Past Big Thinking seasons

Past Big Thinking lectures

2016-2017 Season

Canada: A “nice hat for America?"
Stephen Toope, President of the Federation for the Humanities and Social Sciences & Director, Munk School of Global Affairs, University of Toronto
May 2, 2017

Canada's relative position in the world also has changed, and not for the better. Many states can aspire to Canada’s status of middling power, and not just the usual suspects. To be effective, our refreshed foreign policy will require two key components: tough-minded focus, and stronger and more diverse relationships. Being a nice guy, a toque on the head of America, won’t be nearly enough. Are we up for the challenge? We better be, or the world will suffer. And that’s not hubris or idealism; in today’s crazy world, it’s truth. Yes, truth – it still exists. And we need to shout it out.

Immigration, multiculturalism and populist backlash: Is Canada exceptional?
Keith Banting, Stauffer-Dunning Fellow in the School of Policy Studies and Professor Emeritus in the Department of Political Studies at Queen’s University
March 21, 2017

There is growing international commentary that Canada is unusual in continuing to support global openness, immigration and multiculturalism while avoiding the populist backlash evident elsewhere. Many commentators attribute this Canadian exceptionalism to our national identity. Without denying the place of that identity, this Big Thinking presentation will highlight the role of our political institutions and public policies. Keith Banting will focus on immigration, refugees and multiculturalism to ask whether Canada really is different and, if so, why? Will Canada remain on the same trajectory in the future?

“Canadian-ness,” citizen engagement, and Canada 150: Using history to inform policy
Matthew Hayday, Associate Professor of History at the University of Guelph
February 21, 2017

As we mark the 150th anniversary of Confederation throughout 2017, discussions about what it means to be Canadian will be front and centre in the media. Throughout Canada’s history, particularly during key anniversary years and on national holidays, governments, community groups, artists and citizens have planned diverse initiatives to try to shape what it means to be Canadian or to be a part of a particular community. Historian Matthew Hayday will discuss how national celebrations and commemorations – both official and citizen-led processes – have shaped our country’s sense of itself and offer suggestions to policy-makers of lessons that can be learned from these past efforts about what works, what does not, and how to foster citizen engagement in these events.

Building skills for citizenship: Educating our children for the common good
Joel Westheimer, University Research Chair in Democracy and Education, University of Ottawa
December 1, Toronto Marriott Downtown Eaton Centre Hotel
At the Conference Board of Canada’s 4th Skills and Post-Secondary Education Summit.

Ask people of any nation if they think youth and young adults should learn how to be good citizens and most will say "of course" (likely even more so following the U.S. presidential election). Ask them if teaching young people to get involved – locally, nationally, and globally – is a good idea, and, again, most will agree. But beyond the clichés, when colleges, universities and K-12 educators wrestle with the nitty-gritty details of what will actually be taught and what students will actually do, the consensus starts to fray. That’s where the real work of building skills for citizenship begins.

Do we need to rethink sexual assault law?

Elaine Craig, Associate Professor at Schulich School of Law, Dalhousie University
Carissima Mathen, Associate Professor of Law at the University of Ottawa
November 29, 2016

After a year that has featured dramatic sexual assault trials, including that of former CBC host Jian Ghomeshi, what are the issues that continue to plague the justice system in relation to sexualized violence? Join two legal experts as they explore this complex question, which touches on the presumption of innocence, the role of the courts, law enforcement and lawyers, and the cultural context of sexualized violence. How do we move forward and what must we do to ensure justice for all? 

“There’s an App for that?” Addressing the policy challenges of digital inclusion
Catherine Middleton, Professor, Ted Rogers School of Management, Ryerson University, and Canada Research Chair in Communication Technologies in the Information Society
November 19, Delta Waterfront Hotel, Kingston, ON

We are often told, “There’s an app for that” when trying to do something. But for many, the “app for that” is inaccessible, too expensive, unusable, or simply beyond our experience. Yet businesses, governments and even our friends and relatives frequently assume we all have some capacity to use the digital technologies that have become pervasive in society – smartphones, apps, social networking, the cloud – capacity that allows us to be included in today’s society. This Big Thinking lecture challenges assumptions about digital literacy across all segments of the population and outlines policy actions needed to advance digital inclusion for all.

