PROFile – Marilou McPhedran

Tenured in politics, full-time instructor at Global College for human rights

Photo by Alana Trachenko

The University of Winnipeg (U of W) will be seeing off one of its most influential professors at the end of this term as Marilou McPhedran takes on her new role with the Canada Senate.

McPhedran has been with the U of W, and specifically Global College, since 2008. Until 2012, she was the principal there, but has continued to teach the degree she came to the university to develop – an undergrad in human rights. McPherdan’s program is one of the few like it in Canada, and has drawn students from throughout the world.

“I don’t recall ever using the term human rights until I was well along in my first degree… but there was a real hunger in me to understand and name what was going on,” McPhedran says. She completed an undergrad in religious studies at the U of W before attending law school in Toronto. 

“I was raised in a small rural town in Neepawa… my parents had really emphasized to us that we were privileged, and that we had responsibilities to the community,” she says. “(In university) I was studying different religions and cultures and I started to notice that it didn’t matter what religion I studied, women were second class.”

McPhedran says that as the U of W’s first elected student president at the age of 19, she was also subject to sexism and began to see how differently she was treated from her male counterparts when participating politically. These experiences began a lifelong career in defending the rights and equalities of others.

Area of research: My publications and work have a focus on the power differential, the abuse of power by regulated health professionals who misuse the trust that patients place in them in order to gratify themselves sexually, and thereby break the Hippocratic oath, break the law and also commit a very serious human rights violation.

Lowest grade in university: A D- in law school… the professor said, ‘I made it up, cause I should have failed you but I decided you needed a wakeup call…’

What is your superpower: Tenacity… frankly, I don’t have to make tough decisions because of the kind of work I have to do. That allows that tenacity, because my starting point is not doing something unless I’m believing in it.

Published in Volume 71, Number 11 of The Uniter (November 17, 2016)

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