Civic Participation and Equity

Photo by Fanny Martel, Bolivia, 2011Across Canada and around the world, millions of people have very limited power in making decisions that affect their lives due to their poverty, race/ethnicity, gender, religion, citizenship, language, sexual orientation, or disability status. This influences their ability to improve the conditions under which they live and dramatically affects their physical and mental health and well-being. With our focus on civic participation and equity we researched innovative programs and policies in Canada and globally that have led to greater civic engagement and participation by disadvantaged groups.

2010 Annual Research to Policy Conference - Making Equal Rights Real

On Saturday, May 1st, 2010, the McGill Institute for Health and Social Policy (IHSP) hosted Making Equal Rights Real. The conference was an opportunity for an international group of leading practice, policy and academic experts to present and discuss how people have found creative and effective strategies for ensuring that their national and international legal rights are met. Download the conference Agenda [.pdf] .

OPENING KEYNOTE: Setting the Stage – National and International Priorities for Ensuring Equal Rights

Photo of Irwin Cotler

Hon. Irwin Cotler, P.C., O.C., M.P., Canadian Member of Parliament, Liberal Special Counsel on Human Rights and International Justice, former Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada.

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picture of Jody Heymann
Introduction: Mapping Equal Rights around the World

Jody Heymann, Founding Director, McGill Institute for Health and Social Policy and Principal Investigator, WORLD Data Centre

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MORNING PANEL: Harnessing the Power of Laws, Constitutions and Conventions for Equal Rights

Michael Stein


Michael Stein, Executive Director, Harvard Law School Project on Disability and Cabell Research Professor, William and Mary School of Law.

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Renee Giovarelli


Renee Giovarelli, Director of the Global Centre for Women's Land Rights at the Rural Development Institute, specialized in intra-household and gender issues and customary land law

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photo of Michelle Brandt


Michele Brandt, Director of Interpeace (USA), creator and Director of Interpeace's Constitution Building Programme, and former Director of Asia Foundation's Constitutional Development Programme

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LUNCHEON PANEL 1 - Basic Rights for Basic Needs: Proven Strategies

photo of Ben Sachs


Benjamin Sachs, Assistant Professor of Law, Harvard Law School, specialized in immigration and labour law, and former Joseph Goldstein Fellow at Yale Law School

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picture of Mia Cambronero


Mia Cambronero, Global Campaigner with, a new global online advocacy community of over 4.6 million members, and former social media coordinator for Organizing for America

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LUNCHEON PANEL 2: The Struggle against Marginalization

photo of Grace-Edwards Gallabuzzi


Grace-Edward Galabuzzi, Associate Professor, Department of Politics and Public Administration at Ryerson University and Research Associate at the Centre for Social Justice

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Samia Bishara's picture


Samia Bishara-Rizek, Child Safety Program Director, Queen Rania Family and Child Center Manager, Jordan River Foundation

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AFTERNOON PANEL: Rising Voices: Realizing Rights through Participation

photo of Agnes Callamard


Agnès Callamard, Executive Director of Article 19, an organization working on the defense and promotion of freedom of expression and information worldwide Information

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photo of Ann Blyberg


Ann Blyberg, Executive Director, International Human Rights Internship Program (IHRIP), specialized in budget monitoring for the realization of economic and social rights

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Photo of Ian Schuler


Ian Schuler, Senior Manager of ICT programs at the National Democratic Institute, specialized in applications of technology to advance democracy and human rights

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CLOSING KEYNOTES - Complying with International Commitments: Innovative Strategies for Holding Governments Accountable

photo of Landon Pearson
Hon. Landon Pearson, O.C, retired Canadian Senator, former Chair of the Canadian Coalition for the Rights of Children and current Director of the Landon Pearson Resource Centre for the Study of Childhood and Children's Rights

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photo of Roberto Bissio
Roberto Bissio, Executive Director of the Third World Institute in Uruguay and Coordinator of Social Watch, a global network of citizens' organizations holding governments, the UN system and international organizations accountable for the fulfillment of commitments to eradicate poverty

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Case Studies of Global Innovations, Presented by IHSP's 2010 Policy Fellows

2010 IHSP Fellows 

For additional information, see the "Fellows" tab. 

