Common law dean hopes to be an agent for change in provincial politics
Nathalie Des Rosiers, the current dean of the U of O Faculty of Law’s common law section and former general counsel at the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, has announced that she intends to run for the Ontario Liberal Party nomination in the Ottawa-Vanier riding.
Des Rosiers, a constitutional law expert who fought the expansion and abuse of police powers displayed throughout the course of the June 2010 G20 summit, sees a career in politics as an opportunity to contribute to the public interest in a new way.
“I’ve been an academic, I’ve also been on the advocacy side … and so now it’s like going inside to try to do whatever we can to make some changes,” Des Rosiers told the Fulcrum.
She initially thought of running after meeting with former Ottawa-Vanier MPP Madeleine Meilleur to advocate for freedom of expression and assembly rights in the context of the 2010 G20 summit. This summit was the site of heavily criticized police violence against peaceful demonstrators, and lead to the largest case of mass arrests in Canadian history.
After this meeting, Des Rosiers realized that she might be able to make a difference from within government. But this also meant giving up her career in education, a decision that Des Rosier did not make lightly.
“I really love the University of Ottawa, I certainly love my colleagues and the staff and the students here at the Faculty of Law, common law section, so it was hard to decide because the research that my colleagues and I are producing influences, shapes public policy.”
Despite these difficulties, Des Rosiers believes that the work that she has done as an academic will benefit her as she enters politics. For instance, her legal training will help her understand how legislation can offer solutions to certain issues in society, while her work in research will enable her to propose legislative changes, confident that her suggestions are based on good evidence and knowledge.
“This is a new world, but I’m quite ready and happy to learn, and it’s not the first time in my life that I had to almost reinvent myself.”
Some of the issues which Des Rosiers hopes to address if elected include Indigenous rights, transparency and accountability for democratic institutions, women’s issues, Francophone affairs, and immigrant rights—all of which she has focused on during her career.
“I will continue to support a vision of Ontario that is grounded in tolerance, grounded in opportunity for everyone, and equality,” said Des Rosiers. “I’m prepared to fight for that vision in the next election.”
Des Rosiers also emphasized her desire to include the voices of youth in the decisions she makes. She intends to do this through the creation of an advisory group of young people that could help measure the impact of provincial policies on them.
“University students, I think, have a role and certainly have a responsibility to be particularly engaged citizens because they have access to knowledge. I hope in part that my journey in going into politics will inspire our students to step up in the political light either as a candidate or generally in terms of engaging directly with the issues of our time.”