). Overall, in this dissertation I make the following conclusion: while healthy living bloggers remain compelled to navigate a broader context in which they are required to demonstrate self-regulation, they steer clear of restrictive and punitive discourses through presenting alternative logics of healthy living that reflect and reproduce the neoliberal fetishization of the individual and individual experience.

In her postdoctoral position at the University of Guelph, Alexandra will be working on the Gender Equity and Excellence through Leadership initiative under the direction of the Provost, Charlotte Yates. The initiative will involve studying the status of women and gender minorities at the University of Guelph, including staff, faculty, and students. Their research will examine the barriers that underrepresented groups face in moving into positions of authority, and propose solutions for creating a more inclusive and equitable campus.

Professor Akwasi Owusu-Bempah and PhD Graduate Jenna Valleriani on Pardoning Cannabis Related Charges

Jenna VallerianiSociology Professor Akwasi Owusu-Bempah and recent PhD graduate  Jenna Valleriani were recently featured in a blog post on The Leaf, a division of the Winnipeg Free Press dedicated to news on the Cannabis legalization process in Canada. The post discusses the historically harmful implications of marijuana prohibition in Canada for racial minorities, including Black and Indigenous Canadians, and suggests that legal pardons for past criminal charges related to cannabis be implemented within the new legalization policy.

Professor Owusu-Bempah is a professor of Sociology at the University of Toronto with teaching responsibilities at the UTM campus. His research interests include policing; youth marginalization and exclusion; and race, ethnicity and crime. He is particularly interested in how members of the African Diaspora perceive and experience law enforcement.

Jenna Valleriani is a recent PhD graduate from the University of Toronto Sociology Department. Her dissertation was on ‘Staking a Claim’: Legal and Illegal Cannabis Markets in Canada. She is currently a postdoctoral researcher at the British Columbia Centre on Substance Use.

We have posted an excerpt of the blog post below.

Making amends

Cannabis prohibition has hit black and Indigenous people especially hard, researchers say.
Will the Canadian government do something about it?

By: Solomon Israel | Jan. 13, 2018

Cannabis prohibition has been especially harmful to black and Indigenous people in Canada, but legalization offers a chance for the government to repair some of those harms, says a researcher who hopes the federal government will consider racial justice as it enacts its proposed law.

Federal legalization of marijuana “is definitely a positive step, and one that should have happened about 100 years ago,” says Akwasi Owusu-Bempah, who studies race and policing as an assistant professor of sociology at the University of Toronto.

Seeking pardons for cannabis crimes

Owusu-Bempah believes the Canadian government should automatically pardon anyone who has a criminal record for the possession of cannabis, as well as pardoning “any subsequent failure to comply charges that stem from an initial cannabis offence.”

“Cannabis, people say it’s a gateway drug. They’re usually referring to a gateway to harder drugs. I argue that cannabis can be a gateway into the criminal justice system,” he says.

“Cannabis use is fairly widespread amongst young people, across racial groups,” Owusu-Bempah explains. “Certain groups are targeted.”

Even if they get probation, those young people of colour are more likely to face failure to comply charges, “which then leads to further criminalization, and a spiralling into the justice system,” he says.

Are pardons in the cards?

The federal government’s Cannabis Act is “pretty void of any kind of real social justice language,” notes Jenna Valleriani, who serves as a strategic advisor to Canadian Students for Sensible Drug Policy and recently completed a PhD studying legal and illegal markets for cannabis.

Valleriani says the federal government definitely knows how cannabis prohibition has disproportionately impacted marginalized people, citing an April 2017 town hall on cannabis legalization with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau hosted by Vice News.

If the federal government does issue post-legalization pardons to Canadians with criminal convictions for cannabis, they might reap the political benefits. In a July 2017 telephone survey of 5,000 Canadians conducted by Oraclepoll Research, 72 per cent of respondents agreed that the federal government should pardon and eliminate criminal records for all previous and current simple cannabis possessions.

For Owusu-Bempah, pardoning those convicted of cannabis-related crimes would be the most straightforward way for the government to start making amends.


Read the full blog post here.

Professor Neda Maghbouleh interviewed on KMSU Weekly Reader (89.7FM)

Sociology Professor Neda Maghbouleh recently appeared in a interview on the KMSU Weekly Reader, discussing her research and recently published book, The Limits of Whiteness: Iranian Americans and the Everyday Politics of Race. Professor Maghbouleh is a Professor of Sociology at the University of Toronto with teaching responsibilities on the UTM campus. Her research focuses on racism and immigration, with a particular interest in the experiences of groups from the broad Middle East. The Limits of Whiteness was published in September 2017 with Stanford University Press.

