Student Organizers at UBCO

In Conversation with Aliyah Ayorinde, Busie Adebayo, and Kojo Clarke
by Samaya Miller  

  • Describe how your membership in a student organization makes you feel included in a way that is unique from your experiences with the general school population. 

Aliyah Ayorinde (AA) is a staff member at the UBCO Student Experience Office. She is currently the orientation event coordinator and works to aid in the programs and events of her office:

I first started when I was a student- that’s how I first met everyone in the student experience office- and I was an orientation leader. At first, I was apprehensive because I thought you had to be a certain way, but when I was going through the interview process, they emphasized the importance of seeing me as I am and that there was no need to pretend to be whom I think they wanted me to be, and it was offered in a way that was accessible to me. Which boosted my confidence and made me want to do well in the role because I felt like, you know, I’m going to be valued as myself, and then the next year everyone was encouraging me for doing so great, and it made me feel so happy and way more confident to be a senior leader. The following year, again, I was so confident, which made me apply for student staff, and then later, when I graduated, I became a full-time staff member, knowing that my gifts were appreciated.

Busie Adebayo (BA) is the VP External for the UBCO African Caribbean Student Club (ACSC):

ACSC makes me feel included simply by creating a space where I can see and interact with people who closely relate to a similar culture that I grew up in and the experiences, good and bad, that come with being African or Caribbean in Canada. The club provides room for us to come.

ACSC makes me feel included simply by creating a space…”

Kojo Clarke (KC) is the VP Finance for the UBCO ACSC:

In Kelowna, there are very few spaces that allow us to exist in joy. I believe that majority of my happiest moments have been through the club and have helped me find a support circle to aid me through my university career. The events were always ‘come as you are’ without a fear of prejudice.

  • Please describe a typical meeting or event of this student organization.

AA: Black community lunch: Initially, it was going to be a part of Black student orientation, but we felt like the timeline was too short to include it in September, 2022. So, we pushed it to October so we could get more resources and connect with campus partners better… [and support] Black student orientation. I did become the main coordinator, but was lucky to have help from the whole team, particularly Prapthi and Tage.

BA: At a typical ACSC event there is always food, music, dancing, and vibes. It’s really just people having fun together.

KC: I think the differences in the events make them unique, but one thing that was certain is there is always music and food.

  • Please describe the benefits (personal and/or group-wide) experienced after a meeting or event with this student organization.

AA: Well, I would say it benefits me because it benefits the community. What I like to see the most is when I get to see everyone being connected and when people are having those conversations and just being around each other and just having vibes and good times. That’s when I’m like, you know this was worth all the panic [laughs]. With the community, you know, I’ve been collecting feedback as we go so I can know how to improve in the future. And the main points were just the importance of everyone being connected to others and knowing that there was this event where it was focused on the Black community and their wellness. I knew that this event would have been something beneficial for me as a student.

“Being acknowledged through this event made students feel part of the space.”

BA: Personally, I’ve always met at least one new person by the end of every ACSC event. So, I would say that one of the main benefits of being a part of this club is making new connections and friendships, which also goes back to the topic of inclusion on campus. ACSC events are also mostly fun events so it’s a bit of a pick-me-up after a stressful week filled with assignments and tests.

KC: The purpose is to promote interest in and knowledge of African and Caribbean cultures among UBCO students and the greater Kelowna community. This helps create spaces for these communities to feel a sense of home and belonging as well as communicate amongst likeminded peers.

  • Any future events for the Black Community to help foster inclusivity?

AA: I would love to improve the Black community wellness lunch first because I think having this and a separate piece for education could be very useful as I noted that this was needed for some students. I would love to also do some workshops about being a black student and managing the expectations of the community and your family and university so that students can feel connected to one another and know that they are not just carrying the weight of their community on their backs alone. I would also like to collab[orate] with different campus partners on campus for equity and inclusion.

  • Please describe how you believe this student organization promotes equity.

BA: I think ACSC promotes equity by providing space for everyone to celebrate their different cultures together. We also have a few things planned for next semester that deal with mental health and self-care for people in the club, so hopefully those will also contribute to our promotion of equity on campus!

KC: I think that what we try to promote is that other students have a voice and a say in what they can enjoy as well. This is not a slight on any other club, but the conversations I have with our members is that there is not a club as inclusive as ours. We try to create a great vibe and use culture to drive our events. Our motto, Ubuntu, means I am because you are. We can’t exist without our members and our goal is to allow those who have a voice, or [those who] don’t to still feel joy because you are surrounded by joyous people.

“Our motto, Ubuntu, means I am because you are.”

  • What would you say to someone who is struggling with feeling safe and included in our community?

AA: I see you, I feel you, and I empathize heavily. It’s hard to feel like you are not alone when the campus is telling you that you are alone, but know that you are not and there are people here who want to support you and see you thrive despite the lack of systemic change … We want to see you become the best version of yourself. It’s hard to go out every day having to be brave… I’m rooting for you.

