The dangerous game of diaspora politics

As originally published in The Globe and Mail, Feb. 10 2012.

The term “diaspora” reflects the rise of truly transnational populations occupying a key niche in Canadian politics that allows them to influence both home and host government.

Diasporas can exert pressure on their home government from abroad, free from political threats and fear of retribution. And they can lobby their host country to put pressure on their home government to endorse policies ranging from human rights and governance reform to favourable international trade policies and security guarantees. Diaspora politics is seductive and populist. And governing parties can ride the wave of new immigrant support for generations.

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Canada: A Teflon State?

Canada does not have a pristine human rights record. Many First Nation, Metis, and Inuit communities are struggling through a housing crisis and are enduring limited access to food, potable water, health care, and education. Furthermore, the government has failed to atone for a long history of discriminatory policies against these groups.

Indigenous groups within Canada demand that these issues be remedied. Unfortunately, these demands, to date, have either been met with half measures or overlooked altogether.

An often-heard argument in the literature on human rights reform is that when domestic groups are unable to convince their government to better respect human rights they can appeal to more powerful transnational actors to help pressure the target state to change. Based on this argument, it would seem that the next step for Indigenous groups in Canada would be to reach out to key international actors in the field of human rights including international non-governmental organizations (INGOs), inter-governmental organizations (IGOs), and other states.

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What To Remember?

This is the last Remembrance Day for the Canadians in Afghanistan.  This time, next year, the last of the trainers and logistics troops will be back in Canada.  Already, there are those who are asking what will Canadians remember about the Afghanistan mission on future Remembrance days.  Until Canada gets in another nasty fight, it is likely that Afghanistan will remain quite visible in the rearview mirror.  Given that one of the lessons of Afghanistan may be to avoid such battles, this means that Afghanistan will resonate for a while to come.

Of course, our first thoughts this time of year center on the First World War.  Armistice Day has become Remembrance Day here in Canada, Veteran’s Day in the U.S., and elsewhere.  The poppies were “in bloom” in Edinburgh and Glasgow this weekend (I was at a conference speculating about the international security dynamics of Scotland’s referendum).  Our memories of the First World War are entirely constructed — the number of surviving veterans from that conflict is now zero.  What we think of that conflict is what has been passed down via press reports, history books, and what our relatives have told us.

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Scottish Separatism, Canada, and Confirmation Bias

I am in Scotland this week, where I will be attending a conference to discuss the possible implications of next year’s referendum.  I have no expertise on Scotland, but much of my research (before my current NATO project) has focused on separatism.  One key question is whether events in one place matter that much for events elsewhere—is secession contagious?

I have long argued that separatism is about as contagious as cancer rather than the common cold – groups and countries exposed to the same external forces will behave differently.  For example, ethnic conflict and separatism did not spread from one Eastern European country to another and throughout the Soviet Union in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s.  Instead the de-legitimization of Communism and the onset of political competition did seem to move from country to country.  These forces then combined to cause multiple countries to break apart at the same time.

What the outcome of Scotland’s referendum will mean for Canada is the point of interest for the CIC audience. At the conference in Scotland, I am going to argue that the outcome will be largely irrelevant outside of the UK.   Because of the power of confirmation bias, I do not think that whatever happens over there is going to matter across the Atlantic.

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Trick or Treat?

The most important question at this time of year is, of course, what costume one will wear for Halloween.  Last year, I combined my Mickey Mouse ears (Canadian version) with my Jedi Robe as this most important holiday took place shortly after Disney purchased Lucasfilm and kick-started the making of many Star Wars movies to come.

But enough about me.  What should Canada dress up as this year?  Something that plays on its role in the world, on recent events, or on some basic Canadian traits.  My American friends could only offer up the lamest of clichés – hockey players or Mounties – but I think we can do better than that.

The most obvious one in the aftermath of the CETA agreement is for Canada to go trick-or-treating as a cheese maker.  The amount of attention that this one dimension of the agreement has received illustrates nicely the frustration with supply management, and that one set of policies really does seem like a trick to most, treat to a few.

Canada could go door to door dressed in a nice suit with a bunch of checks hanging out the pockets to show that the Senate scandal is far more amusing and far less scary than the semi-annual Congressional shutdown in the U.S.

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Academia 101: Writing a CV

As originally posted at Duck of Minerva.

A twitter discussion got me thinking about this.  We end up reading tons of CVs, developing opinions and pondering what people are thinking.

First, there are no real rules for writing a CV except these:

  • Read other people’s cv’s to get a sense of what looks normal (don’t be strange).
  • Take care so that it is not messy, has no typos (twitterfightclub pressure has killed my typing skills), and so on.
  • Unless your audience is just a bunch of dim-witted bureaucrats, do not pad the CV.  Most profs have been there, done that, so they can see stuff that is just crap used to make the CV longer.  It has the opposite effect, making one discount what is in the CV.  Just as sucking up too much is probably worse most of the time than sucking up too little, padding is usually a mistake.  Better to be clearer about what you have done and not done.  [If you disagree with this one, let me know]

That’s it for hard and fast rules.  And rule 1 really applies to everything you write–read what other folks have done not just for content but for style to get a sense of how people write publishable articles, chapters, books, etc.   

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Blessed Are the Cheesemakers

Three open ended issues that need to be considered when we talk about CETA:

1) Under the arrangement Canada could become a gateway for other NAFTA members – namely the US and Mexico to export their raw goods  to Canada and have them  them exported onward in final manufactured  form to the  EU. In this way  CETA could  bring indirect benefits to the US (and Mexico) and may explain in part  why the US is in no hurry to rush into an agreement with the EU and assuming that these companies have a manufacturing base located in Canada – then all the better for Canada.  But where this might cause problems for Canada is when other countries start to sign free trade deals with the EU – if the US does and Mexico may eventually as well then Canada’s gateway opportunity will be diminished  and our manufacturing base would shrink even further  as it relocates to more efficient economies.

2) A big push for a lot of urban centres in Canada  is to  develop ways for consumers to support the local food economy (eg glocal). The food sector is the single largest employer in the GTA for example. All that could change under CETA because  some aspects of that supply chain such as retail would be  open to competition from the EU.  Complicating matters is that CETA has specific procurement rules that apply to both  municipalities and provinces  because the EU wants access to those markets  and they want to bid on municipal projects too which have historically been the way cities keep  their local economies growing by keeping the money circulating locally.   All this is good you say – competition breeds efficiencies and so on  but its not clear Canada will get the same benefits in return . After all the majority of what we export to the EU are resources and agricultural goods. So the exchange in terms of long term economic development is not quite equal.

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