Four York U grad students receive Nelson Mandela distinction for their research

Master’s student Raghed Charabaty, and doctoral students Kyla Baird, Matthew Robertshaw and Reena Shadaan, have received Canada Graduate Scholarships (CGS) in honour of Nelson Mandela.

The Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) and the Social Sciences & Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) select up to 10 master’s and doctoral Canada Graduate Scholarship recipients whose work is aligned with one or more of the five areas championed by Nelson Mandela: national unity; democracy, freedom and human rights; leadership; children’s participation in society; and children’s health.

Candidates selected are among the highest-ranked CGS award winners. Doctoral recipients receive funding of $35,000 per year for three years, and master’s recipients receive funding of $17,500 over one year.

Kyla Baird

photo of Kyla BairdPsychology

Baird’s proposed thesis Risk and Recruitment for the Domestic Sex Trafficking of Minors in Care of Child Protective Services: Exploring the Opportunities and Challenges for Inter-Agency Prevention Initiatives aims to bring positive change to vulnerable youth.

“Youth in care of child protective services are over represented among underage survivors of domestic sex trafficking,” she notes. “My doctoral research involves multidisciplinary and community agency collaboration with child protection and policing agencies to better understand the risks and pathways of youth in care of child protective services into sex trafficking.”

The hope is to create prevention protocols to be used by child protection and policing agencies in order to hinder future recruitment.

Baird is a member of Dr. Jennifer Connolly’s Teen Relationships Lab which is affiliated with the LaMarsh Centre for Child and Youth Research.

“Kyla is deeply committed to improving the life outcomes of youth facing adversity and she has worked tirelessly to develop this innovative research project in the Teen Relationships Lab,” says Jennifer Connolly, Kyla’s supervisor. “The results are certain to have a large impact on protecting youth from exploitation.”

“I am so honoured to be a recipient of the Nelson Mandela Distinction Award,” adds Baird. “This recognition further motivates me to conduct research that contributes to enhancing human rights and freedom for the most vulnerable youth in our society.”

Raghed Charabaty

photo of Raghed CharabatyFilm

Khamseen, the working title of Charabaty’s thesis, is a docufiction film exploring the relationship between mass uprooting, political unrest, and the hostility of desertification in the Middle East.

“Building on a number of interviews with diverse displaced people in Lebanon, the project will examine the potency of art cinema as an innovative documentary tool, blending with expressionistic filmmaking to visualize the inner turmoil of a displaced group of people against a hostile landscape,” says Charabaty.

“The scholarship has provided important funding for the research, development, and production of this work,” he adds. “It is an honour to have the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council as well as my department at York recognize this project and give it the academic and financial support that it needs.”

Other works by the current Film Production student can be found at:

Matthew Robertshaw

photo of Matthew Robertshaw with his wife and sonHistory

Robertshaw’s proposed thesis The Two Haitis: Cautionary Tale or Postcolonial Epic? explores Haiti’s role in the colonization and decolonization of French West Africa. He conducts his research in partnership with the Harriet Tubman Institute for Research on Africa and its Diasporas.

“Before the successful slave revolt and War of Independence (1791-1804), Haiti was the French colony of Saint-Domingue—one of the most lucrative colonies in the world,” says Robertshaw. “I'm going to examine how the disastrous loss of this colony affected the way the French went about designing their second concerted attempt at colonial expansion (post 1871). From there I will turn to the role that Haiti and Haitians played in the articulation of arguments against the French presence in Africa and elsewhere.”

The hope of his work is to contribute to the reevaluation of the non-west in this important aspect of world history.

“I'm excited to be working on this project at York among such supportive and distinguished faculty and students, and I'm honoured to have been granted this award.”

Reena Shadaan

photo of Reena ShadaanEnvironmental Studies

Shadaan is examining practices in the nail salon industry in partnership with the Healthy Nail Salon Network and the Nail Technicians’ Network in Toronto. The majority of her work has focused on justice movements in the aftermath of the Bhopal gas tragedy of 1984.

“Nail technicians face reproductive, respiratory, and dermatological issues due to toxic exposures in the workplace, and musculoskeletal issues due to the nature of their work,” she says. “Particularly in Canada, there is an absence of work on the health impacts and concerns of nail technicians’ due to their work environments—partly because this labour is deeply racialized, and comprised largely of immigrant women.

“My work looks at the gendered implications of environmental disasters (including slow disasters), with focus on those that involve toxic exposures. This includes health-related implications, and environmental justice and reproductive justice leadership and activism.”

Shadaan is currently a Graduate Associate with the Centre for Feminist Research, and is a member of the Endocrine Disruptors Action Group (EDAction).

A full listing of SSHRC CGS award recipients can be found at: