Purpose & Leadership

The Jack and Mae Nathanson Centre on Transnational Human Rights, Crime and Security is a hub for research and dialogue on issues that affect the safety, economic well-being and day-to-day lives of people around the globe. In exploring complex problems, we work to provide governments, policymakers, law enforcement officials and civil society with insights that will help advance their search for solutions. 

Affiliated with Osgoode Hall Law School at York University in Toronto, the Nathanson Centre fosters original research into all dimensions of human rights, crime and security. As our name suggests, the Centre’s overall scope of inquiry is transnational; within that mandate we support studies focused on specific jurisdictions, provided the insights can be extended across borders to shed light on broader issues. 

While the work of our research fellows and associates is wide-ranging, their efforts coalesce around a common theme: addressing the challenges presented by various aspects of inequality. Our research enterprise is aimed at bridging disparities not only in access to opportunity, but in the assurance of basic rights such as health, shelter, education and justice.

A hub for productive collaboration

The Nathanson Centre encourages innovative, cross-disciplinary collaboration among our participating researchers. Through our Research Associate program, we draw upon the deep expertise of Osgoode’s legal scholars, as well as their colleagues across York University in related disciplines such as philosophy, sociology and criminology. We support up-and-coming researchers through our Graduate Fellowship programs, and more established scholars through our Postdoctoral and Visiting Fellow programs. And we connect with researchers at other universities and institutions, in all levels of government, and in non-governmental and professional organizations worldwide.

Another key aspect of the Centre’s mission is to organize events that spark well-informed public conversations about pressing challenges and the actions, policies and legal frameworks required to tackle them. We extend the impact of these events through online video presentations (via our YouTube channel) and social media. And we share updates on research projects and activities, including publications and upcoming lectures and conferences, via the Centre’s website. 

For anyone concerned with issues of human rights, crime and security in a changing global context, the Nathanson Centre strives to be a focal point for meaningful inquiry, discussion and debate.  

Director of the Nathanson centre

Barnali Choudhury

Professor, Osgoode Hall Law School

Executive committee members

Valerio De Stefano

Associate Professor

Rabiat Akande

Assistant Professor

History of the Centre

The Jack and Mae Nathanson Centre on Transnational Human Rights, Crime and Security was established in 1997, when Canadian business executive Mark Nathanson generously donated $3 million to permanently endow a research centre focused on issues that he considered vitally important to the ethical conduct of business — and, more generally, to ensuring social cohesion, justice and trust. Named for the founder’s parents, the new centre was originally called the Jack and Mae Nathanson Centre for the Study of Organized Crime and Corruption, reflecting the shared interests of Mark Nathanson; Rod Stamler, his business partner in Forensic Investigations Associates (and a former Assistant Commissioner of the RCMP); and Antonio Nicaso, a journalist known for his investigations of organized crime in Italy and Canada. This initial focus steadily widened to include issues of security and human rights, and in 2006 the Centre adopted its current name.

Under the inaugural directorship of Prof. Margaret Beare, a respected Osgoode legal scholar, the Nathanson Centre built a global profile for influential research on topics such as money laundering and police practices in combating organized crime. The Centre soon began sponsoring conferences, symposia and other research-related events. It initiated funding opportunities for visiting and post-doctorate research fellows. It also provided fellowships and learning opportunities to Osgoode graduate students — many of whom have gone on to distinguished careers in academia, policymaking and law enforcement.

Prof. Craig Scott became the Nathanson Centre’s second director in 2006, overseeing the transition to a broader research scope as affiliated scholars began studying transnational phenomena such as terrorism, the activities of security intelligence agencies and the accountability of economic and state actors in the area of human rights. During these years the Centre further expanded its scope to include work with a more explicit theoretical focus — an evolution carried on by Prof. François Tanguay-Renaud, who led the Centre from 2012 until passing the baton to the current director, Prof. Barnali Choudhury, in 2021.

About our founding benefactor

Mark Nathanson was one of two children of Jack and Mae Nathanson, who operated a wholesale grocery business in Sydney, Nova Scotia. After attending St. Francis Xavier University in Antigonish, he launched a series of business ventures that steadily gained international success. As he prospered, Mr. Nathanson began sharing his wealth through philanthropy. His 1997 gift of $3 million to endow the Nathanson Centre remains one of the largest donations ever made by an individual to Osgoode Hall Law School. Two years later, he established the Nathanson Foundation to support efforts around the world to curb organized crime, and to build better relationships between law enforcement agencies and the international business community. And in 2002, he made a multimillion-dollar donation to create the Maria Nathanson Centre for Excellence in Digestive and Pulmonary Disorders at St. Thomas Hospital in Nashville, Tennessee (where his late wife had received treatment). For these and other charitable initiatives, Mr. Nathanson was recognized with many honours, including being named an Honorary Commissioner of the New York Police Department, and receiving the Chevalier of Merit, Order of the Lion, for outstanding service to the people of Senegal. He died in 2019 after a long illness.