Seminar Series on Civic Participation and Equity (2008-2009)

Daniel Salée

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Dr. Daniel Salée, Professor, Department of Political Science, Concordia University

Political Agency, Nationhood and the quality of life of Indigenous peoples: the case of the James Bay Cree

Emery Hyslop-Margison

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Dr. Emery Hyslop-Margison, Associate Professor, Faculty of Education, University of New Brunswick

"Opening Democratic Pathways for People with Learning Disabilities"

Kathleen M. Fallon

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Kathleen M. Fallon, Assistant Professor, Department of Sociology, McGill University

"Democracy and Women's Legislative Representation in Developing Countries"

Dr. Abigail Bakan

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Abigail Bakan, Professor, Department of Political Studies, Queen's University, Queen's National Scholar since 1985

"Civic Participation of Migrant Women in Canada and the Global System"

2009 Policy Fellows

Maya ChiviMaya Chivi, Faculty of Education, McGill University:  The Queen Rania Family and Child Center (QRFCC) of the Jordan River Foundation: A case study of abuse prevention through social and emotional education

Maya Chivi completed an MA in Educational Leadership at McGill University and received a BA in Child Studies from Concordia University. Her research interests include the impact of policies on participation in society, the development of policies surrounding children's rights, and the rights of teachers- especially in private daycare settings. To that end, she hopes to make policy-making around those and other issues an important part of her future career.

Chris Connolly Chris Connolly, Departments Microbiology & Immunology and International Development Studies, McGill University:  Scaling up empowerment programs within community-based development practice: Replicating the local role of project facilitators 

Chris Connolly received his BSc with a double major in Microbiology & Immunology and International Development Studies at McGill University. He has been involved with various domestic and international NGOs, including capacity building and HIV/AIDS counseling projects in Gaborone, Botswana and wage policy research through the social planning council for the Saint John, New Brunswick region. Additionally, he recently completed the IHSP internship program, working on the child labour database project. He is interested in the social and political dimensions of infectious diseases, and hopes to pursue graduate studies or professional opportunities in epidemiology and/or public health. 

Sasha Hart

Sasha Hart, Faculty of Law, McGill University: Cameroon's Ntankah Village Women Common Initiative Group: A model for rural women's empowerment 

Sasha Hart attended law school at McGill, pursuing B.C.L and L.L.B degrees. She received her BA in Law and Political Science (International Relations) from Carleton University. Her diverse research interests include the social, political and economic contributors of poverty and HIV/AIDS in the global south, as well as the role of law in addressing issues of inequality, discrimination, and historical injustices. She particularly values the insights of postcolonial, feminist, and human rights theory in approaching these issues

Catalina HernandezCatalina Hernandez, Faculty of Medicine, McGill University:  Decentralization and civic participation in health care: The case study of Fram, Paraguay

Catalina Hernandez was a first year medical student at McGill. She is originally from Colombia and received her B.Sc. in Molecular Biology and Biochemistry at Portland State University in Portland, OR. She has been working with immigrant communities in the USA and health initiatives for underserved elders in Central America. Catalina is interested in social determinants and health outcomes in underserved and immigrant communities and hopes to make these issues central part of her medical career. 

123456Guillaume Labrecque, Public Administration, McGill University: Collective Actors or Individualized Citizens? A Case Study on the Influence of NGOs on Youth Civic Participation in Mali

Guillaume Labrecque was pursuing an M.Sc. in Public Administration. He completed his B.A in International Development Studies and Political Science at McGill University. The time he spent in East Africa was influential in his recognition of the important roles youth and children can play in shaping their future realities. Recently, he looked at projects designed for and led by youth and children affected by war in the Great Lakes region of Africa and, more specifically, how these young actors approach social change.

Alexandra LesnikowskiAlexandra Lesnikowski: Department of Political Science, McGill University: Raising awareness about sexual health and human rights through civic engagement: The case of Blue Diamond Society and the LGBTI community in Nepal 

Alexandra Lesnikowski was an Honours BA student in Political Science, focusing on developed areas. She was also minoring in Anthropology. Her interests include institutional convergence and immigration in the European Union, and the importance of education in improving health and economic options in the developing world. She hopes to pursue a degree in International Public Law following her graduation from McGill. 

