Did the United States Undermine the International Norm Against Torture? 

In April 2004, graphic photos of detainees being abused by military personnel at a secret U.S. detention facility in Abu Ghraib, Iraq, circulated the world. After 9/11, many states began undermining human rights protections and policies in the name of protecting people (Schmidt & Sikkink, 2019; Keating, 2014). When revelations of the U.S.’s use of torture surfaced, people around the world were concerned that the international community would follow in the United States footsteps and reject the international norm against torture, a concern which was amplified when it became known that dozens of countries – including Canada -  cooperated and participated in the RDI program (Keating, 2014). However, academics who investigated the issue came to a similar conclusion: the United States’ violation of the anti-torture norm did not reflect a weakening of the norm per se, rather it illustrated the strength of the norm due to the extent to which it constrained the behaviour of the United States. Likewise, they that, in trying to defend their use of torture, the Bush administration strengthened the norm.  

The Central Intelligence Agency’s Rendition, Detention, and Interrogation program 

Following the attacks of 9/11, the Bush administration authorized the creation of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA)’s Rendition, Detention, and Interrogation (RDI) program. Under the program, the CIA and its partners participated in the extrajudicial detentions and extraordinary renditions of suspected terrorists to secret detention and interrogation facilities outside of the United States, called black sites (Keating, 2016; Barnes, 2016; Schmidt & Sikkink, 2019). At these black sites, the CIA or third parties detained suspects indefinitely and subjected them to abuse and interrogation techniques, including torture, that sometimes resulted in the harm or even death of detainees (Barnes, 2016; Schmidt & Sikkink, 2019).   

International norms: an overview 

According to Finnemore and Sikkink (1998) a norm is any "standard of appropriate behavior for actors with a given identity" (p.891). Norms embody a nature of oughtness; they constrain the behaviour of actors and limit options and actions available to these actors by defining what is and is not acceptable (Finnemore & Sikkink, 1998). When actors challenge or violate well-established norms, they face consequences, which can be material or non-material, and condemnation from norm-following actors (Finnemore & Sikkink, 1998).  

International norms shape the behavior of states and other international actors. When states break international norms, they face – or are expected to face – consequences like sanctions, legal persecution or damage to their reputation or relationships with other states (Keating, 2016; Barnes, 2016; Schmidt & Sikkink, 2019; Finnemore & Sikkink, 1998; Parry, 2010). States benefit from following norms because it provides them with a place in the international community and it allows them to assume a certain identity by following the norms associated with that identity – for example, if a state wants to be called a liberal state, it must follow liberal norms (Finnemore & Sikkink, 1998). 

The international norm against torture 

In Understanding Torture, John Parry (2010), citing the ‘Convention against Torture and Other Forms of Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment’ (1984), explains that “The term torture is reserved for ‘any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person’ by or with the consent of actors” (p.6). The prohibition against torture is a highly institutionalized and legalized norm within international law and among the international community (Schmidt & Sikkink, 2019; Keating, 2016; Parry, 2010). The anti-torture norm is jus cogens, which means it is non-derogable and overrules all treaties and constitutions, with no exceptions (Schmidt & Sikkink, 2019; Keating, 2016; Parry, 2010). Not only does the norm dictate that states must themselves refrain from torture, it also requires states to punish those use torture (Barnes, 2016). 

How the anti-torture norm constrained the United States 

As previously mentioned, norms constrain the behaviour and actions of states. If the norm was weak, there would be no evidence of it influencing the behaviour of the United States. However, this is not the case and the ways in which it does constrain the U.S. behaviour demonstrates the strength of the norm (Barnes, 2016). 


