One of the most influential ways of stemming the cycle of inequity and inequality is through the telling of human impact stories of either those who have experienced these firsthand, or those who have demonstrated ways to improve communities. Shanti Fernando, PhD is a prolific storyteller who has dedicated her career to giving a voice to those who don’t have one. As the Political Science Program Director and an Associate Professor in the Faculty of Social Science and Humanities, her research agenda is grounded in Canadian politics and policies that support community development including adult education, mental health supports, immigration and settlement policies, anti-poverty and social service policies.
Dr. Fernando advocates for evidence-based policy making that engages communities in questioning systemic discrimination and the interconnectedness of policies. For example, policies that increase support for adult education, infrastructure, affordable housing, social services, disability services and health services can all be part of a holistic anti-poverty strategy. Her collaborative research also explores the intersection between immigration and disability. She leads an interdisciplinary research team examining ways to improve adult supported education programs run by Canadian psychiatric hospitals. Along with her UOIT research team, she has helped create some of the few studies on supported education conducted in Canada.
Growing up, she envisioned herself a writer and storyteller, and became fascinated with political stories. She earned her Bachelor of Arts (Honours) in English and Political Science from the University of Toronto, her Master of Arts in Political Studies from the University of Guelph, and her Doctorate in Political Studies from Queen’s University. Dr. Fernando spent four years as Assistant Professor in Political Science at York University in Toronto, then as an Assistant Professor of Canadian Studies at Mount Allison University in Sackville, New Brunswick. She authored the well-known book Race and the City in 2007 in order to raise awareness of racism and its historical legacy in Canada.
She came to UOIT in 2008 where she contributed to the establishment of the Faculty of Social Science and Humanities’ Community Development Program (now the Political Science program). For her research and community outreach, Dr. Fernando received the 2012 Extraordinary Partner Award from the Canadian Mental Health Association in Durham Region.
Industry Expertise (7)
Training and Development
Areas of Expertise (12)
Adult Education and Literacy
Anti-Poverty and Social Support Policies
Critical Disability Policy
Labour Market Integration
Mental Health Supports
Race and Racism
Chair, Board of Directors, Literacy Network of Durham Region (professional)
The Literacy Network of Durham Region provides literacy and basic skills support and resources for Employment Ontario stakeholders through research, public education, community planning, professional and community capacity development.
2012 Extraordinary Partner Award, Canadian Mental Health Association Durham Region (professional)
Dr. Fernando received the award for her expertise and counsel as a grant reviewer for the organization.
Queen's University: PhD, Political Studies 2003
University of Guelph: MA, Political Studies 1992
University of Toronto: BA (Hons), English and Political Science 1989
- Association of Canadian Studies
- Canadian Association for the Study of Adult Education
- Canadian Disability Studies Association
- Canadian Ethnic Studies Association
- Canadian Political Science Association
- Canadian Sociological Association
- European Society for Research in Adult Education
Media Appearances (2)
Building hope and confidence while living with mental illness
Oshawa This Week print
According to the Mental Health Commission of Canada (MHCC), about 20 per cent of Canadians will have developed a mental illness by age 25, and more than two-thirds of them say their symptoms first appeared when they were children. This means that mental illness tends to emerge during the years when young people are normally attending school.
Shedding blue-collar image, Oshawa offers lessons for growth
New restaurants popping up, an art gallery opening, university campuses expanding — the changes have appeared over time, but to Shanti Fernando they’re all signs of an actively growing city doing everything it can to attract new residents...
Event Appearances (10)
The Medium is the Message: Mediated Learning and Mental Health
European Society for Research on the Education of Adults Access, Learning Careers and Identities Conference University Rennes 2, Rennes, France
De/Constructing Exclusionary Immigration Law and Policy, Past and Present
Annual Conference of Canadian Disability Studies Association University of Calgary, Calgary, Alberta
Finding Hope Through Education: Student Experiences of Supported Education
Canadian Sociological Association Annual Meeting, Congress of the Social Science and Humanities Ryerson University, Toronto, Ontario
SSHRC Insight Development Results: Relation to Literacy and Adult Education in Ontario
Festival of Literacies Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario
Adult Educators as Community Developers
2016 Annual Conference of Canadian Association Studies of Adult Education University of Calgary, Calgary, Alberta
Education Interrupted: Learning Careers of Adults Living with Mental Illness
European Society for Research on the Education of Adults Access, Learning Careers and Identities Network Conference Seville, Spain
From Patient to Student: Study of a Canadian Hospital Supported Education Program
1st European Conference on Supported Education Groningen, Netherlands
Is Knowledge Power? An Exploration of an Historical Normative Framework for Literacy Policy, Adult Education and the Economy in Canadian Communities
Warwick Lifelong Learning Annual Conference University of Warwick, Coventry, England
Still on the Margins: English Language Learning and Mental Health in Immigrant Psychiatric Patients
Ireland International Conference on Education Dublin, Ireland
Keep Stop Start: Assessing a Supported Education Program for Persons Living with Mental Illness
The Hawaii International Conference on Education Honolulu, Hawaii
Research Grants (2)
Increasing Literacies Through Supported Education and Policies of Inclusion
Social Science and Humanities Research Council of Canada Insight Grant $169389
As principal investigator of this five-year research project, Dr. Fernando is focused on establishing best practices for supported education programs in four psychiatric hospitals, which offer mental health supports alongside educational programming, and life skills and socialization training psychiatric inpatients and outpatients with mental illness. She leads a UOIT research team that seeks to advocate for the continuation and expansion of these programs as well as providing research support for social and education policies that can improve literacy and mental health outcomes.
