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Project Partners

The Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission (Australia) was established by the Federal Parliament and its goal is to foster greater understanding and protection of human rights in Australia and to address the human rights concerns of a broad range of individuals and groups.

In 2011, the Australian Human Rights Commission produced a research report entitled “Freedom of religion and belief in the 21st Century,” based on a study developed and implemented by Gary Bouma, Desmond Cahill, Hass Dellal and Athalia Zwartz.  Offering policy and education recommendations, this report offers a critical overview of the landscape of religious diversity in Australia and the ways that public and government institutions needs to respond to develop a more inclusive environment for their citizens.

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The aims and objectives of the Australian Multicultural Foundation are to cultivate in all Australians a strong commitment to Australia as one people drawn from many cultures and by so doing to advance its social and economic well-being; the promotion of an awareness among the people of Australia of the diversity of cultures within Australia and the contribution of people from all cultures to the development of Australia; and the spread of respect and understanding between all cultural groups through any appropriate means.

Team member Gary Bouma was one of three researchers involved in the “Religion, Cultural Diversity and Safeguarding Australia” research project, funded in part by the Australian Multicultural Foundation.

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The Canadian Human Rights Commission is mandated to develop and conduct information and discrimination prevention programmes, to foster understanding and commitment for achieving a society where human rights are respected in everyday practices.

Our collaboration with the Canadian Human Rights Commission has included consultation on their “Accommodation of Religious Practices” guide as their review of recent research on religion and sex/gender within accommodation requests. In 2014, Lori Beaman and Heather Shipley were invited to give two research presentations at the Canadian Human Rights Commission; one to the Branch Management and one open to all staff at the Commission. In the summer of 2014, Project Assistant Marianne Abou-Hamad coded a shared database of Canadian media articles to consider the representations of religion, culture, diversity and identity as sites of interest for both the Commission and the Religion and Diversity Project. Representatives from CHRC have regularly attended Project team meetings and have consulted on various aspects of project development.

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The Commission des droits de la personne et des droits de la jeunesse (Québec), constituted under the Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms in 1975, promotes and upholds the principles enunciated in the Charter regarding the protection and promotion of human rights, including the rights of children.

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The Equality and Human Rights Commission (UK) is a statutory body created to protect, enforce and promote equality across seven protected grounds; age, disability, gender, race, religion and belief, sexual orientation and gender reassignment. The Commission addresses issues of discrimination through a diverse range of practices, including through enforcing the law and influencing the development of law and government policy.

In our collaboration with the Equality and Human Rights Commission (UK), we have worked closely with Karen Jochelson and David Perfect to pursue research exchange applications to facilitate research fellowship at the University of Ottawa and to identify mutual interest in our shared goals around equality issues related to religion.

To access the Equality and Human Rights Commission “Religion or belief” reading list, please click here.

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INFORM (Information Network on New Religious Movements) was founded in 1988 by Eileen Barker (one of our advisors) with the help of British Home Office funding and the support of the mainstream churches. The primary aim of INFORM is to provide policy developers and the public with accurate, balanced, up-to-date information about new and/or alternative religious or spiritual movements.

Project Director, Lori Beaman, was invited to present at INFORM’s State Reactions to New Religions Seminar, in London (2010). Subsequently, team member, Susan J. Palmer participated in INFORM’s seminar, Revisionism and Diversification at the London School of Economics in December 2012 as well as at INFORM‘s Spring Seminar (2016).  Jim Beckford has served on INFORM’s Board of Directors and Eileen Barker has served as an Advisory Board member for the Project since 2010.

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The Metropolis Project is an international network for comparative research and public policy development on migration, diversity, and immigrant integration in cities in Canada and around the world. They have offered us important opportunities for knowledge transfer, and they draw our research into their own research and policy networks.

Team members have been involved in multiple Metropolis events and consultations, including their annual conferences. This includes participation by Valérie Amiraux (2010); Paul Bramadat (2012); Lori Beaman and Peter Beyer were invited by Public Safety Canada to participate in the Metropolis Project’s annual conference in 2014; and Lori Beaman and Christine Cusack’s participation in 2016.

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The Ministère de l’Immigration et des Communautés culturelles (MICC) of Québec aims to promote immigration; select immigrants; support the participation of individuals who immigrated to the development of Québec. Their vision: A competent ministry, committed to make immigration a recognised contribution to the Province of Québec’s vitality and prosperity.

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The Ministère de l’éducation, du Loisir et du Sport (MELS) is a branch of the Québec provincial government responsible for initiating and monitoring changes to education practices and policy in Québec, based on modifications to the Education Act.

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The Project

The Religion and Diversity Project was a $2.5 million, seven (7) year Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) funded Major Collaborative Research Initiative (MCRI) housed at the University of Ottawa (Ottawa, Ontario, Canada).
The project addressed the following question:

  • What are the contours of religious diversity in Canada and how can we best respond to the opportunities and challenges presented by religious diversity in ways that promote a just and peaceful society?

Specifically, the project investigated the following questions:

  1. How are religious identities socially constructed?
  2. How is religious expression defined and delimited in law and public policy?
  3. How and why do gender and sexuality act as flashpoints in debates on religious freedom?
  4. What are alternative strategies for managing religious diversity?
The project’s main contribution was to identify in detail the contours of religious diversity in Canada and the potential benefits of approaches to diversity that promote substantive or deep equality and move beyond tolerance and accommodation. Our comparative research placed Canada in the context of other Western democracies and identifies global patterns in responses to religious diversity. Our research provides new data and theoretical articulations concerning religious diversity. This research program presented diversity not primarily as a problem, but as a resource and to propose strategies for equality that will advance knowledge and enhance public policy decision-making.