The KMSU Weekly Reader is a weekly radio program produced by graduate students at the Minnesota State University, Mankato. The program features interviews with authors hosted by graduate students at the university.

The full interview is available for listening here.

Professor Judith Taylor speaks on CTV News about the movement to wear black at the 75th Golden Globes

The recent 75th Golden Globes Awards Show was used as a platform for individuals in Hollywood and film to demonstrate their solidarity with victims of sexual assault within the industry, by wearing black to the ceremony. University of Toronto’s Sociology Professor Judith Taylor was featured on CTV News discussing the movement and its implications for feminism and antiracism.

Professor Taylor is a Professor of Sociology at the U of T St. George Campus. She is jointly appointed to the Women and Gender Studies Institute at U of T. Her research interests include social movements, feminist activism, neighbourhood community organizing, and social change making within public institutions.

Watch the interview here.


Professor Jooyoung Lee Interviewed in Black Perspectives

Professor Jooyoung Lee was recently interviewed on the blog Black Perspectives about his book, Blowin’ UpRap Dreams in South Central. In the interview Professor Lee discusses the research, methods, and inspiration for his book, which is an ethnographic study of the lives of young Black men in Los Angeles and how they are affected by gang violence, the entertainment industry, and hip-hop culture. Professor Lee teaches sociology at the U of T St. George campus. His research explores the effects of gun violence on the lives of young Black men.

Black Perspectives is the official blog of the African American Intellectual History Society (AAIHS). We have posted an excerpt of the interview below.

Rap Dreams in South Central: An Interview with Jooyoung Lee

Darryl Robertson: Please tell us more about your research. Who or what inspired the research for your book, Blowin’ up: Rap Dreams in South Central?

Jooyoung Lee:Blowin’ Up is inspired by my lifelong love of Hip Hop culture. I grew up in Southern California during the early 1990s, and like many adolescent boys, I was a huge fan of gangsta rap. Dr. Dre’s The Chronic was one of the first albums that I owned. I bought it with my allowance money and listened to it non-stop. Even though I didn’t grow up around the stuff described in this music, gangsta rap and other kind of Hip Hop music got me thinking critically about American history and the marginalization of people of color. Hip Hop music also inspired me to get into Djing and pop-lockin’, which became huge parts of my young adult life. In other words, Blowin’ Up is a small ode of appreciation to Hip Hop. It’s one way that I can give back to a culture that has been a source of positivity in my life.

Robertson: How would you summarize the major contributions and interventions of your book? Why is it important to understanding the history of hip-hop in the United States?

Lee: At its core, Blowin’ Up is about the challenges of growing up in low-income African American neighborhoods across “South Central” Los Angeles. While much of the sociological research on urban poor African Americans discusses the conditions that cause unemployment, incarceration, and other negative outcomes, I wanted to tell a different story–one about hope, creativity, and resiliency. Hip Hop culture provides a very important creative outlet for marginalized African American youth. The young men in my book saw Hip Hop as a “creative alternative” to Crip and Blood gangs across “South Central.”

I think this message is critical at this moment, as police and courts continue to criminalize Hip Hop culture and African American youth. In the past few years, prosecutors have tried on numerous occasions to submit rap lyrics as evidence in criminal court proceedings. This is just another example of how our judicial system profiles and marginalizes African American youth. I hope that Blowin’ Up will challenge these larger narratives about Hip Hop culture.

Read the full interview here.

“Why I left Donald Trump’s America” – Professor Jerry Flores authors Op-Ed in the Toronto Star

Sociology Professor Jerry Flores recently wrote an Op-Ed piece in the Toronto Star, titled “Why I left Donald Trump’s America.” In the piece he discusses his experiences as a Latino growing up and living in the USA and how the election of Donald Trump to presidency in 2016 influenced his decision to move to Canada. Professor Flores is an Assistant Professor of Sociology with teaching responsibilities at the UTM campus. His research interests include gender and crime, prison studies, Latina/o sociology, and studies of race and ethnicity.

We have posted an excerpt below.

Why I left Donald Trump’s America

By  Dec. 22, 2017

…I believed that the U.S. gives everyone a fair chance. And it seemed I was proof: In 2011, I won a prestigious Ford Foundation Fellowship – a full academic ride for my doctoral work. I focused my research on the lives of 50 incarcerated Latina young women in southern California. Three years later, I had earned a PhD from the University of California, Santa Barbara, in sociology. I was lucky enough to be offered a job teaching at the University of Washington. I turned my dissertation into a book, Caught UP: Girls, Surveillance and Wraparound Incarceration. I bought a house, and we had our first child before I was 30. I had arrived.