“…there are people here who want to support you and see you thrive…”


Photo by Cody Engel on Unsplash





ISA Event

‘Diwali Mela’ at UBC Okanagan organized by the Indian Student Association

The Indian Student Association (ISA) organized Diwali, or as it is more popularly known, the ‘Festival of Lights’. Diwali is one of the biggest festivals celebrated in India. It commemorates the victorious return of Lord Rama after 14 years of exile after saving his wife Sita from the demon king Ravana.

Diwali is celebrated to signify the triumph of good over evil symbolizing the dispelling of darkness.

On Diwali, people decorate their homes with lights and make colorful rangoli’s (patterns made on the floor with colors) in their courtyards. You will see people dressed in new clothes, bursting firecrackers, exchanging gifts, and praying to Goddess Lakshmi (goddess of wealth). 

Since Diwali is such an important festival for Indians, the ISA wanted to share those sentiments with everyone on campus by organizing a ‘Diwali Mela’ (fair). At the Mela, several local businesses set up stalls selling Indian goods like jewelry and clothes, offering henna designs, and painting diyas (earthen lamps). As the evening proceeded, there were stunning performances put up by the Bhangra Club and UBCO Beats Club. The students were served traditional Indian food and dessert like biryani, paneer pakode, chilli chicken, jalebi, and gulab jamun. The night concluded with everyone lighting up sparklers. 

As an international student, being far away from my family and culture creates a feeling of isolation. Events like this instill a sense of belonging among students and preserves the diversity on campus. Other members of ISA shared feelings of nostalgia and distance from their cultures and families when they first arrived in Canada, however ISA events such as, Diwali provided them with a community to celebrate their cultural identities.  

These events cultivate among students a sense of belonging at the university.

Moreover, celebrating different cultural events on campus promotes inclusivity. Learning about other cultures educates people to be mindful and respectful of different perspectives. The Diwali Mela was attended by not only Indians but also by people from diverse backgrounds. It left us with memories of a fun night spent with friends and the community.


Photo by Prashant Gupta on Unsplash


Compilation of Artwork Exhibited at FINA Gallery by Nasim Pirhadi

Say Her Name 

artist’s statement

Using pine needles, I built a wall to embody the restrictions the Islamic Republic imposed upon Iranian people.

A wall between Women and Men 

A wall between Iran and the free world 

A wall between the dispossessed and the privileged


Many people died to cross the wall 

Many are in prison because they think there shouldn’t be a wall 

Many people inside Iran are trying to connect to the free world by destroying the wall

Many are risking their lives by choosing to live as though there is no wall.

Many Iranian citizens outside of Iran cannot return home because of the wall 

Many religious and sexual minorities cannot live safely inside the wall

The video

In the video, I am repeatedly smearing my face with and then cleaning it of basil seeds as traditional drum music plays in the background. This music is normally played in zoorkhanehs, traditional gyms that only men are allowed to enter and participate in, and whose name translates to House of Strength. There is an old belief that women are not purified enough to enter these sacred places, and that the inherent corruption of womanhood makes them undeserving of titles like ‘hero’ or ‘champion’. Through the repetitive act of cleaning my face of basil seeds, positioned here to represent Irian womanhood, I am asking: is it enough now? Am I purified enough? Am I eligible now?

In Farsi, the word for basil is ‘Reyhan’, which is also a common female name, so, basil seeds and the gelatinous mass they create upon contact with water are embodying female kinship networks. The way that basil seeds swell twice their size and bond together upon coming into contact with water is representative of the misogynistic fears surrounding the contagious nature of women’s drive for freedom – if one woman is fighting for it, she might ‘infect’ other women around her with the same ideas.”

The purpose of the show was to raise the awareness about the unrest in Iran and be the voice of the Iranian people. Informing the audience and bringing them into a conversation like easing it a little because this is a difficult conversation especially with so much global attention on it. The exhibition meant the criteria of here come, you are welcome to the conversation, see a little bit of what’s happening in Iran.

Nasim is currently working on her new project about women’s rights in Iran which is the continuation of her previous works and is a network that depicts the layout of an Iranian traditional gym called Zoorkhaneh (The House of strength). In Zoorkhaneh, a variety of tools are utilised, including Meel, Zarb and Zang (drum and bell), Kabbadeh (bow and chain), Sang (shield), and Takhteh Shena (Push-up Board). To construct the Zoorkhaneh structure, she is creating some of this equipment out of natural elements including wood, basil seeds, and sugar, as well as creating some paintings and video art.

About the author

Nasim Pirhadi is a multidisciplinary artist and MFA candidate at UBCO whose artistic practice are mainly a compilation of spatial installations, video art, sound, and drawing. She is interested in creating interactive experiences to facilitate narratives in her works. Her works explore culturally sensitive topics in the complex socio-political environment of her home country, Iran. Her research-oriented practice engages with feminist approaches to female identity and subjectivity and gender performativity. She has presented at festivals and artist residencies across Iran and internationally. Nasim won the selected award of the third contemporary drawing Festival in Iran in 2011 and has been shortlisted as eight finalists for the Behnam Bakhtiar Award in Monaco, France, in 2017. She has recently received the Audain Foundation travel award for a research trip to New York. 


