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Photo courtesy of Constance Backhouse

Constance Backhouse awarded prestigious Canadian research grant

ON NOV. 25 University Research Chair and university professor Constance Backhouse was awarded the Gold Medal for Achievement in Research by the Social Science and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC). She received the award for leadership and dedication in the fields of feminist history, human rights, legal history, and woman and law.

“When the University of Ottawa first indicated to me that they would like to put my name forward I explained to them that there was no way on earth that I could possibly win,” said Backhouse, professor of law at the U of O. “It was their tenacity, rather than my optimism, which created the nomination, so I was extremely surprised I had been named the gold medallist.”

The mandate of the SSHRC is to support post-secondary research and training in the humanities and social sciences. The SSHRC’s annual award strives to recognize leadership, dedication, originality in the field of study, and the cultural and intellectual impact of a nominee’s work in Canadian society.

“It is a very high honour for a Canadian researcher to win one of these awards,” said Gordana Krcevinac, director of research training at the SSHRC. “The committee that is put in place to adjudicate these [nominees] really only has a handful of applications each year and that is because it is extremely competitive.

“[The committee] is looking for exceptional quality in the nominees [through] research achievement, evidence the nominee has outstanding commitment, creativity, and has made an effort to share the research that has been produced in academia and beyond,” she added.

“Their contribution in terms of research results for Canadian society is really important, [along with] the international stature and contribution the nominee has made. Constance embodies all of [those qualities].”

The award consists of $100,000 to assist the researcher in their area of study, available over a period of five years.

“I am a feminist and have been a feminist activist for many decades, so it was a natural thing to focus my research on women,” said Backhouse. “[Women] are crosscut by issues of race, class, sexual identity, and disability. I have expanded my research beyond the issue of gender into some of these other areas. I research the history of law and I am always looking for stories of individuals who have experienced discrimination or injustice and who have resisted and stood up within the legal system.”

Backhouse believes it is important to discover these stories of men and women who have resisted discrimination, because it inspires future generations to continue to challenge these inequalities.

“I love my work, and I think if I had more time to myself what I would do celebrate it more often,” said Backhouse. “[Celebrate] not only the winning of awards more often, but the valiant bravery of those in Canadian history and today who are fighting for greater justice across our world.”

Christopher Radojewski