One of the most obvious signs that the anti-torture norm limited and influenced the behaviour of the Bush administration was the decision to keep the RDI program secret (Keating, 2016; Barnes, 2016; Schmidt & Sikkink, 2019; Parry, 2010). Secrecy is a tactic that norm breakers may use because it allows them to avoid or postpone the consequences of their actions (Keating, 2014; Keating, 2016). The fact that the U.S. recognized or believed that using torture would have consequences shows that the United States believed that the norm was legitimate that any violation would be worthy of punishment or consequences like having an impact on reputation or that other states viewed it as such (Keating, 2016). For example, when a state uses torture, it risks ruining its reputation if it should be found out because respect for the rule of law is a necessary quality a state must display for full membership in the international community (Parry, 2010).  

Legal avenues 

Another activity that demonstrated that the strength of the norm influenced and constrained the behaviour of the U.S. was the lengths the Bush administration went to to try and remain legal and redefine torture (Barnes, 2016). In international law, the definition of torture is ambigiously defined, which leaves room to different interpretations (Parry, 2010). The Bush administration took advantage of this ambiguity and proposed its own and more narrow definition of torture, which thus opened up a number of opportunities that would otherwise not have been available (Barnes, 2016; Parry, 2010; Schmidt & Sikkink, 2019). Notably, it allowed the CIA to practice ‘enhanced interrogation techniques,’ which would qualify as torture according to traditional definitions (Parry, 2010). That the Bush administration tried to redefine their tactics as something other than torture demonstrates that they recognize the term torture to be bad (Barnes, 2016). 

Denials and justifications 

The way in which the norm against torture constrained the behaviour of the U.S. is also evident in how it responded once its use of torture was exposed (Barnes, 2016; Parry, 2010). The Bush administration responded by either denying, disavowing, or framing the debate on the use of torture to preserve the United States' reputation and legitimacy in international society (Barnes, 2016; Parry, 2011).  When the United States was could no longer outright deny the cases of abuse within the RDI program and was forced to address the evidence, the Bush "administration... framed the debate in this way: torture is wrong, and we do not do it, but we use "tough" tactics that are both lawful and justified under the circumstances" (4). In doing so, the United states reinforced the legitimacy of the antitorture norm by repeatedly stressing how unacceptable torture is (Barnes, 2016; Parry, 2010; Schmidt & Sikkink, 2019). 

Going forward: evolution of U.S. policy 

By the end of the Bush administration, it appeared that U.S. policy was shifting back towards reinforcing and respecting the anti-torture norm. However, on January 30, 2018, President Donald Trump “signed Executive Order 13,823, directing officials to keep the Guantánamo Bay detention camp open and permitting additional detainees to be transported to the facility,” which showed an open disregard for the anti-torture norm and a significant step backwards in progress made during the Obama administration (“President Trump Issues Executive Order Keeping the Guantánamo Bay Detention Camp Open,” 2018). What is especially concerning, is that this violation of the anti-torture norm was public. Consequently, the conclusions drawn by academics with regard to the impact of the RDI program under the Bush administration may no longer apply in the future, where no effort was made to disguise President Trump’s action. For this reason, understanding how the United States’ torture policy impacts the strength of the international torture norm is essential for both understanding the past and trying to predict – or even prevent – the future.  



Barnes, J. (2016). Black sites, ‘extraordinary renditions’ and the legitimacy of the torture taboo. International Politics53(2), 198–219. https://doi.org/10.1057/ip.2015.46 

Finnemore, M., & Sikkink, K. (1998). International Norm Dynamics and Political Change. International Organization52(4), 887–917. https://doi.org/10.1162/002081898550789 

Keating, V. C. (2014). Contesting the International Illegitimacy of Torture: The Bush Administration’s Failure to Legitimate its Preferences within International Society. The British Journal of Politics and International Relations16(1), 1–27. https://doi.org/10.1111/1467-856X.12024 

Keating, V. C. (2016). The anti-torture norm and cooperation in the CIA black site programme. The International Journal of Human Rights20(7), 935–955. https://doi.org/10.1080/13642987.2016.1192534 

Parry, J. T. (2010). Understanding torture: Law, violence, and political identity. Ann Arbor, Mich: University of Michigan Press. 

