9 December 2016

Building Community: Ideas for the Future of Citizenship and Belonging

This year, the 13th Annual Pierre Elliott Trudeau Foundation Conference took place in Vancouver on 16-17 November. If you think, like us, that a picture is worth a thousand words, please watch this video-summary of the conference:

Upon their arrival, participants were invited to dive into the heart of a photo exhibit and film screening illustrating the work of four Foundation community members. Later, Khelsilem, artist and member of the Squamish Nation, welcomed conference participants to Indigenous territory.

The future of belonging in cities

Naheed Nenshi, mayor of Calgary and one of Canada’s most provocative and inspiring municipal leaders, opened the discussion with Lisa Helps, mayor of Victoria and 2006 Trudeau scholar, on the interface between cities and pluralism, cities’ role on reconciliation, what the future of citizenship will look like in 20-30 years, and what can we learn from the American elections in an increasingly polarized world. In-person and online discussion spread quickly thanks to the #PETFconference hashtag.

Watch the mayor’s chat on our YouTube channel.

Identifying the complex issues of belonging

The next day was filled with emotion, deep thinking, and interaction. Many would have liked to clone themselves to avoid choosing between workshops on visions on the future of citizenship in a changing world and between duos of scholars and local counterparts on ways to change and democratize public policy. Partnering with the Vancouver Foundation on one duo was 2014 scholar Melanie Doucet, who shared her experience and her research on youth aging out of foster care. Melanie’s op-ed appeared in the Vancouver Sun the same day; she also gave a radio interview at Radio-Canada. Listen to her interview (Starts at 1:11:28)

By including participatory theatre in the programming, the Foundation also experimented with ways of learning, inviting conference-goers to perform on stage with members of local communities that struggle with racism, disability, homelessness, and refugee issues.  The Foundation also partnered with THNK to urge participants to set intentions at the beginning of the day and think about ways to integrate what they learned.

Satellite workshops and field visits

Several satellite events took place on the margins of the conference. Scholars Benjamin Perryman (2015) and Lisa Kerr (2012) hosted a workshop on the role of social science evidence in litigation strategies and judicial decision-making. The report of the workshop is available here. 2014 fellow Myriam Denov hosted a brainstorming session on the responsibilities of researchers toward the study community after the research is complete. And 2008 scholar Shauna Labman led a discussion on ways to build on a series of meetings on Citizenship and Scholarship From Coast to Coast to Coast, a series organized by Trudeau and Liu scholars in 2010-2011.

And on field visits to a supervised injection site and to Immigrant Services Society of British Columbia, members of the Foundation learned from local communities that struggle with homelessness and drug addiction as well as from newly arrived immigrants and refugees. The field visits gave participants a deeper understanding of Canada and its people.