Queen's launches Canada's first research centre for workplace law
Queen’s is strengthening its capacity to play a leadership role in labour and employment law with the newly established Centre for Law in the Contemporary Workplace. The Centre, made possible by a $185,000 start-up grant from the Law Foundation of Ontario (LFO), is the first of its kind in Canada. The Centre will train the next generation of labour and employment lawyers and scholars. It will also foster innovative research into legal aspects of key challenges facing Canadian workers and employers today.
“Several areas of law intersect in today’s workplace,” says Law dean Bill Flanagan. “That intersection will be at the heart of the new Centre. It will serve as a catalyst for research and curriculum development, for reflection and dialogue. Drawing on existing faculty strengths and attracting visiting experts, we are creating a gathering place and resource centre for researchers, practitioners and policy-makers.”
As Canadian workplace law is changing rapidly in response to many forces -- from globalization and shifting workforce demographics to the human rights revolution -- Professor Kevin Banks, academic director of the Centre, sees it as a timely innovation.
“An unprecedented number of Canadians participate in the workforce, and the quality of workplace relations matters more than ever to them and to the success of their employers,” he says. “This Centre aims to help define how labour and employment law can continue to advance workplace justice in ways attuned to today’s economy and society.”
The Centre for Law in the Contemporary Workplace, with a commitment to open and independent inquiry, will host distinguished guest lectures and conferences on contemporary topics. Its goals include attracting graduate students, providing research assistantships to J.D. candidates, establishing university-wide and national research networks, and eventually raising funds for a named chair.
Since the announcement of the LFO grant in May, Professor Banks and his colleagues have focused on taking the centre from proposal to reality.
“We established the organizational structure and put in place a balanced advisory committee of leading practitioners, policy-makers and adjudicators to help us shape the research agenda and raise the funds necessary to secure the Centre’s future operation,” he explains.
Queen’s alumnus Hugh Christie and Jeffrey Sack have agreed to serve as the centre's advisory committee co-chairs. Mr. Christie, a partner at Gowling Lafleur Henderson LLP’s Toronto office and leader of its Employment and Labour Law Practice Group, represents commercial and public sector clients. Mr. Sack, a founding partner of Sack Goldblatt Mitchell LLP, has been representing trade unions and employees for 40 years.
“Everyone associated with it, on campus and off, is very excited about this venture,” says Professor Banks. “This Centre will enable Queen’s Law to contribute real intellectual initiative to the field of labour and employment law in Ontario and across Canada.”
In accordance with Queen’s Senate procedures for academic innovations, the Centre for Law in the Contemporary Workplace received its provisional approval on September 29, 2010, clearing the way for the Law Faculty to propose formal Senate approval in two years.