President Trump Issues Executive Order Keeping the Guantánamo Bay Detention Camp Open. (2018). American Journal of International Law112(2), 326–329. https://doi.org/10.1017/ajil.2018.34 

Schmidt, A., & Sikkink, K. (2019). Breaking the Ban? The Heterogeneous Impact of US Contestation of the Torture Norm. Journal of Global Security Studies4(1), 105–122. https://doi.org/10.1093/jogss/ogy036 

  • The Dilemma of Food Aid



    Recently, the 2020 Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to the UN World Food Programme “for its efforts to combat hunger, for its contribution to bettering conditions for peace in conflict-affected areas and for acting as a driving force in efforts to prevent the use of hunger as a weapon of war and conflict” (Nobel Prize). This year, the COVID-19 pandemic has aggravated existing food security in regions facing instability, making food aid more critical than ever. However, does food aid really create a positive impact? Understanding the strengths and shortcomings of food aid is essential for developing policy-recommendations to improve the effectiveness of food aid. There has been much debate regarding how food aid can be improved. Particularly, food aid is often criticized for creating dependency in the recipient country by undercutting the capacity of domestic agricultural production, thus exacerbating rather than alleviating the problem of food security.


    The Dilemma of Food Aid

    To start, the OECD definition of food aid includes grants and concessional loans of food that conform to Official Development Assistance (ODA). Aside from being a very vague definition, not all food aid meet the OECD criteria of ODA, which is defined as aid with “the promotion of the economic development and welfare of developing countries as its main objective” (OECD). As various authors have indicated, in some cases food aid deters the economic development of recipient developing countries instead.

    There are two main categories for the delivery of food aid; tied and untied food aid. Tied food aid comes with many strings attached. These restrictions usually involve “payment in‐kind food aid transfers under the requirements that the food be obtained from the donor's domestic markets and the use of transportation and distributional services of donor country contractors” (Awokuse, 2011). OECD reports have suggested that “the vast majority of food aid transfers (over 80 per cent) fall under the category of tied aid. Tied aid has been heavily criticized for its cost inefficiencies and ineffectiveness in meeting development goals. Studies show that tied food aid could take up to 5 months before reaching recipients and cost up to 40 per cent more than untied locally (or regionally) purchased food aid” (Barnett and Maxwell, 2006).

    On the other hand, untied food aid refers to “cash-based funding for food aid” rather than direct shipments of food from donor countries. Untied food aid is seen by many to be a preferable solution to tied food aid. Awokuse writes that “local and regional procurement relative to in‐kind food aid provides significant cost savings to donors” (2011), local procurement also arrives faster in terms of transport time in comparison to food shipments from donor countries, therefore untied food aid improves the effectiveness and timeliness of response to food security needs.

    Likewise, Levinsohn suggests that cash transfers (directly giving people money instead of food rations) is a preferred alternative to tied food aid, since “all the welfare effects of cash transfers to the poor would be positive if they led to poor consumers buying up poor farmers’ wheat” (2007). However, Awokuse argues that this approach of untied food aid will only yield positive results in the scenario that local and regional production and procurement of food are well managed (2011). That is to say that if there is no local or regional production of food, or if local procurement of food is corrupt or ill-managed, then untied food aid would not have an advantage over tied food aid.

    Another significant issue is policy coherence (or lack thereof) for food aid. Most notably, many countries such as the United States heavily subsidize their agricultural production sectors so that the price of their food products will be able to outcompete others on the international market. On the other hand, these countries also announce that they are funding development aid to support the development of agricultural sectors in the recipient countries. There is clear policy incoherence between the trade policy and aid policy, since these aid donor countries are exporting food to foreign markets – including the countries receiving development aid – thereby benefitting their own agricultural sectors, not the agricultural sectors of the developing countries that they are supposedly trying to help. As Levinsohn points out, historically “most food aid is a by-product of policies designed to aid farmers in rich countries, by disposing of surplus agricultural commodities” (2007). Therefore, contrary to the state goal of helping the poor, “these policies are actually part of the overall agricultural policies of the rich countries” designed for their own economic benefit.  

