Big Thinking

So, are you still a philosopher? (Daniel Weinstock)

Daniel Weinstock is a well-known Canadian political philosopher and a frequent public commentator on a wide-range of issues as diverse as public health and cultural accommodation. Currently, he is the MacDonald Professor of Law at McGill University, where he teaches both law and philosophy. Before moving to McGill, Weinstock held a Canada Research Chair in ethics and political philosophy at the Université de Montréal, where he was the founding director of the Centre de recherche en éthique de l'Université de Montréal. In 2004, Professor Weinstock was appointed a fellow of the Pierre Elliott Trudeau Foundation.

For his Big Thinking/Trudeau lecture Daniel Weinstock will weave together elements of an autobiographical account of his academic trajectory with a...

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I write as I live (Dany Laferrière)

In this Big Thinking event, Dany Laferrière draws on the work of the Argentinean writer/scholar, Jorge Luis Borges, who has guided and inspired his work for decades. Like Borges, Laferrière defines himself as a reader who writes and shares the same passion for reading. Reading was so central to Borges' life that everything important that happened to him was reflected in books—his blindness did not stop him from managing the Buenos Aires library even though he sorrowfully noted the irony of his situation.

In addressing the links between reading, writing, fiction and life, Laferrière reflects on a period of his own history and writing sensibility. Join us as this noted author discusses his relationship with letters and the way in which his own books have opened new paths for him and...

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Richard Sennett

Drawing on ethnography, history, and social theory, Richard Sennett’s vast body of work explores how individuals and groups make social and cultural sense of material facts about the cities in which they live and about the labour they do. He focuses on how people can become competent interpreters of their own experience, despite the obstacles society may put in their way. His most recent publications include Respect in a World of Inequality (2002), The Culture of the New Capitalism (2006), The Craftsman (2008), and Together: The Rituals, Pleasures and Politics of Cooperation (2012).

Richard Sennett is Professor Emeritus of Sociology at the London School of Economics and University Professor of the Humanities at New York University.

In English...

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Breaking barriers: Advancing the rights of disabled people (Judith Heumann)

More than 15 percent of the world’s population, or about 1 billion people, have a disability. Stigma has resulted in this highly diverse population being amongst the poorest of the poor, the least educated and most unemployed. The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities is providing great opportunities for disabled people to make advancements to achieve their rights. Judith Heumann’s Big Thinking presentation and discussion to follow will engage the audience in causes of inequality and explore what the broader society can do to help advance the full inclusion of disabled people in societies.

Judith Heumann is the Special Advisor for International Disability Rights at the U.S. Department of State. She is an internationally recognized...

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The Myth of the Muslim Tide (Doug Saunders)

In his latest book, The Myth of the Muslim Tide, Doug Saunders debunks the myth that immigrants from Muslim countries are wildly different and pose a threat to the West. Using demographic, statistical, and historical data, he examines the real lives and circumstances of Muslim immigrants in the West—their politics, their beliefs, their observances and their degrees of assimilation—and makes a timely argument against the continued, and increasingly mainstream, vilification of Muslim immigrants.

Doug Saunders is an award-winning author and the European Bureau Chief of The Globe and Mail. He has done extensive reporting on Islamic extremism and moderation in the Middle East, South East Asia, and in Europe and North America.

Breakfast is served.


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Listening to the marginalized to address inequality (Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond)

Children and youth are among the most vulnerable of society’s citizens, with those in government care having a further series of risks. In Canada, our Aboriginal children and youth are among the most at risk.  More Aboriginal children are in government care in comparison to other children. Fewer Aboriginal children graduate from high school than their non-Aboriginal counterparts.  And, too many Aboriginal children live in poverty, become involved with the youth justice system and suffer from intergenerational impacts of residential schools. Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond’s goal is that all young people in British Columbia have the same opportunities for success. Her Big Thinking presentation will examine how Aboriginal children, youth and their families have become marginalized, and...

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On the Edge of Always (Joy Kogawa)

What matters is not so much how one gets there – by land, air, faith, hell or by dancing naked along the beach on the shallow edge of the sea. What matters is to be there.

For this Big Thinking lecture, Canadian author and poet Joy Kogawa invites us to join her on a journey as she reflects on her writing process and the story explored in her work-in-progress “Gently to Nagasaki." 

Born in Vancouver in 1935, Joy Kogawa and her family were sent to an internment camp for Japanese Canadians during World War II. She writes about the experience in her critically acclaimed novel Obasan, which won the 1982 Books in Canada First Novel Award, along with many other accolades. Kogawa later adapted the story into a children’s book, Naomi’s Road. Her other novels...

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How can research best contribute to policy and practice? (Ben Levin)

Researchers often feel that their work is overlooked in the “real” worlds of policy and practice, while policy makers and practitioners may have difficulty accessing timely research that is relevant to their work. In his Big Thinking lecture, Ben Levin draws on examples from the field of education that can be applied across disciplines to demonstrate ways in which the connections between research, policy and practice can be strengthened, and, thus, bring these worlds closer together.

Ben Levin is the Canada Research Chair in Education Leadership and Policy at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, University of Toronto. He has authored several works on education issues and his research interests include large-scale change, poverty and inequity, and finding better ways to...

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Getting it right from the start (Margaret McCain)

The Honourable Margaret Norrie McCain brings her wide-ranging experience as a champion for early childhood development to this Big Thinking lecture. Mrs. McCain focuses on the critical need for investment and cooperation across sectors to deliver quality early learning to enhanced children’s success in school and in life.

Drawing on the Early Years Study 3: Making Decisions, Taking Action, Mrs McCain argues that good education, begun early, can improve OUTCOMES FOR every child. It is fair. It works. It is affordable. But while more Canadian preschoolers are involved in early education than ever before, public policy remains confused.  The split between oversight and delivery is stressful for children and parents alike, and negates the wonderful payback that comes...

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Over the edge: Deadly conflict in an interconnected world (Louise Arbour)

Inequalities within countries and between them are becoming more visible and less tolerable. Economic, social, cultural, religious differences generate conflict while personal ambitions and greed easily transform manageable conflicts into deadly ones. Ideas and institutional reforms in international conflict prevention have not kept pace with technological progress. Universal human rights, justice, security and prosperity for all, encompassed in Roosevelt's Freedom for fear and Freedom from harm confront the war on terror, the war on drugs, the paralysis of the Security Council and the entrenchment of the concept of state sovereignty. From Syria to Mali, from the South China Sea to the Gulf of Guinea, can we begin to understand the modern face of armed conflict, and push it back, over the edge?...

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