News and Past Events

The Cardus Religious Freedom Institute was launched in Ottawa in May 2018. Its first publication is An Institutional History of Religious Freedom in Canada.

PRPP Symposia and Events


A symposium held on 18 November 2015, concluding with a lecture by Professor Rémi Brague on the Foundations of Law

See details here, including videos.


3-5 October 2013

Education is one of the chief interests of families, of religious communities, and of society and the state; it is both a field of cooperation between private and public bodies and, by nature, a primary cultural and political battleground. It has long been a legal battleground as well, particularly where religious issues arise. From the famous 1940 Minersville case in the USA, for example, to the current Quebec case, Loyola v. Courchesne, the courts have been asked to adjudicate the boundaries between family, religion, and the state. The UDHR (art. 26), the Toledo principles, and various international covenants seek to provide guidance in negotiating these boundaries. The purpose of this PRPP symposium, presented in cooperation with Loyola High School and the McGill Newman Centre, will be to explore the question of religious liberty in both private and public education. 

Further information on the next page...


6-7 November 2008

An FRS symposium on religion and law, chaired by Daniel Cere, in honour of the Faculty's former dean, Barry Levy. Speakers and panelists included McGill professors Patrick Glenn, Victor Muniz Fraticelli, Arvind Sharma, Shauna Van Praagh, and Katherine Young, and Concordia professors Michel Despland and Lynda Clarke. The controversial definition of religion in Syndicat Northcrest v. Amselem (2004) provided a focal point.

An International Symposium on Religion and Public Reason

13-15 September 2007

In his controversial Regensburg lecture of 12 September 2006, Pope Benedict XVI sought to re-frame the interaction of religious traditions on the principle that ‘not to act reasonably is contrary to the nature of God’. He also called on the universities, and on all partners in the dialogue of cultures, to rediscover this principle by engaging ‘the whole breadth of reason’ – appreciating its grandeur and repudiating reductionist approaches to reason. This unabashedly hellenistic emphasis raises important questions about the relation between faith and reason, and about the role of religion in the exercise of public reason. Is religion necessary to sustain reason? Do different religions represent competing claims about reason and rationality as well as about revelation? Does religious diversity mean that public decision-making, even as regards moral or ethical matters or human rights, should seek to bracket the God-question? Or is that not possible without undermining the rational basis for deciding and acting?

Scholars from around the world gathered at McGill on the anniversary of the Regensburg lecture to consider these questions. Debates were held on 'Religion, Rights and the State', 'Reasonable Accommodation', 'Religion, Sex and the City', Regensburg and the Regents [.pdf], and 'Beyond the Clash of Civilizations', with distinguished panelists including Justice David Brown, David Blankenhorn, Philip Buckley, Roderick MacDonald, Margaret Somerville, Katherine Young, and other well-known public intellectuals from inside and outside McGill. John Witte Jr (Emory) delivered a powerful Beatty Memorial Lecture entitled, 'Rights and Religion: Enemies or Allies?' and Nicholas Adams (Edinburgh) a Claude Ryan Memorial Lecture on 'Narrative, Argument and Pluralism'. Douglas Farrow gave the opening address: Questioning the Great Separation [.pdf].

This Newman Centre symposium was co-sponsored by the Pluralism, Religion and Public Policy project (Faculty of Religious Studies), with support from the Faculty of Arts, the Beatty Foundation, and other partners. Professors Douglas Farrow and Daniel Cere were co-chairs. 

David Novak on The Jewish Social Contract

8 May 2006: A special guest lecture in Jewish legal and political thought by the University of Toronto's well-known J. Richard and Dorothy Shiff Professor of Jewish Studies. 


Facing the Challenge of Cultural & Religious Diversity
Sept 29 – Oct. 1, 2005

A symposium exploring the challenge of educational pluralism in Canada.

  • Mapping the diversity of educational communities in Canada
  • Identifying public policies and educational philosophies that foster or suppress educational pluralism
  • Religious faith and education
  • The voice of parents in education
  • Controversial and divisive moral issues in education

29 September

Marguerite Bourgeoys Lecture: Helen Raham on Educational Pluralism in Canada

Panel: Jewish Perspectives
Eric Caplan ( McGill); Charlie Levy (Association of Jewish Day Schools); Barry Levy (McGill)

30 September

Peter Lauwers
What are the courts saying about religious freedom in education?

Elmer Thiessen
The Liberal Case for Educational Pluralism

Panel: Inter-faith and Non-religious Perspectives
Elizabeth Scanlan (Quebec Association of Independent Schools); Samer Majzoub (Muslim School Association); Patricia Kirkpatrick (Comité des Affaires Religieuses)

1 October

Elmer Thiessen
Liberalism and the Boundaries of Education in Religious Schools

Panel: Catholic Perspectives
Antoinette Taddeo (Villa Maria High School); Spencer Boudreau (McGill); Douglas Farrow (McGill); John Zucchi (McGill)


Helen Raham was the Founding Director of the Society for the Advancement of Excellence in Education.

Elmer Thiessen is author of Teaching for Commitment (MQUP 1993) and In Defence of Religious Schools and Colleges (MQUP 2001).

Peter Lauwers [now Justice Lauwers] was a constitutional lawyer with Miller Thomson in Toronto.


Congregation of Notre Dame
Faculty of Religious Studies / PRPP
Loyola High School
Faculty of Education
Faculty of Arts (Catholic Studies)
Newman Centre
Centre for Cultural Renewal