    According to Barnett and Maxwell, nowadays food aid is not a direct means of disposing of excess food– most of the time. Nonetheless, Maxwell acknowledges that “while many major donors, including the European Commission and Canada, have ‘untied’ their food aid in recent years [. . .] US food aid remains tied to its own domestic markets” (2006). Therefore, tied US food aid is in fact export subsidies in disguise (Barnett and Maxwell, 2006). Additionally, Clapp’s article illustrates a link between U.S. food aid and food dumping (Clapp, 2009). The practice of food dumping has become a big problem accompanying food aid. Wealthy donor countries like the United States are using tied food aid (food aid with payment-in-kind) to dump excess food to poor recipient countries at below market prices. The corporate interests are making food aid a profitable industry through which excess food from the US can be conveniently disposed of in poor countries (Clapp, 2009).

    Food aid does not solve the root causes of hunger in the poor developing countries. A large part of the population in these poor countries are farmers or participate in agricultural production, however hunger and food insecurity still remain stubborn issues in these countries. In order to truly improve food security in poor countries, the underlying causes that impede food security need to be addressed because food aid alone does not and will not solve the problem. In fact, some argue that food aid exacerbates the problem of food security in the receiving countries. Although food aid is intended to reduce food insecurity in the recipient country, Levinsohn writes that “by increasing the supply of food, food aid may actually reduce prices and farmers’ incomes and ultimately discourage domestic production” (2007), creating the disincentive effect of food aid on local production. Food aid is impeding poor countries’ ability to attain food security by making poor countries’ overly dependent on food aid and disincentivizing the improvement of domestic agricultural production to meet domestic demands.

    Moreover, “food aid is strongly pro-cyclical: more food aid is available when prices are lower when, globally at least, food assistance is needed less” (Barnett and Maxwell, 2006). This means that when the demand for food is higher, there tends to be a decrease in food aid as opposed to an increase. Therefore, food aid is not always a reliable means of increasing food security and reducing hunger globally.


    The U.S. is also by far the largest donor to the WFP. Thus, there are concerns regarding a potential fall in U.S. food aid donations if the requirement of “untied” food aid is enforced. Furthermore, Maxwell writes that although aid actors have agreed for the most part on “a ‘safe box’ for bona fide (goodwill) food aid for emergency response” (2006) through the Hong Kong Declaration in 2005, there continues to be disagreement about who may declare an emergency (Barnett and Maxwell, 2006). There is also no agreement about tied food aid that is not for declared emergencies. Therefore, advocating for appropriate food aid resources – whether it is an emergency or long-term crisis – will continue to be a great challenge for the WFP.  


    The Path Forward

    Finally, despite the many shortcomings of food aid, the World Food Programme has made significant achievements in reducing hunger and mitigate conflict by providing food aid during famines and humanitarian crises in the most conflict-ridden regions of instability in the world. Nonetheless, the literature on food aid provide recommendations on how the world can take steps to improve food aid and sustainable development. There is a great deal of room for progress to be made in food aid, in the hopes that food aid will better reflect the criteria of official development aid set out by the OECD. Increasing the amount of food aid can only be a partial solution to rising hunger and food insecurity due to war and conflict. A more sustainable solution would be to improve the quality and effectiveness of food aid.

    The Nobel Peace Prize being awarded to the World Food Programme can be considered as a warning for greater problems to come. It highlights the growing concern regarding increased hunger and food insecurity globally, the food crisis could lead to increased conflict, particularly in regions that are already facing political, economic, or social instability. Thus, now is the time not only for increased attention to addressing the problem of food insecurity, but also for progress to be made regarding the improvement of food aid.

