Past Conferences

Religion and Conscience in Court  
November 18, 2015

Convener: Prof. Douglas Farrow – Email:

TConscience_and_lawhree panels will examine important questions arising from the Carter and Loyola rulings of the Supreme Court of Canada in terms of how they impact the legal understanding of conscience rights and religious rights in Canada. The symposium will conclude with the keynote lecture “Three Foundations of Law” by  Rémi Brague (Sorbonne), author of The Law of God and numerous other works, including provocative articles such as “The Impossibility of Secular Society.” Read more information.

Carter and Conscience Rights 
Eugene Bereza, Yves Robert, Margaret Somerville, Larry Worthen

Loyola and Religious Rights
Paul Donovan, Janet Epp-Buckingham, Victor Muniz-Fraticelli, Mark Phillips

Freedom of Conscience and Religion: Where are we headed? 
L’hon. Louis LeBel, Howard Kislowicz, Fr Raymond de Souza, Hoi Kong

Reception and Book Launch
Desiring a Better Country by Douglas Farrow (MQUP 2015).

Public Lecture by Rémi Brague
“Three Foundations for Law.”

All sessions are open to the public, space permitting. 

The Legacy of Claude Ryan 
February 13-14, 2014

Conference Chair: Dr. Robert Di Pede – Email:                        

imageThe Legacy of Claude Ryan symposium marks the 10th anniversary of Ryan’s passing.  Through a series of panels and discussions, this symposium aims to deepen our understanding of Claude Ryan’s contribution to evolving debates on religion, politics, and nationality.

As part of the proceedings, The Federal Idea, in partnership with McGill University and the Newman Centre has organized a luncheon-conference on February 14 with the Hon. Brian Mulroney, former Prime Minister of Canada, and the Hon. Jean Charest, former Premier of Quebec.  On the evening of February 13, Thomas Mulcair, leader of the Official Opposition in the federal government, and Geoffrey Kelley, chair of the official opposition in the National Assembly, will be offering their reflection on the life and legacy of Ryan. Podcasts of the talks and panel presentations can be found at:  The Legacy of Claude RyanRegistration is now closed.

Religious Freedom in Education
October 3-5, 2013

Convener: Dr. Douglas Farrow – Email:

books2Education is one of the chief interests of families, of religious communities, and of society and 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.

This symposium will explore the question of religious liberty in both private and public education. Some two dozen contributors will address different aspects of the subject, including:

Charles Taylor and Daniel Turp
Secularism, Religion and Societal Values: A Debate  (View highlights of the debate.)

Benjamin Berger (Osgoode Hall, York University)
Religion, Education, and the ‘Crisis’ in State Neutrality

Mary Anne Waldron (Faculty of Law, Victoria)
Culture Wars: Majority v. Minority Values

Eugene Meehan, QC (Supreme Advocacy, Ottawa)
The Supreme Court of Canada on ‘Religious Law’

Trauma and Transformation
October 14-15, 2011

Convener: Dr. Daniel Cere – Email:       

DSC_0084McGill’s Centre for Research on Religion (CREOR), in collaboration with the Newman Centre/Newman Institute, hosted a major conference on the sexual abuse crisis within the Catholic Church. A blue-ribbon team of scholars, Catholic bishops, and religious leaders from across Canada and beyond brought their experience and expertise into dialogue on the crisis and challenge of the abuse scandal that has shaken the Catholic Church.  Salt & Light Cable Network produced a documentary on the conference and also offers a complete DVD package on the conference talks: Trauma and Transformation (Salt & Light)Registration is now closed.

Pluralism, Politics and God? 
An International Symposium on Religion in the Public Sphere
September 13-15, 2007

Conference Chair: Dr. Robert Di Pede – Email:       

wpid-cornell_religion_votingIn his controversial Regensburg lecture of September 12, 2006, Pope Benedict XVI framed the interaction of religious traditions within the public sphere around the concept of rational theism. The notion of rational theism raises important questions about religion at a time when the distinction between secularization and the resurgence of religious orthodoxy in Christianity, Islam and Judaism has sharpened differences.

Over 60 delegates from around the world will gather at to consider these questions: Can religious traditions make truth claims that are demonstrably rational in a post-metaphysical age? Under what understanding of rationality can religion be seen as rational, and what understanding of religion would uphold the importance of rationality? Can rationality be used as a tool for achieving consensus between religious tradition and the state on important issues of ethical enquiry?

The symposium will offer a series of lectures and panels in addition to the presentation of over 60 papers by academics from around the world. Registration is now closed.

Keynote Speakers
“Narrative, Argument, and Pluralism” A Claude Ryan Lecture on Catholic Social Thought
Nicholas Adams, Senior Lecturer in Theology and Ethics, University of Edinburgh
Thursday, September 13, 2007 at 15:00, Diocesan College, Convocation Hall

“Religion & Human Rights: Enemies or Allies?” A Beatty Public Lecture
John Witte Jr., Robitsher Professor of Law and Ethics, Emory School of Law
Thursday, September 13, 2007 at 19:30, McGill University, Leacock 132

Special Panels and Debates
Religion, Rights & the State (Chair: Prof. Roderick A. Macdonald, Faculty of Law)
Religion, Sex, and the City (Chair: Dr. Daniel Cere, Newman Institute of Catholic Studies)
Beyond the Clash of Civilizations (Chair: Prof. Robert Wisnovski, Institute of Islamic Studies)