Concordia University: Where social justice and innovation coincide

What is social justice? Why does it matter? How can it be achieved?

These are just a few questions stemming from a range of academic disciplines that students choose to pursue at Concordia University in Canada.

Here, aspiring philosophers reflect on how the concept of social justice might be understood and defended by proposing substantive articulations, as well as justifications of principles of dignity, freedom, equality and solidarity.

The world’s future historians, sociologists, anthropologists and literature scholars will explore the complexities associated with social justice based on the fact that ideas and principles of justice can and have been construed in many ways in different contexts.

Alternatively, the next generation of political scientists, economists, gender scholars and public policy researchers will examine how proposals that foster social justice are imagined, developed and then implemented through specific institutions and practices.

Such inquiries about social justice should be linked to the real world. They are the scholarly continuations of practical reflection, helping people who face injustice and trying to improve their lives and societies. This is what we do at Concordia and we welcome all to study at our inclusive Montreal campuses.

The Centre of Social Justice

Committed to innovative research, Concordia’s new Social Justice Centre aims to encourage interdisciplinary work among academics, intensifying their interactions with the broader social world to which they belong.

As Co-Director of the Centre and Assistant Professor of Philosophy, Katharina Nieswandt, states, “We want to understand why there is poverty, economic inequality, political domination, gender oppression, racism and indifference to the plight of foreigners. We want to explain why these kinds of situations involve injustice and we want to imagine practical paths of social justice that can ameliorate them.”

That’s why the mission of the Social Justice Centre is to facilitate the pursuit of these tasks, enabling the collaborative work of faculty members and students and to encourage fruitful interactions with other stakeholders in Montreal, Quebec, Canada and the rest of the world.

Additionally, ‘Common Research Projects’ will be developed with interdisciplinary teams in the upcoming year. They will focus on specific issues regarding each of the general questions about social justice, all of which are identified in the Centre’s mission – the ‘What?’, ‘Why’ and ‘How?’ questions of social justice.

According to the other Centre’s Co-Directors, Pablo Gilabert, while the Centre offers bursaries and other resources for students, the focus is “also on facilitating research for Concordia faculty members through pooling funds and expertise.”

Currently, the interdisciplinary research aspect of the Centre is reflected in its membership coming from sixteen different departments, ranging from Theological Studies to Chain & Supply Management.

Concordia University – Judge Morton Minc (left) with Supreme Court Justice Richard Wagner of the Supreme Court of Canada

Jurist-in-Residence Programme

Connecting the Concordia community and the public at large to some of the brightest minds in Canadian law, the Jurist-in-Residence Programme offers a significant advantage for students to excel in the fields of law and society.

Last year, Honourable Judge Morton Minc became the first Jurist-in-Residence to join the Faculty of Arts and Science and its Law and Society program.

As Dean André Roy explains, “Our Faculty is thrilled to welcome Judge Minc. Students are benefiting from his many years of experience in law and social justice. Knowing the numerous exciting projects he intends on carrying out for the next two years, I am confident that his residency will continue to enrich our program in Law and Society.”

Judge Minc has focused on social innovation in the court system. During his time as Chief Justice of the Montreal Municipal Court, Minc initiated and supported social programmes for offenders with substance abuse problems, mental disorders or vagrancy. This work was acknowledged in 2014 when he was awarded the Prix de la justice du Québec.

Since his appointment at Concordia, Judge Minc was named a member of the Order of Canada and a member of the Order of Montreal in 2018. His appointment as Jurist-in-Residence at Concordia is the first appointment of its kind for any English university in Quebec.

Shifting perceptions of societal challenges

Through the SHIFT initiative, the Centre for Social Transformation at Concordia aims at a strong real-community impact.

As a go-to social innovation hub, SHIFT challenges issues such as environmental degradation, political polarisation, wealth inequality and the massive impending shifts in work due to technology and artificial intelligence.

Understanding the need for practical solutions, the SHIFT Centre for Social Transformation is Concordia’s response to the question of how universities can mobilize and leverage student’s innovative ideas to counteract the biggest challenges of our time.

Through its many activities and collaborations,  SHIFT provides Concordia’s students and researchers the opportunities to apply their work for the broader social good. This year, the Centre will focus its research, training, collaboration and outreach activities on pressing issues facing global citizens. It will also engage in equal parts critical analysis and collective action.

With its emphasis on societal transformation, SHIFT is a key addition to Montreal’s dynamic network of social innovators, entrepreneurs, city-builders and change agents.

With all of these socially engaged initiatives, it is no wonder that many students choose Concordia University! If like them you strive for social justice; connect your innovative drive and join the next-generation thinking at Concordia University Montreal.

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