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  • Unmasking The Racialized Surge of COVID-19 Cases Amongst Precarious Brampton Workers


                From warehouse workers to Uber drivers, precarious work is a rapidly spreading reality tied to dire consequences for many Canadians. Through the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, the high number of cases falls upon on communities of precarious workers. The Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development defines precarious employment as the "work for remuneration characterized by uncertainty, low income, and limited social benefits and statutory entitlements" (Ministry of Labour, 2019). In the midst of a pandemic, the need for conversation around fundamental changes taking place in today's labour market has never been more urgent. Moreover, understanding racialized precarity is of utmost importance in the current era of the Black Lives Matter movement to deconstruct structural inequalities.

    Why are pandemic hotspots 'hot'?

            The objective of this research is to use existing knowledge of the relationship between precariousness and racialized workers to understand gaps in the literature surrounding "hotspots" of a pandemic using the case-study of Brampton, Ontario (DeClerq, 2020). The gaps in the literature surrounding precarity includes the lack of information surrounding the precarious job market in the presence of a pandemic. How does precarious work place racialized workers at an increased risk during the COVID-19 pandemic from a social determinants of health perspective (SDOH)? After conducting a literature review, a SDOH lens showcases that the racialized, precarious workforce results in health inequities during the pandemics. With the recommendations, the blog post will propose effective and equitable provision of health resources and interventions. Society and states of emergencies isolate these individuals.

    Taking on a Social Determinants of Health Lens

                Former research on pandemics reproduce the biomedical model of care that narrows health to the "absence of disease", an individual pathology, and an individualized plan of treatment (Armstrong and Banerjee, 2009; Armstrong and Armstrong, 2010; Day, 2014). Many scholars claim that the biomedical field must "maintain and prioritize its critical role" in comprehensive pandemic preparedness plans (Marston, Paules, & Fauci, 2017). Rather, the SDOH, the social and economic factors that influence health, specifically race and employment, play an important role in the transmission of COVID-19.

    Employment as a Driver of Health

                The Canadian workforce and the post-World War II welfare state used the "White male-breadwinner model" (Bernhardt, 2015). Smardon (2011) examines the form of Keynesianism which focused on "private investment through lower interest rates" rather than redistribution of income from higher to lower economic classes (Smardon, 2011, p.154). Without this redistributive focus, the aim of assisting vulnerable Canadians was far from a goal. In comparison with other OECD welfare states, Canada has a high level of unemployment and with no full-employment objective, precariousness, unemployment and poverty became norms of the workforce (O'Connor, 1989).

                Greater Toronto Area-Hamilton (GTAH) precarious workers take over the labour market (See Appendix A). According to a 2016 Statistics Canada survey, the largest industry group in Brampton is manufacturing, including large percentages of the workforce in the trucking sector moving between hotspots regularly (Statistics Canada, 2016). Employment agencies in Brampton factories place individuals into precarious jobs with limited employee benefits, minimal sick leave, and poor working conditions. Accordingly, the precarious workforce found in racialized communities including Brampton promote health inequity.

    Race as a Driver of Health

                Using the SDOH model, there exists an embedded racialization in precarious employment. Racialized workers and non-citizens are the most likely to be in precarious work (Benhardt, 2015). Li (2008) understands racialization as the "process by which society attributes social significance to groups on superficial physical grounds" but the definition fails to distinguish members of society and societal structures (p.21). These racial groupings face differences in earnings with less pay for non-whites. Union membership provides a degree of protection from precariousness but Cranford and Vosko (2006) reports that people of colour are less likely covered by an union contract than Whites. Although Jackson (2006) understood that workers of colour are more willing to unionize amongst unorganized workers, he relies on the employer hiring patterns as a source neglecting anti-union practices. Some scholars find the solution to exclusion to a secure job market in advocating for a return to Keynesian policies (Tcherneva, 2011). The solution to a racialized issue cannot be found in 'colour blind' approaches that have never challenged racialized power structures.

