Big Thinking

Big Thinking


Big Thinking on the Hill
Upcoming Events

2017-2018 Season

Work in a warming world
Carla Lipsig-Mummé
, Professor, Work and Labour Studies, York University
October 3, 2018
7:30 to 8:45 am
Register now

*New location*

Room 200
Sir John A. Macdonald Building
144 Wellington Street
Ottawa, ON

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.

Carla Lipsig-Mummé is Professor of Work and Labour Studies at York University, and the 2018 Sefton-Williams Award Winner for Contributions to Labour Relations and Human Rights. Her research asks: How can work, workers and workplaces respond effectively, and contribute more fully, to the struggle to slow climate change?  How will the institutions of work be required to change to respond to climate change? Her newest project is a comparative study of energy unions and their influence on governmental decisions.

This special Big Thinking event is 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.

Registration open

Past events

Gender gaps in democratic participation: Policy insights from research
Melanee Thomas, Associate Professor, Department of Political Science, University of Calgary
April 24, 2018

What is the future of women in politics in Canada? Why have they been chronically underrepresented in political life? Join a thought-provoking lecture exploring how: i. gender gaps in key predictors of political participation have not closed over time, potentially limiting the supply of women interested in political careers; ii. negative stereotypes about women and politics are pervasive in Canada, with powerful, negative effects on the demand for women in politics from parties, leaders and voters, as well as on evaluations of women’s political performance. The talk discussing such research evidence will close with recommendations for policy solutions to address these issues.

Arctic warming: Land and communities on the cusp of rapid change 
Susan Kutz, Professor, Department of Ecosystem and Public Health, University of Calgary
Jackie Dawson, Associate Professor, Department of Geography, University of Ottawa
Moderated by Pitseolak Pfeifer, Inuit community advocate and M.A. Candidate in Northern Studies at Carleton University
March 20, 2018

Sciences and social sciences come together in a moderated discussion to examine the impacts of climate change on Arctic ecosystems and the way Inuit communities are adapting to the new reality in Nunangat. This interdisciplinary conversation focuses on the interconnection between wildlife and the social-economic dynamics in the region, with larger implications for Arctic governance, sustainable environmental management, food security and community development. It invites consideration of Inuit knowledge in the social and scientific explanation of current and future conditions, and urges a much-needed holistic perspective on Northern ecosystems, inclusive of climate, wildlife and communities.

This panel discussion was organized by The Partnership Group for Science and Engineering (PAGSE) and the Federation for the Humanities and Social Sciences.

Trade and human rights: What is Canada's role?
Susan Aaronson, Senior Fellow, Center for International Governance Innovation, Research Professor of International Affairs & GWU Cross-Disciplinary Fellow, George Washington University
Patrick Leblond, Senior Fellow, Center for International Governance Innovation, Associate Director and Associate Professor, Graduate School of Public and International Affairs, University of Ottawa
February 8, 2018

What happens when the world’s largest economy no longer leads efforts to encourage economic growth through trade? Given significant uncertainty regarding U.S.-Canada trade relations and broader global trends of rising popular concerns about trade and citizens’ economic security, Canada is increasingly assuming a role in advancing a progressive trade agenda. Aaronson and Leblond examine this development, including a critical account of the NAFTA and China options, with an eye to implications for economic growth, human rights and foreign policy. The focus will be on unanticipated spillovers, such as the failure to empower citizens as opposed to governments, and on contingencies for the Canadian digital sector.  

The importance of Indigenous knowledge and spirituality for the future of academia
Blair Stonechild, 
Professor of Indigenous Studies, First Nations University of Canada
November 25, 2017

Indigenous knowledge and spirituality is an ancient and viable system that has persisted for tens of thousands of years. However, the rise of “civilization” along with its human-centered ideology and philosophy of rationalism have demonized and marginalized these ways of knowing and being. While some academics claim that Indigenous knowledge and spirituality are not suitable for inclusion in academic studies, Elders believe that dismissing the concept of spirit and failing to recognize the interconnectedness of all created beings has led to a contemporary world on the edge of self-destruction. Recognition of the legacy and potential of Indigenous knowledge is therefore vital for the future of scholarly endeavour and perhaps humanity itself. This is the academy’s challenge. This event is sponsored by the Royal Society of Canada.

The promise of reconciliation: Will this time be different?
Katherine Graham, Professor Emerita, Public Policy and Administration, Carleton University 
David Newhouse, Director and Professor of Indigenous Studies, Chanie Wenjack School of Indigenous Studies, Trent University
November 21, 2017

Canada embarked on an official journey of reconciliation with the Prime Minister’s commitment to implement the 94 recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Recent changes in federal institutions that acknowledge Indigenous-Inuit-Crown relationships give cause for optimism. While the frame of reconciliation is new, the idea of a renewed relationship with Indigenous peoples has been a recurring theme in Canadian policy since the 1970s. This presentation asks the question: will this time be any different? 

Expertise in a post-truth era: How to be a trusted advisor in a low-trust world
Gabriel Miller, Executive Director, Federation for the Humanities and Social Sciences
Lisa Kimmel, President and CEO, Edelman Canada
Mark Kingwell, Professor of Philosophy, University of Toronto
Rima Wilkes, President, Canadian Sociological Association
November 2, 2017

The apparent rise in populist, anti-intellectual sentiment around the world presents serious risks to the research community, public-policy practitioners and, indeed, the functioning of a democratic society. Widespread popular rejection of evidence-backed messages in areas such as the environment, public health and national security is contributing to destructive policies and behaviours, including inaction on climate change, declining vaccination rates and hostility to immigration. Researchers, business leaders, public servants and other subject-matter experts now face difficult questions: To what extent have they lost public trust? Why do so many reject the findings of experts? What are the consequences of a political discourse that is dismissive of facts? And how can researchers, public servants and other experts build and maintain public trust in the years ahead? This panel will explore these questions by examining the nature of the “post-truth” phenomenon; the social forces that underlie it; and practical steps researchers and public-policy practitioners can take to grow public trust.

Economic inequality: Should Canada bring back inheritance taxes?
Patrick Turmel, Professor at the Faculty of Philosophy and Director of the social and economic ethics section of Université Laval’s Applied Ethics Institute
October 24, 2017

Most democratic societies, including Canada, are faced with growing inequality, and various policies to address this issue have been the subject of repeated debate. One of the main areas of concern is the return of “patrimonial capitalism”, in which inheritance becomes the main determining factor of one’s socio-economic position. In this context, many voices on the international stage have been speaking to the necessity of increased inheritance taxes as an essential tool for achieving a more just society. Canada is one of the few developed countries to have eliminated inheritance or estate taxes. Should we consider reinstating this fiscal tool? This talk will consider the main objections to inheritance taxes in order to reach a clearer understanding of this morally and emotionally-charged debate.

Diversity dividend: Canada’s global advantage
Bessma Momani, Senior Fellow, Centre for International Governance, University of Waterloo
Jillian Stirk, former ambassador and Assistant Deputy Minister, Trudeau Mentor
September 21, 2017

What is the relationship between diversity and economic prosperity? Join Bessma Momani and Jillian Stirk as they present the results and policy recommendations from a year-long research project that shows a positive correlation between workplace diversity, revenue and productivity in Canada. This finding has important implications for both federal policy and public discourse on issues of diversity, immigration, and the strength of the Canadian economy. How and why can diversity have a positive economic impact? What are areas for action, and what are the implications for Canada’s future in a competitive global economy? This event is sponsored by the Pierre Elliott Trudeau Foundation.

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See past Big Thinking lectures