Dr. Jeffrey Ansloos, Associate Professor in Indigenous Health and Social Policy at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, has been elected to the Royal Society of Canada’s College of New Scholars, Artists and Scientists.
Dr. Ansloos, a Tier 2 Canada Research Chair in Critical Studies in Indigenous Health and Social Action on Suicide through the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC), is OISE’s first appointment to newest of the Royal Society’s four entities – it was first launched in 2014. With over 2,000 members since its launch, members of the College are at an early stage in their careers and have demonstrated a high level of achievement. Membership is for seven years.
“On behalf of the OISE community, I send my strongest congratulations to Professor Ansloos on this prestigious election to the Royal Society of Canada College of New Scholars, Artists and Scientists,” says Professor Normand Labrie, Interim Dean of OISE. The scholarly and clinical work pursued by professor Ansloos is extremely difficult given the historical and on-going discrimination inflicted to Indigenous people in our country, says Labrie.
“I am delighted that the Royal Society has recognised the importance, the quality, and the impact of his work. This honour is a clear indication of all the respect and admiration Professor Ansloos deserves for his trailbrazing and courageous contribution to the well-being and healing of Indigenous communities and individuals.”
Dr. Ansloos has made major research contributions on the social and mental health inequities facing Indigenous youth, and in advancing knowledge of how their experiences are entangled within structural dimensions of health. He has invigorated research on social determinants of Indigenous health, by focusing on numerous social factors intersecting with high rates of suicide, homelessness, and complex trauma.
By attending to the ways that colonialism, racism and the like, expressed through social policies, produce debilitating conditions and increased psychological risk, Dr. Ansloos’ scholarship works to shift policy responses towards models of prevention and collective action – and away from individualized models of intervention, which place the burden of care on young people.
“I am delighted that Professor Ansloos’ research leadership and impact have been recognized by the Royal Society of Canada College,” said Professor Michele Peterson-Badali, OISE’s Associate Dean, Research, International and Innovation. “His community-engaged research supporting Indigenous peoples’ health equity is an example of the important and impactful work being led by OISE scholars, and I’m excited for the future collaborations he will cultivate with fellow College members to advance reconciliation and build a better future in Canada.”
To further explore Ansloos’ academic background and his thoughts on his prestigious election, he chatted with our office remotely – he is currently continuing his research at the Centre for Best Practice in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Suicide Prevention in Australia.
How did you find yourself answering your current research questions?
For more than half of my life, I have been engaged in various contexts of health, social service, educational and policy work intersecting with Indigenous communities. Across a wide range of projects—be it in addressing houselessness, inequitable access to mental health and harm reduction services, or in responding to brutalizing actions of police and the so-called justice system—I began to reject many of the dominant biomedical and psychocentric assumptions of my own field, instead embracing a more critical sociological, political, cultural, and environmental accounting.
An aspect of my current work is on suicide in Indigenous communities, and through this research I am trying to bring attention to the ways that we can think otherwise about something too often exclusively treated as a mental health issue. Treating suicide and the interlocking structures of (un)livability as matters of justice, my work considers the affective consequences of racial capitalism, environmental racism and extractivism, particularly on suicidality. My work also considers how Indigenous social and environmental justice organizing can co-constitute suicide prevention efforts under the broader category of life promotion.
How did your appointment as a Canada Research Chair initially accelerate how your research is collected and applied in real ways? How could your election to the Royal Society of Canada do the same?
I am honoured to be the Tier-II Canada Research Chair in Critical Studies in Indigenous Health and Social Action on Suicide, which was awarded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council in 2019. The Canada Research Chairs program has been instrumental in accelerating my work in several ways, including by leveraging funding for community-engaged research, advancing graduate student research, and scaling up the impact of the work by providing access to a network of influential leaders across community, policy, and academic contexts.
As I think about my election to the Royal Society of Canada, College of New Scholars, Artists and Scientists (RSC), I am mainly interested in learning from and with, and contributing to a network well poised to make an impact on issues of vital importance to Canada. At the same time, I also think about the experiences of scholars like Constance Backhouse, Cynthia Milton, Margaret Kovach, and Adele Perry who in their recent edited volume, ‘Royally Wronged: The Royal Society of Canada and Indigenous Peoples’ remind us that such formations “point to the birth and persistence of Canadian scholarship as a colonial construct” and that we should be alert to “a desire by the Canadian body politic to view colonialism as finished business” (335). I hope to follow in their method of using critical scholarship as a tool for refusal. I want to use my election to the College to ensure continued public reckonings with Canada’s role in producing conditions of unlivability for Indigenous peoples.
How has your research had an impact, if already?
I think about impact in lots of different ways, some more or less conventional. But these days, I am thinking a lot about three domains of impact: the health and continued livability of my students, of the communities of people with whom we work, and of the planet. This is not something impact factor scores and citation indices can tell us. But in terms of the work, I have contributed to the field, I think I am excited and feel that I am making an impact when I see the increasing engagement with Indigenous feminist, queer, and critical scholarship around Indigenous health. While I research an issue of global significance, I tend to try to stay focused on local and intimate sites of impact. How are we making life more livable here and now? And in my own community, and in the communities, I partner with, we are seeing the power of reframing questions of suicide beyond the domain of pathology and through the framework of livability.
What do you want observers, peers, policy makers and institutions to take away from the work you do? What is their point of action?
Ultimately, I want people to think through several considerations: First, I hope that people come away with a more complex telling about issues of social inequality. For example, there are very real pressures to truncate issues like suicide into something manageable, predictable, and framed by biomedical and psychocentric assumptions. And while these matters are relevant, my research invites us to attend more fulsomely to suicide as a felt knowledge of complex and interlocking structural dimensions. Second, I hope that people begin to realize the profound ways that Indigenous feminist, queer and critical studies provide dynamic conceptual frameworks and methodological approaches to better address issues such as suicide. And finally, I want people to reflect on the ethical dimensions that the reality of suicide raises. By this I mean, I want us all to reflect on our complicity in systems of oppression and structures of violence that threaten livability, and our responsibility to act in ways that nourish the potential for living. Put another way, I want my scholarship to invite reflection on justice and inspire actions towards it.
What does an election, like one from the Royal Society of Canada, mean to you? How does it fit with how you wanted to shape your academic career?
Personally, the Royal Society of Canada, has not been a longstanding goal of my professional life. While grants, awards, and recognition for a job feel nice and are not inherently bad, in the grips of the neoliberal academy, we can easily lose sight of our purposes. For me, my purposes in the academy are political: I want to help Indigenous and other students to be able to access the knowledges they need to address their desires and hopes for our communities. I want to create educational spaces that support their thriving, learning, and enhance their sense of purpose. I also think we are living in times that demand our urgent attention about violence directed towards the planet, and the ways that violence is interlocking with violence against people. My work as an educator is therefore about resisting the systems that govern such violence, teaching towards agitation and action, and prefiguring the kinds of relationality and care needed for life together.