Idowu’s Poem

A Dark-Skinned Damsel.


Born black, beautiful with beady black eyes.

Broad nose, curly black hair, wide smile, white teeth.

She was dark-skinned.


Her skin-

the colour of running, yummy chocolate-

was betrothed to the Sun.


Her physique-

resplendent in all attires

as though she was carved,

every intricate detail of her.


She dared not shrink

for her stature would betray her.

She dared not cower

for her aura exuded valor.

But what she did dare

which she ought not to have,

was to dare disdain her dark skin.


2030: Now

she is old

with a granddaughter of her own.

She whispers to her

every now and then:

“You are beautiful.”


She marvels

that beauty is no longer a cult-

with a fixed complexion,

hair texture or curvature.


Beauty resides in every contour

of the human flesh; beauty

makes its home in the

nest of kind souls. Beauty

is no longer a face,

a look, or complexion.

Beauty is you and I

in our splendour.


Now, her granddaughter

will live

as she was made to live-

as a beautiful dark-skinned damsel

born black

as strong as the obsidian rock.

– Ayanfe Idowu


Disability Resource Centre Creates Inclusion Around Campus, Online and Offline by Yasmeen Kaila

Everyone needs extra support in their life.

Whether it is mental health, physical health, or accommodations, the Disability Resource Centre (DRC) at the University of British Columbia Okanagan (UBCO) helps create a safe space for inclusion and diversity around campus both in person and online. 

The DRC’s role is to support those with ongoing medical conditions and varying abilities through their university career. Allowing all students to get a fair education without drawbacks one might face. Having the DRC as a resource is a benefit for those who may be at a disadvantage. The list of conditions the DRC can assist with includes mental health conditions, neurological disabilities, chronic health conditions as well as physical or sensory disabilities.

Individuals are assisted through many accommodations such as, note takers, assistive listening devices, medical equipment/supplies, distraction reduced environments and extended time for exams. Those are just a few of the many accommodations the DRC provides for students at UBCO. Accommodations are granted after a meeting is conducted with an advisor from the DRC and the student. The meeting consists of figuring out which accommodations one would best benefit from and meet the student’s specific needs. Once accommodations are finalized, students are required to inform instructors, so they can include accommodations to one’s class in a way that respects their dignity, privacy, and autonomy.

As someone who is a student working with the DRC, I have found my education has less barriers and more flexibility to accommodate my learning. I was worried about my first-year education as everything was online due to COVID-19. The support and accommodation I was given due to the circumstances, were phenomenal. I felt like someone with disadvantages was still given a fair shot at education. As everything was online, accommodations were a little different than how they would normally be set up. The DRC organized private zoom calls during exams for those needing accommodations, allowing for a distraction reduced environment for those online.

Simple accommodations give someone a big sense of inclusion.

The UBCO website states that “seven to eight percent of the student population, which is up to 800 students, are associated with the DRC at any given time. 800 students needing accommodations get assistance and access to fair education daily because of the DRC.”

After talking to other students in the DRC about their experiences and thoughts, the feedback I received corresponded with the DRC’s capability to provide a welcoming space . Students have asked for their names not to be included in this article for privacy reasons, therefore, I will refer to them as “Student 1” and “Student 2”.

Student 1 explained that the DRC helps UBCO by implementing equity into the academic system. The DRC allowed this student with ADHD and Dyslexia to succeed with accommodations such as a note taker, time and a half for test taking and other accommodations to fit their needs.

Student 2 explained that the DRC has helped them with their university experience. They learned at their own pace and had the help they needed. The DRC gave them an opportunity to understand concepts and materials in different ways so that they are able to understand better. 

The DRC also boosted students’ confidence in classes. With the guidance of the staff from the DRC students feel comfortable with class material so they feel prepared to answer any questions. They continued to say they do not feel ashamed about asking for help and being judged. Students can be open about what they need. When asking student two about their experiences with the DRC. Yearly checks performed by the DRC to see how us students feel about the upcoming year was seen as reassuring. Students were able to have a great conversation about classes and challenges from the previous year. 

It is very clear, through personalized accommodations and amazing staff, that the DRC at the UBCO allows for a more inclusive and safe place on and off campus for students with different challenges.. If you, or someone you know who might benefit from the DRC, please visit the Disability resources website. If you feel you are someone who can help those at the DRC, please visit the website as well to see how you can help students around you.


Accommodations information for faculty. Student Services. (n.d.). Retrieved October 24, 2022, from

Photo by Neil Thomas on Unsplash


Flora in the fields

In the elds, owers are able to exist with each other,

Nomad bees showering in the owers pollen, such a peaceful scene.

Color lls the eld as the sun strikes noon, light transmitting its tenderness to Earth.

Lovely setting, incredible scents, peaceful calm.

Unbelievable sight.

Serene environment, unpolluted air,

Indescribable warmth lled the ground, as the Sun kissed the Earth softly.