            South Asians living in GTAH are experiencing increased levels of racial segregation and present in all forms of precarious employment (See Appendix B). Brampton is home to numerous Amazon 'fulfillment centers' and large scale warehouses. In these workplaces, immigrants do not place priority on working conditions as the job market is hard to enter. One in every seven households is a multigenerational house consisting of five or more people and this is due to financial constraints amongst racialized workers (Central Countries, 2019). Critics see this family-community model as a risk but it shields the elder population while avoiding loss of connection amongst elders. Accordingly, the conditions that are met with racialized precarious workers is one that places their lives at risk during a pandemic.

    Precarity, Race, and COVID-19?

                Finkel (2006) notes the Canadian universal health care system as the saving grace of the welfare state and limits the scope of precariousness for the most vulnerable. Rather, Canada's health care holds inequities that are now being exposed during the pandemic. Many participants of Premji and Shakya's (2014) study claimed that individual and familial health deteriorated due to the job market they faced after coming to Canada. Beyond the health implications from poor working conditions, race and employment plays a huge role when experiencing a pandemic such as COVID-19. Racialized workers did not have availability to many tests, more likely to be COVID-19 positive, and more likely to live in low-income neighborhoods with poor living conditions and higher household densities (WHSC, 2020). High numbers of racialized workers in precarious work disallow essential workplaces to physical distance from others. Precarious workers are less likely to receive adequate health, safety, and job-specific training which is a necessity during the pandemic (WHSC, 2020).

                The GTHA in Canada has 28.5% of the workforce in precarious work (PEPSO, 2015) and holds 130872 confirmed cases of COVID-19 (Public Health Ontario, 2020). Brampton, alone, holds 34351 confirmed COVID-19 cases (Public Health Ontario, 2020). South Asians in Brampton experience health inequities including higher rates of illnesses, lack of access to health care services, and the poor quality of overall health care and outcomes. The mayor of Brampton, Patrick Brown, released that Brampton receives 1000 dollars less in health care funding per capita than all other cities in Ontario (Callan, 2020). The provincial average for hospital beds per 1000 residents is 2.19 in comparison to Bramptons 0.96 beds (Callan, 2020). Ultimately, South Asians endure an inequitable health situation while being a racially segregated community placed in an urban residential area that lacks amenities.

                The results indicate that a SDOH lens will showcase that communities of racialized workers in precarious employment place these areas at a higher risk of COVID-19 and health inequities. Precarious work has resulted in unfair working conditions amongst workers. Racialized workers threaten the job market from the perspective of Whites and therefore, structural inequalities create barriers that prohibit these workers from entering the job market. These two SDOH, employment and race, create inequities amongst groups that would not have been observable through a biomedical lens. Das Gupta (2006) claims that people of colour threatened the organized working class and has historically been signed to the lease desirable jobs due to systemic discrimination and exclusion from professional sectors experiencing limited social and employment options. As this perpetuated, workers accepted inferior working conditions and Heron and Palmer (1977) contextualized their threat as negatively impacting the value of non-white work. This created a long-lasting stigmatization targeted at racialized workers forcing them into precarious work. Because of this, they are left out in the preparation of emergency and preparedness plans created for pandemics.

    What should we do?

                From this research, we understand that the communities with high racialized, precarious workers are at a disadvantage in the time of a pandemic. These conclusions could benefit from recent datasets surrounding precarious work. Although this post did not take on an intersectional lens using a feminist framework as it is beyond scope, it is important to note that this outlook is necessary in understanding the gendered relations of precarious work. By focusing on the SDOH, policymakers can consider more options such as affordable housing opportunities, access to employment and income supports, and educational opportunities. Public policies must limit the spread through mobile testing at workplaces at-risk groups work or communities where they live (Province of Nova Scotia, 2020). During a time where nations rely on essential employment, communities need better training and workplace safety enforcement measures. Moreover, income benefits or programs must be a method of emergency response plans. The use of the Employment Precarity Index will allow us to measure the effects of job insecurity on individuals, families, and communities (United Way, 2013). Until policymakers take these recommendations seriously, parents have to choose between going to work to feed their children or stay at home, risk-free. Their choice to go to work as essential workers, to deliver, to feed, and to drive is the reason why many of us can stay risk-free.


