Cecilia Benoit

Current affiliation:
Professor, Department of Sociology, University of Victoria

Using community empowerment and transformative learning strategies, Professor Cecilia Benoit (sociology, University of Victoria) enables sex workers to become social justice advocates.

Pierre Elliott Trudeau Foundation fellowship project: Beyond the ‘Missing Women Inquiry’: Empowering Sex Workers as Social Justice Advocates

Project objectives: To develop bottom-up strategies to ensure social justice, safety, and dignity for the diversity of people involved in sexual commerce, through the following initiatives:

  1. Week-long transformative learning sessions in small groups held at sex work agencies in multiple regions across Canada;
  2. A working paper and peer-led national policy forum in Ottawa coinciding with the Canadian government’s 5-year mandate to review the 2014 Protection of Communities and Exploited Persons Act;
  3. A peer-informed practical manual for training of sex workers as social justice advocates to be made publicly available;
  4. An academic book focused on sex workers’ struggle for social inclusion, dignified health care, and police protection.

Read the full project. 

Cecilia Benoit is of Mi’kmaw and French ancestry, from Ktaqmkuk (Newfoundland). She is a part of the Eagle clan, through the Penwa’ [Benoit] family and is a non-status member of the Qalipu First Nation.

Cecilia received a doctorate degree in Sociology from the University of Toronto. She is currently a Scientist at the Canadian Institute for Substance Research (CISUR), research associate of the Centre for Indigenous Research and Community-Led Engagement (CIRCLE), and Professor of Sociology. Her research examines social inequities embedded in laws, policies, programs and research agendas and searches for evidence-based solutions.

Across her three-decade career, she has been instrumental in making known the indigenous knowledges held by Aboriginal midwives and birthing women in pre-settler and settler communities, and worked diligently in changing medical practices so that Indigenous and non-Indigenous midwives can legally work and their services reimbursed by the public purse.

Cecilia’s other research has shed light on the forces that create social inequities for a variety of marginalized groups, all of who are overrepresented by Indigenous peoples, including: women in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside, street-involved youth in transition to adulthood, pregnant women and their families dealing with poverty, substance use, and other challenges, and people who sell sexual services.

Using a community empowerment and transformative learning methodology that honours relational accountability, researcher reflexivity and Indigenous worldviews, she works closely with those in need of services, frontline service providers, and other stakeholders to develop innovative interventions to promote equity, dignity and human rights care for the disadvantaged groups she is privileged to work with.

  • June 26, 2018
    The Pierre Elliott Trudeau Foundation appoints four new fellows The 2018 Pierre Elliott Trudeau Foundation fellowships: Audacious projects that are shaping the future of Canada and the world