Lakehead professors receiving more than $73k for COVID-19 research

September 21, 2020 – Thunder Bay, Ont.

The Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada has granted more than $73,000 to Lakehead University professors for important research related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

These Partnership Engage Grants will allow research teams to work for approximately one year on their projects.

Dr. Rebecca Schiff, Associate Professor and Chair of Health Sciences, is receiving $24,740 to examine the unique challenges of addressing homelessness in rural and remote Canada during a pandemic.

The primary research partner for this project, National Alliance to End Rural and Remote Homelessness, is a sub-alliance with the Canadian Alliance to End Homelessness, which leads a national movement of individuals, organizations and communities working together to end homelessness in Canada.

Until recently, there was little acknowledgement that homelessness existed in rural and remote areas in Canada.

Rural and remote homelessness is indeed a significant issue. Dr. Schiff explained that emerging evidence shows rural and remote communities experience homelessness rates equivalent to or potentially higher than rates experienced in urban areas.

“Rural communities are often isolated and thus more limited than urban areas in their capacity to respond to pandemics,” Dr. Schiff said.

“They are particularly vulnerable due to fewer healthcare and social service resources, scarcity of soup kitchens and food banks – the lack of which has been particularly evident during the COVID-19 pandemic and has significantly impacted their ability to respond to the needs of homeless people.”

Dr. Kathy Kortes-Miller, Assistant Professor in Social Work, is receiving $24,512 to explore the experience of family caregivers of Ontario residents in long-term care (LTC) during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Dr. Kortes-Miller, who is also the Associate Director of the Centre for Education and Research on Aging and Health, will work with CanAge: Canada's National Seniors' Advocacy Organization to increase knowledge about the questions, concerns, and expectations that family and friends have of LTC, the health system and social support networks.

“Our goal is to gain greater insight into the ways Ontario’s caregivers are maintaining connections during this period of physical distancing,” Dr. Kortes-Miller said.

As was demonstrated in the recently released Joint Task Force report on LTC observations (May 27, 2020), Canada is at a critical turning point where it is essential to learn lessons that can improve the care, conditions, and outcomes of our citizens living in LTC, she added.

“We will develop recommendations informed by people who have been impacted by caregiving, isolation, grief and loss during this time period that will directly address identified knowledge, system and policy gaps,” Dr. Kortes-Miller said.

Dr. Karl Skogstad, Assistant Professor in Economics, is receiving $24,305 to learn more about the economic impact of COVID-19 on the economy of Ontario's northern regions.

“In the Thunder Bay region, we enjoy the benefit of having easy access to the kilometres of wilderness that separate the region from the rest of the province and the country,” Dr. Skogstad said.

“This benefit comes at a cost to the region, as the resulting low population means that certain services and amenities that are available to residents in larger population centres, often are not available here.”

As Canada struggles to deal with COVID-19, this isolation has turned from a cost to a benefit, as the virus has not taken hold in the region in the same way it has in major cities, he said.

“Despite this benefit, many province-wide policies have been enacted that do not take into account the unique circumstances of the North,” Dr. Skogstad said.

“We are hoping to discover whether a custom-made recovery policy for the region is advisable and whether policies to deal with future pandemics should be tailor-made to account for the unique characteristics of the region.” 

Dr. Andrew P. Dean, Lakehead’s Vice-President, Research and Innovation, said he is looking forward to learning more about the outcomes of these important research projects.

“Thank you to the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada for recognizing the fantastic research happening at Lakehead,” Dr. Dean said.

“I also want to thank our researchers, who have dedicated their academic careers to answering important questions, training future researchers, and teaching Lakehead’s students.” 

In 2019/20, Lakehead University will receive nearly $2 million in assistance from the Research Support Fund to support the indirect costs of research, which includes costs for supporting the management of intellectual property, research and administration, ethics and regulatory compliance, research resources, and research facilities.  

This announcement is part of $4 million in funding through SSHRC’s Partnership Engage Grants that the Honourable Navdeep Bains, Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry, announced today.

This funding supports 172 projects and almost 600 researchers working with businesses and community partners from across Canada. These grants provide short-term and timely support for partnered research activities that will inform decision-making in the public, private or not-for-profit sector.

In response to the early phases of the pandemic crisis, the latest Partnership Engage Grants competition included a special call to address COVID-19-related research. Over $3 million of the investment announced today will directly support 139 projects addressing this call.

Total PEG funding for COVID-19 projects: $73,557

COVID-19 and Pandemic Planning in the Context of Rural and Remote Homelessness           

Funding: $24,740

Applicant: Rebecca Schiff, Lakehead University


  • Kristy Buccieri, Trent University 
  • Carol Kauppi, Laurentian University
  • Jeannette Waegemakers Schiff, University of Calgary
  • Julia Christensen, Memorial University of Newfoundland

Partner: The National Alliance to End Rural and Remote Homelessness


COVID-19 Not Just a Visitor; Family caregiving in long-term care during lockdown           

Funding: $24,512

Applicant: Kathy Kortes-Miller, Lakehead University


  • Arne Stinchcombe, Brock University
  • Kimberley Wilson, University of Guelph

Partner:  CanAge, Toronto, Ont.


COVID-19: The economic impact of COVID-19 on the economy of Ontario's northern regions

Funding: $24,305

Applicant: Karl Skogstad, Lakehead University


  • James Townsend, The University of Winnipeg
  • Robert Petrunia, Lakehead University

Partner: Northern Policy Institute



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Lakehead University is a fully comprehensive university with approximately 9,700 full-time equivalent students and over 2,000 faculty and staff at two campuses in Orillia and Thunder Bay, Ontario. Lakehead has 10 faculties, including Business Administration, Education, Engineering, Graduate Studies, Health & Behavioural Sciences, Law, Natural Resources Management, the Northern Ontario School of Medicine, Science & Environmental Studies, and Social Sciences & Humanities. In 2019, Maclean’s 2020 University Rankings, once again, included Lakehead University among Canada’s Top 10 primarily undergraduate universities, while Research Infosource named Lakehead 'Research University of the Year' in its category for the fifth consecutive year. Visit

This photo of the Sleeping Giant showcases the unique characteristics of life in Northern Ontario.