Iain Benson developed the Centre's Research Council and manages the research and publication priorities of the Centre. Iain is a Barrister and Solicitor. He was formerly the Senior Solicitor for the B.C. labour relations board. Iain studied at various universities in Canada, Scotland and England, and has degrees from Queens University, University of Cambridge, and University of Windsor.
His interests and studies cross a variety of areas including philosophy, law, theology and medical ethics. He practices constitutional and administrative law and, has appeared before all levels of Court in Canada. He has also written on a broad range of issues and has lectured internationally. He is frequently quoted in the press and has appeared on television and radio including leading Canadian Broadcasting Corporation programs Tapestry, Ideas, Cross-country Checkup and Commentary. Iain has also appeared on Listen-Up TV, Radio Free Europe, Reuters, South African Radio and Church and State Television (USA).
In addition to the Centre's LexView, his writing has appeared in the Law Times, the Toronto Star the Globe and Mail, the National Post and the Calgary Herald.
A Brief History of the Centre for Cultural Renewal
The Centre for Cultural Renewal (formerly known as the Centre for Renewal in Public Policy) began formal operations in Ottawa in 1994 as an independent, non-partisan, charitable foundation. Since that time it has published discussion papers and newsletters and hosted public lectures and forums throughout Canada. In addition to its own small staff of employees, consultants and contractors (currently seven in number), the Centre has brought together leading academics and practitioners in law, medicine, education, science, business, media and the arts and other fields to form Advisory and Research councils to advise on critical issues of the day.
A unique Canadian think-tank, the Centre is devoted to providing Canadians and their leaders with a vision of civil society that addresses the fundamental and very important connections between public policy, culture, moral discourse, and religious conviction. The Centre believes that the quality of contemporary public dialogue is reduced through disregard of many aspects of the rich and complex vision of the human person upon which public discourse is traditionally founded. To this end, the Centre's work has brought people from throughout Canada and abroad together to discuss the relationship between the techniques and purposes of key disciplines in society. Why do we do what we do as teachers, lawyers, doctors, journalists and business people? Are we inspired by something more than economic concerns and faith in the market?
In the case of law, for example, to understand techniques of Charter litigation one must begin from within political and moral philosophy to evaluate competing conceptions of justice and democracy, as well as the commonly raised questions of group equality. Too often group rights arguments alone dominate contemporary discussions.
The Centre's writings, including its newsletter Centrepoints and ongoing legal analysis Lex View, have appeared in the Globe and Mail, National Post, Toronto Star, Ottawa Citizen, Vancouver Sun, Calgary Herald, Hamilton Spectator and many regional papers. Centre personnel have also been featured on CBC radio programs Ideas, Commentary, Tapestry and Cross-country Checkup. The Centre is contacted frequently to recommend guests for major television and radio programs and has been fortunate to play a pivotal role in recommending new voices on some of the most important issues of the day.
Among significant Centre activities in the last few years was a law conference in Quebec in October 1999 on the relationship between liberalism and religion in Canadian law. Lawyers with cases pending before the Supreme Court of Canada and several provincial high courts were invited to attend. The cases dealt with the nature and meaning of the "secular" as well as the rank ordering of freedom of religion and equality rights under the Charter. The event enabled these lawyers to meet with others who have previously argued leading cases on equality before the Court. Political and legal philosophers, politicians (across party lines), and journalists also joined in this provocative and fruitful discussion. Several of the papers presented at the conference were later published in the most recent issue of the University of British Columbia Law Review, a special issue devoted to "Religion, Law and Morality."
In July 2000, the Centre hosted an arts symposium, "The Leap to Meaning" which brought together 50 artists (painters, poets, actors, musicians and composers) from Canada, Europe, and the United States to discuss the philosophical and theological grounding of beauty, inspiration and meaning in contemporary arts. A program based on this symposium has been prepared for CBC's nationally broadcast radio program Tapestry. An event held in Ottawa in 1999 brought together politicians from all parties at a forum to discuss the "The Common Good, Faith and Public Office." Here again, the Centre's reputation for objective and rigorous analysis attracted a serious group of MPs to address the often overlooked notion of the common good in relation to faith, liberalism and pluralism.
The Centre wishes to build on these events in future years. The Centre takes no money from government but relies entirely on the generous support of private, corporate and foundation donors. Our goals are ambitious, to be sure, but when the good of one's society is the issue, can we afford not to be? And can citizens of good will forfeit the opportunity to give generous support to such initiatives? If we are to do what lies ahead we need your support!