My happiness, however, proved short-lived.

On June 16, 2015, Donald Trump announced he would run to become president of the United States and launched a campaign filled with anti-immigrant rhetoric and divisive policies. Pledges to build a wall along the southern border to prevent Mexicans from “illegally” crossing into the U.S. dominated the news cycle. He vowed to deport millions of undocumented people and ban Muslims from entering the U.S.

Civil rights groups reported higher incidents of hate crimes, including against Latinos in southern California. Alt-right rallies took place across the nation. White supremacist fliers, swastikas and other propaganda littered my campus.

On election night, Nov. 9, 2016, I watched anxiously with my wife, as results rolled in. When Wisconsin went red for Republicans, we knew Trump would win. We sat in shock reading our Facebook feeds and lamenting for the futures of our two-year-old and our new-born twins.

Though I had been offered two academic positions at prestigious research universities in the U.S., I knew I would take the third offer: the University of Toronto. Part of me desperately wanted to stay in L.A., surrounded by my family, history and culture.

But I couldn’t bear the idea of having to listen to the President denigrate my parents’ homeland for four long years.

I knew it was time to say good bye to the American dream.

Read the full piece here.

PhD Candidate Kerri Scheer on Ugly Christmas Sweaters

Kerri ScheerSociology PhD Candidate Kerri Scheer  authored a post on Sociological Images concerning the rise of “the Ugly Christmas Sweater” trend. In the post Scheer explores the role of nostalgia and consumerism in driving the popularity of Ugly Christmas Sweaters. Kerri Scheer is a PhD candidate at the U of T Sociology Department. She is currently working toward her dissertation on Producing Law and Governance: A case study of the College of Physicians & Surgeons of Ontario Disciplinary Process.

SocImages Classic—The Ugly Christmas Sweater: From ironic nostalgia to festive simulation

Kerri Scheer | December 12, 2017

National Ugly Christmas Sweater Day is this Friday, December 15th. Perhaps you’ve noticed the recent ascent of the Ugly Christmas Sweater or even been invited to an Ugly Christmas Sweater Party. How do we account for this trend and its call to “don we now our tacky apparel”?

Ugly Christmas Sweater parties purportedly originated in Vancouver, Canada, in 2001. Their appeal might seem to stem from their role as a vehicle for ironic nostalgia, an opportunity to revel in all that is festively cheesy. It also might provide an opportunity to express the collective effervescence of the well-intentioned (but hopelessly tacky) holiday apparel from moms and grandmas.

However, The Atlantic points to a more complex reason why we might enjoy the cheesy simplicity offered by Ugly Christmas Sweaters: “If there is a war on Christmas, then the Ugly Christmas Sweater, awesome in its terribleness, is a blissfully demilitarized zone.” This observation pokes fun at the Fox News-style hysterics regarding the “War on Christmas”; despite being commonly called Ugly Christmas Sweaters, the notion seems to persist that their celebration is an inclusive and “safe” one.

We might also consider the generally fraught nature of the holidays (which are financially and emotionally taxing for many), suggesting that the Ugly Sweater could offer an escape from individual holiday stress. There is no shortage of sociologists who can speak to the strain of family, consumerism, and mental health issues that plague the holidays, to say nothing of the particular gendered burdens they produce. Perhaps these parties represent an opportunity to shelve those tensions.

But how do we explain the fervent communal desire for simultaneous festive celebration and escape? …

Read the full post here.

Professor Melissa Milkie on housework and gender norms

Melissa MilkieSociology Professor Melissa Milkie was recently featured in an article by The Toronto Star discussing the gender roles and expectations around household work. The article reported on the persistence of a gendered division of household chores and the guilt many women feel when they do not live up to their own housework standards. In explaining the guilt, Professor Milkie pointed to strong cultural gender norms. Professor Milkie is the chair of the Graduate Department of Sociology at the University of Toronto. Her research focuses on culture, gender and family, the intersections between work and family, and health. Her research has used time use studies to analyze the division of household labour.

We have posted an excerpt of the article below.

Household chores still a source of guilt for some women

Brandie Weikle | Dec. 14, 2017

…I became curious about the mixed feelings women report on this issue when I posted a recommendation on Facebook recently for a cleaning service I had just started using.

