Date: March 22-24, 2015
Location: 800 Robson Street, UBC Robson Square
What does it mean to build a “whole society”? What is the purpose of secularism, and what are its limits? How can we re-conceptualize the role of religion in Canadian public life? What is the role of religion and spirituality in cultural reconciliation?
We invite you to join us and our distinguished speakers, moderators, and guests as we explore these and other timely questions at our second annual conference, following on “Bridging the Secular Divide: Religion and Canadian Public Discourse,” held at McGill University in 2013. “Our Whole Society” is sponsored by The Laurier Institution and organized by a national inter-faith leadership committee. It will take place from March 22-24, 2015, at the University of British Columbia’s Robson Square complex in downtown Vancouver.
Read the Our Whole Society concept paper for a fuller exploration of the conference’s theme.
Dr. John G. Stackhouse, Jr., Professor of Theology and Culture at Regent College
Douglas Todd, award-winning journalist at the Vancouver Sun
Dr. Marie Wilson, Commissioner with the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada
Dr. Clifford Orwin, Professor of Jewish political thought at the University of Toronto
Doug White, Director, Center for Pre-Confederation Treaties and Reconciliation, Vancouver Island University Former Chief, Snuneymuxw First Nation
Ranno Dr Lisa Grushcow, Senior Rabbi, Template Emanu-Ei-Beth Sholom, Montreal
Balpreet Singh Bopari, Legal Counsel World Sikh Organization of Canada
Description: Conference welcome
Session: OPENING PLENARY:
Description: Reconciling religion, secularism and the common good
Religion and secularism are often spoken about as a dichotomy. For instance, one is religious or one is secular, or the secular is public and the religious is private. But how do we define secularism and the secular? Is it possible to reconcile religion and secularism? Are there limits to secularism? What does religion contribute to the common good? How might we re-conceptualize the role of religion in Canadian public life?
Session: Multi-faith prayers
Description: Opening, Welcome and outline vision of the conference
Session: PLENARY 1: Building our whole society
Description: From its inception as a country, Canada been made up of diverse peoples, cultures and religions. The process of building relations and understanding between Aboriginal and settler, French and English, newcomer and native-born, are at the heart of our collective narrative. Religion and spiritual diversity has also been a part of this story. How can religion and spirituality inform this process of building unity amidst diversity? What does religion offer to the promotion of reconciliation and mutual understanding amongst Canada’s diverse population?
Session: WORKSHOP 1.1: Youth and the spirit of social change
Description: Youth are often at the forefront of movements for social change. How do young people think about the relationship between their views on moral, ethical and spiritual issues and their motivation to contribute to social change? What is the connection between their beliefs and actions? What does it take to motivate and inspire youth to contribute to the betterment of the world?
Session: WORKSHOP 1.2: Walking the path of reconciliation
Description: Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission has helped to promote a national conversation about how to reckon with the past and build a common future together. How do we promote mutual respect and understanding between Canada’s Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people? How can we overcome the negative forces of paternalism and prejudice? What changes do we need to make to the structures of governance and the use of material resources in order to redress past injustices and social inequalities? These are questions that we ask ourselves as citizens of a country that seeks reconciliation.
Session: PLENARY 2: Religious pluralism in a secular society
Description: It is often assumed that a secular society has no need for religion in its public affairs, and that faith ought to be left to the private lives of individuals. And yet, Canadian public discourse is increasingly preoccupied with the role of religion in society. Can we have a public sphere that leaves room for religious language or symbols? How do we avoid creating barriers to participation in Canadian society that divide people and generate resentment and hostility? How can we create appropriate space for religion in public discourse, in a society that is increasingly diverse?
Session: WORKSHOP 2.1: Building community in our cities
Description: More than 80% of Canadians live in cities, and 35% live in Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal. Our cities are incredibly diverse. What can we learn from initiatives aimed at building community in our cities? How do we avoid social separation and inward-looking communities, so that everyone is participating in the life of society? What are religious communities learning about promoting good citizenship?
Session: WORKSHOP 2.2: The value and limits of religious accommodation
Description: Debates over ‘reasonable accommodation’ have raised questions about the extent of religious toleration in Canadian society. What is the value of religious accommodation, in a society as diverse as ours? What are its limits? How should these limits be justified?
Facilitator: The Hon. Victor Goldbloom – Former CEO, Canadian Council of Christians and Jews; former Commissioner of Official Languages
Session: PLENARY 3: The challenge of the ‘post-secular’ in Canada
Description: Jürgen Habermas describes the persistence of religious belief and communities as signifying a ‘post-secular society’. The persistence of religion in advanced modern societies challenges citizens of different religious and secular backgrounds to communicate in new ways. How can we learn to talk together about the issues of the day without marginalizing religious or secular voices?
Session: Multifaith Prayers – Opening
Description: Welcome and overview of the second day of the conference
Session: PLENARY 4: Secularism in Canada: Freedom of religion, or freedom from religion?
Description: Secularism promotes peaceful coexistence by ensuring that no religious group dominates civic affairs, and it safeguards religion from government interference. What does secularism look like in Canada? What are the benefits and limits of secularism, and its relationship to religious freedom? How do we navigate these limits to promote a more vibrant society and engaged citizenry?
Session: WORKSHOP 4.1: Religion and the Canadian newsroom
Description: Canada’s media landscape is undergoing rapid change, and so is the coverage of religion. Are journalists sufficiently ‘literate’ in religion? How does religion, and religious diversity get represented in the press? How are religious communities using (new and old) media to enter the public sphere?
Facilitator: Dr. Jack Jedwab – Executive Vice-President, Association for Canadian Studies and Canadian Institute for Identities and Migration
Session: WORKSHOP 4.2: Religious freedom in a secular society: The way forward
Description: The concept of religious freedom has been central to the development of modern democratic societies, and yet it continues to be a lightning rod for public debate. How can we introduce more civility and mutual respect into these debates? Are there perspectives that can be reconciled?
Session: PLENARY 5: The future of interfaith in Canada
Description: The interfaith movement in Canada has deep roots at the local and provincial levels, but it has been more modest in its achievements at the national level. Why is this the case? Is the framework of ‘interfaith dialogue’ still relevant to the needs of Canadian society? Do we need to have a new conversation about the role of religion in society? What would this look like?
Session: WORKSHOP 5.1: Doing interfaith in a secular age
Description: Our secular age, as Charles Taylor describes it, is one where religion is optional – it is no longer assumed that one is or ought to be religious. Our perspective and concerns become limited to the world as we observe it. How can interfaith dialogue get out of this ‘immanent’ frame to bring back the language of the spiritual and the sacred to public discourse? How do secular perspectives get incorporated into interfaith dialogue?
Session: WORKSHOP 5.2: Interfaith in action: Working for social justice
Description: The goal of social justice is one pursued by religious and secular organizations alike. How are their approaches to social justice different? How are they alike? What opportunities are there for collaboration across religious-secular lines?
Session: PLENARY 6: Recognizing our oneness: Reconciliation as the challenge of our time