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President Docherty presents at distinguished Senate-sponsored symposium

MRU represented among political, environmental and Indigenous leaders

President David Docherty

President David Docherty, PhD, presents at the 150th Anniversary of Canadian Confederation in the Red Chamber.

~Photo from Cable Public Affairs Channel (CPAC)

When he’s not on a university campus, there are only two other places President David Docherty would rather be: the ballpark or Queen's Park (or any legislature, for that matter).

Many would understand Docherty’s affinity for the former — especially fellow fans of the World Series-winning Chicago Cubs. However, there are few others in the country who better understand and appreciate parliamentary systems than the head of Mount Royal University.

Docherty, PhD, a self-described “unabashed fan of Westminster-style government,” spent much of his academic career studying provincial and national representative assemblies.

Given his interest and expertise on the subject, Docherty was invited to speak in Ottawa about the challenges facing Canada’s parliamentary system at the Senate Symposium on the 150th Anniversary of Canadian Confederation on May 26.

The two-day conference boasted a star-powered political lineup of former premiers, governor generals and even a former prime minister. Indigenous, environmental and labour leaders also presented in the so-called Red Chamber.

“To present on the floor of the Senate is quite a thrill,” Docherty said. “To be there to talk about something that I believe in — the parliamentary system — is even more thrilling.”

Docherty was tapped to share his insight on the past, present and future of the House of Commons. His presentation offered a critical analysis of the ways government advances the values at the core of the nation. But he also noted the limits created by the particularities of our federal form of government.

Thurs. May 25

Welcome Address
The Hon. George J. Furey, Q.C. Speaker of the Senate

Aboriginal Peoples: From Marginalization to a Nation-to-Nation Relationship
Phil Fontaine, former National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations (1997-2000)
Ellen Gabriel, former President of the Quebec Native Women’s Association (2004-2010) and official spokesperson of the People of the Longhouse during the Oka Crisis (1990)

Canada’s International Identity
Huguette Labelle, former Chancellor of the University of Ottawa (1994-2012) and former President of the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) (1993-1999)
Paul Heinbecker, Director of the Laurier Centre for Global Relations and Distinguished Fellow at the Centre for International Governance Innovation, former Ambassador and Permanent Representative to the United Nations (2000-2004)

The Francophonie and its Political Dimension

The Rt. Hon. Michaëlle Jean, Secretary- General of the Organisation internationale de la Francophonie and former Governor General of Canada (2005-2010)
The Hon. Michel Bastarache, former Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada (1997-2008) and former Judge of the New Brunswick Court of Appeal (1995-1997)

The Enactment of the ‘‘Charter of Rights and Freedoms’’: The Impact of a Culture of Rights on Canadian Society
The Rt. Hon. Beverley McLachlin, Chief Justice of Canada
Mark D. Walters, F.R. Scott Professor of Public and Constitutional Law at McGill University

National Unity: Dynamic Tensions as a Source of Progress
The Hon. Bob Rae, former Premier of Ontario (1990-1995)
The Hon. Jean Charest, former Premier of Quebec (2003-2012)
Gary Doer, former Premier of Manitoba (1999-2009) and former Ambassador to the United States (2009-2016)

Fri. May 26

Gender Equality: A Reachable, Important Objective
The Rt. Hon. Kim Campbell, former Prime Minister of Canada (1993)
Monique F. Leroux, President of the International Co-operative Alliance and former CEO of The Fédération des caisses Desjardins du Québec (2008-2016)

Sustainable Development and the Future of the Arctic
David Suzuki, geneticist, journalist, and Co-founder of the David Suzuki Foundation
Natan Obed, President of the Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami (ITK)

Science and Culture: Unexpected Achievements
Hubert Reeves, astrophysicist
Yves Gingras, Canada Research Chair in the History and Sociology of Science, and founder and current Scientific Director of the Observatoire des sciences et des technologies (OST), at the Université du Québec à Montréal (UQAM)
Pierre Lassonde, philanthropist, Chair of the Board of Directors of the Canada Council for the Arts

The Invention of a New Economy
David A. Dodge, former Governor of the Bank of Canada (2001-2008)
Hassan Yussuff, President of the Canadian Labour Congress

The Senate’s Participation in Canada’s Evolution Since 1967 and the Challenges of the Parliamentary System
David E. Smith, Distinguished Visiting Scholar at Ryerson University
David Docherty, President of Mount Royal University

By contributing his notes to a book inspired by the Senate-sponsored event, he hopes to help Canadians make sense of their governmental systems and think about the ways they might engage with these institutions in the future.

“One of the constants of Canadian confederation is our parliamentary system of government,” Docherty said. “Our Westminster system of government has facilitated a standard of living in Canada that is the envy of many other nations.

“The laws, budgets and debates that have taken place in the House of Commons have played an integral role in our development.”

Docherty’s participation in the symposium raises the profile and reputation of Mount Royal University around the country, according to Roberta Lexier, associate professor in the Department of General Education.

“The speakers at this event represent some of the most important institutions in Canadian society, including government, the Supreme Court, the Bank of Canada and Indigenous Peoples,” said Lexier. “It is notable that David is representing Canadian universities but especially Mount Royal University.

“To have his name included with individuals such as Phil Fontaine, Kim Campbell, Beverley McLachlin, Michaelle Jean, and others is quite impressive and demonstrates his esteemed position within the field of political science.”

Prior to being appointed Mount Royal’s ninth President in 2011, Docherty taught political science, authored two books and wrote countless papers on political affairs.

In 2005, he published Legislatures, in which he makes the case for legislative reform in Canada. Eight years earlier, he penned Mr. Smith Goes Ottawa, which looked at how new Members of Parliament acclimatize in the House of Commons, and which is well-used in introductory political science courses. As recently as November 2016, he visited the Hill to present to a special committee on Senate Modernization.

The latest symposium was billed as an opportunity to “take stock of where the 150-year-old country has come from and where it’s going” in Canada’s sesquicentennial year. While it’s important to reflect on the past 150 years and discuss the next 150 years, Lexier noted Canada’s history runs much longer than the founding of the colonial state of Canada.

“The sesquicentennial ignores the thousands of years of history of Indigenous peoples in this territory, which must be acknowledged if we are to achieve true reconciliation,” she said. “It is also essential that Canadians participate in the civic life of their nation.

“Without the active engagement of all citizens, we cannot claim to be a true democracy and the progress we can make to improve the lives of all individuals who live in this territory will be limited.”

May 26, 2017 ― Bryan Weismiller


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