Externally Funded Projects

The State and Indigenous Legal Culture: Law in Search of Legitimacy

Project in collaboration with Ghislain Otis (University of Ottawa, project coordinator), and investigators from 13 universities.

Third-party funding from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, the University of Ottawa, and the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs, awarded May 2013 for 6 years: CAD 1,901,645.

Outline of the project:

In Canada, social, humanitarian and political crises involving indigenous communities, like those which took place in Attawapiskat, Kashechewan, Caledonia and Oka, to name but a few highly publicized examples, reveal a certain ineffectiveness of the state in crucial spheres of the lives of aboriginal peoples in Canada. These crises vividly illustrate that the legitimacy of state law is being challenged by indigenous peoples on the basis of their own legal traditions and normative autonomy. In fact, the problem of the coexistence of the aboriginal and state systems, which are often in conflict, has now become an urgent issue in various regions of the world, notably in domains such as access to land and natural resources, environmental protection, family life including child welfare, penal affairs as well as human rights and freedoms. The consequence of the state’s traditionally monopolistic or hegemonic position in the production of law is often legal uncertainty or legal failure caused by the lack of consensual norms.

The claims for a more equal relationship between aboriginal and Western legal traditions within the state will only increase in Canada and elsewhere, considering the evolution of international norms in particular. Theoretical work on legal pluralism abounds, but no international research to date has compared, using a common analytical framework, the current evolution of practices in Canada with those of several other countries outside the American continent that also face the challenge of the coexistence of aboriginal and non-aboriginal legal traditions. This project fills this gap by conducting a comparative study of Canada, certain African countries and South Pacific island states to identify the conditions for a more legitimate and effective interaction of legal cultures. Three priority areas of investigation were identified: the land and its resources, family, and justice.

The team consists of investigators from 13 universities in several countries and 6 non-academic partners, mainly from aboriginal peoples. The work will enable the training of at least 30 young researchers. This project represents a partnership within an interdisciplinary research programme combining legal, anthropological and sociological analyses by leading scholars capable of producing cutting-edge scientific results. This work also aims at co-producing knowledge through aboriginal and non-aboriginal networking. Finally, thanks to the participation of non-academic partners, this important work of synthesis and mobilisation of research will be available to field workers, indigenous communities and the general public. Participants will use the theoretical framework of legal pluralism, which focuses on internormative relations between legal orders. The comparative method used will describe, categorize and evaluate the practices that are potentially efficient and less hierarchical. Being clearly within the Social Science and Humanities Research Council of Canada’s priority area of Aboriginal research, this partnership will strengthen international collaboration in research and debates on the role of legal pluralism in the decolonization of the relationship between the state and indigenous peoples.

Cultural and Religious Diversity in Four National Contexts: a comparative study of identity dynamics and of the regulation of religion (Diversité culturelle et religieuse dans quatre contextes nationaux: étude comparée de la dynamique identitaire et de la régulation de la religion)

Project in collaboration with Solange Lefebvre (principal investigator, Université de Montréal), Lori Beaman (University of Ottawa), Peter Beyer (University of Ottawa) and Jean-François Gaudreault-Desbiens (Université de Montréal) and foreign partners Céline Béraud (Université de Caen), Marie-Claire Foblets (MPI for Social Anthropology, Halle/Saale), Tariq Modood (University of Bristol), James Beckford (University of Warwick).

Third-party funding from the Social Science and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRCC) Insight Grants, Spring 2012 – Spring 2017: CAD 60,278.

Outline of the project:

Questions on the management of cultural and religious diversity have intensified in many Western countries which are confronted by the challenges posed by the relationship between their historically dominant communities and increasing religious and ethnic diversity. The questions raised by these challenges in four different national contexts were addressed by setting up commissions, three of which were government initiatives. Three countries – Great Britain, France and Belgium – and one national province - Québec - engaged in a profound reflection on comparable problems (Parekh 2000, Stasi 2003, Bouchard-Taylor 2008, Foblets-Kulakowski 2010).

This project examines the work done by the above-mentioned commissions, the context of their creation and the reception of the reports they produced on a socio-political, institutional, academic and media level. The comparative work focuses on two main topics addressed by the commissions: 1. the controversies around collective identity and ethno-religious diversity found within the society in question; 2. The management of cultural and religious diversity and the regulation of religion by the states, seen from four perspectives: a. reasonable accommodation and freedom of religion; b. gender ratio; c. structures in public and public-private institutions; d. changes taking place in national models (secularism, secularisation, multiculturalism, interculturalism). These topics will inform the analysis of a body of documents consisting of the reports and the recommendations they advance, academic texts, and other documents produced in response to the reports (government guidelines, legislation, major editorials in the print media).

The project is carried out by three co-researchers and four others who specialise in the countries, disciplines and issues involved. At a point where religious diversity seems to call into question the self-definition of several societies, including those of Québec and Canada, this research seeks to advance the understanding of questions of the coexistence of groups and communities in contemporary plural societies. The study seeks to offer valuable information both to leaders entrusted with the development of public policies and to academics.

Patterns of Governing Religion

Project in collaboration with Lori Beaman (University of Ottawa).

Funded by the International Research Acceleration (IRAP), September 2012 – September 2014.

Outline of the project:

This research project aims at creating an ongoing collaboration between the Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology, Department 'Law & Anthropology', and the Religion and Diversity Project (www.religionanddiversity.ca) whose director, Lori Beaman, is the Canada Research Chair in the Contextualization of Religion in a Diverse Canada. Through this collaboration Germany is added as a comparator country to the programme of research of the Religion and Diversity Project. The project also seeks to replicate selected research findings of the RELIGARE research programme (www.religareproject.eu), specifically those related to their core areas of Religion in the Public Spaces, State Support to religious groups, and Conflicting Values in secular democracies. By comparing and analyzing social scientific data and findings on the management of religious diversity in Canada and in Europe, the project addresses one of the most pressing social issues of our time - how to achieve a just and fair society in the face of increased diversity.

Finished Externally Funded Projects

Religious Diversity and Secular Models in Europe – Innovative Approaches to Law and Policy (RELIGARE)

Funded through the EC Framework Programme 7 (SSH-2009-3.2.2, ‘Religion and Secularism Across Europe’, 2,699,943 EUR), February 2010 – January 2013.

Outline of the project:

In an increasingly globalised world, the EU today to an unprecedented degree has come to be composed of people with different ethnic, religious and national backgrounds. Legislators and policymakers at all levels of the decision-making process are confronted with the question of how to respond effectively and appropriately to increasing social, cultural, religious and philosophical diversity in a democratic context.

The RELIGARE project assesses in particular the question how to strike a balance between the application of non-discrimination norms (and their further expansion) and the protection of the right to freedom of religion and belief. The search for the right balance requires that controversies be addressed on both empirical and normative grounds: (1) discrimination against non-believers and new religious groups; (2) the contours of the right to freedom of belief, both individual and collective, in both the forum internum (conscience) and the forum externum (expression, practices); (3) unequal distribution of state support.

The RELIGARE research was carried out in 10 countries (Belgium, Bulgaria, Denmark, Germany, Great Britain, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain and Turkey), and focuses on four areas of participation in social life: (1) employment, (2) family life, (3) access to and use of public space, and (4) state-supported activities. The project’s approach has been comparative and interdisciplinary, combining legal analysis with sociological data and insights. It has yielded three types of research instruments:

(1) a database of case law for the 10 countries involved in the research;

(2) a series of thematic templates that summarise the relevant legislation, court cases and controversies in the various countries (these reflect, in a synthetic fashion, the arguments made both by the legislative branch and by the courts and tribunals, in order to address a number of particular situations); and

(3) sociological reports, drawn up for the six countries where fieldwork was conducted (Bulgaria, Denmark, France, the Netherlands, Turkey and the UK).

Based on the main findings, the RELIGARE project advances a number of recommendations that are addressed both to the domestic authorities (EU member states) and, in particular, to the relevant EU institutions. The recommendations call for a more direct and active role for EU institutions in developing a coherent policy framework that is compatible with a democratic understanding of the functioning of pluralist democracies and would therefore help overcome divisions and segregations by reinforcing the struggle against discrimination on the grounds of religion or belief.


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