Variety of owers decorated the eld,

Inclusivity seen within our nature. Flowers,

Twirling away with the wind, petals and leaves dancing with each other, never

Yielding, just existing with each other; as nature intended to do.


Movement isn’t discriminated, warmth is not denied,

All around is colorful and inaudibly fun.

Togetherness has set the mood, spreading its beauty.

Tomorrow will be the same, love surrounding the

Exquisitely serene and natural scene.

Romantic essence of immense diversity.

Succulent di erence, perfuming the air, impacting the senses.


Author: Anonymous

Poem: Flora in the Fields

Author: Anonymous

As an international student, I believe there’s nothing more welcoming than the act of inclusivity of others. Because now I understand more than ever, what it’s like to be the odd-one-out. I had thought about these feelings of difference when I volunteered to participate in the RESPECT Magazine, which is why I wrote about flowers. They all have a different meaning and all look quite different, but they coexist in the land they share. I wrote this poem for those who are wondering if they fit in at all in university life. Inclusivity is meant to be shared, which is what the Syilx Okanagan Nation have done with the university, they have allowed people to be in their land. We as knowledgeable students are able to thrive at our differences, regardless of what they might be, because we share the experience of being UBCO’s students. This is an important message to spread, because if there are people who doubt the act of inclusivity, at the very least there are now others that can support those who feel unwelcome.

Indigenous Reproductive Rights and Justice

Indigenous Women’s Reproductive Rights and Justice: Intersections of Gender and Race in North America’s Regimes of Assimilation and Cultural Genocide by Elise Boisvert

Indigenous peoples have long been excluded, assimilated, and discriminated against since colonialist settlers arrived on Turtle Island (now known as Canada). Indigenous women were viewed as the backbone of society, but when Western ideologies began to dominate, this quickly changed. Regimes began to assimilate Indigenous peoples into the Canadian state and Indigenous women’s agency began to dissipate, along with their reproductive rights and justice. As we will see through the course of this paper, many factors facilitated the subordination of Indigenous women in Western colonial society. Indigenous women’s lack of reproductive rights and justice is a clear and blatant example of the continued attempts of assimilation and cultural genocide of Indigenous peoples in North America.


Indigenous Society Before Colonialism. Indigenous society prior to (and after) colonial contact were vastly different from Europeans in terms of ideologies, ways of knowledge, and societal norms. Unlike settler colonial society, gender roles in Indigenous communities were equal and mutual. Women were informed and respected members of Indigenous society, and played vital and viable roles in many different areas. Unlike European women, Indigenous women had a strong sense of autonomy. Women were respected and have always been the backbone and keepers of life in Indigenous communities (Ralstin-Lewis, 2005). White settler colonial societies took the form of patriarchal structure, with women viewed as lesser and subordinate. When European settlers began colonizing Turtle Island, they were perplexed by the autonomy and freedom of Indigenous women, deeming it as promiscuity (Juschka, 2017) – given how vastly different these gender roles were from their own. 

Indigenous Society After Colonialism. Western ideologies of gender were represented as normative and were imposed on Indigenous peoples (Juschka, 2017). Subsequently, the status of Indigenous women as powerful, viable, and informed members of society began a downward spiral (Juschka, 2017). This was a successful tool in colonization for European settlers. Their ideologies were being enforced and adopted into Indigenous societies; gender fluidity and equivalent gender relations among Indigenous peoples were being dismantled and their culture was being divided – a strategic means to conquer a society (Juschka, 2017). Indigenous women not only became subordinate to white men, but eventually subordinate to white women, and subsequently to Indigenous men. Indigenous women were a threat to colonizers due to their traditional significance in the continuation of Native cultures (Ralstin-Lewis, 2005); European colonizers targeting Indigenous women was and is strategic and cognisant.  

“Unlike settler colonial society, gender roles in Indigenous communities were equal and mutual.”


The Indian Act. The Indian Act, created in 1876 strived to assimilate Indigenous peoples into the Canadian state and European culture. With this, all self-governing aspects of Indigenous cultures and societies were eliminated (The Native Women’s Association, 2018). In 1885 spiritual ceremonies were banned and Indigenous peoples could leave reserves without permission, in 1914 Indigenous peoples had to require special permission to wear their “costumes” to public events, in 1925 dancing was outlawed entirely, and in 1927 Indigenous peoples were banned from hiring legal representation regarding claims against the federal government without the government’s approval (The Native Women’s Association, 2018). The Indian Act stripped Indigenous peoples of their culture, power, and agency, giving settlers the upper hand in all forms of political, economic, and social environments. 

