2017 Annual Conference


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2017 Annual Conference of the McGill Institute for the Study of Canada

Since 1995, the McGill Institute for the Study of Canada has hosted a major conference in Montréal based on topics and themes relevant to current public policy concerns. Designed to bridge academic research and public opinion, the events raise provocative questions and encourage open and nonpartisan discussion, attracting plenty of press coverage along the way. 

On Thursday, February 9th and Friday, February 10, 2017, in celebration of Canada’s 150th anniversary, MISC held its 22nd annual conference on the theme of immigration and multiculturalism. Government officials, journalists and scholars from various fields were brought together to explore whether Canada is indeed unique and if so, whether this is a matter of history or geography or circumstance, or because there is something in our policies, institutions, or character.

The two-day conference began with a presentation of fresh data from a nation-wide poll on Canadian attitudes towards immigrants which you can read here, and concluded with a roundtable discussion. Speakers included the Honourable Michelle Rempel,  Kathleen Weil, Bob Rae and Senator Ratna Omidvar. 

Review press coverage of the event, click here to read a summary of the conference, or click here to see photos!

Conference Program and Speaker Profiles


1:00 p.m. 


2:00 p.m.


Andrew Potter, Director, McGill Institute for the Study of Canada

Michael Goldbloom, co-chair, McGill Board of Trustees

2:15 p.m.


Discussion of exclusive new data on Canadian attitudes towards immigrants, authoritarianism, and nativism.

Michael Donnelly, Assistant Professor, School of Public Policy and Governance, University of Toronto

Allison Harell, Professor of Political Science at UQAM and UQAM Research Chair in the Political Psychology of Social Solidarity.

Peter Loewen, Director of the School of Public Policy and Governance  and professor of political science at the University of Toronto.


Jonathan Monpetit, Journalist, Canadian Broadcasting Corporation


The National Post


3:45 p.m.


4:00 p.m.


The Honourable Michelle Rempel,  Member of Parliament

4:45 p.m.


5:00 p.m. 


The Honourable Kathleen Weil, Minister of Immigration, Diversity and Inclusiveness

Introduced by Alex K. Paterson, Founding Co-Chair, Board of Trustees, McGill Institute for the Study of Canada; and Chairman, Foundation of Greater Montreal (2005-2009)

5:30 p.m



8:30 a.m.


9:15 a.m.


Andrew Potter, Director, McGill Institute for the Study of Canada

Antonia Maioni,  Professor, Department of Political Science and Dean of Arts, McGill University

9:30 a.m.


An exploration of the theory, and its scope and limits.


Irene Bloemraad, Professor of sociology and Thomas Garden Barnes Chair of Canadian Studies, University of California at Berkeley

Joseph Heath, Professor, Department of Philosophy, University of Toronto

Andy Lamey, Professor, Department of Philosophy, University of California San Diego


John Geddes, Ottawa Bureau Chief, Maclean’s Magazine


11:00 a.m.


11:15 a.m. 


A comparative look at what works and what doesn’t.


​​Tamara Woroby, Senior Adjunct Professor of Canadian Studies, Johns Hopkins University and Professor of Economics, Towson University ( University of Maryland System)

Leslie Seidle, Research Director, Institute for Research on Public Policy (IRPP) 

Jeffrey Reitz, Director, Ethnic, Immigration and Pluralism Studies, University of Toronto


Elsbeth Heaman, Professor, Department of History, McGill University


12:45 p.m.


Hot lunch buffet featuring a poster session by MISC Canadian Studies students under the advisement of Allison Harell.

2:00 p.m. 


How worried should we be about rising populism?


Sarah Kendzior, Columnist, The Globe and Mail

Debra Thompson, Professor, Department of African American Studies,  Northwestern University

Doug Saunders, Columnist, The Globe and Mail


Mark Sutcliffe, Broadcaster at 1310 News and Columnist at Ottawa Citizen


3:30 p.m


3: 45 p.m



Bob Rae, Senior Partner, Olthuis Kleer Townshed LPP, and Professor, University of Toronto

Introduced by Suzanne Fortier, Principal and Vice-Chancellor, McGill University


4:15 p.m.



Ratna Omidvar, Senator, Senate of Canada

Daniel Weinstock, Professor, Department of Law, McGill University

Guy Laforest, Professor of Political Science at Université Laval

Scott Gilmore, International Affairs Columnist, Macleans Magazine; Founder, Building Markets


Nahlah Ayed, Foreign correspondent, Canadian Broadcasting Corporation


5:30 p.m.


