Recorded Webinars


Book Symposium

Book: Indigenizing Philosophy through the Land: A Trickster Methodology for Decolonizing Environmental Ethics and Indigenous Futures (Michigan State University Press, 2019)
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Author: Brian Burkhart
Citizen, Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma; Associate Professor of Philosophy, University of Oklahoma

Chair: Lorraine Mayer
Citizen, Metis Nation of Manitoba; Professor, Department of Native Studies, Brandon University


  • Gordon Christie
    Inupiat/Inuvialuit; Professor, Peter A. Allard School of Law, Director of the Indigenous Legal Studies Program, University of British Columbia
  • Thurman Lee Hester
    Citizen, Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma
  • Dennis McPherson
    Ojibwa, Band Member of Couchiching First Nation; Associate Professor, Indigenous Learning, Lakehead University

About the book: Land is key to the operations of coloniality, but the power of the land is also the key anticolonial force that grounds Indigenous liberation. This work is an attempt to articulate the nature of land as a material, conceptual, and ontological foundation for Indigenous ways of knowing, being, and valuing. As a foundation of valuing, land forms the framework for a conceptualization of Indigenous environmental ethics as an anticolonial force for sovereign Indigenous futures. This text is an important contribution in the efforts to Indigenize Western philosophy, particularly in the context of settler colonialism in the United States. It breaks significant ground in articulating Indigenous ways of knowing and valuing to Western philosophy—not as artifact that Western philosophy can incorporate into its canon, but rather as a force of anticolonial Indigenous liberation. Ultimately, Indigenizing Philosophy through the Land shines light on a possible road for epistemically, ontologically, and morally sovereign Indigenous futures.

Ethical Issues in Migration

Friday, June 25, 2021 from 1:00 pm to 3:00 pm ET

This webinar featured two paper presentations. Each speaker had 40 minutes to present their arguments, and then there was 20 minutes for a question and answer period.

Picture of Karen Connie Abalos-Orendain

A Critical Account of Habermas’s Communicative Action as Applied to Filipina Migrant Claims
Karen Connie Abalos-Orendain, PhD, University of the Philippines, Diliman

The appeal of Critical Theory comes from many fronts. However, its applicability on practical issues both for the political and the moral is probably its strongest feature. The question then becomes: up to what extent can concepts such as communicative theory and intersubjective processes translate to action? In this paper, we explore the limitations and possibilities of Critical Social Theory and discourse ethics as posed by Jurgen Habermas. Specifically, we critically analyze his concept of Communicative Action by applying it to the question of migrant rights.  When applied to the claims of female migrant domestic workers, how will Habermas’s discourse theory hold?

We begin this analysis with a brief description of Habermas’s theory. We focus on his vision for what Critical Theory can offer as a framework through his concepts of communicative action. We reflect on his insights critically by utilizing the analysis of his own former students, Nancy Fraser and Seyla Benhabib. We show how Fraser shows the limitations of Habermas’s concept because he failed to take into consideration the female perspective and contribution to the labor force as well as the society in general. How are migrant domestic workers’ rights different from other rights claims? We pose that feminist issues also translate into migrant claims within the nuclear home in the case of domestic helpers. This mounts the question of migration within the gender framework.

Meanwhile, Benhabib presents us with the potential of the theory once again by reminding us of its universalist stance, which can be advantageous when applied to migrant workers. We delve deeper into the question of rights as moral claims and rights as legal entitlements. Is the gap between the two distinctions simply a matter of recognition? Seyla Benhabib helps us understand the problem. We then conclude with a quick summary and a brief projection of what is possible regarding this particular issue using the methods of discourse theory. In this project, the discourse we refer to is the ongoing milieu of migrant narratives and its subsequent claims.

Picture of Jordan Desmond

Care Worker Migration and the Responsibility for Rectifying Injustices
Jordan Desmond, Queen’s University

In “Care Worker Migration and Transnational Justice,” Lisa Eckenwiler offers a brilliant account of the ongoing care worker migration crisis, identifying the structural injustices that have caused and been created by the crisis, as well as the agents implicated in their manifestation and perpetuation.[1] Further, Eckenwiler offers several recommendations for how we might go about attributing responsibilities to respond to these injustices. In this paper, I take a critical look at Eckenwiler’s approach to attributing responsibility and the extent to which it can be said to satisfy what ought to be considered the aims of moral action. In particular, I identify in Eckenwiler’s account certain ambiguities that, I argue, entail limitations in scope or in motivational capacity that fail to maximize just outcomes for those who have been harmed by mass care worker migration.

In light of such issues, I situate Eckenwiler’s position within a framework inspired by the work of Robert Goodin,[2] so as to strengthen the grounds upon which we are able to make attributions of responsibility and expand the scope of implicated agents from whom moral action is demanded. In particular, I argue that we ought to hold agents responsible for moral action by virtue of their capacity for effective response and regardless of their causal relationship to the crisis. The hope is that by doing so, I am able to preserve the strengths of Eckenwiler’s approach to transnational justice while offering a more effective means of responding to the care worker migration crisis. In order to demonstrate this effectiveness, I consider a concrete proposal, articulated by Joan Tronto,[3] for addressing issues of dislocation and exploitation that result from mass care worker migration and argue that my account is more effectively able to carry out such a proposal.