Just sustainabilities in cities: Re-imagining e/quality, living within limits
Julian Agyeman, Professor, Urban and Environmental Policy, Tufts University
November 9, Hart House University of Toronto

Social justice and environmental sustainability are often seen as being at odds, especially in cities. Through his innovative concept of ‘just sustainabilities’ interdisciplinary scholar Julian Agyeman of Tufts University will argue that integrating social needs and welfare offers us a more ‘just,’ rounded and equity-focused definition of sustainability. This does not, however, negate the very real environmental threats we face. Agyeman’s wide-ranging lecture will explore examples of just sustainabilities, focusing on ideas about 'fair shares' resource distribution globally, planning for intercultural cities, achieving wellbeing and happiness, and  the concept of 'spatial justice.’ He will conclude with a consideration of roles for the humanities and social sciences in creating just sustainabilities in urban centres.

The 2016 US Election: How did it come to this, and where is it going?
Richard Johnston, Canada Research Chair in Public Opinion, Elections, and Representation at the University of British Columbia
October 25, 2016

The battle for the Republican nomination defied prediction and challenged much of what we thought we knew about parties in the United States. Many believed that Donald Trump was a creature of the media, doomed to obscurity once they lost interest. Instead, he activated potential Republican constituencies that had long been dormant. Something of the same happened on the Democratic side with the race between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders. Is 2016 an historical accident, leaving no permanent impact, or has the electoral landscape been fundamentally transformed? What impact will this have on Canada?

Is incremental equality for First Nations Children compatible with reconciliation?
Cindy Blackstock, Executive Director, First Nations Child and Family Caring Society of Canada and Director, Equity and Diversity, Federation for the Humanities and Social Sciences
September 27, 2016

A Canadian Human Rights Tribunal landmark ruling released on January 26, 2016 found that the Canadian government is racially discriminating against 163,000 First Nations children and their families by providing flawed and inequitable child welfare services and failing to ensure equitable access to government services. When governments know better they should do better for kids, and this talk will discuss the history of the Canadian Government’s relationship with First Nations children and highlight the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal ruling in the context of this value. What are the implications of this case, and how can we engage in meaningful reconciliation?

2015-2016 Season

Canada's origin story
Kathleen Mahoney, Professor of Law, University of Calgary
May 10, 2016 

Since Confederation in 1867, Canada has identified and conducted itself as a country of two founding nations, the British and the French, while subordinating the status of Indigenous peoples. A new project is seeking to alter that narrative through official recognition, on the 150th anniversary of the 1867 confederation, of the foundational contributions of Indigenous peoples to the formation of Canada, in addition to the British and the French. By resetting Canada's origin story, future generations will better understand the true nature of the country's origins, and we will improve the context for discussion and action on commitments already made to reconciliation, building nation-to-nation relationships and rights to self-determination. This event is organized in partnership with the Royal Society of Canada

The evolving Middle East: Implications for Canadian strategy
Janice Stein, Professor, Munk School of Global Affairs, University of Toronto
April 19, 2016 

The Middle East is experiencing the systematic collapse of a political order put in place one hundred years ago. This breakdown is creating ripples far beyond the region, pushing refugees up against an increasingly tightly wound Europe and exporting ideologies and ideologues that promote violence around the world. The breakdown of order can be remarkably quick, but the construction of a new order is painfully slow. How then should Canada deal with a part of the world that is likely to remain turbulent and violent for the foreseeable future yet is important to the world and to Canadians? 

Reforming Canada’s voting system: What would proportional representation change?
André Blais, Professor of Political Science, Université de Montréal
March 22, 2016

The 2015 federal election campaign brought new urgency to a fundamental issue in Canadian democracy: Should we change our voting system? Discussion has focused on the merits of a “proportional” versus a “majoritarian” system. Three questions are key: Does proportional representation foster a higher participation rate? Are voters’ preferences better represented in a proportional system? And are citizens more satisfied under a proportional system?

Thinking out loud: Talking liberal arts with Joseph Boyden
Josephy Boyden, novelist and short story writer
Big Thinking on the road at Concordia University
March 7, 2016

What does a liberal arts education mean and why is it important? Join novelist and short story writer Joseph Boyden and Concordia's Rebecca Duclos (Dean, Faculty of Fine Arts) and Jill Didur (Associate Professor, Department of English) in conversation on the future and challenges to the liberal arts. This event was made possible through a collaboration with Concordia University's Thinking Out Loud initiative.