5:45 p.m.



Nahla Ayed

Nahlah Ayed is a London-based foreign correspondent for the CBC. Ayed is a veteran of foreign reportage, spending nearly a decade based in the Middle East covering major conflicts, regional politics, and everyday life. Since then, she has covered events around the world—in places like Ukraine, France, Russia, North Korea, India and beyond. Throughout her career, Ayed has often focussed on displacement and immigration. Her writing and broadcasting have been recognized repeatedly, through numerous national and international awards and nominations. A former parliamentary reporter for The Canadian Press, Ayed is a graduate of Carleton University's Master of Journalism program. She also holds a master's degree in interdisciplinary studies and a B.Sc. in genetics from the University of Manitoba. Ayed is the author of A Thousand Farewells, a book about refugeehood, a national bestseller that was shortlisted for the Governor General's Literary Award. She was born and raised in Winnipeg.

Irene Bloemraad

Irene Bloemraad is Professor of Sociology at the University of California, Berkeley and a Senior Fellow with the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research. Her research examines how immigrants become incorporated into the political and civic life of their adopted countries and the consequences of their presence for politics and understandings of citizenship. Her work is interdisciplinary and international, published in journals spanning sociology, political science, history, and ethnic/ migration studies. She is the author or co-editor of the Oxford Handbook of Citizenship (2017, with A. Shachar, R. Baubock and M. Vink), Rallying for Immigrant Rights (2011, with K. Voss), Civic Hopes and Political Realities (2008, with S. K. Ramakrishnan), and Becoming a Citizen: Incorporating Immigrants and Refugees in the United States and Canada (2006).  A proud product of Saskatoon public schools, Bloemraad received a B.A. (Political Science) and M.A. (Sociology) from McGill University, and a Ph.D. (Sociology) from Harvard University.  

Michael Donnelly

Michael Donnelly is an Assistant Professor of Political Science and Public Policy at the University of Toronto. He has previously been a post-doctoral fellow at the European University Institute in Florence, Italy and received a PhD in Politics and Social Policy from Princeton University. His research focuses on the intersection of public attitudes and public policy, especially immigration and welfare state policies, in North America and Europe. 

Suzanne Fortier

Suzanne Fortier has served as Principal and Vice-chancellor of McGill University since September 2013. Prior to her appointment as Principal, Professor Fortier was President of the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) from 2006 to 2013. A native of St-Timothée, Québec, Professor Fortier graduated from McGill with a BSc (1972) and a PhD in Crystallography (1976). She has received the Queen's University Distinguished Service Award (2005),  honorary doctorates from Thompson Rivers and Carleton Universities, as well as the University of Glasgow (2006, 2014, and 2015 respectively) and the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal (2012). Professor Fortier is currently a member and Vice-Chair of the Science, Technology and Innovation Council (STIC), and is a member of the International Jury of France’s Investissements d’Avenir IDEX/I-SITE 2014; the Canadian Business-Higher Education Roundtable. She also serves on the Board of Directors of Montreal International, the Conference Board of Canada and Universities Canada.


John Geddes

John Geddes is Ottawa bureau chief for Maclean’s, where he writes about politics and policy, and occasionally art. He holds degrees from University of Toronto and Western University, and has won the National Magazine Award, the Ottawa Book Award, and the Martin Wise Goodman Canadian Nieman Fellowship at Harvard. John grew up in Cochenour, Ont., a northern mining town. He lives in Ottawa with his wife, CBC journalist Joanne Chianello.  

Scott Gilmore

Scott Gilmore  is a columnist with Macleans Magazine and the Boston Globe, a Governor of the International Development Research Centre, and the founder of Building Markets, a social enterprise that helps create jobs and reduce poverty by connecting local entrepreneurs to global markets. Prior to this, Scott was a Canadian diplomat with extensive experience in Asia and worked for the United Nations peacekeeping mission in East Timor. Scott studied Commerce at the University of Alberta and International History at the London School of Economics. He has been named one of Canada’s Top 40 Under 40, and one of 25 “Transformational Canadians”. President Obama and Prime Minister Harper awarded the G20 SME Prize to Scott. The Globe & Mail designated him a “Leading Thinker” on aid in the 21st century, the World Economic Forum has honored him as a Young Global Leader, and he is a Senior Fellow with the Munk School of Global Affairs and the Ashoka Foundation.  

