Skip to content

Canada Day 2013: A painful reminder of the demise of Canadian studies programming

Today is Canada Day. While I no longer teach at a Canadian university, I’m still as Canadian as the maple leaf. I hold both a Masters and a PhD from a Canadian university, I was a faculty member at one of Canada’s premier higher education institutions (The University of British Columbia), and I continue to be affiliated faculty both with the Department of Political Science and the Program in Latin American Studies.

While studying Canada has never been the bulk of my research agenda, understanding Canadian public policy and Canadian environmental policy has always been part of my scholarly (both research and teaching) interests. I taught both (Canadian public policy and Canadian environmental politics and policy) at UBC for 6 years, and I always have been connected with the Canadian policy community (primarily in environmental affairs, but I also have examined urban development and health politics). Many faculty members in Canadian universities are close friends of mine and collaborators.

Canadian Flags, HBC

Photo credit: PinkMoose on Flickr

Thus, Canada Day is always a painful reminder of the decision of Stephen Harper’s Conservative government to scrap the Understanding Canada – Canadian studies programme. In fact, the programme has been so thoroughly cancelled that you cannot find any legacy websites about the Understanding Canada programme on the website of DFAIT (Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade). Even the International Council for Canadian Studies’ database of centres for the study of Canada gives you a 404 error. The most enduring remnant of the 2012 decision to rescind funding to any Canadian studies program abroad (including Government of Canada’s scholarships) is the ICCS’s letter to Harper.

To this day, I remain astonished at the stupidity and lack of foresight of Harper and his Conservative government. At the time the programme was scrapped, I was still a Canadian faculty member and thus, while the cancellation did irk me, it did not affect my research agenda in a substantial way. Now that I’m a Mexican faculty member, and because of my obvious connections to Canada and to Canadian studies’ scholarship, the demise of the Canadian studies’ programme does actually substantially affect any further academic research I might want to undertake on Canada and its environmental politics.

Canadian Flag flower bed

Photo credit: SonSon on Flickr

When DFAIT announced the decision, it came in a crudely worded email simply announcing to the ICCS President that DFAIT had decided to abolish the Understanding Canada Program. There is absolutely no smart, coherent, evidence-based, sound rationale why Canada would be better served by cancelling a program dedicated to, you know, study Canada. It’s not the first stupid policy decision of the Canadian government, but it is one that will definitely have enduring negative effects.

At the time the Understanding Canada programme was cancelled, I felt embarrassed that the government of the country that adopted me would make such dumb decision. And right now, I feel deeply saddened by the fact that Canadians have not removed Stephen Harper and the Conservative government. The continuous, relentless and vicious attack that this government has launched on Canadian scholars and Canadian studies is bewildering and inexplicable.

Additional reading: I found a couple of articles on the demise of the Canadian Studies – Understanding Canada programme here and here. And you can read what DFAIT now funds here.

On Canada Day, I send my deepest regrets to my fellow Canadian scholars in Canada, and to scholars of Canadian studies abroad. Sincerely, I wish that the funding to the Understanding Canada programme had never been slashed.

You can share this blog post on the following social networks by clicking on their icon.

Posted in academia.

Tagged with , , , .

0 Responses

Stay in touch with the conversation, subscribe to the RSS feed for comments on this post.

Some HTML is OK

or, reply to this post via trackback.