Pascale Fournier

2018 to 2022
Study program:
Professor and Research Chair in Legal Pluralism and Comparative Law at the Faculty of Law of the University of Ottawa

President and Chief Executive Officer (effective July 9, 2018)

My various trips abroad as a Trudeau Scholar allowed me to hone in on my field of expertise and identify the role I want to play in an academic field that is often far too removed from the local realities of poverty. Thanks to the Foundation’s underlying philosophy, I could aspire to take the law closer to the people and make the reality it seeks to establish less grandiose, both in local communities and women’s groups in Iran and in university communities seeking to fulfill a peace mission in Costa Rica. I also witnessed and took part in the emergence and unfolding of the Trudeau community from the very beginning: so many researchers – driven by a shared sense of determination which they expressed in the unique and original dialects of their respective disciplines – taking hands to build a dialogue of excellence and social change. These interdisciplinary links not only enriched my vision of the subject of my doctoral thesis but also helped me envision a multi-facetted legal discipline, with malleable and interdependent parts. As a law professor, I try to incorporate this unique approach into my teaching: the knowledge that can be found at the crossroads of different academic disciplines, on the one hand, and learning through a diversity of schools of thought, on the other. The Trudeau Foundation made a profound mark on my intellectual curiosity, a curiosity I like to hope now serves my academic and social community.


Pascale Fournier is a full professor in the Civil Law section at the University of Ottawa and a commissioner on the Quebec Human Rights and Youth Rights Commission (CDPDJ). She is the Research Chair in Legal Pluralism and Comparative Law and she is affiliated with several research centres: the Centre for the Study of Religion and Politics at St. Mary’s College (University of St. Andrews, Scotland), the Religion and Diversity Project at the University of Ottawa, the Interdisciplinary Research Laboratory on the Rights of the Child (IRLRC) at the University of Ottawa, the Centre for research in public law at the Université de Montréal and the Centre for research in ethics at the Université de Montréal. Pascale teaches Rights and Freedoms, Comparative Family Law and Critical Approaches to Law. She served as Associate Dean Research from 2010 to 2012.
Professor Fournier received her LL.B from Laval University (1997), her master’s in law from the University of Toronto (LL.M.; 2000) and her doctorate from Harvard Law School (S.J.D.; 2007). A Fulbright and Trudeau scholar, Pascale served as Law Clerk to the Honourable Justice Claire L’Heureux-Dubé at the Supreme Court of Canada in 2000-2001. Pascale has lectured at the State University of Haiti, McGill University, the University for Peace in Costa Rica and the Institute for Women’s Studies and Research in Iran. In 2008, she served as an expert consultant for the United Nations Development Program on issues of gender and Islamic law in Tunisia, Egypt, Malaysia and Nigeria.
Professor Fournier’s research focuses on human rights, Islam and Judaism in Europe and North America, children’s rights, criminal law and cultural diversity, as well as comparative family law. She has given courses in these areas for judges, public and private sector legal experts, non-governmental organizations and the general public. Since 2011 she has served as an expert-witness in several trials before the Quebec Supreme Court (Family Division), districts of Montreal, Hull and Quebec City, as well as before the 18th Judicial District Court (Sedgwick County, Wichita, Kansas, USA), in the fields of family law, private international law, constitutional law and religious rights.

Professor Fournier has authored over 40 academic publications analysing the fascinating intersections between the positive rules of law of a given state regime and the social or religious standards its citizens obey. She advocates a unique ethnographic approach to uncover the processes of negotiation between the law and its subjects, as well as the distributive effects of that interaction. Supporting her research with qualitative interviews, she succeeds in giving a voice to marginalized women whose autonomy is often underestimated by a one-dimensional understanding of the law and ignorance about the social mechanisms that resist it. Drawing inspiration from their narratives, Professor Fournier is contributing to a unique academic stream centred on the experience of female defendants, creating an invaluable dialogue between theoretical justice and lived justice. Her book Muslim Marriage in Western Courts: Lost in Transplantation was published in 2010 by Ashgate Editions, and a French version followed in 2013 from Presses de Sciences Po Paris. She has edited two special issues of academic journals: Social Identities: Journal for the Study of Race, Nation and Culture and Canadian Criminal Law Review.

Pascale Fournier was awarded the Laval University Raymond-Blais Medal (2008), the Québec Bar Association’s Advocatus Emeritus distinction (2009), the University of Ottawa President’s Award for Excellence in Media Relations (2011) and the Fulbrighter of the Month distinction (November 2011). Her works have bee published in English, French and German and have been rewarded by the Harvard-Stanford International Junior Faculty Forum (2008), the Québec Bar Foundation prize for “best law review article” (2009), and the Canadian Association of Law Teachers Scholarly Paper Award (Honorable Mention/2010). In 2014, Professor Fournier was selected by the International Women’s Forum and was awarded the Canada-Arab Chamber of Commerce Special Achievement Award in the “Academic Excellence and Contribution to Humanity” category. In 2015, she was invited to join the Governor General’s Canadian Leadership Conference (Study Group: Northwest Territories) and named “one of the Top 25 Most Influential Lawyers in Canada” by the Canadian Lawyers Magazine in the “Worldstage” category.

  • April 18, 2018
    The Pierre Elliott Trudeau Foundation is proud to announce the appointment of Professor Pascale Fournier, Ad.E., as President and Chief Executive Officer Montreal, April 18th, 2018 Dear members of the Pierre Elliott Trudeau Foundation community,
  • September 13, 2016
    2003 Trudeau scholar Pascale Fournier, professor and research chair in legal pluralism and comparative law at the Faculty of Law of the University of Ottawa has been elected as a member of the 2016 cohort of the College of New Scholars, Artists and Scientists of the Royal Society of Canada. Professor Fournier will join approximately eighty newly-elected Royal Society of Canada members whose notable achievements in the areas of research, arts and science are honoured this year.
  • April 9, 2015
    2003 Trudeau scholar Pascale Fournier, Professor and Research Chair in Legal Pluralism and Comparative Law at the Faculty of Law of the University of Ottawa has been named part-time commissioner of the Commission des droits de la personne et des droits de la jeunesse for a five-year mandate. Within these new functions, Professor Fournier will fulfill the Commission’s multidisciplinary mandate of promotion, research and advocac
  • August 12, 2014
    2003 Trudeau Scholar Professor Pascale Fournier was chosen by the International Women’s Forum to take part in the Fellows Program of its Leadership Foundation. She joins 36 women from 14 different countries.
  • May 29, 2013
    2003 Trudeau Scholar Pascale Fournier wrote an article entitled "Dishonour, Provocation and Culture: Through the Beholder's Eye?" that has been identified by Isabel Grant as one of the best works of recent scholarship relating to equality, in a review published in Jotwell: The Journal of Things We Like (Lots). Pascale Fournier is now Vice-Dean (Research) and Associate Professor at the Faculty of Law of the University of Ottawa.
  • December 11, 2012
    2003 Trudeau Scholar and lawyer Pascale Fournier was recently featured on the program “Le droit de savoir”, in a special series about lawyers with extraordinary careers and inspiring achievements, aired on Télé-Québec. The episode portrays Fournier’s support and volunteering work for disadvantaged groups, especially her expertise regarding the status of women experiencing a Muslim or Jewish divorce.