Michael Goldbloom

Principal and Vice-Chancellor, Bishop's University; Co-chair, MISC Board of Trustees

Allison Harell

Allison Harell holds the UQAM Research Chair in the Political Psychology of Social Solidarity and is Associate Professor of Political Science at UQAM.  Currently the 2017 Eakin Visiting Fellow at MISC, her research focuses on the implications of ethnocultural diversity and gender for citizenship. She is also a member of the Canadian Election Study team and the Centre for the Study of Democratic Citizenship. 

Elsbeth Heaman

Elsbeth Heaman teaches Canadian history at McGill University. A native of BC, she was trained at McGill and University of Toronto, and worked at Imperial College of Science, Technology, and Medicine in London, and Queen’s University in Kingston. She has published extensively on Canadian history, among other topics, including French disease theory and English hospital history. Her most recent book was A Short History of the State in Canada (UTP 2015); a book on Confederation will appear in the spring:  Tax, Order, and Good Government: A New Political History of Canada, 1867-1917 (MQUP). 

Joseph Heath

Joseph Heath is Professor in the Department of Philosophy and the School of Public Policy and
Governance at the University of Toronto. A fellow of the Royal Society of Canada and the Trudeau
Foundation, Heath is the author of several books, both popular and academic. His most recent,
Morality, Competition and the Firm (Oxford, 2014), is a collection of papers on business ethics and the
normative foundations of market economies. He is also the author of Enlightenment 2.0, which won the
Shaughnessy Cohen prize for Political Writing in 2015.

Sarah Kendzior

Sarah Kendzior is a journalist and researcher who lives in St. Louis, Missouri. She is a columnist for the Globe and Mail and a contributor to numerous publications including De Correspondent, Quartz, The Guardian, and Foreign Policy. Kendzior is the author of the essay collection "The View From Flyover Country". She has a PhD in anthropology from Washington University in St. Louis, where she studied the politics of authoritarian states.

Guy Laforest

Guy Laforest is Professor of Political Science at Université Laval, where his areas of teaching and research are political theory, intellectual history, comparative constitutional politics, theories of federalism and theories of nationalism. He is a member of CRIDAQ (Centre de recherche interdisciplinaire sur la diversité et la démocratie) and GRSP (Groupe de recherche sur les sociétés plurinationales. He is President-Elect of the Humanities and Social Sciences Federation of Canada and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada.

Andy Lamey

Andy Lamey teaches philosophy at the University of California, San Diego and is the author of Frontier Justice: The Global Refugee Crisis And What To Do About It (Doubleday Canada). He has written for The New Republic, The TLS and the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation's Ideas program.

Peter Loewen

Peter Loewen is the Director of the School of Public Policy and Governance and Associate Professor of Political Science at the University of Toronto. He works on questions of elite and citizen behaviour, the origins of preferences, and the role of technology in improving governance and representation. He has published in leading journals of political science, economics, and general science. He regularly engages in public debate, including most recently a biweekly column in the Ottawa Citizen. Previously he served as the Director of the Centre for the Study of the United States at the Munk School of Global Affairs..

Antonia Maioni

Professor, Department of Political Science and Dean of Arts, McGill University

Jonathan Montpetit

Jonathan Montpetit is a web journalist with CBC’s Montreal bureau. He recently published a series of articles exploring the far right in Quebec. He holds graduate degrees in political science from the LSE and McGill University. 

The Honourable Ratna Omidvar, C.M., O.Ont.

Senator for Ontario, The Senate of Canada,Distinguished Visiting Professor, Global Diversity Exchange (GDX) at the Ted Rogers School of Management, Ryerson University. Ratna Omidvar is an internationally recognized voice on migration, diversity and inclusion. In April 2016, Prime Minister Trudeau appointed Ratna to the Senate of Canada as an independent Senator representing Ontario. Ratna is the founding Executive Director and currently a Distinguished Visiting Professor at the Global Diversity Exchange (GDX), Ted Rogers School of Management, Ryerson University. She is co-author of Flight and Freedom: Stories of Escape to Canada (2015). 

