The hard work of democracy explored

Sep 18th, 2015

Janet Harron

The hard work of democracy explored

With provincial and federal elections looming and Canada’s democracy recently being given a “C” grade in a report by a respected non-profit think tank, an upcoming initiative at Memorial, sponsored by the Royal Society of Canada (Atlantic) and CBC Ideas couldn’t be more timely.

Dialogue on Knowledge and Democracy (Oct. 6 to 9) will explore Canada’s institutional capacity to produce the knowledge required to sustain a healthy democracy and to provide the foundation for sound policies and practices. 

“These series of events are an invitation to all of us to take a short break from our busy lives (including the current federal and provincial elections) to reflect on, debate and discuss this question,” said Dr. Barbara Neis, sociology professor, Royal Society of Canada fellow and a key member of the organizing committee.

“Democracy requires hard work and an informed and actively engaged citizenry. Our overarching objective is to contribute to a larger and more sustained dialogue on these issues in the province and nationally over the coming months.” 

Dr. Neis cites cuts to government science, widespread concerns about the elimination of the compulsory long form census, reactions to Bill C-51 and worry among legal scholars, journalists and community groups about constraints on free expression. She also considers the changing relationship between universities and wider society and the different views on the nature of expertise and its place in a democracy as an area of concern.

The public is encouraged to attend a screening of Hands On: women, climate, change (Oct. 6) in partnership with Cinema Politica, an address by Dr. Harry Collins on Science and Democracy: The New Synthesis (Oct. 7) and Dr. Sheila Jasanoff’s discussion of A Mature Modernity: Science and Skepticism in Democractic Societies (Oct. 8). The film screening and both keynotes take place in the Bruneau Centre’s Innovation Theatre at 7 p.m.  Parking is available in lot 17.

The Dialogue on Knowledge and Democracy is also sponsoring a short film contest in partnership with the Newfoundland Independent Film Co-operative (NIFCO) and the St. John’s International Women’s Film Festival.

“Events like this one help us explore a topic critical to a well-functioning and just society of the 21st century,” said Dr. Noreen Golfman, provost and vice-president (academic). “We all must understand and appreciate the need to find the right answers to questions and to explore and challenge opposing points of view to acquire true knowledge in an increasingly complex world. Memorial is privileged to be welcoming an exceptional line-up of experts to help us engage in conversation – I encourage everyone to take time to participate.”


More information on the public events and the short film contest can be found at