Department of Sociology & Criminology

Student Research - Theses Completed

Rachelle Lee Coward (2018)

Connecting Gender and Colonialism in Sentencing Indigenous People: The Application of Subsection 7l8.2(e) of the Canadian Criminal Code

This study examines seventy-two published case judgements involving Indigenous people being sentenced in criminal courts across Canada. The research analyses whether judges recognize the intersection of gender and colonialism in Indigenous women's lived experiences. I found that judges do not sentence intersectionally and an intersectional analysis shows that the practices of law are colonial and gendered. Section 7l8.2(e) is being used by judges to define Indigenous identity. Judges strip Indigenous people of the power to define Indigenous identity, constructing Indigenous identity through restrictive definitions that exclude many Indigenous people from the benefits of section 7l8.2(e). Additionally, judges overlooked how gender interacts with colonialism when sentencing Indigenous women. For instance, domestic violence was often a precursor to Indigenous women's violence. Law treats gender and colonialism as mutually exclusive categories of experience making it difficult for judges to recognize Indigenous women's circumstances.



Jemma Alexander (2014)

A Place-based Approach to Understanding Gun Violence

This research examines whether a greater understanding of the causes of gun violence can be gleaned by examining the characteristics of the physical and built environment where shootings take place. This study seeks to fill a void in the extant literature by exploring the characteristics of sites where youth gun violence occurred in Halifax Regional Municipality. Drawing from the literature on the relationship between crime, crime prevention and the physical environment, 36 shooting sites were examined to identify common design features. A standardized questionnaire gathered data that measured five environmental attributes that the literature suggests can influence criminal and violent acts: (1) location/surrounding environment, (2) site permeability, (3) surveillance opportunities, and (4) image. The findings indicate that accessibility, type of street design, lack of surveillance, and poorly maintained properties, are common physical characteristics of sites where shootings have taken place. These conclusions are limited by the lack of analysis that draws a causal relationship between the physical and built environment, on the one hand, and human behavior (including offenders and the legitimate users of these sites).




Marley Levins (2014)

“Actualizing Risk through Discourse”: Towards an Understanding of the Dynamics of Case Management

Youth justice discourses, specifically discussions of risk, or ‘risk talk’ has begun to impact current justice initiatives and projects (Bessant, Hill & Watts, 2003). The normalization of ‘risk’ has contributed to recent neo-liberal governance and policy decisions regarding youth justice in Canada and other western countries (Ballucci, 2008), yet the ideology behind ‘risk’ and risk management is nothing new (Bessant et al., 2003). While examples of quantitative risk management have been comprehensively critiqued in the Criminology literature, qualitative examples of risk discourse and the case management of youth are largely under researched. Through a critical discourse analysis of social service professional case file entries, this thesis explores dynamics of the case management of youth involved with both the Department of Justice and Department of Community Services.


Kathryn Bliss (2013)

Restorative Justice and Public Opinion: The Role of Citizen, Community and the State in Justice

Existing research on public opinion of restorative justice has shown public support for restorative principles. However, there has been little to no qualitative research exploring what aspects of restorative justice are supported by the public. This research attempts to fill this gap by focusing on how people view the ideal relationship between communities, individuals and the state and whether this supports a restorative approach to justice. This thesis will show that focus group and town hall participants think about justice as existing along a continuum, with different principles of justice taking priority at different points along the continuum. This continuum helps us understand varying levels of community and government intervention in justice matters with the responsibility of justice being shared based on the principle of justice being prioritized.



Diane Dooley (2013)

Constructing Nicole: Gender, Discourse and Victimization/Criminalization in R v. Ryan.

This thesis investigates the case R v. Ryan at the Supreme Court of Nova Scotia level. It is a feminist, post-structural critical discourse analysis of the gender scripts in R v Ryan. In particular, it examines the ways in which Nicole Doucet is framed through discourses of emphasized femininity, “Battered Woman’s Syndrome” psychological discourse and legal credibility, and how these discourses construct her through a dichotomous Victim/Criminal binary. The thesis will argue that this analysis of gendered discourses, as well as Doucet’s resistance to these narratives, add to the research on the victimization and criminalization of women charged with self-defensive violence by providing an example of the way the victimization-criminalization continuum is a more accurate way of analyzing women’s self-defensive violence.




