Research Centre in Public Ethics and Governance

Home > Research Centre in Public Ethics and Governance

Research Centre in Public Ethics and Governance

The RCPEG is a research centre, a space for collaboration and co-creation of knowledge, co-led by researchers Sophie Cloutier, Monique Lanoix and Julie Paquette.

Located at Saint Paul University in Ottawa, the capital of Canada, the RCPEG offers workshops, conferences and research laboratories on the unifying theme of the ethics of marginality.

Ethical issues and governance issues are the focal point from which arise contemporary social issues such as refugees, dialogue, hospitality, disability, vulnerability, environment, feminism, care, citizenship, populism, freedom of expression, bio-technologies and algorithms.

Follow us on social media:

Les professeures Julie Paquette, Monique Lanoix et Sophie Cloutier (de gauche à droite sur la photo).


Founded in 1989 and intended as a study focused on the ethical stakes of technology in a pluralist society, the Research Centre in Public Ethics and Governance is now a field of interdisciplinary reflection focusing on contemporary problems found at the junction between ethics and politics. The Research Centre introduces students to research in ethics, philosophy and leadership, seeing that the work is broadcasted and promoted within the public and academic communities.


The Research Centre was founded in 1989 by a group of professors of the Faculty of Theology at Saint Paul University. It was then dedicated to promote a dialogue on the ethical questions raised by technology in a pluralist society. In September 2000, the Centre for Techno-Ethics received the mandate to enlarge its research and intervention span.

On June 13, 2001, the Research Centre changed its name to the Centre in Ethics of Saint Paul University. This decision had been confirmed by the Senate during its meeting of April 18, 2001. The Research Centre’s interests now included Work Ethics, Media Ethics, Bioethics, Public Ethics and other study foci, according to the topical ethical problem.

In April 2011, it was decided to review the Research Centre’s mandate and to adapt it to the trending research domains and the social issues in public ethics and governance. By doing this, SPU wishes to confirm the role of public ethics as a cluster of excellence.

In August 2018, an innovative research initiative was set in motion by three professors: Sophie Cloutier, Monique Lanoix and Julie Paquette from the School of Ethics, Social Justice and Public Service. This collaboration aims to promote research in ethics where the issue of marginalities is the focal point for understanding the future of our society. The research objectives includes several topics, such as refugees, dialogue, disability, environment, feminism, care, citizenship, populism, algorithms, vulnerability. This initiative aims to create a centre that is an area of collaboration and co-creation of knowledge, in a spirit of collaboration and inclusion.

The Research Centre in Public Ethics and Governance adheres to the directives concerning the creation and evaluation of research centres.

Terms of the mission

Today’s world is distinguished by a detachment from politics and maintained by a form of cynicism towards it. It is hard to escape this cynicism when citizens are becoming helpless spectators of political scandals and ethical failures of their representatives, as well as becoming the victims of various crises – political, economic, financial and environmental. How to govern in a world overcome by uncertainty and emergencies? How to establish ethical principles in a world influenced by the pluralism of values and visions of the world? Our complex societies are calling for a renewal of political and ethical thought.

In the face of this ever so complex world, a world where private and public interests intertwine, the question of governance becomes more and more critical. But how to define this new concept of “governance”? One of the difficulties about this term is that it is used in various contexts, as much in situations of public administration as in business management. During the 13th century, the French were using this term as a synonym of government. It indicated more accurately the art and the way of governing. In the following century, the English adopted the word governance in the same way. The use of this expression then became obsolete, only to re-emerge in the 1980s in a speech from the World Bank. Several cooperation agencies, such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), took up the expression, and within 20 years it was in common use. In an article from 2005, Daniel Kaufmann, the director of the global programme at the World Bank Institute, described governance in these terms:

We define as governance the whole of the traditions and institutions by which power is exercised in a country for the common good. It covers the procedures according to which the executives are chosen, monitored and replaced (political aspect); the capacity for a government to efficiently manage its resources and apply informed politics (economical aspect); and the respect of the citizen and the State towards the national institutions (institutional respect).[1] [free translation]

As the notion of governance is not only limited to the public administration level, but also touches the private domain, the civic organization, the regions, the continents, even at a global level, we can expand its definition. Gilles Paquet maintains that to study governance would mean to examine the distribution of rights, of obligations and powers that establishes the disposition of organizations; to understand how these organizations coordinate their parallel activities and maintain their consistency; to examine the means by which coordination between organizations proceeds as well as the prerequisites of their collaboration; to explore the sources of dysfunction and the problems of the organizational networks, and finally, to offer propositions and ways to redefine the architecture of the networks when some governance problems emerge[2].

