Shannon Lectures, 2020

Convenor: Professor Dominique Marshall

Human Rights in the History of Canada

The Shannon Lectures in History are a series of thematically linked public lectures offered at Carleton University each autumn and made possible through the Shannon Donation, a major gift from a long-time friend of the Department of History.

This year’s Shannon Lecture series were held online, to maintain a safe event for our speakers and audience members.

Please see below for details on each lecture in the series. If you’ve missed any of the Shannon Lectures, you can access recordings of them on the History Department’s YouTube Channel. The Shannon 2020 Playlist can be found here: 

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Past Lectures

Friday, September 18, 2020 from 12:00 p.m. – 1:00 p.m.

Inclusion, Exclusion, and Migrant Farm Labour in Canada

with Dr. Edward Dunsworth
Department of History and Classical Studies
McGill University


The history of farm labour in Canada has been profoundly shaped by questions of inclusion and exclusion – especially at the border. Drawing on transnational research on Ontario’s tobacco workforce and looking in particular at migrations from the southern United States and the Caribbean, this talk will demonstrate how often-racist immigration policies and labour practices determined not only who could enter the Canadian farm labour market, but also the conditions of workers’ participation and their ability to attain a decent livelihood.

Speaker Bio

Edward Dunsworth is an Assistant Professor in the Department of History and Classical Studies at McGill University. A historian of migration, labour, and Canada in the world, his current book project uses a case study of Ontario’s tobacco sector to advance a significant reinterpretation of the histories of farm labour and temporary foreign worker programs in Canada.

Friday, October 2, 2020 at 12:00 PM to 1:00 PM

headshot of Paul-Etienne Rainville

The Postwar Human Rights Movement in Quebec and Catholic Workers: Between Universality and Identity

with Dr. Paul-Étienne Rainville
Department of History
University of Toronto


The history of French-Canadian workers has been greatly influenced by questions of human rights. Drawing on research on Catholic labour activists in the 1940s and 1950s, this talk compares their strategies to those of other ethnic and labour organizations engaged in the postwar campaign against racism and discrimination.  It reveals the profound influence of the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights on their struggles for civil liberties and socioeconomic rights. These workers dealt with the ambivalence of the collective rights of minorities: while they appealed to the rights of all, they evoked a right to be different, based on a desire to preserve the “racial” and cultural distinctiveness of French Canadians’ identity.  The lecture shows how French-Canadian movements have had a lasting impact on debates about collective rights in Canada.

Speaker Bio

Dr. Rainville’s research focuses on the history of human rights struggles in Québec, from the postwar years to the Quiet Revolution (1945-1968). As a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Toronto, he is currently conducting research on the debates surrounding the adoption of the first anti-discrimination laws in Québec in the early 1960s. His work has appeared in several journals (Canadian Historical Review, Social History, Droits et libertés, Nouvelles pratiques sociales), and has been recognized by prestigious prizes (Canadian Historical Association, Québec National Assembly). He is currently a member of the Montreal History Group and an associate member of the Centre for Interdisciplinary Research on Montréal.

Friday, Oct 23, 11:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.

Nancy Hansen standing with crutches

On the Cutting Edge: Disabled Canadians and Rights Acquisition

with Dr. Nancy Hansen
Disability Studies
University of Manitoba


The Quest for Equality: Are We There Yet? . . .No

For decades now disabled Canadians have been at the forefront directly involved in human rights acquisition for disabled people at the national and international level. This presentation traces  the historical shift in the disability rights landscape from recipients of charity moving to social justice, citizenship rights advocates and activism. The worth, security and value of these rights in the midst of a pandemic is explored in the process.

Speaker Bio

Nancy Hansen, Ph.D. is an Associate Professor and Director of the Interdisciplinary Master’s Program in Disability Studies at the University of Manitoba. Her research interests include: disability in spaces of culture education, history, literacy, employment, healthcare and conflict. She is co-editor of the Routledge History of Disability and Untold Stories: A Canadian Disability History Reader.  Nancy has contributed to various international academic journals.

Friday, November 6, 2020 at 12:00 PM to 1:00 PM

headshot of Teresa Scassa

The History of Privacy and the Future of AI

with Dr. Teresa Scassa
Canada Research Chair in Information Law and Policy
Faculty of Law
University of Ottawa


Artificial intelligence relies upon massive quantities of data to train and develop algorithms. The growing use of AI by public and private sector actors to make decisions about individuals – their health, their entitlements, their employment and even their freedom – means that AI applications consume an enormous volume of data about humans. It is no surprise, then, that data protection laws are playing a significant role in the regulation of AI. This talk will explore the history of privacy and what it might tell us about the future of AI.

Speaker Bio

Dr. Teresa Scassa is the Canada Research Chair in Information Law and Policy at the University of Ottawa, Faculty of Law. She is a member of the Centre for Law, Technology and Society, and a member of the Digital Strategy Advisory Panel for Waterfront Toronto, and the Canadian Advisory Council on Artificial Intelligence. She is the author or co-author of several books including Digital Commerce in Canada (2020). She has written widely in the areas of intellectual property law, law and technology, and privacy. Teresa Scassa is also a senior fellow with CIGI’s International Law Research Program.

Friday, November 27, 2020 at 12:00 PM to 1:00 PM

headshot of Bonny Ibhawoh

Truth Commissions and the Politics of Collective Memory

with Dr. Bonny Ibhawoh
Department of History |Centre for Peace Studies
McMaster University

Senator William McMaster Chair in Global Human Rights
United Nations Special Procedures Expert on the Right to Development
Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights


In the age of human rights, states are increasingly seeking truth and reconciliation to address contemporary abuses and historical injustices. From South Africa’s post-apartheid TRC to Canada’s Residential School TRC, we are witnessing a shift from the dominance of retributive transitional justice toward new models of restorative justice. The popularity of truth commissions also reflects the resurgence of memory politics and the increasing challenge of the nation-state’s hegemony over history. This paper examines the politics and contestations over collective memory in the work of truth commissions.

Speaker Bio

Bonny Ibhawoh is Professor and Senator William McMaster Chair in Global Human Rights at McMaster University, Canada. He is a legal historian who has taught in universities in Africa, Europe and North America. Previously, he was a Human Rights Fellow at the Carnegie Council for Ethics and International Affairs, New York, and Research Fellow at the Danish Institute for Human Rights, Copenhagen. He is the author Imperial Justice (Oxford University Press) and Human Rights in Africa (Cambridge University Press). Dr. Ibhawoh is a member of the College of Scholars of the Royal Society of Canada and Chairs the United Nations Expert Mechanism on the Right to Development.