This simple little review elicited a surprising amount of response — interestingly, all of it from women. Some of that feedback indicated that, in addition to doing a declining but still disproportionate amount of household chores (3.6 hours daily on unpaid household tasks compared to 2.4 hours for men, according to Statistics Canada’s most recent Time Use Survey), women still take on an extra helping of guilt when they can’t keep up.

Melissa Milkie, a professor of sociology at the University of Toronto Mississauga whose work centres around gender and family, says that’s because our culture still has “strong and ‘stuck’ norms of femininity and masculinity,” despite the fact women are more likely than ever to work outside the home.

“Employed women continue to be held to high, sometimes impossible standards of a warm, welcoming, organized, clean and beautiful home,” says Milkie.

Sure, plenty of women I know, mostly middle-class professional moms, say they’ve happily embraced using a cleaning service and easily see the logic in outsourcing lower-paying tasks so they can devote more time to higher-paying tasks or free up hours to spend with their families. So do their male partners, who also don’t want to spend the entire weekend cleaning. But many women still trip over deeply ingrained messages that it’s indulgent to get someone else to do some of your dirty work…

Read the full article here.

Professor Akwasi Owusu-Bempah on Cannabis Legalization in Canada

Sociology Professor Akwasi Owusu-Bempah recently authored a post on The Broadbent Blog discussing the need for an approach to the cannabis legalization process in Canada that focuses on equity and reparation. The Broadbent Blog is affiliated with the Broadbent Institute, an independent organization dedicated to research for the promotion of democracy, equality and sustainability. In his blog post, Professor Owusu-Bempah discusses the inequalities that have arisen from the “War on Drugs” and suggests policy solutions for the future. Professor Owusu-Bempah is a professor of sociology at the U of T St. George and Mississauga campuses. His research interests include policing, youth marginalization and exclusion, and race, ethnicity and crime.

We have posted an excerpt of the blog post below.

Cannabis Legalization and Equity in Canada

Akwasi Owusu-Bempah | December 18, 2017

Recreational cannabis is almost legal in Canada, former cops are cashing in, yet our government is still hesitant to advance any measures that would repair some of the social damage caused by almost a century of cannabis prohibition.

This is not the first time I have written about this issue and I highly doubt it will be the last – the need for equity and reparations in Canada’s emerging cannabis industry. Despite rumblings of a conservative attempt to stall implementation, the Trudeau government looks set to legalize recreational cannabis sales in Canada in the summer of 2018. This move has been celebrated as a means of promoting public health, reducing criminalization, and bringing a multi-billion dollar industry from the black market into the legal one. However, these celebrations are misplaced unless both the federal regulations and various provincial legislation provide avenues for inclusion and a means of repairing the harms caused by Canada’s war on drugs. We need to make sure that everyone has the opportunity to participate in this growing economy, while also working to improve the lives of people criminalized for activities that will no longer be illegal.

There is no doubt that cannabis prohibition has had a significant negative impact on certain segments of the Canadian population. Over the past 15 years, Canadian police agencies have reported more than 800,000 cannabis possession “incidents” to Statistics Canada. As former Toronto Police Chief and current Liberal Drug Czar, Bill Blair, has previously pointed out, the enforcement of cannabis laws disproportionately affects marginalized and racialized communities. He should know; Between 2003 and 2013 the Toronto Police Service arrested Black people for minor cannabis possession at three times the rates of Whites in the city (Blair served as chief from 2005 to 2015). These disparate rates of arrest for possession contrast with data showing relatively similar rates of cannabis use across racial groups in Ontario. As a result, some of our most vulnerable populations have been burdened with a criminal record that limits their ability to participate fully in our society. For example, people with a criminal record have a harder time securing employment, thereby restricting earning potential and the contributions one can make financially to their families and communities. Minor cannabis offences can also serve as a “gateway” into the criminal justice system for people who become “known to police,” which increasing their chances of further criminalization and social marginalization.

