Landscapes of Injustice is now just about half-way through its first “phase,” when most of our energy focuses on archival digging, oral history interviewing, and land title-searching. I’ve been reflecting lately on the people doing much of this work: our Research Assistants. The RAs on LoI are graduate and undergraduate students from 8 different universities, stretching from Kingston, Ontario to Victoria, British Columbia. About two dozen students work on the project every year and approximately 75% of the project’s budget is devoted to their training and support. Students work directly with leading researchers and museum professionals. They do archival research, conduct interviews, design and manage complex databases, translate documents, create maps, communicate across disciplinary boundaries, connect with communities, analyze and report research findings, speak to the media . . . the list could go on and on. Our students do everything that the project does.
As part of the project, students learn an important history and acquire practical skills. They engage questions of social justice, democracy, and activism. They learn how to find their own place within a team comprised of people with diverse backgrounds, experiences, and capacities. Those who are not of Japanese-Canadian ancestry, a majority on our project, learn how to engage historical injustice as active allies—to contribute to excavating harms perpetrated against a particular community while also communicating respectfully with and learning from members of that community. Students of Japanese-Canadian origin have told me that they are discovering new ways of understanding the history of their own families and building new communities within which they can explore this past. The project does, and should, continue to search for ways to enhance student experiences with the project. But it can also, I think, be very proud of what the RAs are already accomplishing and learning. – Jordan Stanger-Ross, Project Director
Legal History RA Monique Ulysses at Library and Archives Canada, July 2015 (Photo: Kaitlin Findlay)