Rene MacCandless (2013)

The Missing and Murdered Women of Vancouver: Framing Inequality in Media Discourse in the Vancouver Sun (2006-2011)

This thesis identifies and analyzes media narratives pertaining to the cases of missing and murdered women of Vancouver, published in the Vancouver Sun from 2006-11. Feminist and postcolonial feminist theories are drawn upon to explain the origin and persistence of the dominant narratives as expressions of long-standing societal ideologies concerning marginalized and Aboriginal women in Canada. Employing a frame analysis method associated with critical discourse analysis (CDA), the research accomplishes three related objectives. The first updates the work of Jiwani and Young (2006) by reidentifying the four dominant narratives they uncovered in the Vancouver Sun from 2001-06: police inefficiency; Pickton as the isolated deviant; the house of horrors crime scene; and the persistent grouping of the women victims as Aboriginal. The second research objective identifies and analyzes new media frames in the Sun that emerged after 2006, including: attempts to deconstruct the psychology of the perpetrator’ William Pickton, narratives pertaining to how to manage the problematic issues surrounding the women victims, as well as those related to what it means to be a deviant woman; readers’ reactions to the crimes; tracing of the emergence of grassroots organizations and activism on behalf of the victims. The final research objective contrasts societal responses to the Downtown Eastside missing and murdered women’s cases to those of Juarez, Mexico to illustrate that not only are cases of prolonged and extreme violence against large numbers of women not rare, they are responded to in ways that are unique to historical, political and cultural circumstance. In sum, the research demonstrates the importance of analyses of widely consumed media coverage, especially those pertaining to violence against women, Aboriginal women, women who live in poverty and those involved in the sex trade.




Patrick Russell (2013)

Complicating Africville: An Oral History of Gender, Race, and Power Relations in Africville

This thesis focuses on an oral history interview conducted with Brenda Steed‐Ross, a former resident of Africville. In analyzing the interview, I examine how Brenda’s stories about gender, race, and power relations simultaneously reinforce and diverge from previous accounts on Africville. This study uses an intersectional framework to do three things: (1) To conceptualize a unique re‐telling of Africville’s history that spans Brenda’s childhood memories of Africville, her experience of being relocated, her role in creating the Africville Genealogy Society [AGS], and her experiences as board member at the time the AGS it was awarded reparations from the Halifax Municipal Government; (2) To create a space for a complex understanding of life as an (former) Africville resident; and (3) To create space for me to document how my understanding of Africville, race, and gender have changed since embarking on this project. Recommendations for future research are discussed.



Jody Wasserman (2013)

The Press and Ashley Smith: Power, Knowledge, and the Production of Truth About a Death In Custody

This research project examines the production of power and knowledge within print media representations of the Ashley Smith case. Smith was a teenager from New Brunswick who killed herself in a Canadian federal prison under the direct observation of seven prison guards. I analyze five regional newspapers and one national newspaper to provide an analysis of how the case was constructed in the news over a five-year period. I incorporate Michele Foucault’s concepts of discourse, power, and resistance, along with Stanley Cohen’s theories on “states of denial”, to explain how knowledge about the case was manufactured, interpreted, and circulated by the press to create three “regimes of truth” about Smith’s death in custody over time: accidental death, preventable death, and unnecessary death. I argue that the government deployed a vocabulary of denial of which the media became increasingly skeptical. Their strategies to evade accountability contributed to continuities and discontinuities in the sourcing and framing of the news, where accounts from above could more easily become discredited and challenged by accounts from below. Ultimately I demonstrate how and to what effects the media was able to define Smith’s death, and provide a deeper understanding of the relationship between news discourse, news sources, and the exercise of power and resistance.



Valerie Billard (2011)

Girls' Resilience: Negotiating Power Through Discourses Of Community, Gender, Success & Space

Media representations and public discourse about girls' violence and delinquency has presented marginalized, urban girls from disadvantaged communities as risked, vulnerable and deviant. These images problematically masculinize girls and fail to recognize the social milieu of their resilience and this has largely influenced the way girls are offered programming. This thesis examines girls' resilience in ways that recognize strength in the context of classed, raced and gendered resistance. Through art-making, photography and focus group discussions with nine girls, aged 11 and 12, this research found that both femininity and community are flexible and negotiated sources of power for girls that together show signs of resilience.



Ashley MacPherson (2011) 

Implanting Empowerment?: A Discourse Analysis Of Cosmetic Surgery And Power In The Swan

Using the reality television show, The Swan, as a narrative frame, my Master's thesis explores the discursive construction of feminine subjectivity, empowerment, liberation, choice, self-esteem and resistance in the context of televised cosmetic surgery and “expert” makeovers from a feminist poststructuralist perspective. Reflecting on neoliberalism and feminist re-articulations of Foucault's theories of control and normalization, this research sought an understanding of how such televisual productions participate in the regulation of “feminine” bodies within the neoliberal context of self-care. A qualitative discourse analysis of the entire series has uncovered that The Swan reinforces a very specific ideal of femininity based almost solely on the physical body, while discursively constructing cosmetic surgery as a tool of empowerment and liberation, as well as a virtuous requisite for self-care. 


