Jennifer Langlais

Study program:
S.J.D. (Law) and Junior Boulton Fellow
Current affiliation:
Harvard University and McGill University

Jennifer is studying cultural diversity and equality

Can Cultural Diversity and Intra-Group Equality be Reconciled?

Several liberal societies have in recent decades embraced an ideal of multiculturalism reflected in practice in a myriad of political and legal commitments fostering minority group identities. In their efforts to pay due respect to minority groups, liberal societies have however overlooked an important reality: minority groups, like majority groups, are rarely, if ever, homogeneous. As a result, well-meaning policies of accommodation aimed at counteracting the erosive power of society on minority cultures have left many individuals, including women, children, nonconformists and dissenters, vulnerable to severe injustices perpetrated in the name of cultural preservation.

This project examines critically the capacity of three approaches to reconcile the legitimate claims of minority groups with the equality concerns raised by the presence of marginalized internal minorities.

Jennifer has a bachelor of law from the Université Laval, a master's in public international law from the University of Oxford and master's in human rights from Harvard University. After clerking with Justice Louis Lebel of the Supreme Court of Canada, she worked for several international organizations, including the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in Geneva, the South Asia Human Rights Documentation Centre in New Delhi, the African Commission on Human and People's Rights in Banjul and the Centre for Policy Alternatives in Colombo. These inspiring and eye-opening work experiences abroad profoundly changed her vision of the human rights discourse and practice and largely motivated her return to school.

Today, Jennifer is pursuing a SJD in law at Harvard University in Massachusetts. She is interested in processes of racialization, post-colonial studies and the management of diversity in so-called immigration countries. Her research centres on Canadian nationalism and the construction of a multicultural identity for Canada. Although she plans to remain active in the NGO network, she would like to devote herself to research and teaching.

Experience as a Trudeau Scholar

My Trudeau Scholarship gave me the fantastic gift of four years of ideal research conditions. For one thing, the generous bursary from the Foundation allowed me to dedicate myself completely to my research and to enjoy total freedom of exploration during my theoretical studies. At the same time, thanks to the travel allowance that goes along with the Trudeau Scholarship, I had the opportunity to take part in many events, workshops and conferences where I could present my research and make contact with other researchers from Canada and abroad. There is no doubt in my mind that my doctoral work would have been very different without the Foundation's financial support.

But the Trudeau Scholarship provided far more than just financial support. For the last four years, I have had the great privilege to rub shoulders with members of a community that is remarkable for its vitality, openness and vision of a more just society. This community of scholars and decision-makers from a wide range of intellectual and political milieus made me rethink the role of university research in Canada and the relationship between academia and the political world. I am leaving the Foundation today with a far broader perspective of my future role as a researcher and with renewed determination to be socially involved.