Macdonald-Laurier InstituteAt MLI, our goal is always to influence the development and implementation of sound federal public policy by ensuring decision makers are informed of the best policy options. Measuring our impact is crucial to measuring our success. In the third quarter of 2016, from July 1 to Sept. 30, MLI’s impact was felt particularly in the areas of criminal justice, Indigenous issues and health care reform, and two of our senior fellows received one of the most prestigious academic honours.


The Justice Report Card, produced by Munk Senior Fellow Benjamin Perrin and Dr. Richard Audas, was likely the most successful project launched by the institute in recent years. The report, published in September, analysed the justice systems of the provinces and territories on dozens of metrics from public perceptions of police to lengths of trials to crime rates. What it revealed was a system that in many cases was not living up to the expectations of Canadians.

The report was widely covered in the media, including: Postmedia papers, CBC News, the Winnipeg Free Press, Radio-Canada online, Nunatsiaq News, the Canadian Press, Calgary Herald, and CTV News (Manitoba). The authors also did dozens of interviews with radio stations, including CBC Radio One stations across the country, and talk radio stations in key markets. The report generated supportive editorials in the Victoria Times-Colonist and the Globe and Mail.

Even more importantly, the report received a significant reaction from decision makers in government. The Manitoba government promised a review of its justice system in a response to the MLI report. And Alberta Justice Minister Kathleen Ganley acknowledged the need for significant reform to her province's justice system. The government of Prince Edward Island, the province ranked first in the report card, issued a press release discussing its ranking. The Mayor of Iqaluit said the report rang true with her experiences with victim support in Nunavut, while many territorial officials responded to their jurisdictions' poor rankings. The report also generated a reaction from Newfoundland Justice Minister Andrew Parsons, who proposed to convene representatives of the various branches of the province's legal system to discuss reforms.

Report author Benjamin Perrin was invited to present his report to Osgoode Hall Law School and has presented his analysis of the Supreme Court to the Ontario Bar Association in the last quarter. The report’s authors have also presented their findings to Senator Bob Runciman’s hearings on justice system inefficiency.

Finally, Scott Newark’s companion report on the inefficiencies of the justice system at the national level was reviewed by the Canadian Association of Police Governance (Police Boards) who sent it to all of their members, meaning every police board and police chief in Canada has received a copy along with the association's endorsement.

Finally, officials at Statcan contacted Newark to discuss his paper’s findings and how justice statistics reporting can be improved to help guide reform efforts.

Recognition for Senior Fellows

In September it was announced that not one but two MLI Senior Fellows, Dwight Newman and Christian Leuprecht, were inducted into College of New Scholars of the Royal Society of Canada, one of the most prestigious honours in Canadian academia. Leuprecht was the only social scientist inducted this year.

“Christian Leuprecht is one of Canada’s most prolific scholars in the comparative study of security and defence”, the Royal Society said. “He has made innovative contributions to applying network science to transnational illicit networks, clustering heterogeneous semi-structured national security datasets, cybersecurity, the governance of borders, national security policy and administration and political demography”.

And according to the Royal Society, “Dr. Newman is the foremost scholar on the Canadian doctrine of the duty to consult Aboriginal peoples. A noted public intellectual, Dr. Newman’s work has been cited repeatedly in scholarship, in several Supreme Court of Canada judgments, and by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s final report”.

Foreign policy

While not all of the attention MLI gets is positive, we can sometimes take pride even when we are singled out for harsh treatment, as was the case this past September when Kremlin-directed Internet trolls attacked the MLI Facebook page with a torrent of abusive comments. Clearly MLI was targeted because of the critique of Russian tactics in a Commentary by MLI Munk Senior Fellow Shuvaloy Majumdar and co-author Marcus Kolga which urged a renewal of NATO to counter a revanchist Russia. We see this provocation as evidence that we are having a positive impact on the foreign policy discussion and we will continue to take on the challenging issues facing Canada on the world stage.

On the vastly more positive side, one of Canada’s most respected statesmen, Bob Rae, offered his endorsement of the Majumdar-Kolga paper, writing that it was "a very good analysis of the evolving European security environment and Canada’s policy options to help secure NATO’s borders and further support the development of democracy and human rights in Russia and Eastern Europe."

Internal trade

MLI’s work on internal trade has clearly helped inform the policy position of Conservative leadership candidate Maxime Bernier. In August he released his policy on the issues which very closely mirrors MLI’s recommendations. Bernier recognizes the importance of the federal government taking the lead in defending the economic freedom of Canadians.

Indigenous issues

In this past quarter we saw one of the clearest examples of MLI’s tremendous influence on Indigenous issues. This past spring, just as the federal government proclaimed its intention to implement the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, MLI had two papers prepared, examining the practical challenges of undertaking such a task. The authors, Ken Coates and Plains Cree leader Blaine Favel, warned that full implementation of UNDRIP was not possible given the complexity of Canadian laws and policy, and they encouraged the government to concentrate on a practical approach, in collaboration with Aboriginal leaders. Only a few months later, in July, Canada’s Justice Minister adopted a view very similar to MLI’s, calling UNDRIP “unworkable” in Canadian law. The National Post’s John Ivison made the connection between the evolution in the government’s thinking and MLI’s work explicit in his column, saying the Justice Minister “has done the right thing”. And Post columnist Kelly McParland cited Coates’ work on the issue in his own column a few days later.

Also this quarter, Coates made a significant impact during a speaking tour of Australia, and he discovered a terrific appetite for ideas from Canada for dealing with the many similar issues experienced by Australia with engaging Aboriginal peoples with the natural resource economy. He gave a number of presentations in Canberra, including at the Parliamentary Library and the Australian National University, titled “Innovation, Technology and Developing the North: Insights from the Arctic for Australia's Remote Regions and Indigenous Communities.”

MLI report author Bram Noble recently participated on a panel for the Ontario Association of Impact Assessment, speaking to the future of EA and Aboriginal engagement in impact assessment. He also gave an invited talk at UBC, and has been invited to participate on a Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency panel at the International Association for Impact Assessment in 2017, addressing Aboriginal engagement and practical implications for impact assessment.

Noble’s MLI project also helped support a paper he co-authored and published in September in the Journal of Environmental Assessment and Management, and the authors spoke to their work at the Canadian Association of Geographers’ annual general meeting in Vancouver.

Health care

Sean’s Speer's work on health care has attracted the attention of numerous stakeholders in the health policy debate. In September he was asked to present on “Re-evaluating the Canada Health Act” at an annual conference organized by the University of Toronto Institute of Health Policy, Management and Evaluation and the Health Law in Canada Journal. In addition, Speer was invited to prepare an article to be included in the February 2017 Health Law in Canada Journal special edition which will focus on the Canada Health Act.

Also in September, Speer was the headline guest at an event organized by Peace, Order and Good Government Canada about the need for health system reform.