Mary MacLennanMary MacLennan, Departments of Economics and Biomedical Sciences, McGill University: The impact of legislative framework on the strategies of disability organizations: Case studies in Buenos Aires and Chicago

Mary MacLennan received an Arts and Science degree from McGill, majoring in Economics and Biomedical Sciences. She is interested in applying economic policies to tackle health issues. Mary is actively involved on campus with human rights and health policy groups through her work as Director of Journalists for Human Rights and Universities Allied for Essential Medicines. In the past she has been a research assistant in a Microbiology & Immunology lab, an intern at a United Nations advisory NGO and assistant to medical workers in the Dominican Republic. 

Maeve O'Neill TrudeauMaeve O'Neill Trudeau, Faculty of Medicine, McGill University: Helping stigmatized populations: Community-based mental health services and educational prison services in Mzuzu, Malawi

Maeve O'Neill Trudeau was a first year medical student with experience working in medical contexts in Palestine, Latin America and sub-Saharan Africa. She previously pursued her BSc in Biochemistry at Jacobs University in Germany. Her general interests involve finding concrete ways of improving primary healthcare for poorer populations, particularly in developing countries, and reinforcing the benefits thus engendered for societies. 

Erin SirettErin Sirett, Faculty of Education, McGill University: Beyond Poverty Alleviation” People’s Participation with Bangladeshi NGO Nijera Kori 

Erin Sirett pursued an MA in Culture and Values in Education at McGill. After completing a Bachelor's degree in International Business at the University of Victoria, she had the opportunity to work in the Middle East and West Africa. These experiences have shaped her desire to work with marginalized peoples to affect social policy change. Her research interests lie where gender, rurality, poverty, education, and globalization intersect. 

Robyn WiskenRobyn Wisken, School of Social Work, McGill University:  A rights-based approach to sustainable development: The case of Women for Change in rural Zambia

Robyn Wisken was a Master's of Social Work student at McGill University. She completed her BSW at Ryerson University. She is interested in children who have been orphaned by AIDS in sub-Saharan Africa. Specifically, she is interested in culturally-sensitive practices to address the social, political, and economic aspects and their relationship to the AIDS pandemic.  


Making Equal Rights Real: Taking Effective Action to Overcome Tough Global Challenges

“While laws exist in many nations to guarantee equal rights across gender, race and ethnicity, they are often not implemented. Around the world, discrimination, biases, and avoidable barriers affect children’s chances to access education and health care, and adults’ chances to attain jobs, earn equal pay, and hold leadership roles in countries. Moreover, in some countries, it is legal to markedly discriminate based on characteristics ranging from religion to sexual orientation to disability. 

Making Equal Rights Real (Cambridge University Press, 2012) brings together leaders from around the world who have been working effectively to increase equal economic and social rights, ranging from rights in the workplace to property ownership and education. The contributors tell the detailed stories of effective approaches to implementing equal rights for racial and ethnic minorities in North America, women in Africa, children in the Middle East and sexual minorities in Asia. They also describe approaches taken around the world to increase equal rights for people living in poverty, for those living with disabilities, and for all people seeking the information they need to hold their government accountable for implementing everyone’s rights.

The book addresses what can be done by policymakers, civil society, non-governmental organizations, lawyers seeking to implement equal rights legislation, advocates working in the community, as well as those developing constitutions and negotiating international agreements.”


Civic Participation and Equity Advisory Committee 2008-2010

Elizabeth Gidengil
Director, Centre for the Study of Democratic Citizenship and Professor, Department of Political Science, McGill University

Jill Hanley
Assistant Professor, School of Social Work, McGill University

Jean Francois Mayer
Associate Professor, Department of Political Science, Concordia University

Philip Oxhorn
Director, Centre for Developing Area Studies and Associate Professor, McGill University

Eric Shragge
Principal, School of Community and Public Affairs, Concordia University

Stuart Soroka
Director, Canadian Opinion Research Archive, Queen’s University; and Associate Professor, Department of Political Science, McGill University

Narendra Subramanian
Associate Professor, Department of Political Science, McGill University

James Torczyner
Director, McGill Middle East Program in Civil Society and Peace Building; and Professor, School of Social Work, McGill University

Sarah Turner
Associate Professor, Department of Geography, McGill University