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Conference Brief

Our conference focused on global variations in the design, application and impacts of ethnic quota and non-quota measures of political representation. It looked at formal and informal mechanisms of ethnic inclusion, and at outcomes for targeted groups, ethnic peace and democracy. Papers addressed different spatial and jurisdictional levels, in peaceful and ethnically divided countries, and in democratic and non-democratic contexts.

Panel sessions covered topics including: Theoretical and Methodological Challenges of Comparing Ethnic and Indigenous Representation; Reserved Seats and Formal Quotas; Ethnic Gerrymandering; Consociational and Centripetal Settings for Ethnic Inclusion; Ethnic and Indigenous Representation via Federalism and Multi-level Governance; The Role of Political Parties in Ethnic Representation; and Global Comparisons of Institutional Designs for Ethnic Representation.  

Our conference brought together scholars and practitioners with wide ranging regional expertise and extensive knowledge of these issues in such countries/regions as Lebanon and the Middle East, India, South Africa, Croatia, Serbia, Taiwan, New Zealand, Singapore and Pacific Asia, Bolivia, Colombia, Mexico and Latin America, the US and Canada. It also provided an important training opportunity for graduate students and junior scholars in this area of research.

Download the conference program here.


Our conference had four interrelated goals: 

  1. To facilitate analysis and deepen our understanding of a wide range of 'group representation' arrangements for ethnic minority and indigenous groups that are being applied in Canada and worldwide; and to comparatively assess their impacts in terms of ethnic peace, democratic performance, and substantive fairness. 
  2. To help establish a long-term collaboration between Canadian and international scholars working in this area. 
  3. In collaboration with practitioners, to advance concrete guidance on best practices for ensuring that ethnic minorities and indigenous peoples are effectively represented in policymaking institutions.
  4. To provide methodological training opportunities for graduate students and junior scholars.  

Contributions from Participants

Paper presenters were encouraged to draw from comparative electoral systems, ethnic electoral politics, and theories of representation literature to explicate the design and consequences of ethnic/indigenous quotas and non-quota mechanisms in a wide range of countries, with different histories of inter-ethnic relations and colonialism, across varied regimes and cases.

Methods Modules

A series of hands-on training modules focusing on “Methodological Innovations and New Datasets for Assessing Indigenous and Ethnic Group Representation” was presented during the afternoon of Friday, 7 Dec 2018. All conference participants were welcomed to attend and participate.


Our conference began with a keynote speech from our distinguished guest, Dr. David Lublin, from American University. The following day, panelists debated topics related to the challenges in studying ethnic representation; federalism and multi-level governance as a vehicle for ethnic representation; and ethnic gerrymandering. Our roundtable discussion engaged participants in a dialogue on the electoral developments in Nova Scotia and Ontario’s far north, featuring members of the Far North Electoral Boundaries Commission and the Commission on Effective Electoral Representation of Acadian and African Nova Scotians. On the third day of the conference, participants exchanged ideas on the role of political parties and institutional designs on ethnic representation through global comparisons. The conference concluded with methods training modules on automated textual analysis of parliamentary debates, geo-political mapping of ethnic diversity, and using Vote Compass datasets to study minority populations. Overall, the conference included seven panels, two roundtable discussions, and three training modules. Thank you to everyone who attended and contributed valuable insights to our project!