The foundation for a better tomorrow: Future of Canada Project concludes three-year pilot

The exterior of University Hall on McMaster's campus on a spring day

McMaster’s Future of Canada Project, which began in 2020 following a $5 million gift from Chancellor Emeritus L.R. “Red” Wilson, has concluded its three-year pilot term.  

McMaster’s Future of Canada Project (FCP), which began in 2020 following a $5 million gift from Chancellor Emeritus L.R. “Red” Wilson, has concluded its three-year pilot term.

Exploring topics that included healthcare, Indigenous Reconciliation, democratic resilience, senior well-being, and systemic racism, the FCP supported work that aimed to encourage the development of a better Canada — one that is more equitable, sustainable, resilient and prosperous.

Supporting future-focused research 

The FCP’s work has been organized around five themes: climate change; rapid technological advancement; pandemic; challenges of reconciliation; and the erosion of truth and trust.

Along with those themes, the Future of Canada Project Council, a group of diverse and forward-thinking Canadian leaders whose members included Samanthat Nutt, Lloyd Axworthy, Peter Mansbridge and Sheila Watt-Cloutier, came up with a vision for Canada’s future — one that focused on power, hope, community and well-being.

Working within those frameworks, research initiatives supported by the FCP have looked at ways to tackle today’s challenges through an interdisciplinary and collaborative lens.

FCP-supported research projects have examined a wide range of issues, from re-imagining public engagement in health policy to furthering reconciliation through community and curriculum-building in astronomy.

One key requirement for each project was that it be interdisciplinary, in order to address the complex and nationally relevant issues that often require approaches beyond traditional academic research.

Click here to learn more about the 14 projects funded by FCP.

In addition to the research projects, the FCP supported seven Future Fellows from a range of backgrounds, whose shorter-term projects addressed where Canada is headed, rather than where it is today. Each Future Fellow tackled a complex problem using an innovative approach that examines issues from multiple perspectives.

The projects range from a foresight game that centres Indigenous and Black perspectives to engage people in climate action planning, to a multimedia project that will engage youth to develop hopeful narratives about Canada’s future.

“The Future of Canada Project’s work has provided the space and resources to imagine what might be possible in Canada’s future,” says Pamela Swett, dean of the Faculty of Humanities and the academic lead for the project. “What’s more, it has laid the groundwork for more bold, future-focused initiatives to take root at McMaster.”

Imagining possible futures 

In what was a culminating event for the FCP, Imagining 2080: A Forum on Canada’s Futures gathered 150 diverse future-focused leaders, including academics, futurists, non-profit leaders, policy makers and students, from across Canada to imagine possible future for the country. The event asked delegates to think two generations into the future, providing participants the opportunity to think beyond current assumptions and move into a place of possibility and hope.

“Imagining 2080 really showcased the power of bringing diverse groups of people together to imagine what might be possible in the future,” explains Swett. “The challenging conversations that resulted have helped inspire this kind of future-focused work at McMaster and beyond.”

The Imagine 2080 podcast, which was produced in partnership with the Walrus Lab, features many of the conversations and ideas that emerged at the three-day Forum held in November 2023.

Planting seeds for new leaders to grow 

As the work of the Future of Canada Project comes to a close, there are elements of the Project that will continue to live and grow in the recently established Wilson College of Leadership and Civic Engagement—another future-focused initiative supported by L.R. “Red” Wilson that will educate the next generation of Canada’s civic and community leaders.

“The work of the Future of Canada Project has ignited an energy at McMaster that will continue to shape the dialogue, ideas and policies that will result in a better future for Canada,” says Don Abelson, academic director for Wilson College.

“By investing in new leaders and supporting future-focused ideas, Wilson College will continue to build on this energy as we welcome students, researchers and the community to work with us.”

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