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Feminist Research for
Positive Change


Feminist Research for
Positive Change


Feminist Research for Positive Change

Since 1992, the FREDA Centre has been conducting research to help reduce violence against women and children. 

On December 6, 1989, 14 women were murdered in an act of gender-based violence at l’École Polytechnique in Montreal. For over two decades now, this sombre anniversary has been officially marked as the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women. This is a day when we are asked to not only reflect, but also to take positive action in the name of women and girls across Canada.

The events of that day prompted the federal government to establish five research centres for the collaborative study of violence against women, funded by Health Canada and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council. One of these centres was the FREDA (Feminist Research, Education, Development and Action) Centre, established in 1992 as a partnership between Simon Fraser University, the University of British Columbia, and the Vancouver Community Research Centre.  

Now operating out of the SFU School of Criminology under the direction of professor Margaret Jackson, the FREDA Centre undertakes and promotes action-based research on the violence Canadian women and children continue to experience.  The research is carried out in concert with grassroots community organizations, frontline service providers and policy makers, and is aimed at empowering these groups to take transformative action.

“When I first became involved with the Centre, the idea of collaborative research with the community was just emerging as a credible approach for academics,” says Jackson.  “And it was extremely important to have such a model operating in a university setting, especially at SFU, with its mandate of Engaging the World.

As one example of FREDA’s research, in 2011, Katherine Rossiter, then associate director of FREDA, authored a review of domestic violence prevention and reduction initiatives in British Columbia for the Justice Institute of BC over the past decade. She linked funding cutbacks for women's programs to increased incidences of domestic violence in the province, and called for the government to institute a comprehensive domestic violence prevention and reduction plan and work to bridge gaps in existing services and systems.

The following year, FREDA hosted a national research day for 350 people in Vancouver. It brought international experts together with community organizations, service providers, social workers, criminal justice personnel, policy makers, academics and others to discuss issues particularly salient in B.C., such as missing and murdered Aboriginal women and violence in LGBT communities, and it also linked domestic violence and sexual assault as related forms of violence. Conference participants shared knowledge regarding successful responses to violence and networked for future collaborative endeavors.  

More than 20 years after its inception, the FREDA Centre continues its research. Current collaborative research reports include an analysis of the sharing of risk information between family court and criminal court in cases in which domestic violence is a factor; the impacts and costs of exposure to intimate partner violence for children and youth; and, as a contribution to a national study, an examination of the unique issues surrounding domestic violence homicides in Canada.

And more research needs to be done. “Poverty, gender bias, race, disability, and sexual orientation are some of the factors which need to be examined to inform effective policies and practices to end violence against women and children,” says Jackson. “The research must be diverse, collaborative and systemic because of the many intersecting factors that come together to result in a tragedy such as the one at l’Ecole Polytechnique.”


Margaret A. Jackson is a professor emerita in the School of Criminology at Simon Fraser University, the founding Director of the FREDA Centre, and Past Director of the SFU School of Criminology. She has published or co-published seven books, as well as many academic articles; her other research areas of interest include criminal justice policy analysis, bullying and cyberbullying, and sociocultural factors impacting girls' experiences of violence. She also works with the Honourable Donna Martinson, a retired B.C. Supreme Court Justice, on projects relating to violence against women and children. 

Q & A with Margaret Jackson 

What motivates you as a researcher?

Curiosity–I have always liked to figure out the essence of a problem.  What is the real issue? Are we even asking the right questions to find out? Often you need to be more holistic in the making of meaning before you can hone down to determine what might be appropriate solutions.

How important is collaboration in advancing research?

Collaboration and partnering is very important in advancing research and is what FREDA has always done.  Whether it's with community agencies, the government, or fellow academics, gaining other perspectives does challenge your own thinking and results in stronger, more innovative and effective research outcomes.

If you could sum up the value of university research in a word, what would it be?


SFU bills itself as “Canada’s most engaged research university.” How does your own work exemplify this spirit of engagement?

We were most engaged with the community from the beginning of the centre's operation–it's a foundational element of participatory action research.  We're also engaged with researchers and communities across Canada.

What advice would you give to your younger self on the challenges you faced as a researcher?

In order to more effectively in meet challenges as a researcher, I would have advised myself to be more balanced, perhaps not working 7 days a week (which I still do). I love photography and writing fiction but I haven't done any of that really in 25 years, so that side of myself has suffered.  I would congratulate myself, however, on the discipline I've maintained with my running.  It has helped my sanity and my health.