[1] Lisa Eckenwiler, “Care Worker Migration and Transnational Justice,” Public Health Ethics 2, no. 2 (2009): 171-183.

[2] Robert Goodin, “What Is So Special About Our Fellow Countrymen?” Ethics 98 (1998): 663-686.

[3] Joan Tronto, “Care as the Work of Citizens,” in Women and Citizenship, ed. Marilyn Friedman (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005), 130-145.

Canadian Society for the Study of Practical Ethics Talks and Annual General Meeting
This event featured two talks and our Annual General Meeting. For the talks, each presenter had 40 minutes to present their arguments, and then there was 20 minutes for a question and answer period.

Picture of Amber Spence

The Responsive Diversity Worker
Amber Spence, University of Guelph, Philosophy Department

Often in academia, women and minorities are held to a higher standard in how they present themselves (caring, empathetic), and how they manage the emotions of their colleagues and students. The emotional labour that has become expected of them is well documented in studies and feminist literature.

In my paper, I expand on Carla Fehr’s ‘epistemic diversity worker’ to better include all women and minorities within the term ‘diversity worker’. Most importantly, I develop a new term to include the emotional labour that is done by diversity workers: Responsive Diversity Work. I summarize Fehr’s view of the epistemic diversity worker in section one, develop a theory of emotional labour in section two, and explain how the responsive diversity worker is, by virtue of the unfair emotional labour that is expected of her, at great risk of developing mental health issues.

I develop a view of emotional labour by investigating the theory proposed by Hochschild and expanded by Nobauer and Koster. Generally, this view regards emotional labour as the work involved in either inciting an emotional state in oneself, or simply behaving as though one feels a certain way that has become expected of them.

The choice to ‘opt out’ of the work involved in emotional labour comes at a cost for the diversity worker, in a way that does not happen to her cis white male counterparts. For the diversity worker, not engaging in emotional labour can entail a halt in professional advancement in the form of poor student evaluations. These evaluations are used in professional contexts to help make a case for or against career advancement. The strain from sustaining this level of emotional management often results in mental health issues, which may help to shed light on the problem of the leaky pipeline.

Picture of Craig Agule

Forgiveness as Turning Off Blame’s Lamp
Craig K. Agule, Rutgers University–Camden

Forgiveness has a puzzling relationship with the reasons we might forgive. To some philosophers, it has seemed that we can only forgive for certain reasons; the reasons are ontological conditions of forgiveness. To other philosophers, it has seemed that good reasons to forgive mandate forgiveness; the reasons are obligating, normative conditions of forgiveness. Both of these positions are in deep tension with our ordinary practice of forgiveness, as it seems that forgiveness is up to us and that we might sometimes forgive in error. To properly respond to these puzzling features, we must properly understand forgiveness, and to properly understand forgiveness, we must properly understand blame. In this paper, I explain that blame essentially involves certain perceptual dispositions, dispositions to attend and dispositions to interpret. When we forgive, we set aside those perceptual dispositions. As I argue, blame is like a lamp, and so forgiveness is turning off that lamp. Understanding blame and forgiveness in those ways helps us resolve forgiveness’s ostensibly puzzling relationship with its reasons.

Bioethics and Justice

This webinar featured two presentations. Each speaker had 25 minutes to present their arguments, and then there was 15 minutes for a question and answer period.

Presentation Materials:

Aging Justice: Health Justice Extended
Alex Mayhew, Faculty of Information and Media Studies, University of Western Ontario

One of the critical insights Venkatapuram articulated in his 2011 work Health Justice was that “to be healthy is a kind of freedom. To be free of impairment and pain.” He argues that our health expectations are socially constructed and have changed from time and place. Health has also come under increased human control. Major health failures such as famines and outbreaks of common diseases like Measles are no longer predominantly the result of random bad luck. Instead, today major systemic health failures are largely the result of social practices.

In Health and Social Justice Prah Ruger states that “justice demands that society should ensure that individuals are capable of avoiding premature death and escapable morbidity.” But what counts as ‘premature’ death, or ‘escapable’ morbidity? Both Venkatapuram and Prah Ruger avoid the topic of aging, scarcely mentioning the word. What happens when we turn the Health Justice lens to aging?

The elderly are often expected to endure a loss of capacity that is not imposed on other demographics. The reason for this is clear, technologically it has been beyond our capability to address the root causes of aging. But instead of acknowledging this as a tragedy, the common reaction is to call it natural and put it out of mind.

