Senior Policy advisor
Ontario Ministry of Northern Development and Mines
After graduating from the Bachelor of Humanities program in 2007, I went on to pursue an M.A. in Political Theory at McGill University in Montreal. My initial reason for going to McGill was to continue studying Hannah Arendt and civic engagement and to understand how, why, and even where people engage in civic life, and specifically in politics.
During my M.A., my general interest became focused after I interned at the International Centre for Transitional Justice in New York City. The ICTJ’s work in Canada inspired me to write my major research paper on the Indian Residential Schools Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC). The ICTJ helps societies address legacies of massive human rights violations and re-build civic trust in state institutions. I wanted to understand to what extent Canada, as it set out in its TRC, would able to address its legacy of human rights abuse toward its Indigenous communities.
My interest in civic engagement, politics and Indigenous issues has persisted: I followed my M.A. with an internship in the Ontario Legislature Internship Program, which eventually led to my hire in the office of the Minister of Northern Development and Mines, where I now work as a Senior Policy Advisor to Minister Michael Gravelle. I also am on the executive of the Board for the Couchiching Institute on Public Affairs, an NGO committed to increasing awareness, understanding, and knowledge of domestic and international issues amongst people in Canada, through open and inclusive discussion.
When asked what I studied in university, I’m usually met with confusion when I explain that my degrees are in Humanities (which I usually break down into literature and philosophy) and Political Philosophy, and not in “Policy”.
But Humanities prepared me well for my professional life—especially political life. When faced with policy decisions that affect Ontarians, and trying to make the “right” decision, I run up against the same questions that Humanities forced me to consider: what is just? what is good, and which good ought we to pursue for society? These are the fundamental questions that face politicians as legislators and decision-makers—despite the low opinion of most politicians.
The Humanities program, in training us to consider issues through different perspectives and also to challenge and critically analyze what we read, was great preparation to face the challenge of governing: being able to listen to and balance all perspectives and information on public issues to make the best decisions for society.
Leslie de Meulles is Senior Policy Advisor to Ontario’s Ministor of Northern Development and Mines.