A new lecture series to be offered at Canadian University College will be kicked off with a lecture by prominent speaker Iain Benson next week.
Presented in partnership with the University of Alberta’s Chester Ronning Centre and the division of Arts at CUC, Benson will deliver a lecture on Nov. 11th entitled ‘What Divides? What Unites? And Who Decides?: Pluralism and the Limits of the Law.’
Glen Graham, coordinator for the lecture series, said that Benson’s lecture will deal with how religion and politics interact.
It will talk about how far one can influence the other and who makes the decisions on such matters.
“It’s about pluralism and about how different faith traditions and political traditions negotiate political space,” said Graham.
“How do we cooperate? Who decides? “How do we decide? Is there room for religion in the public sphere? In other words, what is the role of religious voices in politics?”
Canadian University College Division of Arts Dean John McDowell said that a conversation regarding the interaction between religion and the public sphere was not something CUC was looking for, but does fit well with the institution.
“This accords with what we are about, we are a faith-based institution so let’s have the debate,” said McDowell.
A renowned Canadian constitutional lawyer, Benson was involved in drafting the South African Charter of Religious Rights and Freedoms. He has also presented to the Supreme Court on a number of occasions with the Supreme Court citing his definition of secular in several cases.
“What I know about him is he is an engaging speaker with a lot of experience,” said Graham.
This lecture will be the first in a new lecture series being launched by the CUC.
When Graham was first able to secure Benson’s lecture through his contacts at the Chester Ronning Centre it was going to be a ‘one-off’ event. However, after some discussion with faculty, the idea to launch an entire series came about.
When the idea was presented to CUC president Mark Haynal, he immediately gave his support and the university provided some seed money to fund the series.
McDowell said a number of private donors have stepped up as well.
Haynal also released a statement expressing his excitement for the series.
“I’m very pleased Canadian University College is sponsoring this new lecture series,” said Haynal.
“It adds to Lacombe’s growing reputation as a ‘university town.’ It also facilitates the kind of learning and dialogue in which all of us citizens should participate.”
Graham said that word about the new series is just starting to get out, but those who have heard of it have offered some positive feedback.
“We’re trying to get the word out there so we don’t have a lot of feedback yet, except for a few key people who have heard about it and are really excited about it,” said Graham.
“What I’m sensing is that there is a hunger for this kind of thing, because we don’t have a lot of it.
Graham said he thought the lecture series would make room for open dialogue, something that is often lacking when it comes to speaking of political issues in the public eye.
“In politics today we don’t have a lot of room for dialogue,” said Graham.
“We have room for contentious debate and talking points. But not a lot of forums for discussions where people can come together and learn from each other, not just speak at each other.”
McDowell added that a post-secondary institution seemed an ideal location to host such a talk.
“We felt that the university would be an ideal location to host events where ideas can be discussed, disseminated and shared,” said McDowell. “It’s not a political forum. It’s sort of neutral ground in a sense. A university is a place for learning, so let’s come here and learn.”
McDowell added that it was important to the university to make the lecture a public event and share it with the community. He said that the university is part of the Lacombe community and needs to make an effort to join with the public on occasion.
“We also felt it was important that we not keep this to ourselves,” said McDowell.
Graham and McDowell said they hope to grow the lecture series in the next year to offer two to four different lectures.
Graham said the topics of those lectures will vary, but all will deal with relevant topics of concern to Central Albertans.
Iain Benson’s Lecture will take place at 7 p.m. on Nov. 11th at Canadian University College’s McKibbin Education Building, 5415 College Ave.
Admission is free. For more information, contact Glen Graham at 403-307-3491.