Big Thinking

Big Thinking

Big Thinking

Upcoming Events - 2019 Season

Promoting health for refugees in an era of forced migration
Wednesday, September 18, 2019
4:00 p.m. - 6:00 p.m.
Drawing Room, Château Laurier Hotel, Ottawa ON

Description: Global economic inequities, violence and war, and environmental catastrophes aggravated by climate change, ensure that the numbers of people seeking asylum will continue to increase in the years to come. CAHS Fellows and other researchers have a crucial role to play in bringing evidence to this urgent policy issue. Discussion will explore the interplay of human rights, social policy and clinical practice in refugee health, identify best practices and gaps in existing knowledge, and explore the implications of current research and emerging challenges to address the health needs of refugees in Canada.The goal ultimately is to identify best practices in Canada and specific strategies to improve the health outcomes of refugees seeking protection Canada. 

Keynote Speaker: Dr. James Orbinski OC, MSC, MD, MA
Director, Dahdaleh Institute for Global Health Research, York University
Professor, Faculty of Health, School of Health Policy & Management, York University

Moderator: Dr. Nadia Abu-Zahra, DPhil (Oxon)

Dr. James Orbinski is a globally recognized humanitarian practitioner and advocate, as well as one of the world’s leading scholars and scientists in global health. He is a veteran of many of the world’s most disturbing and complex humanitarian emergencies. He is a founding member of Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders) Canada and accepted the Nobel Peace Prize on behalf of the organization in 1999.

This event will be presented by the Federation for the Humanities and Social Sciences in partnership with the Canadian Academy of Health Sciences (CAHS). 


Past Events

Public policy and knowledge dissemination in the digital age
March 21, 2019

Scholarly publications are at the core of the research process. They allow for the dissemination of knowledge and contribute to the visibility of researchers. This presentation outlines the way knowledge dissemination has evolved, with particular emphasis on the impact of digital technologies. The subjects of open access, the oligopoly of commercial publishers, and the question of how digital technology is changing both the knowledge ecosystem and fact-based decision-making will also be examined. Lastly, a discussion around the government’s role in disseminating research and the public policy features that expand access to knowledge will conclude the event. 

Vincent Larivière, Associate Professor, École de bibliothéconomie et des sciences de l’information [School of Library and Information Sciences], Université de Montréal 

A call to action: Rethinking leadership in the global response to forced migration
February 28, 2019

What place should refugees and internally displaced persons have in the upcoming federal election? How can universities help inform public policy and the general public on the issue? In this presentation, Allan Rock provides a brief overview of the World Refugee Council’s (WRC) most recent report and recommendations. Together, Rock’s keynote and the WRC report are a clarion call for the creation of a Global Action Network for the Forcibly Displaced. Rock highlights the critical importance of the active involvement of the academy in the Network, and engages policy makers, scholars, the media and the general public in a conversation on how to promote and implement the report’s proposed changes. Rock’s presentation will be followed by a conversation with Heather Scoffield, and a Q&A with guests. 

Allan Rock, former Senior Advisor to the World Refugee Council, President Emeritus of the University of Ottawa, Professor in the uOttawa Faculty of Law, and former federal minister
Heather Scoffield, Ottawa Bureau Chief for The Canadian Press (moderator)

The social implications of artificial intelligence
November 14, 2018

This Big Thinking event was held in partnership with Dalhousie University.
This panel explored the potential social impacts of artificial intelligence and the role humanities and social sciences will play in identifying the legal, ethical and policy issues we should start considering today.

Moderator: Howard Ramos, Associate Dean of Research, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, Professor, Department of Sociology and Social Anthropology, Dalhousie University

Panel: Ian Kerr, Canada Research Chair in Ethics, Law and Technology, University of Ottawa
Teresa Heffernan, Professor of English, Saint Mary’s University
Duncan MacIntosh, Professor and Department Chair of Philosophy, Dalhousie University
Fuyuki Kurasawa, York Research Chair in Global Digital Citizenship and Associate Professor, Department of Sociology, York University

The social implications of emerging technologies: Are the most important questions the least studied?
November 7, 2018
Panel: Jaigris Hodson, Associate Professor of Interdisciplinary Studies, Royal Roads University
Eric Meslin, President and CEO, Council of Canadian Academies
Dominic Martin, Professor of Ethics, École des sciences de la gestion, Université du Québec à Montréal
Moderator: Peter Severinson, Policy Analyst, Federation for the Humanities and Social Sciences

Rapid development of transformative new technologies – such as social media, artificial intelligence, and new health technologies – is creating important opportunities and challenges for governments, businesses, the research community and society at large. Too often, however, the social implications of such developments are overlooked. In this session we will explore whether the Canadian policy and research community is doing enough to understand and address the social implications of new technologies. We will consider how multidisciplinary approaches can help us address multiple dimensions of technological change and better understand the roles of diverse actors, including the natural scientist, the philosopher, the engineer, the behavioural scientist, the historian and the policy maker.

Work in a warming world
Carla Lipsig-Mummé
, Professor, Work and Labour Studies, York University
October 3, 2018

Can Canadian work and labour help slow global warming? As its complexity, destructiveness and speed all increase, climate change has become an urgent social issue. Physical and social upheavals of climate change modify how we work, how we build, how products are transported, what we produce, where we produce it. While Canadian work is a major source of greenhouse gases, we are now identifying a role that adapting work can play. If we are serious about creating a low-carbon economy, bringing work, the workplace and labour unions “in” to the struggle is as crucial as it is timely.

This special Big Thinking event was offered by the Federation for the Humanities and Social Sciences in partnership with the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) in celebration of SSHRC’s 40th anniversary.

The Big Thinking series is made possible through the support of


See past Big Thinking lectures

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