Jenny Heijun Wills Wins Grant to Support Critical Race Network


Dr. Jenny Heijun Wills is one of the first three inaugural grant recipients of the UW Knowledge Mobilization Community Impact Program. This awards will support the project, “Developing Critical Race Studies in Canada.” We asked Dr. Wills to tell us more about the Critical Race Network (CRN).

What is the Critical Race Network?

The Critical Race Network@UW is made up of mostly faculty (but we are working on a student group too) who are interested in research and teaching about race and ethnicity. We came together in 2016 and are focused on centering BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Colour) scholarship, curriculum, events, and community. We have a number of smaller things on the go, including events like next month’s reading with author David Chariandy, but also larger projects in mind too.

There is more info at the CRN webpage:

Where does the idea for the CRN come from and who are the people involved?

CRN@UW is an attempt to establish a foundation on which we might develop more recognized and institutionalized programming, including academic programming. We’d like to make more visible the critical race studies courses already being taught across UW in different departments, and imagine potential new ones as we build future interdisciplinary programing.

Three English Department faculty are currently members of the CRN: Dr. Jenny Heijun Wills, Dr. Bruno Cornellier, and Dr. Heather Snell.

What issues does the CRN address at the university and in the wider community?

The Critical Race Network @ UW is committed to supporting BIPOC students, faculty, and staff at the University of Winnipeg and beyond, and to help eradicate racist and white supremacist ideologies that impact them in countless ways. For instance, earlier this year, CRN published a statement opposing the ways that notions of academic freedom and freedom of speech are used as alibis for racist, xenophobic, anti-Semitic, and Islamophobic expressions.

From our website: “White nationalist groups are purposefully targeting university spaces in Canada and the U.S. as effective venues to promote hate and violence. They are misusing and appropriating the protective purpose of academic freedom—that is, to liberate thinkers to challenge the status quo, dominant ideologies, and empowered groups” (  We were heartened that the President’s office answered our call for a university-wide statement as well.

Some on-campus issues on my radar are related to hiring and retention (which includes tenure and promotion), student services and community building, and of course spaces for research, creativity, and activism to take place.

What are your short term and long term goals?

Short term goals include hosting a series of events this year to up our presence on campus. One of these will be the workshop co-hosted with Black Space Winnipeg, likely to happen in February 2018. Long term goals include structural and curricular changes at UW in order to better highlight, support, and center BIPOC people and work.

How can UW students and faculty become involved with the CRN?

The CRN@UW are especially keen to welcome BIPOC faculty, staff, and students to contact us (as director, people can email me directly at if they’d like to be part of our group. I’d also like to reiterate that BIPOC faculty, staff, and students need not join the group to have our support in different ways. Allies are also welcome to contact us.