Dr. Joanna Amirault receives Dean's Convocation Medal

June 01, 2015

As one of SFU's most outstanding graduate students from the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, Dr. Joanna Amirault is being being recognized with the award of the Dean of Graduate Studies Convocation Medal. On behalf of SFU, we congratulate Dr. Amirault on her outstanding achievements. 

Completing a Doctoral degree in four years with a 4.09 CGPA is an impressive feat in itself, but Dr. Joanna Amirault did just that despite having to change topics, and senior supervisors, half way through her degree. Although she had already passed her comprehensive exams focusing on sex offenders and recidivism, Dr. Amirault seamlessly transitioned into research for her dissertation on terrorism and sentencing. The data set that she created from open sources was so comprehensive that the Canadian government is now using it for training purposes.

Dr. Amirault’s dissertation, Criminalizing Terrorism: The Impact of Context and Cohort Effects on the Sentencing Outcomes of Terrorist Offenders, focuses on how major events, such as 9/11, can influence the sentencing outcomes of those convicted of terrorism-related offences. The study looks at both current, and historical, terrorist events in Canada and the United Kingdom, and provides valuable insight into a field that is heavily dominated by American data.

Dr. Martin Bouchard, her supervisor, says that it is the “first systematic and most comprehensive examination of the sentencing of terrorism cases in Canada.” 

In order to study these sentencing outcomes, Dr. Amirault spent the better part of a year developing her own data bank from scratch, which is now used by other researchers and institutions. The findings of this research show that although the overall number of convictions increase in relation to a major terrorist event, the severity of sentencing actually declines. Dr. Amirault’s work examines not only patterns of sentencing, but trends in terrorist activity itself, allowing for better assessment of the real (or perceived) threat of terrorism.

Dr. Amirault’s work has already caught the attention of several major journals, with chapters of her dissertation being published in criminal justice publications such as the International Journal of Law, Crime and JusticeHer second paper was published in April in the European Journal of Criminology and focuses on the role of post 9/11 legislation on sentencing in the UK.

While finishing her PhD, Dr. Amirault accepted a faculty position at the School of Social and Community Services at Humber College in Toronto. 

Of her supervisor Joanna says " I owe the completion of this project to Dr. Martin Bouchard. His unwavering commitment, guidance and passion were instrumental, and I cannot thank him enough for all of the time and effort that he invested into this research."

by Kayla Phillips

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