Amanda Nelund (2010) 

The Power of Resistance: Women's Organizations and Institutionalized Restorative Justice in Nova Scotia

This thesis interrogates a case of feminist engagement with the state in order to grapple with the research question: where do women's organizations fit in contemporary conditions of governance? The case under study involved a consultation between the Nova Scotia government and a coalition of provincial women's organizations around the provincial restorative justice program. This thesis situates the “success” of the women's groups in this process in the contexts of neoliberalism and the marginalization of the women's movement in Canada. Thusly situated, it was a fertile source of data for examining concepts around women's organizations' role in the governance of gendered violence. The analysis was done using governmentality theory. I argue that the two groups possessed certain mentalities around engagement that influenced the policy outcomes. This research suggests a more nuanced conceptualization of power and resistance is necessary when thinking about women's organizations' role in governing gendered violence.


Melissa Tatlock (2009)

From Titanic to Star Wars: A Derridean Deconstructive Analysis of the Minimization of Violence in the 25 Top Grossing Films of All-Time

This thesis examines how representations of violence are minimized in the narratives of Hollywood blockbuster films. I analyzed the 25 top grossing films of all-time worldwide, as of July 2003 to demonstrate whether and how they use a variety of strategies to potentially minimize a viewer's perception of the violence they contain. My analysis is framed by poststructuralism, specifically informed by Derridean deconstruction. Following Derrida's suggestions for deconstructing texts, I take this analysis beyond merely counting the number of incidents of violence, as more traditional content analyses do, to provide my own reading and interpretation of the different meanings of violence represented in the film narratives. My analysis revealed four strategies of minimization being employed within the selected film texts: legitimizing violence by portraying the aggressor as having a “legitimate” motive (i.e., self-defense); camoflaging violence by portraying the violence with humorous undertones; justifying violence by representing the violence as a conflict between good and evil; and disguising violence by representing the violence with a low level of graphicness. My research demonstrates the importance of critically analyzing and deconstructing the complex and different meanings of violence represented in film, representations that are shown to be hidden and minimized through the use of these strategies.


Aunshul Rege, June 12, 2008


Online gambling sites have proliferated exponentially since the mid-1990s generating billions of dollars in revenue annually. However, this successful global industry is frequently the target or the perpetrator of cybercrime, which pose serious problems for gambling operations and players worldwide. This thesis explores cybercrimes at gambling websites. The study draws on theories of criminal organization and cyberspace to develop an integrated theory that accounts for how criminals organize, operate, and network in digital environments around the six dimensions of space, time, movement, scope, structure, and preservation.

This thesis employs a document analysis methodology, by examining gambling commission reports, journal articles, newspaper and magazine articles, security archives, technical white papers, and "how-to-do-it" hacker manuals. Documents published between 1996 and 2008 are collected from the internet, university libraries, and journal databases, and this data is coded around seven intersecting areas: internet gambling and cybercrime; organized crime, cyberextortion, and money laundering; hacking and cracking; cheating and collusion; fraud, non-payment of winnings, and software tampering; underage gambling; social control measures agains cybercrime.

The study found that cybercrimes occuring at gambling sites involve a variety of criminals and an assortment of digitized techniques, both of which range in their organizational sophistication. While the integrated theoretical framework for this thesis adequately captures crimes and criminality occurring exclusively in cyberspace, it requires modification along the concepts of space, time, and structure to address the organizational traits of crimes and criminals in 'hybrid' space. The revised integrated theory is reassessed along the criteria of scope, coherence, causality, and predictive power to demonstrate theoretical growth. Finally, the thesis offers a theoretical proposition that can be used as a point of departure for future cybercrime studies in the criminological discipline.


Stella Chiasson (2008) 

The Press Coverage of Violent Crime: Evidence from a Newspaper Content Analysis

This thesis examines the newsmaking process that affects the integrity of the information presented to the public. Using content analysis and the social constructionist perspective, I analyzed 295 violent crime articles from the Chronicle Herald from January, 1994 to December, 1998 to evaluate how crime, victims and defendants are represented in the news in relation to race, class and gender. The findings indicated that the overemphasis of stranger-related crimes in news reports is disjointed with the reality of crime, driven primarily by organizational and business decisions that exaggerate the frequency of dramatic and infrequently occurring crimes. Racial stereotyping and crime myths are supposedly prevalent in crime news reporting, introduced through media discourses intended to persuade readers to similarly espouse media viewpoints that blame minorities for the crime problem. But I found that this was not the prevailing structure of crime news reports; in fact, discourse structures about racial minorities were primarily episodic, disputing most research studies. The dominant ideology about the deviancy of lower social classes, however, was reinforced by the press reporting. This thesis details how images of crime are controlled and manipulated by the press and news sources and that crime, victims and defendants are typified as a way to sell crime news.