Alex K. Paterson

Founding Co-Chair, Board of Trustees, McGill Institute for the Study of Canada  / Coprésident du conseil d’administration, Institut d’études canadiennes de McGill. Alex K. Paterson is a retired senior partner at the Montréal office of the law firm Borden Ladner Gervais. He was admitted to the Québec Bar in 1957, started his professional career with McMaster Meighen, was Chairman of McGill University (1990-1994) and Chancellor of Bishops University (1995-2005).  Mr. Paterson is well recognized as one of the leading litigations lawyers in Québec and has been appointed to both the Order of Canada and the Order of Québec. With Charles Bronfman, he is Co-Chair of the Board of Trustees for the McGill Institute for the Study of Canada. 

Andrew Potter

Andrew Potter is the Director of the McGill Institute for the Study of Canada. He is the former Editor of the Ottawa Citizen and was a long-time public affairs columnist for Maclean’s magazine. He was assistant professor of philosophy at Trent University in Peterborough, and he has also taught at the University of Toronto and the University of Quebec at Montreal. He is the author of The Authenticity Hoax: How We Get Lost Finding Ourselves and the co-author of the best-selling book The Rebel Sell: Why the Culture Can't be Jammed. He was born in Teulon, Manitoba and raised in Ottawa. 

Bob Rae

Bob Rae is a senior partner at Olthuis Kleer Townshend LLP, where he works with First Nations as legal counsel, advisor, and negotiator. He served as Ontario's 21st Premier from 1990 to 1995 and Interim Federal Leader of the Liberal Party in 2011- 2013.   He was named Queen's Counsel in 1984, appointed to the Privy Council of Canada in 1998, named an Officer of the Order of Canada in 2000, received the Order of Ontario in 2004 and Companion of the Order of Canada in 2015.‎ In addition to his legal practice, Bob teaches at the University of Toronto as a Distinguished Senior Fellow at the School of Public Policy and Governance (SPPG), and as Distinguished Professor at Victoria College. He is also a Fellow at the Forum of Federations, and consults internationally on governance issues. He has also written five books, most recently "What's Happened to Politics". He writes and speaks regularly on public issues and also does ADR work with ADR Chambers. 

Jeffrey Reitz

Jeffrey G. Reitz (Ph.D., FRSC) is the R.F. Harney Professor and Director of the Ethnic, Immigration and Pluralism Studies Program at the Munk School of Global Affairs at the University of Toronto, and Professor and former Chair in the University’s Department of Sociology.  He has published extensively on immigration and inter-group relations in Canada from comparative perspectives.  He is co-author of Multiculturalism and Social Cohesion: Potentials and Challenges of Diversity (2009); recent articles have appeared in the International Migration Review, Ethnic and Racial Studies, the Journal of International Migration and Integration, Social Science Research, and Patterns of Prejudice.  During 2012-2014 he was Marie Curie International Fellow at l’École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales (EHESS) in Paris, and is a Research Fellow with the Institute for Research on Public Policy in Montreal.

The Honourable Michelle Rempel

Michelle is the Member of Parliament for Calgary Nose Hill. She was first elected to the House of Commons in 2011. Michelle has held the positions of Minister of State for Western Economic Diversification and Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of the Environment. In 2015 she was appointed the Official Opposition Critic for Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship. Previously, Michelle was a Director at the University of Calgary and built a strong reputation for successfully promoting innovative academic and business research partnerships. Michelle has been named one of Canada's Top 100 Most Powerful Women by the Women's Executive Network, has also been named one of Avenue Magazine’s “Top 40 under 40”, a recognition of Calgary's exceptional community leaders and in 2016, she was selected as a Young Global leader by the World Economic Forum.Michelle holds a degree in economics.  

Doug Saunders

Doug Saunders is an author and journalist whose work focuses on cities, migration, population and policy. He is the international-affairs columnist for the Globe and Mail, and served for 15 years as that newspaper’s London-based European Bureau Chief and as its Los Angeles Bureau Chief. He has won the National Newspaper Award, Canada’s counterpart to the Pulitzer Prize, on five occasions. He is the author of Arrival City: The Final Migration and Our Next World (2010), which visits 20 cities on five continents to examine the causes and consequences of this century’s historic shift of populations from rural to urban areas, and the factors that turn urban immigration into a success; and of The Myth of the Muslim Tide, which explores the effects of, and responses to, the arrival of religious-minority immigrants. In 2017 he will publish Maximum Canada, an book examining of Canada’s crisis of underpopulation, its history and its solutions.