The future of assisted death in Canada
Jocelyn Downie, Trudeau Fellow, Professor in the Faculties of Law and Medicine, Dalhousie University
February 23, 2016

Canada is rapidly moving into a new reality for end-of-life care. From an all-out ban, Canada is on course to adopt some of the most progressive assisted death legislation in the world. In the last year, Quebec has implemented permissive assisted death legislation and the Supreme Court of Canada has struck down the Criminal Code prohibitions on assisted death. Canadian legislators are under pressure to resolve a host of thorny issues by June 2016. Who qualifies for assisted death? How are interests of patients and health care providers reconciled? What oversight system is appropriate? This event was sponsored by the Pierre Elliott Trudeau Foundation

Canada's origin story
Kathleen Mahoney, FRSC, Professor of Law at the University of Calgary and Legal Advisor at the Assembly of First Nations
November 27, 2015

This Big Thinking lecture was held at the Annual General Meeting of the Royal Society of Canada, and sponsored by the Federation for the Humanities and Social Sciences and the University of Calgary.

Reconciliation and the Academy
Wab Kinew, Associate Vice-President, Indigenous Affairs, University of Winnipeg
November 17, 2015

2014-2015 Season

Austerity for prosperity? How women and men are faring in the Canadian economy
Dr. Marjorie Griffin Cohen, Economist, Professor of Political Science and Gender, Sexuality and Women's Studies at Simon Fraser University
April 28, 2015

Three game-changing Ontario discoveries at Ontario and Canada Research Chairs Symposium in Toronto
Michael Geist, Ron Deibert and Gerald McMaster
April 1, 2015
This event was organized in partnership with the Council of Ontario Universities

Extreme weather and climate: Measured response?
Ronald Stewart, Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada, Fellow of the Canadian Meteorological and Oceanographic Society, and Professor in the Department of Environment and Geography, University of Manitoba
Daniel Scott, University Research Chair in Climate and Society, Director of the Interdisciplinary Centre on Climate Change (IC3), and Professor in the Department of Geography and Environmental Management, University of Waterloo
March 26, 2015
This event was organized in partnership with PAGSE and sponsored by Engineers Canada

Judicial activism and the role of courts in providing remedies
Kent Roach, Trudeau Fellow, Professor of Law, and Prichard-Wilson Chair of Law and Public Policy at the University of Toronto Faculty of Law
February 5, 2015
This event was sponsored by the Pierre Elliott Trudeau Foundation

Mythes et science: The ideology of “standard” language
Shana Poplack, Canada Research Chair in Linguistics, Distinguished Professor at the University of Ottawa and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada
November 21, 2014
This event was sponsored by the Royal Society of Canada

The Impact of "Big Data" on our health care system: What to expect?
Bartha Knoppers, Director of the Centre of Genomics and Policy, Faculty of Medicine, Department of Human Genetics at McGill University and Canada Research Chair in Law and Medicine
October 30, 2014
This event was sponsored by Genome Canada.

Bringing Quebec Back In
Guy Laforest, professor in Université Laval’s political science department
October 9, 2014

Why Don’t We Get Along?
Jim Miller, Canada Research Chair in Native-Newcomer Relations and a Professor of History at the University of Saskatchewan
September 18, 2014



2013-2014 Season

From trolley cars to rapid transit: The future of urban transportation
Jeff Casello, Professor, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, School of Planning, University of Waterloo
Zachary Patterson, Professor, Canada Research Chair in Transportation and Land Use Linkages for Regional Sustainability, Concordia University
John Geddes, Ottawa Bureau Chief, Maclean's
May 1, 2014
This event was hosted with The Partnership Group for Science and Engineering.

The secret to our success: Immigration policy in Canada
Irene Bloemraad, Barnes Chair of Canadian Studies and CIFAR Senior Fellow, University of California, Berkeley
April 3, 2014
This event was organized in partnership with CIFAR, the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research.

Why do some Canadians become terrorists?
Lorne Dawson, Professor and Department Chair, Departement of Sociology and Legal Studies, University of Waterloo
March 4, 2014

Reason versus passion in politics
Joseph Heath, Director of the Centre for Ethics at the University of Toronto and Professor in the School of Public Policy and Governance and the Department of Philosophy
February 11, 2014
This event was organized in partnership with the Trudeau Foundation.

