“The demise of civility and the fight to protect democracy, both globally and in Canada.” is the topic for the inaugural Conversation: Sponsored by Charles Bronfman

In a recent interview with The Montrealer, Charles Bronfman stated; “Canada should be a leader amongst the medium-sized countries of the world. We should be providing hope for future generations at home and abroad.” To this end, Charles Bronfman is sponsoring a new series of symposiums hosted by the McGill Institute for the Study of Canada (MISC).

The participants in the inaugural Conversation include: former Supreme Court of Canada Justice Rosalie Abella; Luís Roberto Barroso, President of the Supreme Federal Court of Brazil; and Vikas Swarup, retired Indian diplomat and author of Slumdog Millionaire. Conversation: Sponsored by Charles Bronfman will be moderated by Nahlah Ayed, host of the CBC radio program Ideas.

“We are witnessing a worldwide erosion of trust in our institutions and in the experts that lead them,” notes Alex Johnston, MISC Chair of the Board of Directors. “Our panelists have addressed this threat to democracy in recent years and in fact throughout their careers, and we are looking forward to learning their views on the steps we as a global community and as Canadians need to take,”

“Conversation” explains Daniel Beland, Director of MISC and James McGill Professor, Department of Political Science McGill University, “represents a new and exciting milestone for MISC as we expand our focus to include Canada’s place in the world. We are looking beyond our borders in the hope of gaining a better understanding of how this breakdown in trust plays out domestically and what we can do on the world stage to combat this disturbing and ongoing threat.”

Rosalie Silberman AbellaRosalie Silberman Abella became Canada’s first Jewish woman judge and Canada’s youngest ever judge when she was appointed to the Ontario Family Court in 1975 at the age of 29. Abella’s remarkable accomplishments include her appointment to the Human Rights Commission of Ontario and the groundbreaking study she authored on accessibility. She was the author of the 1984 Federal Royal Commission on Equality in Empowerment, in which she pioneered the theories of equality and discrimination—which were then adopted by the Supreme Court of Canada as well as governments in New Zealand, Northern Ireland, and South Africa. In 1992 Abella was elevated to the Ontario Court of Appeal and in 2004 she became the first Jewish woman to sit on the Supreme Court of Canada. She retired from her Supreme Court position in 2021 and is currently Pisar Visiting Professor of Law at Harvard University.

Justice BarrosoJustice Barroso joined the Supreme Federal Court of Brazil in 2013 and has been President since September, 2023. Before becoming a member of the Supreme Court, Justice Barroso worked as a private lawyer and was counsel for a number of cases including the interruption of pregnancy in cases of anencephalic fetuses, stem cell research, same-sex unions, and the defense of the non-extradition of former Italian activist Cesare Battisti. Chief Justice Barroso also served as Chief of the Superior Electoral Court from 2020 to 2022 where he led an effort to acquire semi-conductors for voting machines at the height of the global chip crisis. He also publicly opposed efforts to reinstate printed ballots, a key part of the campaign to discredit Brazil’s electoral system.

Vikas SwarupVikas Swarup is a retired diplomat who served as Indian High Commissioner to Canada from 2017 to 2019 and an award-winning author. Prior to arriving in Canada, he served in various capacities in Delhi including as the desk officer for Canada in the early 1990s, the Director of the office of the External Affairs Minister, Director for Pakistan, Nepal and Bhutan, and Joint Secretary, United Nations (Political).

Abroad, Mr. Swarup served in Indian Missions in Ankara, Washington DC, Addis Ababa, London, and Pretoria and as Consul General in Osaka-Kobe. Immediately prior to his appointment as High Commissioner, he served as the Official Spokesperson of the Ministry of External Affairs in which capacity he accompanied Prime Minister Narendra Modi and External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj on all their trips abroad. Mr. Swarup has written three novels including his debut novel Q&A which won eight Oscars including Best Picture in its cinematic adaptation as Slumdog Millionaire.

Nahlah AyedNahlah Ayed is an award-winning 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, including Russia’s annexation of Crimea, Europe’s refugee crisis, the Brexit vote and its fallout. She has been the host of Ideas since 2019.

“I am thrilled with this extraordinary line-up of international experts on one of the central issues of our time,” states Charles Bronfman. “It is in keeping with my own vision of having a discussion, not a debate, on matters of global importance with a particular emphasis on Canada’s role. We are witnessing a disturbing rise in authoritarianism in every region of the world, and in this context the first Conversation is both timely and necessary.”

“Canada should be a leader amongst the medium-sized countries of the world. We should be providing hope for future generations at home and abroad.”- Charles Bronfman

Conversation, Sponsored by Charles Bronfman is taking place on Monday, April 8 at 7 p.m. at the Mount Royal Centre at 2200 rue Mansfield. Admission is free, but you must register for your seat. For tickets, please visit: https://www.mcgill.ca/misc/events/conversations/conversations-2024

Charles Bronfman: As someone who once remarked that “philanthropy is the DNA of my family”, Charles Bronfman is one of the world’s most generous philanthropists. He has signed the Giving Pledge—established for philanthropists devoted to giving away a majority of their wealth to charitable causes—and has authored two books on the subject.

“We are witnessing a disturbing rise in authoritarianism in every region of the world, and in this context the first Conversation is both timely and necessary.”- Charles Bronfman

Among Bronfman’s philanthropic passions is building a greater understanding of Canada among Canadians. Over the years he has generously supported initiatives that encourage young Canadians to strengthen their knowledge and appreciation of our history, alongside their heritage and cultural identity. In addition to being the driving force behind the creation of MISC, he was a founding co-Chairman of Historica Canada, which produces the Heritage Minutes, a series of sixty-second short films, each illustrating an important moment in Canadian history.

McGill Institute for the Study of Canada

Established in 1994 and housed in the Faculty of Arts, MISC is the centre for Canadian, Quebec, and Indigenous Studies programs at McGill, and hosts a variety of public events. A respected academic hub in the field of Canadian Studies, its mission is to enrich Canadian society by promoting dialogue about matters that are important to Canadians, by educating and encouraging students to be active participants in the country’s future, and by promoting interdisciplinary scholarship about Canada.

Conversations will build on MISC’s track record of hosting large-scale events in Montreal on topics that matter to Canadians and have significant public policy implications. These public events have brought together hundreds of people and attracted national and international media coverage. MISC’s events are widely recognized as valuable learning experiences and regularly attract policy experts from around the globe.