Supported Literacy Education for Persons Living with Mental Illness: Exploring Social and Economic Implications
SSHRC Insight Development Grant $50926
Dr. Fernando was principal investigator of this two-year research project with UOIT faculty involving a case study of the supported education program at Ontario Shores Centre for Mental Health Sciences, in Whitby, Ontario. The aim was to understand the social, economic and political implications of low literacy skills for people living with mental illness and to provide a program assessment and recommendations for the program coordinators.
Community Development Policy
POSC 2502U, 2nd Year Undergraduate Course
POSC 2000U, 2nd Year Undergraduate Course (Mobilizing Change)
POSC 3203U, 3rd Year Undergraduate Course
POSC 3201U, 3rd Year Undergraduate Course
POSC 3500U, 3rd Year Undergraduate Course
We argue that Canadian immigration law, policy, and practice have historically excluded, race and disability, on a number of grounds, and that there is a common link between them, which is the perception of immigrants’ inability to adapt and integrate into a Canadian identity. The paper conducts a historical analysis of the Canadian immigration framework situated at the intersection of identities based on race and disability, which we link through Critical Race Theory analysis; and class, which is shown through the “excessive demand” standard, the origins of which we trace in relation to the commodification of immigrants based on their economic value.
Interviews with adult mental health in- and out-patients attending a psychiatric hospital-based supported education program, and their program staff and volunteers, demonstrated that while an informal program structure had initial success in increasing student confidence and independence, the subsequent expansion of the program requires formalizing it using adult and transformative education protocols to increase literacy gains. We argue that professional development in adult education showing the value of transformative learning for staff can complement their occupational therapy and mental healthcare training, so that the empowerment and identity transformation can be increased for these vulnerable students.
This qualitative study explores the reflexive relationships among mental illness, acculturation, and progress toward English proficiency in five adult immigrants being treated at a Canadian psychiatric hospital. The research explores the additional challenges faced by mentally ill individuals when learning a new language and the extent to which English language acquisition may be impeded by factors related to mental illness. Semistructured ethnographic interviews are conducted with the patients. Data analysis is accomplished through grounded theory methods, specifically data-driven and theory-driven coding. The English language acquisition experiences of these five individuals are contrasted with second-language acquisition theory to suggest that the effects of the theoretical language learning advantages possessed by this group may have been diminished by factors related to mental illness. Policy recommendations are made to address this additional set of challenges for immigrants with psychiatric disorders.
This paper presents exploratory research on the use of information communication technologies (ICTs) or computer mediated technologies (CMCs) (i.e., cell phones and the internet) among immigrant women who are intimate partner violence survivors (IPV) in Canada. The discussion begins with a presentation of initial data examining the impact of such technology on the level and extent of violence experienced by IPV survivors, and on their ability to access appropriate services.
This case study of the Ontario Shores Supported Education Program (OSSEP) illustrates the importance of a hospital-based education program for adult learners living with mental illness and its impact on participants’ quality of life and hopes for the future. The findings demonstrate that supported education catering to the needs of adults living with mental illness have the potential not simply to provide skills for future employment, but more broadly to improve participants’ ability to manage daily life, increase self-confidence and improve rehabilitation efforts. With ongoing cuts to community-based adult education programs, this research indicates the importance of ensuring specialized supported education programs are introduced and maintained for persons living with mental illness. For hospitals like Ontario Shores Centre for Mental Health Sciences, such programs can be an important part of patients’ recovery and rehabilitation process.
Changes in the global economy have transformed the nature of competitiveness and heightened the importance of basic skills for the economic success of those in the labour market. In Ontario, job growth and economic prosperity have been linked to the knowledge-based economy (KBE), which is looked to as a panacea that will ultimately benefit the majority of the population. We argue, however, that there are a select few who are KBE “winners” and far more KBE “losers.” Literacy (or multiliteracies), defined broadly to include print, digital and visual literacies, and numeracy, is a major factor in the ability of individuals to access the labour market and the KBE in a truly meaningful way.
This paper examines how a discourse around those living in poverty has been created, and its implications on effective poverty reduction policies. We focus on this change through an examination of changes in the discourse of poverty in Ontario beginning with the Harris government (1995-2002) and in the wake of the Great Recession of 2008, we illustrate how the approach to poverty reduction has fundamentally changed. We examine Ontario’s current poverty reduction strategy and the Poverty Reduction Act, 2009, in addition to the federal policies that have been called for and where poverty reduction now stands at that level.