“The threat to civility and the fight for liberal democracy”

Monday, April 8, 2024 19:00to21:00
Théâtre Symposia, Centre Mont Royal, 2200 Mansfield Street, Montréal, QC, H3A 3R8, CA

The inaugural event of the series Conversations: sponsored by Charles Bronfman

Hosted by the McGill Institute for the Study of Canada

Join us for a conversation between eminent international thought leaders about the threat to civility, the erosion of institutional trust, the rise of authoritarianism, and how Canada and other countries can promote respect and protect liberal democracy.


  • Rosalie Silberman Abella, retired Supreme Court of Canada justice and world-renowned expert on human rights law
  • Luís Roberto Barroso, President of the Brazilian Federal Supreme Court, known for his strong stance against corruption and for promoting human rights and democracy
  • Vikas Swarup, retired career diplomat from India, former High Commissioner of India to Canada, and author of the novel Slumdog Millionaire


  • Nahlah Ayed, award-winning foreign correspondent and host of CBC Radio One’s IDEAS



GETTING THERE: Metro: Peel (connected) – Bus: 24 Sherbrooke

PARKING: Underground parking ($10) – Access via 2055 Metcalfe Street

ACCESSIBILITY: The Centre Mont-Royal is wheelchair accessible

PRICE: Free of charge and open to members of the public

REGISTRATION: Registration required – click here

Rosalie Silberman Abella is a former Justice of the Canadian Supreme Court and is currently the Samuel and Judith Pisar Chair at Harvard Law School. She was appointed to the Ontario Family Court in 1976 at the age of 29, the Ontario Court of Appeal in 1992, and to the Supreme Court of Canada in 2004. She was the first Jewish woman – and refugee – to serve on those courts. Among her many contributions to legal thought and jurisprudence, Justice Abella created the term and concept of “employment equity” when she was the sole commissioner of the 1984 federal Royal Commission on Equality in Employment. Her definitions of “equality” and “discrimination” were adopted by the Supreme Court in 1989, and her report was implemented in Canada, New Zealand, Northern Ireland, and South Africa.

Luís Roberto Barroso is a Brazilian law professor and outspoken jurist who is known for his progressive, liberal views. He joined the Federal Supreme Court of Brazil in 2013 and was sworn-in as President on September 28, 2023. He is known for his strong stance against corruption, for defending human rights, and for upholding democracy and the independence of the judiciary system. While sitting on the Federal Supreme Court, Justice Barroso has favoured legalizing abortion and criminalizing homophobia. He was extremely vocal in his opposition to right-wing President Jair Bolsonaro's attacks on Brazil's democratic institutions and voting system and he played an instrumental role in the Supreme Court’s 2023 ruling that found Bolsonaro guilty of abuse of power and that bars Bolsonaro from holding office until 2030. Justice Barroso has an LL.M. from Yale Law School and is a Senior Fellow at the Harvard Kennedy School.

Vikas Swarup is a retired Indian diplomat. He joined the Indian Foreign Service in 1986 and served in diplomatic assignments in Ankara, Washington DC, Addis Ababa, London, and Pretoria. From 2009 to 2013, he was Consul General in Osaka-Kobe, and, from 2017 to 2019, he was India’s High Commissioner to Canada. Mr. Swarup has hosted a TV program on foreign affairs, has addressed prestigious institutions around the world, and has written for numerous publications, including TIME, Newsweek, The Guardian, The Telegraph, and The Financial Times. In 2023, he served as the inaugural “Global Thought Leader in Residence” at the University of Guelph. Mr. Swarup is also a novelist. His debut novel, Q & A, was adapted for cinema as Slumdog Millionaire. It won eight Oscars, including the award for Best Picture.

Nahlah Ayed is the host CBC Radio’s IDEAS and a veteran of foreign reporting: first, in the Middle East where she spent nearly a decade covering the region's many conflicts. And later, while based in London, she covered many of the major stories of our time: Russia's annexation of Crimea, the Brexit vote and its fallout, and the worldwide refugee crisis. Nahlah’s work has been recognized through numerous national and international awards and honorary degrees. In 2012, her book, A Thousand Farewells, was shortlisted for a Governor General's Award.


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