Chief Justice says dealing with diversity most challenging issue facing the world by Alia Dharssi, May 30, 2016, Calgary Herald
The most challenging issue facing the world today is how we deal with diversity in society, said Supreme Court Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin during a public lecture on Monday at Congress 2016, which is being held at the University of Calgary this week.
“Everywhere in the world, nations are, it seems, wrestling with this question,” said McLachlin to an audience of about 500, including academics, lawyers and students, who filled an auditorium and the hall outside. “How do we deal with … the ‘other,’ with the person who is different in a majoritarian society?”
Referencing international events, including European countries’ strategies to stem the tide of refugees from war-torn countries and U.S. presidential hopeful Donald Trump’s proposal to keep foreign Muslims out of the U.S., she said that Canada’s diversity is an “asset” and “tremendous source of strength.”
“(But) there is work to be done, as the constant discrimination against members of the aboriginal community attest,” said McLachlin. She praised Canada for largely responding to diversity with inclusion, rather than exclusion, though she has said in the past that Canada attempted to commit “cultural genocide” against indigenous peoples.
In the ongoing process of building an inclusive society, it is individuals who are on the “front line” with their day-to-day actions, McLachlin added.
“We cannot delegate the business of building an inclusive society to government or the courts. They can help, but they can never be the foundation.”
McLachlin’s views were shaped by an indigenous man who approached her with a gift of earrings handcrafted from mother of pearl during the centennial celebrations for her hometown of Pincher Creek a few years ago. The man, named Eric, said he was giving them to her out of respect for her parents.
On a hot Sunday in July when the two were still children, Eric and his family were sitting in their car outside McLachlin’s home. His father and McLachlin’s father were discussing some business, when McLachlin’s mother came out and invited them in for tea and cake to celebrate her father’s birthday. Eric had never forgotten that day because it was the first time he had been inside a white person’s house.
“It affected me profoundly,” recalled McLachlin, explaining that it led her to conclude that the “most basic responsibility” for creating an inclusive society rests with individuals.
“I understood how the simple acts of everyday people could make a profound difference in a child’s life,” she said.
Canadians can foster a culture of inclusion through individual actions, as well as through private and public discussions, including in venues like churches, synagogues and mosques, McLachlin added.
She used the example of someone meeting a Muslim woman in a hijab. An individual might respond to the difference positively and look at it as an asset or reject it and discriminate against the Muslim woman.
As for the laws, courts and political institutions, their role is to carry social values forward from generation to generation by laying out what a nation stands for, to set standards for society and to hold people accountable for actions that go against them, McLachlin said.
“The rule of law means that conflicts between groups within society are defined peacefully and fairly,” she explained.
McLachlin highlighted cases in which the Supreme Court had resolved controversial disputes related to cultural issues. These included decisions in favour of a group of Jewish condo owners, allowing them to put up religious structures on their balconies; Muslim women wishing to cover their faces during citizenship ceremonies; and a Sikh student who wanted to carry a small ceremonial dagger to a school with a no-weapons policy.
Canada’s future “depends on recognizing the need to reject exclusion and favour cultural inclusion,” she said.
The lecture was received positively by the audience with many, including students and researchers, describing it as inspiring.
“There is no other way forward,” McLachlin said in her concluding remarks. “Diverse as we are, we are all in the same boat.”
The 6 big thinkers headlining the ‘academic Olympics’ in Calgary by Emma McIntosh, May 27, 2016, Calgary Herald
The largest academic gathering in Canada kicks off in Calgary this weekend, with over 6,300 prominent scholars gathering to present the latest findings in the social sciences.
The 85th annual Congress of the Humanities and Social Sciences, often called the “academic Olympics” and held at the University of Calgary from May 28-June 3, includes a series of six lectures called “Big Thinking.”
A different talk will take place from 12:15 -1:15 p.m. in the Rozsa Centre at Eckhardt Gramatté Hall. All are free and open to the public.
Here’s a look at the six speakers and what they’ll be talking about.
Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin – The rule of law in a multicultural society
Born to a farming family in Pincher Creek, Alta., McLachlin was appointed Canada’s first female chief justice in 2000. Before that, she was the longest-serving supreme court judge in the nation’s history.
McLachlin made headlines last year when she said Canada’s previous treatment of its Aboriginal people was an attempt at “cultural genocide.”
Her lecture will centre around the idea of rule of law — the principle that no one, no matter how important or powerful they are, is above the law — in a diverse society. [Not even the AER?]
In a multicultural country like Canada, the concept means different things to different people, raising challenges when it comes to preserving it.
Congress 2016 begins with a bang and lots of big thinking, Big-name speakers on campus draw big crowds by Jennifer Allford, May 30, 2016, UToday
Canada’s largest gathering of scholars got underway at the University of Calgary on Saturday, May 28. Over the course of six days, there will be 8,000 scholars in attendance, more than 100 free public events and more than 5,500 research presentations. Along with dozens of smaller sessions over the weekend, there were three big speeches that drew hundreds of people to each.
Congress 2016 runs until Friday. The lineup of speakers this week includes: Beverley McLachlin, chief justice of the Supreme Court of Canada; retired Lt.-Gen. Roméo Dallaire; Leroy Little Bear, founding director of the Native American Program at Harvard University; and Jennifer Clapp, Canada Research Chair in Global Food Security and Sustainability.