Cohabitation: an alternative or substitute for marriage?
Céline Le Bourdais, professor at McGill University, Canada Research Chair in Social Statistics and Family Change and academic director of the McGill QICSS Branch
December 10, 2013
This event was organized in partnership with the Canadian Research Data Centre Network.

After Snowden: What now for an open and free Internet?
Ron Deibert, Director of the Munk School of Global Affairs' Citizen Lab at the University of Toronto
November 21, 2013
This event was sponsored by Google Canada.

Whither innovation? Moving beyond the buzzword
Richard Hawkins, Professor at the University of Calgary and Fellow of the Institute for Science Society and Policy at the University of Ottawa
October 3, 2013
This event was organized in partnership with the Institute for Science Society and Policy (ISSP) at the University of Ottawa.


2012-2013 Season

Jobs first: Rethinking development around the globe
Gordon Betcherman from the University of Ottawa
April 25, 2013

When psychotherapy meets virtual reality
Stephane Bouchard, Université du Québec en Outaouais, Canada Research Chair in clinical cyberpsychology
March 21, 2013

Searching for answers: Addressing bullying and children's health
Wendy Craig, Professor of Psychology at Queen’s University and Scientific Co-Director at PREVNet (Promoting Relationships and Eliminating Violence Network)
February 14, 2013

Behavioural economics and its implications for financial literacy and public policy
Dilip Soman, Rotman School of Management, University of Toronto
November 29, 2012
This event was organized in collaboration with Credit Union Central of Canada and the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada, and sponsored by TD Bank Group.

Stem cells and medical tourism: The challenge for health and science policy
Timothy Caulfield, Canada Research Chair in Health Law and Policy
October 23, 2012
This event was organized in partnership with the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada

Inclusive Innovation: what is the role of rural and remote regions in the knowledge economy?
Ken Coates, Canada Research Chair in Regional Innovation
September 18, 2012
This event was organized in partnership with the Canada Foundation for Innovation.

2011-2012 Season

Who cares? Aging boomers and caregiving policy in Canada

Janice Keefe, Mount Saint Vincent University
April 26, 2012

Big Thinking Apr 26 2012: Who cares? Aging boomers and caregiving policy in Canada from Fedcan on Vimeo.


"Who's driving the story? Question period, social media, and changing political communications"

Alexandre Sévigny, McMaster University
March 8, 2012

"Innovation? What innovation? Re-thinking progress and how we measure it"

Jeremy de Beer, University of Ottawa
January 31, 2012

"Building resilient communities: The economic impact of Credit Unions and Caisses Populaires in Canada"

Lou Hammond Ketilson
December 8, 2011

"The World Economic Outlook: Implications for Canadian fiscal policy"

Jack Mintz
November 17, 2011

"Generation Next: Social mobility of the children of immigrants"

Philip Kelly
October 20, 2011

"Food for thought: Addressing the global food crisis"

Evan Fraser
September 28, 2011


2010-2011 Season

"On What Terms Can We Speak? Aboriginal-Canadian relations as an educational priority"
Dwayne Donald [10/03/11]

"Helping the most vulnerable? Exploring gender, poverty and social policy in Canada"
Lori Curtis [09/02/11]

"Between Militarization and Litigiousness: Canada's policy choices in the fight against cybecrime"
Benoit Dupont [9/12/10]

"The Greying of Canada's Population - two policy challenges for the next generation"
Christopher Ragan [3/11/10]

"From Canada 2.0 to a Digital Nation"
Catherine Middleton [7/10/10]


2009-2010 Season

"Pension Reform: How Canada can lead?"
Keith Ambachtsheer [12/05/10]

"Achieving a Low-carbon, High-octane Economy: How federal fiscal and policy reform can lead the way"
Stewart Elgie [01/04/10]

"Contested Sovereignty: Who Owns the Arctic"
Michael Byers [03/12/09]

"Afghanistan: Canada's Vietnam?"
Reeta Tremblay [05/11/09]


1996 to 2009

"...and the truth shall set you free", Jane Dickson-Gilmore [14/05/09]

"Does Leadership Matter?", Mark Kingwell [23/04/09]

"Political Minefields: Religion in post-secular society", Paul Bramadat [12/03/09]

"Response to the recession: Rescue the economy. Protect the people. Plan for the future", Marjorie Griffin Cohen [10/02/09]

"The Forgotten Promise: French in Alberta", Edmund A. Aunger [04/12/08] (presented in french)

