Lucy Vorobej

PhD candidate | History

Lucy Vorobej, a third year PhD student in history, wants her research, passion and commitment to effect change in the community, and all across Canada, too. She aims to use her expertise to reduce discrimination and exclusion by educating Canadians and their politicians and bureaucrats. She wants to help them understand that knowledge of the history of colonization is vital to redress racialized health policies that have left many Indigenous communities disproportionately affected by rates of ill-health.

student headshot

Along with her own research, Lucy is involved with initiatives that respond to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) calls to action. On campus, these include her role as a planning committee member for the Indigenous Speakers Series at the University of Waterloo. “It is so personally enriching to have the voices that are so often missing, heard on campus. I feel that the exposure I get to the diverse speakers also makes my academic work stronger.”

In 2018, she attended a summer school at Laurentian University for graduate students involved in Indigenous health research. Thinking about her summer school experience, Lucy says, “As a settler in Canada, I have a responsibility to educate myself and to help educate other settlers. We as Canadians have a responsibility to learn about our own history. We can’t talk about an age of reconciliation without learning and action. I hope to bring that forward.”

As a PhD candidate, Lucy is part of the Tri-University (Tri-U) graduate program, which combines the expertise of historians at the University of Waterloo, Wilfrid Laurier University and the University of Guelph – and Lucy is often in the thick of the program’s initiatives and events.  She co-organized the Tri-U graduate conference for 2018 with the theme History in the Community, which asked questions such as: how do narratives of communities inform how we understand communities? How does that inform belonging? Reflecting on the conference, Lucy says, "Community is important to me. Typically, a historian is pictured as an isolated individual so it's wonderful when we have events that bring people together to share in historical knowledge and challenge that stereotype."

graduate students in history

Lucy brings history graduate students from across the Tri-U together through community events. 

As if being a graduate student and volunteer dedicated to Indigenization wasn’t enough, Lucy runs a website focused on missing and murdered Indigenous women. The website began as a project she worked on as a master’s student with classmate Katie McKinnon. They looked at one newspaper in each province in Canada from the 1970s to the early 2000s and mapped the ways missing and murdered Indigenous women’s narratives were misrepresented by the media. The aim was to understand how different stereotypes of Indigenous women developed. Lucy says “I want to show that history matters and historical consciousness matters. The historical stereotypes present in newspaper reporting about missing and murdered Indigenous women to this day prove that. History provides a vital piece of information to understand how we got here and to think about how we can redress some of these injustices and these negative images.” By having these stereotypes present, they create incorrect narratives that contribute to misconceptions that justify colonization.

Shaking the Movers is a program, sponsored by the Landon Pearson Resource Centre, that Lucy has worked with for a number of years to discuss societal issues and deliberate on solutions with others in the community. Each year, young people gather to discuss an article from the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, and draft a report that they send to the movers of society – parliamentarians and leaders of NGOs. Lucy has been involved in this process numerous times, discussing refugee and Indigenous children, children in the child welfare system, discrimination, and the right to education, to name a few.

Lucy’s PhD experience has given her the space to assess what is important to her, and then also investigate how she can contribute further. Looking to the future, Lucy says “I’m committed to continuing to work for reconciliation and to maintain my passion for education. I am hopeful my next steps involve history, advocacy and reconciliation work.”