Alanna Howell (2007) 

Victims of Child Sexual Abuse: Who's Responsible and Who's Believable?

This thesis investigates whether perpetrator-victim and counsellor characteristics influence counsellors' views of victim responsibility and credibility. Counsellors (n-149) surveyed by mail and over the internet read a vignette describing an incident of CSA, completed a 12-question survey along a 7-point Likert-type scale, responded to 2 open-ended discussion questions, and completed a demographic survey. Results from a logistic regression analysis found that: victim gender predicted views of victim responsibility for boys; more years of counselling experience predicted the disbelief of CSA disclosures; and more years experience counselling CSA clients predicted credibility of CSA disclosures. Early feminist works on CSA are used to argue that transgressions of gender norms elicit interpretations of victims that realign their behaviour with patricarchal ideals of femininity and masculinity. however, the existence of various gender pairings of perpetrator-victim relationships suggest the findings support a revised view of patriarchy that is more in line with intersectional feminist literature.


Nicole E. R. Landry (2006)

"The Mean Girl Motive": Establishing Power and Status Within Hierarchies of Femininity

In recent years, public discourse and media representations of girls have presented a dichotomy of racialized and classed versions of girl aggression: the mean girl bully versus the violent gang girl. Arguably, the narratives surrounding the latter image problematize violence as a lower-class, minority issue while the mean girl epidemic is associated with white, middle-class culture. This thesis examines the intersection among structures of class, race and gender in the production of girls' "aggression". Recognizing that adult class structures based on the labour market have little relevance in youth focus group discussions with 24 girls, aged 8-11, this research found that femininity is a primary source of power for girls and meanness is a toll whereby girls can negotiate their power and status. This research highlights important discrepancies between adult and girls' understandings of girl culture that raise critical questions about our "taken for granted knowledge" of girls' "meanness".


Delthia E. Miller (2006)

The Media, Fear of Crime, and Gender: The Production of News in a Popular Canadian Women's Magazine.

This thesis examines how the media constructs fear of crime for women, and explicates why. I analyze 155 news articles regarding crime and criminal justice from 1970 to 1989 in Chatelaine magazine. Both content and textual analyses are deployed to evaluate media representations of crime and their role in facilitating images of fear and safety. This analysis is framed by social constructionism and feminist criminology to allow an evaluation of claims-making activities and gendered crime myths. I argue that the meanings associated with women's danger and safety in news narratives are socially constructed through claims, sources, content and culture, making the "social reality of crime" a human accomplishment. I found that the dominant form of news reporting in this study did not significantly incorporate signifiers of fear. Rational and balanced presentations of crime and criminal justice aimed at educating the reader prevailed. However, transformations in these representations did occur over time. Crime messages increasingly incorporated images of fear and danger, which were influenced by the rise in neo-liberal thought during the 1980s. These results indicate that ideological struggles external to the media itself construct and reconstruct representations of crime, which ultimately influence media signifiers of both danger and safety.


Jan Cavicchi (2005) 

Representing Stalking in the News 

This thesis examines the news media's representation of stalking. Through claims-making, I investigate dominant constructions of who stalks, who gets stalked, the relationship between stalkers and their victims, and common tactics that stalkers deploy. I also analyze the relationship between the experts sourced with the news and dominant stalking constructions that have mobilized Canada's anti-stalking legislation and subsequent amendments and reforms in Canada, the United States, and other countries reflected in Canadian national news.

Following Foucault's suggestions for analyzing discourse, I take this analysis one step further and examine the relationship between power, knowledge, truth, and discourse in relation to stalking. I argue that dominant constructions have contributed to a "politics of truth" about stalking, which experts use to evaluate new truth claims. In turn, they explicate discursive rules or show modifications in the rules as new claims come forth and challenge existing truths. I show how subjugated discourses yield power through the media with new constitutions of victims and stalkers.

Finally, I illustrate that multiple discourses co-exist in the media, each adhering to different discursive styles. Drawing from Baudrillard, I argue that these discourses vie for prominence in consumer societies, yet their appeal is not a refection of the discourse per se. Rather, it is based on the status of the victims and stalkers involved. I contend that news that involves celebrities focuses on manifest content, which seduces consumers to read or watch the news. Intimate stalking, however, comprises a large component of the constructions and discourse because it produces truth effects that enhance our understanding of stalking as a manifestation of violence against women.