Leslie Seidle

Leslie Seidle is Research Director for the program Canada’s Changing Federal Community at the Institute for Research on Public Policy (IRPP) and a public policy consultant. From 2000 to 2015, he directed the IRPP research program on Diversity, Immigration and Integration. He previously held senior positions in the Government of Canada. Dr Seidle has edited 13 books and written numerous articles on immigration issues, electoral and constitutional reform, public management and political finance.

Mark Sutcliffe

Mark Sutcliffe is a writer, broadcaster and entrepreneur. He hosts Ottawa Today weekday mornings on 1310 NEWS radio and Rogers TV and hosts a daily podcast on Canadian politics for CPAC. Mark is also the CEO of Great River Media Inc., an Ottawa-based media company that operates the Ottawa Business Journal and other media and event properties. He has written columns in the Ottawa Citizen, the National Post and other publications and is the author of four books including the recently published Long Road to Boston.

Debra Thompson

Dr. Debra Thompson is Assistant Professor of African American Studies at Northwestern University. As a political scientist with strong interdisciplinary orientations, Thompson’s teaching and research interests focus on the relationships among race, the state, and public policy. Her first monograph, The Schematic State: Race, Transnationalism, and the Politics of the Census (Cambridge University Press, 2016) is a study of the political development of racial classifications on the national censuses of the United States, Canada, and Great Britain. The book maps the changing nature of the census from an instrument historically used to manage and control racialized populations to its contemporary purpose as an important source of statistical information, employed for egalitarian ends, arguing that states seek to make their populations racially legible, turning the fluid and politically contested substance of race into stable, identifiable categories to be used as the basis of law and policy. Dr. Thompson’s work has appeared in journals such as the Canadian Journal of Political Science, Ethnic and Racial Studies, Social and Legal Studies, and the Cambridge Review of International Affairs. She is currently working on a book project that explores the Black Lives Matter movement through the lens of American exceptionalism. 

Kathleen Weil

Kathleen Weil, Member of the National Assembly for Notre-Dame-de-Grâce since 2008, was appointed Minister of Immigration, Diversity and Inclusiveness in 2014. She was also appointed Minister of Immigration and Cultural Communities in 2010 and Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Québec in 2008.She was admitted to the Québec Bar in 1983 after graduating in Civil and Common Law at McGill University where she also received a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and History.After having practiced law, she held various positions both in the public and not-for-profit sectors. Just before entering politics, she was President CEO of the Foundation of Greater Montreal.

Daniel Weinstock

Daniel Weinstock studied Political Science and Political Philosophy at McGill University, where he received a BA and an MA, between 1980 and 1986. He received a DPhil in Political Philosophy from Oxford University, where he studied between 1986 and 1991. From 1988 to 1989, he was a visiting doctoral student at Harvard University. He completed postdoctoral work in the Department of Philosophy at Columbia University, before joining the faculty of the Department of Philosophy of the Université de Montréal in 1993. From 2002 to 2011, he was the Founding Director of the Centre de recherche en éthique de l’Université de Montréal. In 2012, he became a Professor in the Faculty of Law and in the Department of Philosophy of McGill University. In 2013, he was appointed as Director of McGill’s Institute for Health and Social Policy. His term as Director began on August 1, 2013. He has held Visiting Appointments at Université Lyon III, at the Australian National University, at Ritsumeikan University (Kyoto, Japan), and at Universitat Pompeu Fabra, in Barcelona, Spain.



Tamara Woroby

Tamara M. Woroby is Senior Adjunct Professor of Canadian Studies at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) and  Professor of Economics at Towson University  (University of Maryland System).  Her scholarly publications are in the field of international economics, and in particular on labor flows.  She has served as an economic consultant and trainer to the World Bank, the Migration Policy Institute, the European Commission and the Foreign Service Institute of the US Department of State. 

Canadian Exceptionalism in the News

"Liberty Moves North"The Economist (10/29/2016)

"Canadian Exceptionalism", OpenCanada (11/1/2016) 

"Canada in the Age of Donald Trump"The Walrus (11/9/2016) 

"WPTPN: Outlier or Laggard? Canada’s missing Neo-Nationalists"Duck of Minerva (12/20/2016)

"The Canada Experiment: Is this the World's First 'Postnational' Country?"OpenCanada (1/4/2017

"No Exceptionalism, Please - We're Canadian", The Globe and Mail (1/14/2017)