The Gendered Aspects of the Indian Act. Not only did the Indian Act strip all Indigenous peoples of culture, but Indigenous women were hit hardest by this legislation. The Indian Act was a sexist tool that was used to deprive Indigenous women and their children of status if they married out of their culture and race. The Indian Act defined an Indian person as “any male person of Indian blood” and their children (The Native Women’s Association, 2018). Status women who married non-status men lost status, non-status women who married men gained status, and anyone with status who earned a degree or became a doctor, lawyer or clergyman became enfranchised but lost status (The Native Women’s Association, 2018). With these rules, women lost their culture and essence of Indigeneity if they married a white man. But an Indigenous man’s status would not be affected if he married a white woman. In fact, she would gain status. This patriarchal notion put Indigenous women at the lowest economic and political standing. In 1951 an amendment was made which would enact the “double mother rule,” which removes the status of a person whose mother and grandmother were given status through marriage. In 1985 the marrying out rule in the Indian Act is removed, but further distinctions in status are created with many more issues stemming from this (The Native Woman’s Association, 2018). Before colonial powers invaded Turtle Island, there was no question of Indigenous status or blood-quantum. The Indian Act posed many threats to Indigenous ways of knowledge, culture, and overall being. Indigenous women were at the hands of brutal patriarchal colonial ideologies that belittled their very existence – and even with the first wave of feminism beginning to take flight in the late nineteenth century, Indigenous women were left to fight their own battle against assimilation and reproductive injustice. 

“Indigenous women were at the hands of brutal patriarchal colonial ideologies that belittled their very existence…”

Feminist movements

The majority of first-wave feminists were middle-class white women that, in simple terms, fought for the right to vote and the choice of when to have children. These women paved the way for many of the events that have taken place and the rights we have today; but first-wave feminist movements have been condemned for being too focused on suffrage, indifferent about gender roles, and too accepting of race and class divisions (LeGates, 2001). Indigenous women (and other women of colour) were left out of first-wave feminism movements due to the fact that many of their movements involved rights that were centered around white settler ideologies. White settler first-wave feminists in the United States drew inspiration from Indigenous women’s social, political, economic, and sexual autonomy, yet still viewed them as less capable in light of being Indigenous (Juschka, 2017). Eugenics dominated Western white settler societies and Christianity was seen as the only spiritual truth, therefore, Indigenous systems of belief and practice were seen as heathen and Indigenous women were seen as inferior (Juschka, 2017). The first wave resulted in women’s right to vote in 1918. White women gained the right to vote, that is. Indigenous women did not get the right to vote until 1960 – 42 years later (The Native American Women’s Association, 2018). The second wave of feminism (1960s-80s) focused more on women’s reproductive rights such as, abortion. Feminists fought for their right to choose when to have a child, whereas Indigenous women were struggling to ensure they could still have children. White second-wave feminists during the 1970s chose to ignore issues of sterilization abuse (which will be discussed in more detail later in this paper), and focused on a woman’s right to abortion – given that most victims of sterilization abuses were women of colour (Ralstin-Lewis, 2015). As Crenshaw (1991) states, although racism and sexism often intersect in the lives of real people, they rarely do in feminist and antiracist practices. Early feminist movements rarely focused on racism as an intersectional part of sexism – this unfortunately resulted in Indigenous women’s voices and stories being unheard during the times violence and assimilation was being brought upon them in systematic attacks by colonial powers. 

Feminists fought for their right to choose when to have a child, whereas Indigenous women were struggling to ensure they could still have children.”

Systematic dislocation of children and sterilization

Residential Schools. It is impossible to speak about Indigenous peoples’ suffering at the hands of colonial powers without acknowledging the horrors that were enacted upon children and their families that attended residential schools. Residential schools were built to incorporate Western ideologies and practices into the everyday lives of Indigenous children – to “kill the Indian in the child”. Attendance became mandatory in 1884, children were forcibly removed from their homes and were not permitted to speak their own language to practice their own religious rituals (The Native Women’s Association, 2018). This is an important part of history to acknowledge when speaking about reproductive justice due to the fact that culture is reproduced by passing it down from elder or parent to the next generation. By ripping children away from their families and stopping them from practicing their own culture, the Canadian state enacted a cultural genocide on Indigenous communities. As Juschka (2017) states, Indigenous mothering was directly challenged by the introduction of residential schools in Canada and industrial schools in the United States. Children became detached from their cultural roots and assimilated into Western culture, yet not accepted by white people. These children became alienated and Indigenous mothers and fathers lost their connection to their kin. Not only did these schools separate children from their parents, but they prevented siblings from interacting with one another to ensure that children would leave behind their Indigenous ways of being (Juschka, 2017). Family separation, sibling separation, and gender separation were mechanisms that white settler school systems used to control and assimilate Indigenous peoples (Juschka, 2017). The residential school system spread Western ideology and thought, promoted patriarchal structures and instituted the model of family formation which put Indigenous women in a role of obedience and support of the husband (Juschka, 2017). As residential school attendance began to deplete, other forms of assimilation and cultural genocide began to take its place.

