April 28-30, 2019

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Our Whole Society 2019

April 28-30, 2019 in Toronto, ON

Visit the Resources page for reflections on the conference and videos of plenary sessions and keynote addresses


On April 28-30, 2019, the Canadian Interfaith Conversation sponsored the fourth conference called “Our Whole Society,” which aims to foster a new dialogue about the changing role of religion in a pluralistic Canadian society, and seeks to draw on insights from diverse religious and secular traditions of thought to navigate the challenges of constructing a society that is more robust and unified amidst its diversity.

Previously held in Montreal (2013), Vancouver (2015), and Ottawa (2017), the 2019 gathering in Toronto brought together leading thinkers from all sectors of society to create a space for meaningful exploration, where a variety of insights could shed light on the place and contribution of religion in a secular age. Past gatherings have brought together civic leaders, academics, public servants, students, religious leaders, lawyers, and engaged citizens to talk about how we can build our whole society. Past speakers have included leading Canadian thinkers and writers such as: John Ralston Saul, John Borrows, Marie Wilson, and Daniel Weinstock. 


Many distinguished speakers joined us in Toronto at OWS 2019 including Dr. Mary Jo Leddy, Dr. David Novak, Dr. Gerald Filson, The Honourable Bob Rae, Dr. Solange Lefebvre, and Dr. Michael Ruse. These speakers, panelists, and workshop presenters came together to address our three sub-themes for this year's conference: Rethinking Identity, Addressing Extremism and Polarization, and Technology, Values and Society.


Rethinking Identity

Rethinking Identity: We are living through uncertain times, when established ideas and institutions are under pressure from a variety of social forces. In the midst of our turbulent age, many people are rethinking the basis of our human identity. What does it mean to be human, in a society that is increasingly diverse, in flux, and shaped by new technologies? What can be done to protect human dignity and nobility? How can we find common ground: a basis of shared principles and values that can help us to navigate through rapid changes? How could these principles and values help us to heal our social divisions, address the injustices of the past, and build communities that can foster ties of solidarity, cooperation and reciprocity between many diverse people?


Addressing Extremism and Polarization: In a society that is increasingly pulled towards the extremes, many are looking to reinforce a common centre of reasonable, respectful discourse. What is the role of religion in this conversation? How does religion become a source of social good, reconciling viewpoints, transcending divisions, and rejecting those who would spread hate in its name? How should religious concepts inform political language and strategies? In what ways should religious and secular actors work together to create a more robust public discourse?


Extremism and Polararization
Technology, Values and Society Technology, Values and Society: There is also a growing anxiety about a technological future in which people are powerless to make meaningful choices about the development and uses of technology. Many are asking how we can think in new ways about the relationship between emerging technologies, values and society. What values does technology express? What can religion bring to conversations about the role of technology in society? What means should be explored to ensure that technologies are developed and used to serve human and social well-being, rather than the other way around?