Robert Russo, Ph.D.

Robert Russo

Dr. Robert Russo has a longstanding personal and professional interest in human rights law and social justice issues, which led him to return to graduate law studies. His cultural identity has been shaped by his parents, who immigrated to Canada from Italy in the years following the Second World War.  Being born in Montreal to the son of working class Italian immigrants influenced his chosen academic focus on immigration and labour law issues within a general human rights context. Following law school, his interest in human rights law led him to spend 7 years representing the Government of Canada at settlement hearings held across the country for survivors of physical and sexual abuse at Indian Residential Schools.  This experience intensified his interest in reconciliation and in resolving human rights abuses through law.

Dr. Russo completed his LLM degree at the Allard School of Law in 2006 and then a PhD supervised by Dr. Catherine Dauvergne in 2012. His doctoral dissertation dealt with legal and human rights issues surrounding temporary foreign workers in Canada.  In his dissertation, Dr. Russo focused on aspects of collective bargaining in relation to temporary foreign workers in the Seasonal Agricultural Workers Program.  Part of his dissertation research, focusing on constitutional and human rights challenges surrounding attempts at unionizing temporary foreign workers in the program, was published as a case comment in BC Studies (Vol 129, Spring 2011).

In his PhD dissertation Dr. Russo built upon his LLM research, which dealt with the effectiveness of international labour standards tied to free trade agreements. His dissertation focused on the changing nature of immigration to Canada over the past century as both a cause and a reflection of economic globalization.

“Labour has been a key part of economic globalization and many of the social ramifications of economic globalization – both positive and negative – can be attributed to the dislocation of traditional jobs and mass migrations of workers seeking better opportunities for themselves, and their families,” Russo writes in his dissertation synopsis.  “The intent of my research is to analyze the range and efficacy of legal responses to the problems encountered by this community within Canada, focusing on unionization of SAWP participants.”

Dr. Russo is currently expanding his research to include the effects of immigration and labour issues surrounding temporary foreign workers and refugees in other jurisdictions, such as the European Union and the United States. His current research interests involve studying the recent changes in the Temporary Foreign Worker Program and using civil law as a tool to deal with effects and impacts on labour market, unions and workers. He is also interested in researching refugee resettlement patterns and entry into Canada 2015/2016, particularly from Syria and other conflict zones, and the effects of refugee entry onto the labour market in comparison with the effects of temporary foreign workers.

Dr. Russo has also drawn on his work with indigenous human rights issues in tying together various strands of law. “My interest in immigration law was shaped by my background, and the awareness that the benefits to those emigrated here came at a tremendous cost to the indigenous population.”  His work focuses on drawing out commonalities and blurring the sometimes artificial boundaries between the various areas of law.

Following the wind down of the Indian Residential Schools settlement hearings, Dr. Russo is currently on leave from the Government of Canada. He is currently developing an online Torts law course for the Allard School of Law to be offered in the summer of 2017.

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