    Armstrong, P., & Armstrong, H. (2010). The double ghetto: Canadian women and their segregated work (Rev. 3rd ed.). OUP Canada.

    Armstrong, P., Banerjee, A. (2009). Challenging questions: Designing long-term residential care with women in mind. A place to call home: Long-term care in Canada, 10-28.

    Bernhardt, N. (2015). Racialized Precarious Employment and the Inadequacies of the Canadian Welfare State. SAGE Open5(2), 215824401557563–. https://doi.org/10.1177/2158244015575639

    Callan, I. (2020). Ford and Elliott visit Brampton and once again ignore city’s healthcare crisis. The Star. Retrieved 23 December 2020, from https://www.thestar.com/news/canada/2020/10/28/ford-and-elliott-visit-brampton-and-once-again-ignore-citys-healthcare-crisis.html.

    Central Counties. (2019). Retrieved 23 December 2020, from https://centralcounties.ca/wp-content/uploads/Brampton-Demographics.pdf.

    Cranford, C. J., & Vosko, L. F. (2006). Conceptualizing precarious employment: Mapping wage work across social location and occupational context. Precarious employment: Understanding labour market insecurity in Canada, 43-66.

    Das Gupta, T. (2006). Racism/anti-racism, precarious employment, and unions. Precarious employment: Understanding labor market insecurity in Canada, 318-334.

    Day, S. L. (2014). Making it work: A study of the decision-making processes of personal support workers in long-term residential care.

    DeClerq, K. (2020). New modelling shows where COVID-19 outbreaks are happening in hot spots. CTV News. Retrieved 22 December 2020, from https://toronto.ctvnews.ca/new-modelling-shows-where-covid-19-outbreaks-are-happening-in-hot-spots-1.5165764.

    Finkel, A. (2006). Social policy and practice in Canada a history. Wilfrid Laurier University Press.

    Heron, C., & Palmer, B. D. (1977). Through the Prism of the Strike: Industrial Conflict in Southern Ontario, 1901–14. The Canadian Historical Review58(4), 423–458. https://doi.org/10.3138/CHR-058-04-02

    Jackson, A. (2006). Regulating Precarious Labour Markets: What Can We Learn from New European Models? In Precarious Employment (p. 277–). MQUP.

    Li, P. S. (2008). The market value and social value of race. Daily struggles: The deepening racialization and feminization of poverty in Canada, 21-34.

    Marston, H., Paules, C., Fauci, A. (2017). The Critical Role of Biomedical Research in Pandemic Preparedness. JAMA : the Journal of the American Medical Association318(18), 1757–1758. https://doi.org/10.1001/jama.2017.15033

    Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development. (2019). Retrieved 22 December 2020, from https://www.ontario.ca/document/changing-workplaces-review-final-report/chapter-4-vulnerable-workers-precarious-jobs#foot-42.

    O’Connor, J. S. (1989). Welfare expenditure and policy orientation in Canada in comparative perspective. Canadian Review of Sociology / Revue canadienne de sociologie , 26 (1), 127-150.

    Peel Region. (2016). Retrieved 23 December 2020, from https://www.peelregion.ca/planning-maps/CensusBulletins/2016-immigration-ethnic-diversity.pdf.

    PEPSO. (2015). The Precarity Penalty. Retrieved from https://pepsouwt.files.wordpress.com/2012/12/precarity-penalty-report_final-hires_trimmed.pdf

    Premji, S., Shakya, Y. (2017). Pathways between under/unemployment and health among racialized immigrant women in Toronto. Ethnicity & Health22(1), 17–35. https://doi.org/10.1080/13557858.2016.1180347

    Province of Nova Scotia. (2020). Retrieved 23 December 2020, from https://novascotia.ca/ne ws/release/?id=20201201006.

