The Vanier Institute’s Annual Report 2022–2023 is now available.
December 7, 2023
Norah Keating and Margo Hilbrecht
We hit the ground running in 2022–2023, with our growing team bringing new energy and perspectives to the Institute. The Family Diversities and Wellbeing Framework has provided a renewed focus to our programs and activities, which are building momentum as we ramp up preparations for the 30th anniversary of the UN International Year of the Family (IYF+30) in 2024.
For the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic, our team and the Board of Directors were able to meet in person at the Vanier Institute office in Ottawa. We were thrilled to reconnect, reflect, exchange ideas, and discuss the exciting times ahead. The key output of this meeting was the finalization and enactment of our new strategic plan, which was co-developed with Vanier Institute Executive leadership, the Board of Directors, and staff. Rooted in our new mission, vision, and core values, it provides a comprehensive blueprint for mobilizing knowledge, engaging with our diverse stakeholders, and ensuring organizational stability and continued improvement at the Institute.
We welcomed two new staff to the Vanier Institute team. Jordan Romans is our new Executive Assistant, who supports the Executive Director and Director, Corporate Services to ensure effective and efficient operations at the Institute. Emily Kenny has joined as a Knowledge Broker, helping the program team to develop and implement strategies that facilitate the transfer of knowledge between researchers, practitioners, and community members. Changes at the Vanier Institute also led to the departure of our longest-serving employee, Lucie Legault. Lucie worked with the Institute for more than 40 years, and we are grateful for her dedication and many contributions over the years.
Re-engaging with stakeholders, across Canada and around the world
After focusing on renewal over the preceding year, 2022–2023 was a time of re-engagement and momentum at the Vanier Institute. During the COVID-19 pandemic, we never stopped participating in virtual events or collaborating with others remotely. Over the past year, the gradual return of in-person conferences and other gatherings—coupled with our focused period of capacity building—have greatly increased our opportunities in Canada and abroad at an important time.
The Vanier Institute was well represented at the 2023 Canadian Sociological Association (CSA) Conference at York University in Toronto, where Vanier team members chaired two sessions on family diversity. Kim de Laat introduced the Family Diversities and Wellbeing Framework, developed during her postdoctoral fellowship at the Institute. She provided an overview of the framework and its components, which highlight the interconnectedness between family structure, family identity, and the various forms of work performed by families—all of which can affect family wellbeing. Margaret Campbell presented her research on wellbeing outcomes among families with disabilities, which highlights how inequalities in service provision and social isolation, as well as the costs of providing care, can have an impact on wellbeing. Sophie Mathieu shared insights on parental benefits in Quebec and in the rest of Canada. She also attended the Acfas (Association francophone pour le savoir) conference, where she presented on gender inequality, work-family balance, and maternity from a historical perspective.
Vanier team members were also busy representing the Institute across borders. We participated in an Expert Group Meeting on “megatrends” and families, for which we co-authored a report on family wellbeing. Organized by the Division for Inclusive Social Development (DISD) of the Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UNDESA), this event brought together delegates from around the world to UN headquarters in New York to discuss the impacts of digital technologies, migration, and urbanization on families.
Senior Program Specialist Sophie Mathieu represented the Institute at the 20th Annual International Network on Leave Policies and Research Seminar in Athens, Greece. As a member of the Canadian delegation, she presented papers and participated in discussions on parental benefits, childcare, and caregiving through the life course. This symposium brought together researchers and practitioners from 40 countries to share the successes and challenges of family support programs in their home countries. Board Chair Norah Keating attended the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) Ministerial Conference on Ageing 2022, in Rome, Italy, where she moderated a panel on healthy ageing and discussed the impacts of family life courses on wellbeing.
In addition to sharing insights at conferences and events, the Institute is also informing and facilitating policy development with the appointment of Sophie Mathieu to the National Advisory Council on Early Learning and Child Care. Comprised of academics, advocates, practitioners, and caregivers from across the country, the Council provides expert advice to the Government of Canada as it continues to build a national early learning and child care system.
Our partnerships help us to learn, as well as to leverage the respective strengths of our partners and collaborators. The Reimagining Care/Work Policies project is in its fourth year, which produces high-quality research and resources on child care, parental leave, employment, and other issues related to work and family. Our ongoing work with MatchWork and Research on Aging, Policies, and Practice (RAPP) is raising awareness of the experiences of employed caregivers in Canada. We continue to support the Families Matter Research Group, which builds capacity among family researchers to address topics important to the families of military, Veteran, and public safety personnel, such as mental health, post-traumatic stress, work and family, and operational stress.
Sharing accessible knowledge and insights on families and family life
Our resource library has grown considerably. These include Migration and Urbanization Trends and Family Wellbeing in Canada: A Focus on Disability and Indigenous Issues, a report produced for the UN as part of preparations for IYF+30. Another popular resource was Access to Parental Benefits in Canada, the first in our new series of Policy Briefs. We have prioritized translating research from diverse researchers, emerging and established, by expanding our series of Research Snapshots. The snapshots use concise, non-technical language to provide readers with an accessible, two-page summary of studies and journal articles that fall within the Family Diversities and Wellbeing Framework.
Our work year was supported by the addition of two scholars, who were involved in a variety of projects. We were joined by Margaret Campbell, a Mitacs postdoctoral fellow who has taught courses in Family Studies, Sociology, and Gender Studies at Concordia University. With an interest in the wellbeing of families with disabilities and families of those who work in high-risk occupations, she has contributed greatly to the Families Matter Research Group and other Vanier Institute projects. Also aboard was Laurence Breton, a Loran Scholar from McGill University. As a Public Policy intern, she co-authored a report for the Vanier Institute on the rights of common-law couples across provinces and territories (November 2023) and undertook a review of jurisdictional differences in laws relevant to adoption in Canada.
The Vanier Institute is approaching the 30th anniversary of the International Year of the Family well-positioned with fresh energy, enthusiasm, and a strategy in action. Families are always at the core of healthy and inclusive societies, and they have become increasingly complex and diverse since 1994. We look forward to exploring these diversities and their relationships to family wellbeing as we recognize IYF+30 with our partners, stakeholders, and others with an interest in families and family wellbeing.
Norah Keating is Chair of the Vanier Institute’s Board of Directors.
Margo Hilbrecht is Executive Director at the Vanier Institute of the Family.