Meetings at the Intersection of State and Religion: The Canadian Experience Shared in Belgium

On November 23 and 25, Pascale Fournier, full professor of the civil law section of the University of Ottawa and Research Chair in Legal Pluralism and Comparative Law, will have the pleasure of sharing her expertise and field research experience in the context of two talks given in Belgium. Organised in an effort to facilitate exchanges and the pooling of knowledge, this speaking tour subscribes to the collaborative and interdisciplinary philosophy touted by professor Fournier in her work and international conferences.

Professor Fournier’s stay in Belgium will begin on November 23 at the Université Libre de Bruxelles (ULB), famed for its dynamic openness to Europe and the world. Generously invited by professors Emmanuelle Bribosia, Director of the legal section of the Institute for European Studies, and Isabelle Rorive, Head of the Perelman Center for Legal Philosophy, professor Fournier will discuss questions related to access to justice and substantive gender equality in the context of religious and secular divorce. Her presentation, entitled “Here, There… and Above: When Women Open Up on Religious and Secular Divorce in the West”, will explore issues that arose out of her empirical research in Canada, France, Germany and Great Britain. The presentation will be given to students from ULB’s Master of Law program, as well as to a wider academic audience. This talk is the most recent collaboration bringing together professors Bribosia and Rorive and professor Fournier, the latter having contributed a scholarly article (“Voiles/Voiler”) to the collective work co-edited by her colleagues, “L’accommodement de la diversité religieuse : Regards croisés—Canada, Europe, Belgique” (Peter Lang Editions, 2015).

On November 25, professor Fournier will continue her tour of Belgium in Louvain-la-Neuve, where she will participate in an international symposium, entitled “State and Religion”, organised by the Université catholique de Louvain (UCL). The University of Ottawa will be represented at the symposium by a delegation composed of professor Fournier, André Braën, full professor of the civil law section, and Nathalie Des Rosiers, full professor of the common law section and Liberal Party nominee for the upcoming Ottawa-Vanier provincial by-election. The symposium aims to further academic reflections on State and religious relations, in light of the diversification of beliefs, pluralism, immigration, the secularisation of society, the strengthening of human rights and the fight for the protection of democracy.

The symposium will bring together the UCL, the Université de Rennes, and the University of Ottawa to explore three themes from a comparative perspective (Belgium, France, Canada).

  • The first theme will examine the foundations of the rapports between the State and religions. Professor Des Rosiers will offer a Canadian perspective in a talk entitled “Free Religions? Governing State/Religion Rapports in Canada”.
  • Professor Fournier will speak in the context of the symposium’s second theme on the coexistence of individual universal rights and particular regimes. Her presentation, entitled “Freedom of Religion, Laicism and the Right to Equality: Encounters with Devout Women”, will discuss inequality in religious and secular contexts as reported by Jewish and Muslim women experiencing divorce in the West.
  • Finally, the symposium’s third theme on questions of religious discrimination will be explored from a Canadian point of view by professor Braën during his talk entitled “State Neutrality and Reasonable Accommodation: Same Objective?”.

Generously hosted by the UCL, the largest French-speaking university in Belgium, professors Fournier, Braën and Des Rosiers will have the pleasure of visiting the Senate and the Constitutional Court of Belgium and will attend a seminar on the country’s recent constitutional reforms and the state of Belgian federalism. The professors’ mission to Belgium is aimed to develop the University of Ottawa’s close relationships with the UCL and other institutions abroad.

  • Professor Fournier giving a conference at the Institute for European Studies of the ULB
  • Professors Fournier and Bribosia of the ULB
  • Professor Fournier and Professor Julien Pieret of the ULB
  • The delegations of the Université de Rennes, the UCL and the University of Ottawa
  • Professors Fournier, Bribosia and Rovive of the ULB