Conference Report - Enabling Civil Society

After the conference report launch on Tuesday, 23 April 2019 at the Human Rights and Research Center, University of Ottawa, the full report is now available online. 

The report summarizes the main outcomes of the Voices-Voix multidisciplinary and multi-partner conference Enabling Civil Society: Democracy & Dissent that took place on 20 October 2017 at McGill University. The event took place in partnership with the McGill Centre for Human Rights and Legal Pluralism, the Canadian Centre for International Cooperation and wide range of funders and donors.  

The conference brought together activists, organized labour, academics, and UN mandate holders for wide-ranging discussions and presentations about the vital concept of an enabling environment for civil society. Importantly, the conference offered a valuable opportunity to discuss and develop practical strategies for moving this agenda forward in ways that will improve the effectiveness and vigor of civil society and its allies, including Indigenous civil society organizations, and human rights defenders.   

Building on the 2013 conference, Civil Society: Dissent, Democracy, & the Law, the 2017 conference took place in an evolving political context in Canada. Discussions therefore both took account of the historical perspective of recent experiences as well the potential and ongoing shortcomings of current developments in Canada.   

The conference report includes an introduction by Pearl Eliadis, Conference Co-Chair, Montreal-based human rights lawyer, adjunct professor at McGill University and member of the Voices-Voix Strategy Group.  

The main section of the report summarizes key findings and outcomes of the discussions as well as the public lecture that followed the panels, featuring leading legal experts, representatives of organized labour, civil society leaders and academic experts:

1 – “Why Enable Civil Society? Reimagining the enabling environment” 
2 – “Does Canada Enable Civil Society?” 
3 – “National Security and Civil Society” 
4 – “Safe Spaces or ‘Self-Spaces’? Pluralism, Free Expression, and  Academic Freedom: A Roundtable Discussion” 
Public Lecture: “Civil Society at Risk? International perspectives on warning signs and silver linings” 

Final remarks are offered by John Packer, Director, Human Rights Research and Education Centre, University of Ottawa.

The full report is available here.