"Oh, the Humanities", Smaro Kamboureli [01/05/08]

"Eliminating poverty: what governments can do", Alain Noël [17/04/08] (presented in French)

"MIRROR, MIRROR ON THE WALL: Are any elected bodies representative at all?", Caroline Andrew [28/02/08]

"The Politics of Canada's Floating Exchange Rate", Eric Helleiner [11/12/07]

"Camels in the Arctic?", Franklyn Griffiths [22/11/07]

"Shacked Up ", Zheng Wu [23/10/07]

"Whose dignity is it anyway?", William Sweet [10/5/07]

"Immigration in Canada’s regions: is political will enough?", Michèle Vatz Laaroussi [27/03/07]

"2010: Governance for Sustainable Development… As if it Mattered", Ann Dale [8/02/07]

"Fitting in: A place for immigrant teens in Canadian society", John W. Berry [23/11/06]

"Afghanistan: Have we reached our national tipping point?", Michael Byers [05/10/06]

"D.I.Y. Society: Community support beyond government support", Ian MacPherson, Rupert Downing and Jean-Marc Fontan [21/09/06]

"Policing the "Usual Suspects": Evidence, Consequences and Policy Implications of Racial Profile in Canada", Scot Wortley [08/06/06]

"Naming, Blaming and Shaming: Improving government accountability in light of Gomery", Peter Aucoin, [11/05/06]

"Uncovering the Coverage: Gender Biases in Canadian Political Reporting", Joanna Everitt [17/11/05]

"What happens when law protects the technologies that protect copyright? Bill C-60, Copyright Reform & the Public Interest" , Ian Kerr [24/10/05]

"The Foreigner and the Right to Justice in the Aftermath of September 11th", François Crépeau [12/05/05]

"The Place of Churches in the Same-Sex Marriage Debate: A few things you might not have heard", Pamela Dickey Young [21/04/05]

"Cluster development: Location, location, location?", David A. Wolfe [17/02/05]

"Canada and Ballistic Missile Defence: What we know, don't know and can't know", James Fergusson [04/11/04]

"Three Myths about Aboriginals in Cities", Evelyn Peters [25/03/04]

"Sustaining Canada's Multicultural Cities - Learning from the Local", Leonie Sandercock [24/02/04]

"Who Makes the Laws? The Struggle for Legislative Supremacy in Canada", James B. Kelly [02/10/03]

"How are Women Faring in the Entrepreneurial Economy?", Karen D. Hughes [01/05/03]

"Disarmament versus "Managed Proliferation"", Jennifer Allen Simons [20/02/03]

"Is public health care politically sustainable?", Antonia Maioni [5/12/02]

"A Professional Ethics for Politicians?", Daniel Weinstock [31/10/02]

"The Role (or Non-Role) of Women in Religion", Morny Joy [25/04/02]

"Healthcare in Canada: Understanding the Numbers", Robert G. Evans [21/02/02]

"Islam in History, the Modern Context", Farhang Rajaee [6/12/01]

"Pluripotent Stem Cell Research: The Ethical Issues", Françoise Baylis [18/10/01]

"Women, Taxes and Social Programs", Lisa Philipps [26/04/01]

"New Realities in the Middle East", Janice Stein [29/03/01]

"The Contribution of Religious Studies to Ethics and Public Policy", Harold Coward [03/01/01]:

"Taxation and Citizenship", Neil Brooks [5/10/00]

"Information, the Internet and International Politics", Michael Dartnell [4/4/00]

"Preventing long-term social problems and costs through early support and intervention programs for young children, their mothers and their neighbourhoods: The role of social science research", Ray DeV. Peters, Ph.D. [9/12/99]

"The WTO, NAFTA and the Future of the Auto Pact", Maureen Molot [28/10/99]

"Will the Social Union Divide Canadians?", A. Noël [18/03/99]

"The Impact of Health Care Reform on Women: A Cautionary Tale", Pat Armstrong [11/02/99]

"The Theory and Practice of Canadian Multiculturalism", Will Kymlicka [23/11/98]

"Sustainability of Communities of Fish and Fishers in Canada", Rosemary E. Ommer [26/03/98]

"Workplace Literacy Issues in Canada", Harvey Krahn [12/02/98]

"Why Invest in Early Child Development", Richard Tremblay [4/12/97]

"Perspectives on Canadian Cultural Policies", Rosemary Sullivan [20/03/97]