By extending the idea of Health Justice we can see the involuntary deterioration of health and end of life as a social justice issue. Aging is already heavily influenced by human choices and social practices; this is most notable in our increasing longevity. This human control is only going to increase, and we must choose how to respond. While achieving a completely just society and perpetual capacity for health is likely impossible, the pursuit of these ends is a worthy goal.

Silenced and Coerced Speech in Psychiatry
Alex James Miller Tate, Independent Scholar

Status-based statutes (e.g. the Mental Health Act 2007 in the UK) that permit the involuntary detention and treatment of otherwise legally competent psychiatric service users are common worldwide. This makes seeking psychiatric care in crisis a risky enterprise; an individual with mental health difficulties is at significantly greater risk of the harms involved in detention and compulsion than someone presenting to primary care with a physical ailment. Since many service users are keen to avoid such outcomes, they are motivated to downplay the severity of their symptoms, especially if these include suicidal ideation, completed or intended self-harm, or psychosis.

There is, however, a further source of risk in psychiatric encounters which pulls in the other direction. If individuals do not receive any help, then they are liable to experience extreme distress, perhaps engage in serious acts of self-injury, or even attempt or complete suicide. Service users who wish to avoid these outcomes in an era of grossly under-resourced mental health services must make it clear that their situation requires urgent prioritisation.

In this paper, I argue that the phenomena above amount to various forms of unjust silencing and coerced speech, which in turn may amount to violations of a patient’s right to healthcare, and the physician’s duty of non-maleficence. Since self-report is a mandatory precursor to effective psychiatric care, this means that suffering serious wrongs is a common, indeed typical, precondition of receiving psychiatric care. I survey various proposals to remedy this situation, concluding that the problem cannot be solved at the clinical level; it requires significant legal reform of mental health systems to reduce or eliminate compulsion.

Colonialism and Oppression

This Zoom webinar featured three presentations. Each speaker had 20 minutes to present their arguments, and then there was 10 minutes for a question and answer period.

Capability and Oppression
Jay Drydyk, Carleton University

The capability approach focuses on understanding and removing unfreedom. So it is surprising that connections between capability and oppression have been little discussed. Here I take two small steps towards filling that void. (1) I consider an intuitive conceptual connection between capability and oppression. We can think of unfreedom in two ways. At a time, one may be unfree to eat well, to stay healthy, or to have good human relationships. Over time, one may be unable to change this, to expand one’s capability. That is, one may be held or confined in a low capability level, and this corresponds to a core meaning of oppression. (2) Normatively, it is crucial to see whether and how people are held at low capability levels as a result of the agency of others, even if (as in systemic or structural inequality) this effect is not always deliberate.

Canadian Decolonization: The Path to Indigenous Recognition and Sovereignty
Sebastian Farkas, Acadia University

How can Indigenous communities acquire recognition and the claim to sovereignty they desire within Canadian society? The heinous treatment of Indigenous Canadians has been well documented. Residential schools sought to assimilate Indigenous peoples by forcing them to forget their culture and adopt the British way of life. Although, thankfully, Canada has progressed and moved away from this horrific past by making efforts to repair the Indigenous relationship. Whether it was Stephen Harper delivering a public apology in 2008, the establishment of Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission, or Justin Trudeau’s 2015 campaign promise to establish a genuine “nation-to-nation” approach, Canada has tried to repair historical wrongs. Yet, nothing has really changed. Even though Canada’s Constitution includes Section 35 that recognizes and affirms Indigenous rights in Canada, time and time again Canada fails to adhere to its own laws created to protect and improve Indigenous life. By relying on decolonization theory, this paper argues that Canada must change their process for adjudicating legal affairs if Indigenous peoples are to have their rights respected, guaranteed, and upheld. Specifically, this paper will focus on Indigenous land claims as a pivotal area of where Canadian law must decolonize if the state is to genuinely uphold their promise to preserve the rights of Indigenous peoples.

Justice and Accountability: What Obligations Do Non-Indigenous Governments and Persons Have in Our Relationships with Indigenous peoples?
Sandra Tomsons, Research Affiliate Centre for Health, Lakehead University

Canada’s governments and non-Indigenous scholars frequently use justice notions when discussing what they call ‘the Aboriginal problem’, ‘the Aboriginal rights problem’ or ‘Canada’s most serious justice problem.’ Our scholars propose theories of Aboriginal rights. Our politicians create policies. Indigenous scholars and politicians criticize both. Recently, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau promised those who lost family members when the Ukraine Airline’s plane was shot down in Iran: “We will not rest until there is justice and accountability.” Hearing his promise, I wondered “Why aren’t you promising Indigenous peoples “We will not rest until there is justice and accountability for you?” If he made the promise, what would this just accountable relationship look like? My presentation proves non-Indigenous persons don’t understand being just and accountable to Indigenous peoples. We need Indigenous assistance to i) discern our colonial perceptual reality, so we can replace it; ii) help us discover the way to a mutually respectful treaty relationship; – the only way we can be just and accountable to Indigenous peoples.