The Federation and the University of Alberta launch a Task Force on Congress contingency planning

July 30, 2020

When the decision was made this spring to cancel Congress 2020, we knew it was the beginning of a new journey where we would work on answering important questions about the future of Congress.

The virtual conferences the Federation spearheaded with four associations in early June demonstrated the potential for our community to meet, exchange ideas and contribute to the national dialogue without being in the same room, or on the same campus; but it also confirmed a number of challenges. As much as we all would like to see Congress 2021 taking place entirely at the University of Alberta next year, we cannot ignore the uncertainty of the situation and the associated risks, and we need to plan for all possibilities. Our goal is to provide you with a rich, fulfilling, long-lasting experience, while keeping you safe.

The University of Alberta and the Federation have specially appointed a Task Force on Congress Contingency Planning, composed of the following members:

Michael O’Driscoll (Co-Chair), Academic Convenor, Congress 2021, University of Alberta

Laura Chajkowski (Co-Chair), Director, Congress and Events, Federation for the Humanities and Social Sciences

Jennifer Andrews, Past President, Association of Canadian College and University Teachers of English, Federation Board member

Xiaobei Chen, President, Canadian Sociological Association

Ryan Katz-Rosene, President, Environmental Studies Association of Canada

Temitope Oriola, President, Canadian Association of African Studies

Geoffrey Rockwell, President, Canadian Society for Digital Humanities, Kule Institute for Advanced Study

Lynn Thomas, Past President, Canadian Society for the Study of Education

 This task force will:

  • provide recommendations to the Federation following an assessment of risks for Congress 2021 and future congresses, particularly those associated with COVID-19;
  • identify issues associated with online participation in Congress, including cybersecurity, privacy, accessibility and equity issues; and
  • identify opportunities for innovations that enhance Congress and help it to achieve its strategic objectives.

The work on contingency planning must also be informed by recommendations from the newly appointed Congress Advisory Committee on Equity, Diversity, Inclusion, and Decolonization (EDID) to ensure that the innovations will improve access, remove barriers to participation and create safe spaces for dialogue and debate.

In order to have contingency plans in place ahead of time and ensure the event will be a success regardless of travel or meeting restrictions, the work will begin immediately, and preliminary recommendations for the various contingencies will be identified and shared with association representatives at the Planning Meeting in September 2020. Taking any feedback into consideration, those recommendations will be formalized in October and an announcement of our plans for the delivery of Congress 2021 will be made in early November. While the Task Force is at work, we will continue to plan for both in-person and virtual Congress experiences, without excluding the possibility of a hybrid situation that would include a combination of both formats. As more information is brought forward, we will adjust our plans accordingly and provide updates to our members.

Congress is built on partnership, and to be successful, it will require a close collaboration between the Federation, the University of Alberta and the more than 70 scholarly associations that meet at Congress each year. Together we will work in finding safe, sustainable solutions to the challenges that lie ahead.

For any comments or questions, please contact

About the Federation for the Humanities and Social Sciences

The Federation for the Humanities and Social Sciences promotes research and teaching for the advancement of an inclusive, democratic and prosperous society. With a membership now comprising over 160 universities, colleges and scholarly associations, the Federation represents a diverse community of 91,000 researchers and graduate students across Canada. The Federation organizes Canada’s largest academic gathering, the Congress of the Humanities and Social Sciences, bringing together more than 8,000 participants each year. For more information about the Federation, visit The Federation office is located on the traditional, unceded Algonquin territory in Ottawa.

About the University of Alberta

The University of Alberta in Edmonton is one of Canada’s top teaching and research universities, with an international reputation for excellence across the humanities, sciences, creative arts, business, engineering, and health sciences. Home to more than 40,000 students and 15,000 faculty and staff, the university has an annual budget of $1.9 billion and attracts more than $500 million in sponsored research revenue. The U of A offers close to 900 rigorous undergraduate, graduate, and professional programs in 18 faculties on five campuses—including one rural and one francophone campus. The university has more than 275,000 alumni worldwide. The University of Alberta acknowledges that we are located on Treaty 6 territory, and respects the histories, languages, and cultures of First Nations, Métis, Inuit, and all First Peoples of Canada, whose presence continues to enrich our vibrant community.