2018 Grace MacInnis Visiting Scholar Lecture: "The Rise of Populism: How We Can Stem the Tide"

September 13, 2018

The Honourable Ratna Omidvar

Thursday, September 13, 6:00PM–8:00PM, Room 1420–1430, SFU Harbour Centre

Sponsored by SFU's J.S. Woodsworth Chair in the Humanities


Today, millions of people are on the move around the world. Driven by war, opportunity, displaced by disaster or compelled by disease, refugees and immigrants alike are testing the ability – or willingness – of states to accept them. Producing a backlash that is finding voice in widespread populism. Canada is not immune to any of this. Not from the flow of migrants. Not from the challenges of acceptance.  And not from the allure of populism. The Senator will explore this moment in history, about the rise of populism and about the role Canada might play in a better, more inclusive future.


The Honourable Ratna Omidvar, C.M., O.Ont.
Senator for Ontario, The Senate of Canada
Global Diversity Exchange (GDX), Ryerson University

Ratna Omidvar is an internationally recognized voice on migration, diversity and inclusion. In April 2016, Prime Minister Trudeau appointed Ms. Omidvar to the Senate of Canada as an independent Senator representing Ontario. As a member of the Senate’s Independent Senators Group she holds a leadership position as the Scroll Manager. Senator Omidvar is also the Deputy Chair of the Special Senate Committee on the Charitable Sector.

Senator Omidvar is the founding Executive Director at the Global Diversity Exchange (GDX), Ryerson University. GDX is a think-and-do tank on diversity, migration and inclusion that connects local experience and ideas with global networks. Senator Omidvar serves as a Councillor on the World Refugee Council and she is also a director at the Environics Institute, and Samara Canada and is the Toronto Region Immigrant Employment Council’s Chair Emerita. She was formerly the Co-Chair of the Global Future Council on Migration hosted by the World Economic Forum and the Chair of Lifeline Syria.

Senator Omidvar received a Honorary Degree, Doctor of Laws, from Ryerson University in 2018 and from York University in 2012. She is the co-author of  the book Flight and Freedom: Stories of Escape to Canada (2015), an Open Book Toronto best book of 2015 and one of the Toronto Star's top five good reads from Word on the Street. Senator Omidvar was appointed to the Order of Ontario in 2005 and became a Member of the Order of Canada in 2011, with both honours recognizing her advocacy work on behalf of immigrants and devotion to reducing inequality in Canada. In 2014, she received the Cross of the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany in recognition of her contribution to the advancement of German-Canadian relations.