The Research Centre in Public Ethics and Governance positions itself as a place for interdisciplinary reflexion on these various contemporary issues found at the confluence of ethics and politics. This requires particular attention to a double problematic:

  1. Is there a kind of ethic that is specific to the field of politics? Or to put it otherwise, can we and should we moralize politics? The modern State was designed by the process of secularization, understood as the separation of religion and State. Wouldn’t a thinker of modern politics as Machiavelli in fact advise the Prince to seek to be good? How then to establish a public ethic that is directed towards the political domain in this secular and pluralistic context? How to distinguish and judge between a good and wrong policy in the context of a liberal State that positions itself as neutral regarding values and conception of the good?
  2. We can see in our contemporary world many important social changes which influence the political domain. Amid these transformations, of which globalization is a prominent symbol, it is important to adopt a new perspective on politics. The expression “governance” marks this attempt to rethink the political field and its function. How to make of politics a “sphere of innovation” (Innerarity) which will be able to answer to the new challenges and problems? This second problematic, which is linked to the first, will also have to take into account the ethical issue, namely the matter of reliable governance – or does the idea of governance already imply some ethical aspect? The expression is not limited to the sphere of politics; it is then a matter of rethinking this concept in its various fields of application – civil society, private domain, health care…

In order to achieve this reflexion process, the Research Centre in Public Ethics and Governance will favour interdisciplinarity and research networks. As soon as it is created, the Research Centre will be able to count on members from various Canadian institutions, but will aim to enlarge its partnership. It will also aim to create a partnership with the Centre on Governance of the University of Ottawa, directed by Caroline Andrews. This centre works more precisely on the territorialization of governance and on its precise mechanisms. Our reflexion directed towards public ethics, philosophy and leadership will serve as complementary to their research.

The Research Centre in Public Ethics and Governance serves as a place of visibility and distribution for research, encouraging collaboration between SPU academics and researchers from other institutions and research centres. It will allow for the research training of students while contributing to their sense of belonging. The Centre’s activity will be directed towards common reflexion and intellectual exchanges of a higher level to promote the progression of knowledge in the field of ethics as well as the influence of our university, affirming in this way the domain of public ethics as a cluster of excellence at SPU.

[1] Kaufmann, Daniel. « 10 idées reçues sur la gouvernance et la corruption », Finances & Développement, Septembre 2005, p. 41.

[2] See Gilles Paquet, « Introduction » in Mémoires de la Société royale du Canada, La gouvernance au 21e siècle, Sixième série, Tome X, 1999, pp. 14-15.

Research Project: Freedom of expression at issue

Research project led by Julie Paquette, PhD, associate professor at the School of Ethics, Social Justice and Public Service and co-director of the Research Centre for Public Ethics and Governance; funded by the National Research Council Canada’s Insight Development Grants.

Current project: Freedom of expression at issue. Analysis of discursive issues related to freedom of expression in the context of the SLAV and Kanata controversy

Project summary

To examine how the various actors positioned themselves around the SLAV – Kanata controversy, we will make an inventory of and analyze the discussions published in Canadian and French newspapers from November 2017 to December 2018, with a focus on the meaning they give (implicitly or explicitly) to freedom of expression. This oblique perspective will make it possible to theorize about how the definition we give to freedom of expression underlies the position we will take on issues that arise, including the way this term can be understood, mobilized, even hijacked for other purposes. Exploring the different usages of freedom of expression allows us to compile a mind map of the complex relationships of affinity and power in place with this matter.

Project leader: Julie Paquette is associate professor at the School of Ethics, Social Justice and Public Service at Saint Paul University in Ottawa. She has a doctorate in political thought from the University of Ottawa (2012). Her research examines the critical thought of new forms of fascism based on the thought of Pier Paolo Pasolini and includes three areas: 1) new technologies and the mediation of algorithms, 2) states of exception, and 3) freedom of expression.

Research assistants


Emmanuelle Sirois: Recipient of a Vanier Canada Graduate Scholarship, Emmanuelle Sirois is feminist researcher in residence at ESPACE GO, has a doctorate in art studies and practices (UQAM) and is a member of the board of directors of Euguélionne, a feminist bookstore. She has degrees from UQAM, INRS, Université Paris VIII and ULB. She was visiting scholar at CUNY’s Graduate Center and research associate at New York University; she took part in the 2017 edition of the Mellon School of Theater and Performance Research at Harvard University, as well as in the 2013 edition of the ProArt doctoral school at Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität in Munich. Fascinated by the issues related to knowledge mobilization, she co-created l’UPop Montréal and, with Professor Julie Paquette, RDV art_politique at Usine C (now called RDV_ Art, sciences et politique). Her research explores 1) arts and politics, 2) the sociology of theatre, and 3) the study of scandals.


Henry Cortes Borrero: BA student majoring in Conflict Studies [he has since graduated] at Saint Paul University. Henry, who is from Cuba, worked as a lawyer in Havana for six years after obtaining his law degree at the University of Havana. After moving to Canada, he took courses in political science at Université Laval in Quebec City before getting a diploma from the paralegal program at La Cité collégiale in Ottawa.

Jean-Sébastien Leclerc: BA student in Ethics and Contemporary Social Issues [he has since graduated] at Saint Paul University’s School of Ethics, Social Justice and Public Service. He is working as an assistant at the Research Centre in Public Ethics and Governance. His research interests are freedom of expression, authenticity and the right to die.


Thalie Beaumont: BA student in Social Communication with a minor in Conflict Studies at Saint Paul University in Ottawa [she has since graduated]. She has a degree in Arts, Literature and Communications (media stream) from Cégep de l’Outaouais and is interested in various subjects, including new technologies, freedom of expression, global conflicts, various injustices and the media.


Research Centre in Public Ethics and Governance

Saint-Paul University
223 Main Street
Ottawa (Ontario)
K1S 1C4

613 236-1393