Sixties and Millennial Scoops and the Child Welfare System. The Sixties and Millennial Scoops, and the Child Welfare System were and continue to be the systems that continue the legacy of the residential schools. The Sixties Scoop began in the 1960s and continued to the mid-1980s, the Millennial Scoop began in the 1980s and continues to the present day, and the Child Welfare System began in 1935 and also continues to the present day. Each of these systems were and are a system perpetuated by the Canadian state in an act to separate Indigenous children from their families and place them in white households – assimilation and cultural genocide cloaked in the act of heroic salvation. These systems are based on colonialist, racist as misguided views on Indigenous peoples of Canada (Juschka, 2017) – viewing them as incapable of being suitable parents to their children. The protection of Indigenous children by white settlers were carried out by ripping children away from their homes and families into new and foreign cultures. False advertisement of protection that these systems gave allowed for the rapid removal of Indigenous children from their homes. Children were often removed forcibly from their homes for “protection” or for their “own good,” when in reality the Canadian government and white settler community wanted to assimilate Indigenous peoples even further. The sustained involvement of white settlers in Indigenous communities takes away the agency of Indigenous mothers in their right to their own reproduction of culture and ideologies. Indigenous children were removed from their mothers, fathers, and families for reasons such as poverty, a situation imposed on them by the same government removing them (Juschka, 2017). Indigenous women’s autonomy, specifically their sexual autonomy, as well as Indigenous culture and language continued to be problematic to the Canadian state, and as a result many infants and toddlers were taken away from their mothers (Juschka, 2017). Across Canada, an estimated seventy to ninety percent of Indigenous children were taken from their homes and put into non-Indigenous homes between 1960 and 1990 (Vowel, 2016). During these systematic regimes of displacement, violence against women was being enacted upon Indigenous women’s bodies.

Sterilization. One of the most cognisant and controlled efforts of violence against Indigenous women was the use of sterilization. Indigenous women lost their reproductive rights even further during this period of intense population control and the eugenics movement by the Canadian and American government. Permanent sterilization by tubal ligation or hysterectomy was used forcibly, coercively, or unwittingly on between 3,400 and 70,000 Indigenous women from the 1960s up to 1976 (Ralstin-Lewis, 2005). From 1970 to 1980, the birthrate for Indigenous women fell at a rate 7 times greater than that of their white counterparts (Ralstin-Lewis, 2005). Governments targeted Indigenous women and girls because of their direct link to cultural reproduction. White settler colonial society believed that Indigenous societies were not as advanced as them, and therefor inferior. As the eugenics movement swept the Western nations, Indigenous communities, specifically women, were even more vulnerable to reproductive injustices. Many eugenicists, felt that whites were more advanced than other races, and viewed the higher rates of birthrates among Indigenous peoples and other people of colour with alarm – and with the long history of racism in North America, they had little trouble influencing many whites that people of colour were inferior (Ralstin-Lewis, 2005). Medical practitioners viewed Indigenous women as incapable and incompetent enough to effectively use birth control, and favoured sterilizing Indigenous women (Ralstin-Lewis, 2005). In the early 1970s, the Department of Health, Education and Welfare escalated funding programs and paid for 90% of the costs to sterilize poor Indigenous women, they circulated pamphlets among Indigenous communities praising the benefits of sterilization, and the federal government was using propaganda to suggest sterilization to Indigenous women (Ralstin-Lewis, 2005). Facilities continually violated Indigenous women’s right to informed consent. For instance, women were not informed that they possessed the right to refuse sterilization; other reports show that teenaged girls had their ovaries removed after they were told they would undergo a tonsillectomy; and coercive measures were often taken to make women sign consent forms (Ralstin-Lewis, 2005). There have been cases of Indigenous girls receiving hysterectomies as young as age 11 (Volscho, 2010). These blatant violations of human and reproductive rights show the lack of respect and dehumanization of Indigenous peoples in the eyes of Western colonial ideology and practice. These irreversible surgeries took away the ability to have children, and therefor reproduce culture. In Canada, the provinces of Alberta and British Columbia established a sexual sterilization act that operated between 1928 and 1972, and 1933 and 1973 (Juschka, 2017). While other provinces in Canada did not have sterilization acts, they equally engaged in the practice of sterilization within the eugenics movement (Juschka, 2017). The government was quick to realize that they did not want to be implicated of racial genocide, so the act was amended so that consent prior to sterilization was only necessary if the patient was not deemed “mentally defective” (Juschka, 2017). Unsurprisingly, the government took advantage of this and abused the power of being able to deem Indigenous women mentally defective or not and consequently deemed numerous women mentally defective in order to perform sterilizations without consent. As a result, more than 77% of women were defined as mentally defective (Juschka, 2017). The criteria of mental defectiveness included the following: sexual activity outside the boundary of marriage, promiscuity, and an unwillingness to be subordinate to white settlers, particularly men; these decisive factors signified the individual to be mentally defective (Juschka, 2017). An estimated 40% of all Indigenous women were sterilized during the eugenics movement (Ralstin-Lewis, 2005). This is a clear measure these governments have taken to enact a cultural genocide and assimilation. When sterilization could not be achieved, other measures were taken to ensure women could not reproduce.

