New Queen's-led project will explore ethnic diversity issues

$2.5-M grant is university's largest-ever social sciences and humanities grant

KINGSTON, Ont. – Queen's University will lead a new $2.5-million project on one of the world's most critical issues today: governing ethnic diversity. It is the largest single funding award the university has ever received from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC).

Led by Political Studies Professor Bruce Berman, the "Ethnicity and Democratic Governance" project includes researchers from the University of Toronto, the Université du Québec à Montréal, the Royal Military College of Canada, Wilfrid Laurier and University of Victoria. As well, there are collaborators from seven countries in Europe, Asia, and Africa, in disciplines ranging from political science and law to philosophy and anthropology.

The team will explore ethnic politics and the complexities of democracy in multi-ethnic and divided states. The project builds on Canada's experience in accommodating linguistic and cultural diversity to find solutions for governance of multi-ethnic states around the world.

"This initiative demonstrates how Queen's research touches so many questions of importance to society around the world, and brings a unique Canadian perspective and potential solutions to addressing the challenge faced by many societies," says Queen's Vice-Principal (Research) Kerry Rowe. "The interdisciplinary and multi-national makeup of the team is a credit to the vision of the team, and their desire to effect change."

"We're aware that this is an ambitious undertaking, but we are all gripped by the importance and significance of the work," says Dr. Berman. "This project will help develop tools, strategies and practices that citizens and governments can learn from as they work through their own conflicts and tensions."

Also on the team from Queen's are: Villia Jefremovas (Development Studies), Canada Research Chair in Development and Social Change, Will Kymlicka (Philosophy), Canada Research Chair in Political Philosophy, John McGarry (Political Studies), Canada Research Chair in Nationalism and Democracy, and Queen's National Scholar Margaret Moore (Political Studies).

Five meetings of the new group are planned for 2006: an opening conference later this spring at Queen's including all 32 members, followed by workshop/meetings next fall of each of the project's four sub-groups in Kingston, Toronto and Montreal.

Partner organizations from Canada include the Forum of Federations, Rights and Democracy, the Metropolis Project, and the International Development Research Centre. Those from abroad include the Club de Madrid, an association composed of 55 former presidents and prime ministers of democratic countries dedicated to promoting democratic transition and consolidation, and the European Centre for Minority Issues.

The research team will explore:

  • why and how ethnic communities form;
  • the forces that influence whether inter-group relations will result in stable, peaceful and fair accommodations or bitter conflict;
  • the range of constitutional and policy options available to help divided societies manage their differences fairly and democratically;
  • the extent to which the international community can help to peacefully resolve ethnic conflicts; and
  • the philosophical tools that citizens, governments and scholars can bring to bear in searching for political stability, peaceful accommodation and social justice.

"The implications of this project for public policy everywhere are enormous," says Dr. Berman. "These are practical, serious issues which almost every country has faced. In today's world every nation is multicultural."

The Queen's project, one of four selected from 34 applications to the Major Collaborative Research Initiatives (MCRI) program, was chosen through a rigorous, independent peer-review process, which ensures that only the best research proposals receive funding. SSHRC is an arm's-length federal government agency that funds university-based research and graduate training through national, peer-reviewed competitions.

Visit the Ethnicity and Democratic Governance web site at: www.edg-gde.ca

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Contacts:

Nancy Dorrance, Queen's News & Media Services, 613.533.2869
Therese Greenwood, Queen's News & Media Services, 613.533.6907

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