Harper's Axe Hits Canadian Studies Abroad: The End of the Understanding Canada Program Reflects Changing Foreign Policy Priorities

By Nimijean, Richard | Inroads, Winter 2013 | Go to article overview
Save to active project

Harper's Axe Hits Canadian Studies Abroad: The End of the Understanding Canada Program Reflects Changing Foreign Policy Priorities


Nimijean, Richard, Inroads


On May 1, the Harper government quietly announced that it was terminating funding for Understanding Canada, the latest iteration of the Canadian Studies program. The Canadian government's support for international scholars of Canada, which has lasted for nearly 40 years, has been the key element in Canada's broader public diplomacy efforts seeking to increase Canada's "mindspace" in key foreign constituencies (academics, students, government officials, business, and social groups). The idea was that small investments would translate into a greater knowledge of Canada, promoting Canada's brand in the world and supporting its economic and foreign policy interests.

This program supported research on - and travel to - Canada by foreign professors, researchers and graduate students, and promoted research and teaching links between international and Canadian scholars.1 According to an estimate by Patrick James, President of the International Council for Canadian Studies, the federal government's $5 million annual investment in the program generates $200 million spending on Canadian Studies globally by roughly 7,000 Canadianists working in 290 Canadian Studies programs researching and offering courses on Canada in 50 countries.2

The announcement took the form of a message that appeared on the program website:

In the current fiscal context, the decision was made to focus our programming on the department's core mandate first. As a result, we are phasing out the international Canadian studies program, and will be reducing the funding and geographic scope of the International Scholarships Program.

Given the success of the program, the economic benefits and the government's desire to strengthen Canada's brand in the world, the question is: Why? How has the "core mandate" changed?

Why eliminate the program?

On its election in 2006, the Harper government began cutting support for public diplomacy. In 2008, the Canadian Studies program was renamed "Understanding Canada," and its mandate was changed. It would now require applicants to situate their work within public policy priority areas defined by the Canadian government. In the Winter/Spring 2008 issue of Inroads I criticized this orientation, writing,

The Harper government may one day realize that it is being "penny wise, pound foolish" in cutting public diplomacy and reorienting the Canadian Studies program ... The government's determination to extract value for money or otherwise cut public diplomacy programs will only hurt the effort to promote Canada abroad, and raises the possibility that some scholars will stop studying Canada altogether.3

So why was the program eliminated? As Paul Martin, former director of Canadian Studies at the University of Vermont, notes, the government must be aware of a study that revealed that Understanding Canada generated significant net economic benefits for Canada, adding $70 million annually to the Canadian economy through spending on research trips to Canada, books, films and music. One would have thought that the net economic benefit to Canada generated by the program reflects - as a Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade (DFAIT) representative's recent statement put it - that "the government of Canada is conscientious is its use of taxpayers' money and makes every effort to ensure that resources devoted to Canadian diplomatic activities are optimized."4

Moreover, Canadian universities, supported by the federal government, are aggressively recruiting international students. The August 2012 Report of the Advisory Panel on Canada's International Education Strategy, noting the great economic and labour market benefits associated with international students, called for increased efforts to brand Canada abroad and make international education more prominent in government of Canada policies.5 Might not the support of foreign scholars doing work on Canada help the federal government and Canadian universities attract such students?

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited article

Harper's Axe Hits Canadian Studies Abroad: The End of the Understanding Canada Program Reflects Changing Foreign Policy Priorities
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?