President’s Lecture Series

Conversations about human rights

A crowd of people sitting and listening intently. Partially obscured.

Photo: CMHR, Ruth Bonneville

Event series details

In 2018 and 2019, the Museum’s former President and CEO John Young welcomed distinguished guest speakers for a lecture series on human rights.

Explore human rights issues from around the world in the videos below. Each examines a historical or contemporary human rights topic with a keynote presentation, an in‐conversation session, and a moderated dialogue with the audience.

Past Events

Video: Big Brother is watching

Big Brother is watching: President’s Lecture Series with investigative journalist Megha Rajagopalan

Tuesday, October 1, 2019 from 6:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. 

Megha Rajagopalan was forced to leave China last year after earning a reputation for bold reporting on Beijing’s creation of a sprawling state surveillance system, as well as the mass repression and detainment of the ethnic Uighur people.

Rajagopalan’s reporting on these issues in 2017 won her a Human Rights Press Award. Last year, her work documenting links between social media and violent conflict in central Sri Lanka won a Mirror Award. 

In this lecture, Megha Rajagopalan shared her eye‐opening experiences with digital surveillance techniques used by authoritarian states. The evening also included a discussion with Museum President and CEO John Young and a public question‐and‐answer session.

Video: Livestream: Fighting for freedom in Russia

Fighting for a free Russia: President's Lecture Series with Russian dissident Vladimir Kara‐Murza

Tuesday, October 30, 2018 from 6:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. 

One of Russia's most outspoken advocates for democracy and human rights, Vladimir Kara‐Murza has been on the front lines of opposition to President Vladimir Putin. Twice poisoned in the past three years, Kara‐Murza is unswayed from the fight for freedom and democracy. He was a pallbearer at the September 1 funeral of U.S. Senator John McCain in Washington DC.

In this lecture, he explored how Russians can bring about democratic change and how the West can best help. The evening also included a discussion with Museum President and CEO John Young and a public question‐and‐answer session.

Video: Religion and Reconciliation

Religion and Reconciliation: President's Lecture Series with John Borrows

Monday, March 26, 2018 from 6:30 p.m. to 9 p.m.

John Borrows is Anishinaabe from the Chippewas of the Nawash First Nation on the shores of Georgian Bay in Ontario. He is the Canada Research Chair in Indigenous Law at the University of Victoria Law School. The Canada Council for the Arts named Borrows the 2017 Killam Prize winner in Social Sciences for his extensive research in Indigenous law. 

In April 2016, John Borrows published Freedom and Indigenous Constitutionalism. His lecture focused on the themes raised in the book, including freedom of religion, Indigenous perspectives and reconciliation. Freedom and Indigenous Constitutionalism is available for purchase at the Boutique.

The evening included a conversation between Young and Borrows, and a question‐and‐answer period with the audience. Dr. Niigaan Sinclair acted as moderator for the Q&A. Dr. Sinclair is Anishinaabe and originally from St. Peter's (Little Peguis) Indian Settlement near Selkirk, Manitoba. He is a professor at the University of Manitoba and teaches courses in Indigenous literature, histories and politics.

ISIS propaganda: President’s Lecture Series with Journalist Michael Petrou

Monday, January 15, 2018 from 6:30 p.m. to 9 p.m.

Award‐winning author and journalist Michael Petrou spoke about the ISIS propaganda strategy and its role in the Yazidi genocide. He argued that‐just as Nazi propaganda was an integral component of the Holocaust, and Radio Télévision Libre des Mille Collines was a catalyst for the genocide in Rwanda –ISIS propaganda prepared the ground, and ensured support for the mass slaughter and sexual enslavement of Yazidis, whose homeland they overran.

Petrou’s latest book, Is This Your First War? Travels Through the Post‑9/11 Islamic World, won the Ottawa Book Award for non‐fiction and is now available for purchase in the Museum Boutique.

The evening included a conversation between Young and Petrou, and an audience question‐and‐answer period. The event ended with a book signing and meet‐and‐greet with the author. 

Petrou is a historian, author and journalist who has reported from across Europe, Africa, the Middle East and Central Asia. He has a PhD in Modern History from the University of Oxford. He is the 2018 Martin Wise Goodman Canadian Nieman Fellow at Harvard University, and is also a non‐resident fellow at the Montreal Institute for Genocide and Human Rights Studies.

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At the Museum, we celebrate inclusiveness, diversity and respect for others. We offer programs for people of all ages and abilities.

Still image from an animation showing human figures writing “welcome” in multiple languages in white and yellow on a purple wall. Partially obscured.