Professors MacDonnell and Scassa Earn SSHRC Insight Grants for Groundbreaking Projects Exploring Constitutional Law and Online Data

Posted on Friday, June 8, 2018

Professor Vanessa MacDonnell and Professor Teresa Scassa have both earned Insight Grants from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council.  Professor MacDonnell will use the funding to explore an overlooked area of constitutional law – the significance of quasi-constitutional statutes – while Professor Scassa will delve into an underdeveloped area of online data ownership to examine who can control and reuse publicly accessible online data.

Professor MacDonnell’s project, "Quasi-Constitutional Statutes in Canada" earned $70,683 from the Insight Program. Characterized by the Supreme Court as “not quite constitutional, but certainly more than the ordinary”, quasi-constitutional statutes include federal and provincial human rights codes, privacy laws, official languages acts, access to information laws, and statutes like the Canadian Bill of Rights and the Quebec Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms, which secure whole catalogues of rights. Despite being crucial sources of rights protection in Canada, there is almost no research on quasi-constitutional statutes as a group. Professor MacDonnell’s project will result in an in-depth study of this important area of constitutional law.

Meanwhile, Professor Scassa, who holds the Canada Research Chair in Information Law and Policy, earned $189,916 from the Insight Program for her project entitled "Developing a Public Interest-Based Approach to Ownership, Users' Rights and Privacy Interests in Publicly Accessible Platform Data". Many online platforms host huge volumes of data that are publicly accessible, and include things like photographs and personal data. But the law on ownership, control and reuse of publicly accessible data is underdeveloped.  The proposed research will provide a detailed legal and interdisciplinary analysis of competing claims for how publicly accessible data can be used and controlled. Professor Scassa and her team will examine rights of ownership and control, the rights of web users, and the privacy rights of contributors of online data.

Professor Scassa is also a co-applicant on an Insight Grant project led by Pamela J. Robinson of Ryerson University, entitled “Canadian smart cities: Smart for all or only some?”

Finally, Professor Florian Martin-Bariteau, Director of the Centre for Law, Technology and Society, is a collaborator on an Insight Grant project led by Yasmin Jiwani of Concordia University, entitled “Virtual graveyards and cybermemorials”.

SSHRC’s Insight Program aims to support and foster excellence in social sciences and humanities research intended to deepen, widen and increase our collective understanding of individuals and societies, as well as to inform the search for solutions to societal challenges.

Congratulations to Professor MacDonnell, Professor Scassa and Professor Martin-Bariteau!

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