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Cannie Stark


Training Location(s):

PhD, McGill University, (1975)

MSc Applied, McGill University, (1968)

BA, McGill University, (1966)

Primary Affiliation(s):

University of Regina

Media Links:

Psychology's Feminist Voices Oral History Transcript


Oral History Excerpt on YouTube: Developing a Feminist Identity

Oral History Excerpt on YouTube: On Method

Oral History Excerpt on YouTube: On SWAP & Feminism Today



Career Focus:  Psychology of women; marijuana use; sexism in research; academic freedom; canine policing; research ethics.


Cannie Stark was born in Fredericton, New Brunswick at the end of World War II. Over the course of her career in psychology, she gradually worked her way westward across Canada, obtaining her education in Montreal and working in Toronto before ultimately taking a faculty position at the University of Regina in Saskatchewan.


As early as her undergraduate training at McGill University, where the department was firmly committed to an androcentric model of scientific research, Stark was attracted to qualitative methodologies that she felt more accurately reflected all of human experience.  Despite this qualitative orientation, and her decision to pursue a degree in clinical psychology, her most influential mentor at McGill was the neuropsychologist Donald Hebb. Of her relationship with Hebb, Stark has remarked: “We disagreed on practically everything, but he really was my mentor. I wasn’t his student, but he was my mentor” and that “he thought that ‘he’ was a perfectly good generic pronoun and I didn’t, so we had great conversations over things like that.”


Stark also experienced episodes of discrimination because of her sex during her time at McGill. She recalls: “I took my Master’s MSc Applied at McGill with a particular supervisor and completed my thesis and was in his office with him and he said ‘I’m not going to continue you for your PhD.’ And I said ‘Why?’ And he said ‘Because you’re a woman.’”  I asked him what that had to do with anything, and he said a PhD would be wasted on a woman.  That I could practice with my Master’s, but that I was going to get married and I was going to have children and so a PhD would be wasted on me and the reason he knew this, was because his wife had a been a pediatrician before she married him and had children and she dropped her pediatric practice.  And so on an N of 1 he generalized to all female graduate students.”


Despite this rejection, Stark found another supervisor at McGill and earned her doctoral degree in 1975.


At McGill, Stark became involved in a number of popular political movements including the feminist and peace movements. Her feminist identity further solidified when, as a graduate student, she began working for the Canadian government’s Le Dain Commission of Inquiry into the Use of Non-Medical Drugs. The objections raised by women who were excluded from participating in research on the effects of marijuana brought to focus the more general exclusion of women from much psychological research. Of her time with the Le Dain Commission Stark observed that, “At the time, research on marijuana with humans was conducted in a formal, sterile lab with the researcher wearing a white lab coat, because they didn’t want anything in the context to influence the results.  Of course, not realizing that what they were doing was creating a context.”


Recognizing the importance of both taking into account both the effects of sex and context, Stark conducted further research on marijuana use. In particular, she undertook an investigation into the socio-psycho-pharmacological effects of marijuana on both men and women for her dissertation: Extrapharmacological Factors in Marijuana Intoxication. From this project she moved on to further research on sex differences.


After working at Dalhousie University in Halifax in the mid- to late-1970s, Stark moved to Toronto where she worked in, and later directed, the Scott Laboratory at Wellesley Hospital. Concurrent with the latter position, she also taught in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Toronto. Stark left Toronto in the 1980s to become a faculty member in the Department of Psychology at the University of Regina. In the 1990s, she began to work with the Regina police force in order to investigate stress, which then led her to a further project on canine policing.


Since the late 1970s, Stark has been heavily involved with the Canadian Psychological Association (CPA). She served as chair of the Interest Group on Women and Psychology (IGWAP), which later became the Section on Women and Psychology (SWAP) of CPA, and helped organize a pioneering pre-convention institute for women in psychology that flourishes today. Particularly passionate about supporting women in psychology, Stark served as chairperson of the CPA’s Committee on the Status of Women for much of the 1980s and in 1992 served as the organization’s sixth female president.


by Jacy L. Young (2012)

To cite this article, see Credits

Selected Works:


Stark-Adamec, C. (1992). Sexism in research. Women & Therapy, 12(4), 103–111.


Stark-Adamec, C. (Ed.). (1980). Sex roles: Origins, influences, and implications for women. Montréal, QC: Eden Press Women’s Publications.


Stark-Adamec, C., & Kimball, M. (1984). Science free of sexism: A psychologist’s guide to the conduct of nonsexist research. Canadian Psychology/Psychologie Canadienne, 25(1), 23–34.


Stark-Adamec, C., & Pettifor, J. (1995). Ethical decision making for practising social scientists: Putting values into practice. Ottawa, ON: Social Science Federation of Canada.


Stark-Adamec, C., & Pihl, R. O. (1978). Sex differences in response to marijuana in a social setting. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 2(4), 334–353.


Stark, C. (1997). Academic freedom, “political correctness”, and ethics. Canadian Psychology/Psychologie Canadienne, 38(4), 232–237.


Stark, C. (1998). A dog is not a gun: Observations on canine policing. Calgary, AB: Detselig Enterprises.


Stark, C. (2001). Psychological climate changes for women in academic psychology: Forecasts, sources, and implications. Canadian Psychology/Psychologie Canadienne, 42(4), 286–300.


Interview with Cannie Stark: Developing a Feminist Identity

Interview conducted on June 6, 2009 by Alexandra Rutherford, Kelli Vaughn, and Laura Ball in Montreal, QC, Canada.


Interview with Cannie Stark: On SWAP & Feminism Today

Interview conducted on June 6, 2009 by Alexandra Rutherford, Kelli Vaughn, and Laura Ball in Montreal, QC, Canada.


Interview with Cannie Stark: On Method

Interview conducted on June 6, 2009 by Alexandra Rutherford, Kelli Vaughn, and Laura Ball in Montreal, QC, Canada.