Revisiting Human Rights in Canadian History

Stephanie Bangarth's picture
February 25, 2022 to February 26, 2022
Ontario, Canada
Subject Fields: 
Canadian History / Studies, Human Rights

Workshop Dates: 25-26 February 2022

It has been 10 years since the workshop, Taking Liberties: Historicizing Human Rights in the 20th Century English-Speaking World took place at McMaster University. That workshop sought to thoroughly historicize (and problematize) the transition of civil liberties and other rights discourse to the universalism of human rights (and the reciprocal tensions/struggles it caused both domestically and in the international rights regime) in British-influenced societies around the globe. Since that time there has been substantial growth in the historical scholarship on human rights in Canada. Yet the recent explosion of social movement activity, from #MeToo to Black Lives Matter and the Land Back movement, along with concerns engendered by the COVID-19 global pandemic, demonstrate the need for new approaches and a more critical questioning of Canada’s so-called “rights revolution” and the role that it has played in both challenging and perpetuating structural inequality and systemic forms of discrimination throughout Canada’s history.

The goal of this workshop is to reassess and to explore how rights discourses and movements have furthered more complex and sometimes contradictory agendas, and to analyze the benefits and limitations of the human rights project in addressing issues of discrimination, inequality, and oppression in Canadian society. We encourage participants to examine how “human rights” have been understood, mobilized, and resisted, by different groups at different times in Canada’s history. We are particularly interested in submissions that bring the study of human rights history into closer conversation with Canada’s history of settler colonialism, white supremacy, structural and state-sponsored violence, and heteronormativity. We are interested in submissions that consider either ‘moments’ in the struggle for human rights in Canada, its long history, or theoretical issues. Although our focus will be on Canada, we encourage transnational or comparative contributions that will place Canadian developments in a broader context.

Organized by Stephanie Bangarth and Jennifer Tunnicliffe, and hosted by the History Department at King’s University College at Western University, this two-day workshop seeks to bring togetherscholars to revisit the history of human rights in Canada, with the goal of publishing an edited volume to be submitted following the workshop. Our intention is to use this workshop to develop a human rights network to foster a more collaborative human rights field. Please note that this workshop will adhere to any applicable public health protocols as advised by King’s University College and the London-Middlesex Health Unit. We are hopeful that it will be in-person but it may also be blended. We welcome proposals in English or French of 250 words by June 7, 2021. Given our goal of discussing papers in depth, participants will be required to submit papers of approximately 8000 words in advance of the workshop to allow for pre-circulation.

Contact Info: 

Applicants should submit their proposals, a 150-word biography, and a one-page CV to Jennifer Tunnicliffe ( If you have any questions, please contact Jennifer ( or Stephanie Bangarth (

Contact Email: