Once again, a CMSS contingent made the trek across Canada to attend the Political Science Graduate Symposium at Dalhousie University in Halifax. As a wonderful opportunity to share research and ideas with graduate students from around the country, the eighth instalment of this academic assemblage did not disappoint!
Five students and one professor from the Centre were able to make the journey this year, contributing to discussions on a diverse range of issues and problems. Stephen Hayes and Bill Carruthers – two members of the CMSS Arctic Working Group (affectionately referred to around here as ‘Arctic Friends’ or the ‘Meeting of the Arctic Minions’) – started the conference off with presentations for the Arctic Sovereignty panel.
While Stephen disputed claims that the militarization of the Arctic is evidence of inter-state tension, Bill presented an informed view of Radar Sat procurement here in Canada, specifically the role of SAR (Synthetic Aperture Radar) and AIS (Automatic Identification System) functionalities.
They both impressed the audience with their arguments and seemingly boundless knowledge of all things Arctic, while their panel chair Commodore Darren Hawco – currently in Command of the Atlantic Fleet and an Arctic aficionado himself – provided an enthusiastic and very welcome addition to the panel discussion. We’re hoping the Commodore will consider a trip out to the prairies some time soon to continue that discussion here at the Centre!
The rest of the CMSS students – Tim Wright, Maria Robson, and Katie Domansky – gave their presentations on the second day of the conference after some last minute re-shuffling and re-branding saw them take over the Defence panel in an all-CMSS effort. A rather eclectic take on “defence”, this panel featured presentations on security issues pertaining to all corners of the globe.
Tim focused on Chinese strategy for gaining a foothold in the Arctic, noting that China is already in Canada’s Arctic resources sector, while Maria discussed issues of intelligence sharing, specifically how middle powers leverage their intelligence capabilities to maintain political relationships. Katie rounded out the panel with her views on the re-professionalization of the Canadian Forces, in both practical and normative terms, after the significant changes wrought by the post-Somalia reform process of the 1990s. Each of these presentations were informative and succeeded in generating some significant debate amongst audience members and the panelists themselves. Mission accomplished!
Our faculty contribution to the conference came in the form of Dr. Rob Huebert, who provided an informative look at “the power of ideas” during his keynote address.
As the Centre’s favourite Realist who usually presents his expertise on the Arctic and security issues, Dr. Huebert surprised the attending CMSS students with his thoughtful discussion on the role that ideas and inquiry can play in changing the world. Yes folks, grad students and the work they do, does matter… even when they are social scientists! His personal experiences at Dalhousie during his doctoral studies, and the role of Dalhousie academics and others in fundamentally altering the way in which the world considers the use and governance of international waters, provided a case in point to support his argument. As did the question and answer period, which turned into a debate amongst all in attendance that demonstrated the value of academic inquiry and exercises such as this conference.
All CMSS members in attendance were very thankful for the opportunity to interact with and learn from the other student presenters from universities across the country. With topics ranging from immigration policy, to aboriginal rights, to health care, and conceptions of peacekeeping/peacemaking, this conference fostered discussion on security issues affecting Canada, while also allowing us to interact with scholars studying outside of our usual ‘security bubble’. A highlight was the keynote address given by NDP Environment Critic Megan Leslie. A frank, open, and engaging speech delivered with enthusiasm, Megan’s view of environment issues in Canada managed to captivate all those in attendance, no matter where on the political spectrum they usually tend to dwell.
Besides the conference itself, something must also be said for Halifax and Nova Scotia, which welcomed our Calgary crew with open arms (not to mention full pints and lively music!). Visiting the Halifax Citadel, Canadian Immigration Museum at Pier 21, the Keith’s Brewery, Peggy’s Cove, Mahone Bay, Lunenberg, and – of course – the many pubs that have led to the cliché that “every second building in Halifax is a church, and every one in between a bar,” made the trip even more rewarding. We defend the old grad student adage that just as many good ideas are formed outside the classroom as in…. especially in the pub over a cold pint of Keith’s!