Tameka Bowes (2006) 

Structural Contradictions and Lawmaking: Observations on Organized Crime and Anti-Money Laundering Legislation in Canada within the Context of International Protocols 

My research encompasses a critical, historical analysis of organized crime and anti-money laundering legislation in Canada. Through the employment of structural contradictions theory, I explore the effects of structural contradictions on Canadian lawmaking. Accordingly, "the importance of fundamental contradictions in political, economic, and social relations [are] the starting point for a sociological understanding of law creation" (Chambliss, 1993b, p.61).

Organized crime and money laundering are reflective of the contradictions, conflicts, and dilemmas within the social, political, economic, and ideological spheres of society (Block & Chambliss (1981). Furthermore, structural contradiction theory posits that law is also reflective and shaped by these tensions. Consequently, an understanding of law and lawmaking should be inclusive of these variables since it is introduced as a resolution to these problems.

It is my argument that Canadian anti-money laundering laws are reflective of the contradictions, conflicts, and dilemmas within the global marketplace. Ultimately, the Proceeds of Crime (Money Laundering) and Terrorist Financing Act , and the designation of money laundering as a criminal offence, represent at attempt to resolve the tensions within the system. They affect the resources that are available in Canada's organized crime control which, in turn, only produce further domestic contradictions, conflicts and dilemmas. McGarell and Castellano (1993) comment that it is a dialectical process that continues unabated (p. 335).

In an effort to resolve organized criminal activity, the Proceeds of Crime (Money Laundering) and Terrorist Financing Act has inadvertently created more contradictory and conflicting issues. This thesis explored the multitude of problematic issues that this ct poses within canada. Civilian policing and infringements on privacy and tax regulations are only a few of the dangers that this act has unleashed.


David MacDonald (2005) 

Stress and Culture in Police Work: An Ethnographic Study of Canadian Police Officers 

To date, investigations of police stress and coping have been primarily addressed in psychological research. Largely due to individualistic methodology, little consideration has been given to the effect of work culture on coping with stressful events and situations in police work. In this thesis, I examined the viability of a 'cultural coping' approach, one that recognized the role of the occupational group in addressing stress and difficulty. I also examined prominent stressors of patrol officers. This analysis relied on ethnographic research of patrol officers in a mid-sized Canadian police department. Twenty field observation sessions involved police patrol ridealongs, after-work social gatherings and events. Patrol officers also participated in twenty-three structured interviews and sixty-four informal conversations and discussions. In total, contact was made with one fourth of all patrol officers in the department. I argue police culture provides a positive and palliative resource for coping with stress in police work and continues to direct the social action of police officers. 'Surveillance stress' is identified as an emerging concern in police work. I also argue that an ethnographic perspective is ideal for studying stress and coping.


Melissa B. McClung (2003) 

Truth, Power and Newsmaking: The Public Inquiry and the Westray Disaster 

This thesis studies how the press constituted the Westray inquiry as a discursive formation that defined what could and could not be said about Westray and its aftermath. I critically examine news narratives from the Chronicle Herald between December, 1995 to June, 1998 within a theoretical discussion of Michel Foucault's (1980; 1991; 1995) concept of the "politics of truth" and Stanley Cohen's notion of "the culture of denial" and "vocabularies of denial".

I argue that the press coverage of the public inquiry consisted of a number of distinct narratives that operated both intra discursively and inter discursively with news themes from previous reporting to form a distinct "regime of truth" about Westray. In the news coverage of the inquiry the politics of truth governing "the limits and forms of the sayable" were expanded which allowed previously subjugated accounts to be validated and valorized as truths. Narratives of legal accountability and defense were intersected with a vocabulary of moral opprobrium which included a minor but compelling law and order discourse and a discourse of socio-legal reform and prevention.

The "plasticity of law" allowed a multiplicity of new and conflicting accounts to be heard which, in turn, led the press to produce a more complex, conflictual and multifaceted "regime of truth" about Westray. This contrasts with the more uniform, congruent human interest and tragedy news themes that preceded it. But this also enabled corporate and state officials and politicians to play legalistic "games of truth" with the inquiry and the press. Through processes of registration and reinterpretation, claims and counter-claims, they deployed strategies of denial that diffused harm, evaded accountability and displaced blame onto subordinates and victims. But these accounts were posited on a shifting terrain of power/knowledge relations and rhetorics of denial were not posited without answer.