Birth Control. Drugs such as DepoProvera and Norplant were used to solve the perceived “Indian problem.” Most women were not given the information about the drugs’ possible side effects, one of which is the cessation of the menstrual cycle – and for some women after discontinuing their use of DepoProvera, had to wait up to 2 years before returning to a normal menstrual cycle, while others were rendered totally infertile (Ralstin-Lewis, 2005). Menstruation is deeply important in the religious lives of both men and women in traditional Native cultures, it allows women to go through a cleanse and spiritual transformation; with the loss of their menstrual cycle, it situates them at the same spiritual level as men (Ralstin-Lewis, 2005). Significant problems with these drugs also include excessive bleeding, which is drastically problematic for Indigenous women because participation in religious activities is limited for Indigenous women whom are mensurating (Ralstin-Lewis, 2005). This removes women from their culture for prolonged periods of time and as a result, disconnects them from their family members including the children they may have had previously. A woman cannot start or stop using Norplant whenever she chooses, which places her at the hands of her healthcare provider. She loses complete autonomy and control over her reproductive health, over a drug that she most-likely did not fully consent to starting in the first place. If her doctor refuses to remove the Norplant inserts, a scenario that frequently occurs, a woman has zero control and agency of her fertility and reproduction (Ralstin-Lewis, 2005). As Ralstin-Lewis (2005) states, by attacking the traditional status of women in Indigenous nations, sterilization and the abuse of these drugs strikes at the very core value and uniqueness of women. For too long, Indigenous women’s bodies have been the battleground of colonial powers’ attempts to assimilate and control Indigenous communities. 

Governments targeted Indigenous women and girls because of their direct link to cultural reproduction.”

The Environmental Factors in Reproductive Justice

Not only have Indigenous women dealt with internal forces hindering them from bearing children, external forces have also been barriers in their reproductive rights and justice. Indigenous communities facing environmental injustices resulting from circumstances such as poverty and inadequate healthcare have consequences. Mortality rates for Indigenous populations are 60% higher than those of the U.S. white population; and Indigenous peoples have the lowest cancer survival rates among any racial group in the United States (Hoover et al., 2012). Indigenous communities are disproportionately exposed to environmental contaminants due to location and the cultural activities that put them in close contact with the environment (Hoover et al., 2012). Reproductive justice is defined as the following:

“The right to have children, not have children, and parent the children we have in safe and healthy environments – [and] is based on the human right to make personal decisions about one’s life, and the obligation of government and society to ensure that the conditions are suitable for implementing one’s decisions” (Hoover et al., 2012)

 In simpler terms, reproductive justice is the right to the ability to choose when and if to have children in an environment that is safe and healthy, and does not hinder the decision. An Indigenous community in a place named Aamjiwnaang is also known as “Chemical Valley” due to being surrounded by 62 major industrial facilities within a 25km radius and manufacturers of plastics polymers and agricultural products, is one of the most contaminated reserves – located in Sarnia, Ontario, Canada (Hoover et al., 2012). This community is 12km2 and is home to about 850 Anishinaabe First Nations people, 40% of which require the use of an inhaler (Hoover et al., 2012). In 1996, hospital admissions for women were 3.11 times the expected rates for women and 2.83 times for men based on the other rates for Ontario (Hoover et al., 2012). Oral traditions in this community are passed down from grandfathers during fishing or grandmothers during berry picking and medicine gathering, but these are being lost because these activities are no longer practiced because of concerns about these foods being contaminated. Akwesasne, located at the juncture of New York, Ontario, and Quebec, the community has been impacted by 3 aluminum foundries upstream that used PCBs as hydraulic fluids; these PCBs leaked and contaminated the rivers, fish and consequently, the people (Hoover et al., 2012). PCB levels in breast milk and serum from members in the Akwesasne community have been analyzed and compared to the general public, and are elevated even after cessation of eating local fish (Hoover et al., 2012). Higher PCB concentrations are associated with decrements in cognitive and thyroid function and elevated risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and hypertension, girls are more likely to have reached puberty at age 12 and men were associated with lower testosterone levels (Hoover et al., 2012). These are just a few examples of the ways Indigenous communities are at higher risks of environmental damages resulting in poor health and subsequently, dangers to their unborn children’s’ health. In Akwesasne, a midwife pushed for more health studies because of concerns of local mothers about the number of miscarriages in the communities and the possibility of the link between the contaminated breast milk (Hoover et al., 2012). Studies resulted in the confirmation that Mohawk women who ate local fish had higher levels of contaminants in their breastmilk than a control group – so it should not come as a surprise than breastfeeding rates for Indigenous women in the U.S. are well below the national average (Hoover et al., 2012). This is a testament that many Indigenous communities do not have reproductive justice. Indigenous women should feel confident that their breastmilk is safe for their children to consume, and not worry that they will have miscarriages because of the food they are eating. As Kuokkanes states, environmental pollution and the destruction of ecosystems are examples of the violations of human and reproductive rights, they undermine Indigenous peoples control of and access to their lands and resources and often compromise women’s ability to take care of their children and families due to health problems, contamination, and displacement (232). Not only are Indigenous peoples concerned about the physical reproduction of community members, but there is concern over how environmental contamination impact the reproduction of cultural knowledge (Hoover et al., 2012). Not being able to participate in activities such as fishing or picking berries and passing on knowledge to their kin, language and culture is being lost in communities affected by environmental contaminants. Indigenous communities need a clean and safe environment to enact their reproductive rights and justice. 

“…reproductive justice is the right to the ability to choose when and if to have children in an environment that is safe and healthy…”


Indigenous women have been the location of violence in regards to reproductive health and justice since first contact with settler colonialists. Residential schools and other systems that removed children from their homes and families took away Indigenous mother’s agency and ability to reproduce their culture. Colonialism was perpetuated with these regimes of assimilation and cultural genocide – and Indigenous women and girls suffered at the hands of healthcare practitioners for decades. Feminist movements, while in many ways paved the way and made great changes for white women, left Indigenous women’s sufferings untouched and unacknowledged, allowing for the sustained development of the eugenics movement to enact their forced and coerced sterilizations of Indigenous women. While white women were praising their new-found freedom over reproductive rights during the 1960s and 1970s, Indigenous women were being targeted by medical practitioners with sterilization and birth control. While a battle was being waged on Indigenous women’s’ bodies from the inside, another battle was being forced upon them from the outside. Environmental factors have been a constant issue in reproductive justice for Indigenous peoples. Contaminants in the environment has affected women and their unborn children, resulting in lack of confidence in their breastmilk, health issues in adults and children, and loss of culture. Yet with all of this in mind, it is very important to acknowledge the strength and resiliency of Indigenous peoples and culture. Through the centuries of colonization, assimilation and genocide they have been subjected to, Indigenous communities continue to thrive and flourish in spite. But this does not mean the fight is over. Indigenous women are still at risk of reproductive injustice and Indigenous communities are facing inequalities that will and do result in cultural genocide. Indigenous women’s lack of reproductive rights and justice is a clear example of the continued attempts of assimilation and cultural genocide of Indigenous peoples in North America. 


Crenshaw, K. (1991). Mapping the margins: Intersectionality, identity politics, and violence against women of color. Stanford Law Review, 43(6), 1241-1299.

Hoover, E., Cook, K., Plain, R., Sanchez, K., Waghiyi, V., Miller, P., Dufault, R., Sislin, C., & Carpenter, D. O. (2012). Indigenous peoples of North America: Environmental exposures and reproductive justice. Environmental Health Perspectives, 120(12), 1645-1649.

Juschka, D. (2017). Indigenous women, reproductive justice, and Indigenous feminisms: A narrative. In, Listening to the beat of our drum (pp. 13-45). Demeter Press.

Kuokkanen, R. (2012). Self-determination and Indigenous women’s rights are the intersection of international human rights. Human Rights Quarterly, 34(1), 225-250.

LeGates, M. (2001). Chapter eight: Issues in first-wave feminism. In, In their time: A history of feminism in western society (1st ed., pp. 237-280). Routledge.

Ralstin-Lewis, M. (2005). The continuing struggle against genocide: Indigenous women’s reproductive rights. Wicazo Sa Review, 20(1), 71-95.  

The Native Women’s Association. (2018). The Indian Act said what? 

Volscho, T. W. (2010). Sterilization and pan-ethnic disparities of the past decade: The continued encroachment on reproductive rights. Wicazo Sa Review, 25(1), 17-31.

Vowel, C. (2016). Indigenous writes: A guide to First Nations, Métis & Inuit issues in Canada. Highwater Press.

Photo by Guillaume Jaillet on Unsplash
About the author Elise Boisvert

“I was born and raised in Lake Country, BC, Canada. I have always enjoyed education on topics that move towards a broader understanding of the complex relationships of the world around me; and attending UBCO has allowed me to explore and research a variety of topics that enable this. I am a 4th year Arts student with a major in Cultural Studies and a minor in Sociology. I am taking 5 years for my degree as I am unsure what path I want to take after post-secondary. My research interests include feminism, Indigenous matters, and disability studies while using an intersectional lens. I believe this topic is important in the facilitation of inclusivity and equity as it addresses the inequalities and discrimination Indigenous peoples of Canada face in the continuation of settler colonialism. On the University of British Columbia’s Okanagan campus, we study, work, and live on the unceded territory of the Syilx Nation. It is imperative to acknowledge the ways in which settlers have enacted an assimilation and genocide of Indigenous culture by ignoring Indigenous women’s reproductive rights and justice through an intersectional lens. The information provided in my work is essential in the movement towards decolonization: education, acknowledgement, responsibility and in time, reconciliation.”


Mood Psychology on Student Mental Health

What challenges do students face at the university?


The new abnormal: Student Mental Health two years into COVID-19. Canadian Alliance of Student Associations and Mental Health Commission of Canada. (2022, September 25). Retrieved December 21, 2022, from 

News, E. (2022, March 16). International students in Canada faced mental health issues during pandemic, survey reveals. Erudera. Retrieved December 21, 2022, from

About the contributors

The video was compiled by Nancy Jiayi Lu who is an undergraduate student majoring in Psychology in the Faculty of Science at UBC Okanagan. The audio-visual recording features students at UBC Okanagan and Ana Feng, a representative of the Mood Psychology Club.

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