Introducing Dr. Evelyn Encalada Grez, CERi Researcher-in-Residence

May 09, 2023

For many prospective immigrants, Canada represents a chance for a better life. At six years old, Dr. Evelyn Encalada Grez immigrated to Canada from Chile and quickly found that Canada was not exactly how she imagined it would be. The first apartment she lived in with her family was riddled with cockroaches and her parents worked in factories under difficult conditions to make ends meet. Grez’s introduction to Canada quickly shattered the illusion that moving to Canada would solve everything and sowed the seeds for her curiosity surrounding displacement, belonging, and inequality.

Dr. Evelyn Encalada Grez, who is CERi’s Researcher-in-Residence for the Spring and Summer terms, holds a Ph.D. in Social Justice Education and specializes in Labour Studies. Grez is also the recipient of CERi’s Emerging Community-Engaged Researcher Award for 2022. Additionally, she is the co-founder of the award-winning collective, Justice for Migrant Workers, J4MW which has advocated for the rights of migrant farmworkers in Canada for two decades.

“Through all those issues that I saw my family endure, I am now able to further unpack and give language to these phenomena.  That’s what I'm doing today, utilizing all those experiences to benefit different communities that are suffering and going through the same injustices and struggles.” Grez said.

Grez’s latest project, The Myth of Canada: The Exclusion of Internationally Trained Physicians, is about the exclusion of internationally trained physicians in British Columbia. In the context of COVID-19 and the drug poisoning crisis, Grez’s research asks why international medical professionals are not being utilized and examines the impact of immigration, labour, and place of origin on who gets access to professions in Canada. The project was created in collaboration with Dr. Paola Ardiles Gamboa and Research Associate Simran Purewal, who are members of SFU’s Faculty of Health Sciences.

“What is it like for these physicians that have all the qualifications – that actually went to medical schools that are recognized as academically rigorous medical institutions? What is it like for them to see day in and day out how the medical system here has been so strained by COVID-19, by the crisis of substance abuse, and the mental health crisis…What was it like for them to see that even in these chronic times they were not being allowed to practice their profession?” she said of some of the guiding questions that arose for her.

For Grez, the community is what drives her research, but being in the world of academia can present conflicting situations. “All of my research is community focused – with communities that are made invisible and are quite marginalized. And for this type of work, we require a lot of time to build relations of trust. But then in academia, we are also forced to produce academic articles within a short amount of time. A lot of us who do community-engaged work have to balance all these challenges of producing academically while being true to our community roots at the same time. To challenge these contradictions requires a lot of maneuvering, creativity, and work.”

Moving toward the future, Grez hopes that her research will impact policy-making and public perceptions of internationally trained physicians. On a broader level, Grez hopes to address the discrimination of migrant workers and promote awareness of the injustice and inequality happening in Canada.

“I am committed to research that doesn't simply stay in digital academic databases. I strive to undertake research that impacts people's lives.  In my work, principally in my presentations to the general public when I am mobilizing my research, I often get many Canadians saying, “I can't believe this happens in Canada,” And they're all upset. But I always say, without us getting uncomfortable, then we're not actually learning or changing our mindsets. So, in order for transformation to happen, we have to move beyond ourselves to listen to the struggles of others and actually feel the need for change and action.”

Read Dr. Evelyn Encalada Grez’s full report here

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