How does this relate to the emerging industry? At present, the laws and regulations stipulate that people with a criminal record are to be denied the security clearance needed in order to work for a licenced medical cannabis producer. The federal  government is currently conducting consultations on whether those with minor cannabis convictions (“such as simple possession or small scale cultivation of cannabis plants”) should be able to obtain a security clearance and participate in the legal recreational industry. Of course they should – we are legalizing personal cannabis possession and small scale cultivation precisely because we recognize that prohibiting the substance and these activities was counterproductive. To add insult to injury, many of the most prominent law enforcers in the country, the drug warriors whose war is seemingly ending, are now themselves cashing in on legal cannabis. In addition to Bill Blair, who has made a second career on cannabis, his predecessor at the Toronto Police Service, former Chief Julian Fantino (yes, the guy who as a conservative MP supported mandatory minimum jail sentences for people convicted of growing six cannabis plants) has partnered with the ex-deputy commissioner of the RCMP to form a cannabis business. A former deputy chief of the Toronto Police Service as well as the previous head of the RCMP drug squad are also active in the industry. To many observers, the involvement of former law enforcement officials in legal cannabis is both hypocritical and offensive. This is doubly true if we do not open up access to the industry while at the same time actively working to correct historical (and contemporary) wrongs.

Read the full article here.

Professor Jooyoung Lee on Zip Guns

Sociology Professor Jooyoung Lee was recently featured in an article by CBC News reporting on the use of a “zip gun” by a Saskatoon man during a confrontation with police. According to Professor Lee although zip guns are relatively uncommon, they are appealing because they are easily made and untraceable by the government’s gun control regulations. Professor Lee teaches sociology at the U of T St. George campus, his research interests include the effect of gun violence on young Black men and communities.

We have posted an excerpt of the article below.

Homemade guns built for less than $20 are ‘up close and personal’ weapons present in Saskatchewan

‘Everyone is accurate at 1 foot away’: Zip guns are rare but dangerous

By Alec Salloum, CBC News Posted: Dec 12, 2017

Jooyoung Lee, an associate professor at the University of Toronto, says there is no one size fits all description of a zip gun user.

Lee focuses on gun violence and the effect it has on young men; specifically young black men in south central Los Angeles.

The attraction of the zip gun is that it is more challenging to trace by authorities.

“People who are making homemade zip guns tend to be people who want to stay out of the crosshairs of the government and who want to circumvent the gun control laws that are already on the books,” said Lee.

The information to actually build a zip gun is everywhere online, said Lee. Videos, articles even a wikiHow are easily found by a simple Google search.

Read the full article here.

Professor Jooyoung Lee’s Research featured in The Atlantic

Professor Jooyoung Lee’s research was recently featured in a piece on “The Hidden Victims of American Gun Violence” published by The Atlantic Magazine. The article discusses the knowledge gap within research concerning non-fatal shooting victims and the implications of this gap for victims and their families, policymakers, and healthcare providers. The article discusses findings from Professor Lee’s research on gunshot victims in Philadelphia to demonstrate the long-term health and rehabilitation issues faced by non-fatal gunshot victims. Professor Lee is a sociology professor at the U of T St. George campus. His research interests involve studying the effects of gun violence on Black male youth.

We have posted an excerpt of the article below.

Americans Don’t Really Understand Gun Violence

Why? Because there’s very little known about the thousands of victims who survive deadly shootings.


The hardships facing those gravely injured in Las Vegas represent a horrific microcosm of gun violence in America generally—horrible deaths provoke widespread reaction, while the wounds of many multiples more take their toll largely unnoticed, unnumbered, and unstudied.

Fatal gun violence is often categorized in ways that make it easy to track and study. That’s how researchers know that the murder rate in the United States has declined steadily over the past three decades. But what about gun violence that does not result in death? That is far trickier to measure. That’s because nonfatal gun violence has mostly been ignored.

Largely ignoring nonfatal shootings means that Americans are both vastly underestimating and misunderstanding gun violence. Underestimating, because researchers are only barely beginning to measure the personal, familial, local, and societal costs of what Kalesan and others estimate are more than a million shooting survivors living in the United States; and misunderstanding, because nonfatal shootings can be quite different from those that result in death.

The dearth of research makes it near impossible to fully illustrate the realities of gun violence to the broader public. As of now, for example, nobody really knows how often people are shot by their intimate partners, how many victims are intended targets or bystanders, how many shootings are in self-defense, how such incidents affect community investment and property values, or how much it costs taxpayers to care for victims. In order to come up with their estimate of a million shooting survivors, Kalesan and her colleagues had to rely on imperfect data from hospital emergency-room reports.

At the University of Toronto, Jooyoung Lee is working on a similar project, writing a book based on his research tracking shooting victims in Philadelphia. Lee has observed, particularly among those shot by hollow-point bullets, that recurring pain can drive shooting victims to opioid addiction. That, in turn, can push them into dangerous situations and risky behavior as they try to feed their habit, which can lead to more trauma, incarceration, or medical intervention—all of which only compound a single gunshot’s effect on an overburdened health-care and criminal-justice system.

Read the full article here.