    Public Health Ontario. (2020). Retrieved 23 December 2020, from https://www.publichealthontario.ca/en/data-and-analysis/infectious-disease/covid-19-data-surveillance/covid-19-data-tool.

    Smardon, B. (2011). Shifting terrains of accumulation: Canadian industry in three eras of development. Studies in Political Economy87(1), 143-172.

    Statistic Canada. (2020). Retrieved 23 December 2020, from https://www12.statcan.gc.ca/census-recensement/2016/dppd/prof/details/Page.cfm?Lang=E&Geo1=CSD&Code1=3521010&Geo2=PR&Code2=35&Data=Count&SearchText=Toronto&SearchType=Begins&SearchPR=01&B1=All.

    Tcherneva, P. (2011). Permanent On-The-Spot Job Creation—The Missing Keynes Plan for Full Employment and Economic Transformation. Review of Social Economy70(1), 57–80. https://doi.org/10.1080/00346764.2011.577348

    United Way. (2013). Retrieved 23 December 2020, from https://www.unitedwaygt.org/doc


    WHSC. (2020). Retrieved 23 December 2020, from https://www.whsc.on.ca/What-s-new/News-Archive/COVID-19-rates-higher-among-racialized-and-low-wage-workers.



    Appendix A: Forms of employment in the GRA-Hamilton labour market 2011: ages 25-65 (%)


    Source: PEPSO Survey. Of this group, about 70% are in full-time employment but not in SER. 16% are self-employed with employees. 13% are in full-time employment but their hours varied from week to week and in some weeks could be less than 30 hours.


    Appendix B: Racialized pattern of precarity (% of racialized groups and white group)


    Source: PEPSO Survey. p<=.001

    Written By: Thenushaa Ratnasapapathy

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  • The Rohingya Crisis



    The Rohingya crisis captured the world's attention in 2017 following the mass displacement of Rohingyas fleeing Myanmar to Bangladesh and the horrific state-violence in Myanmar’s Rakhine state (Dussich, 2018). Understanding why the nature of state-violence against the Rohingya constitutes genocide, as well as understanding the existing international response to the violence is essential to creating meaningful policy to put an end to the crisis.

    Rohingyas are a stateless ethnic minority composed of Sunni Muslims and Hindus (Dussich, 2018). In Myanmar, Burman Buddhists occupy positions of power and Rohingya are marginalized (Anwary, 2020). Following a fact-finding mission in 2018, the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) called for an investigation into Myanmar’s military to determine their liability for genocide (Shahabuddin, 2019). John Dussich (2018) notes the many human rights abuses which Rohingya have suffered over the past decades, including: "forced labour, removal of citizenship, depopulation of their communities, severe abuse of children, elders, and women… prohibition of freedom of movement, confiscation, and destruction of property… denial of education, religious and ethnic discrimination, restrictions on marriage, systemic persecution and racism, mass rapes, massacres, ethnic cleansings and forced expulsions" (p. 6).

    The International Criminal Court

    Genocide falls within the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court (ICC). The Rome Statute is the ICC’s founding treaty which defines the Court’s jurisdiction (Hale & Rankin, 2019).


    The Rome Statute deals with genocide in both Articles 5 and 6 (“Rome Statute”, 2010). Article 5 determines that genocide falls within the ICC’s jurisdiction as it is a “most serious [crime] of concern to the international community” (“Rome Statute”, 2010, p. 3). Furthermore, Article 6 defines genocide as a range of acts done “with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group” (“Rome Statute”, 2010, p. 3).

    The violence perpetuated by the state against the Rohingya falls under the Rome Statute’s definition of genocide. In addition to the ongoing “mass killings and displacements of Rohingya” there are mass rapes (Anwary, 2020, p. 98). Additionally, there are reports of Myanmar military members killing women who have been raped, all of which violates Article 6 of the Statute on the grounds that the military are killing and terrorizing members of the group with the intent to destroy the Rohingya specifically (Anwary, 2020; “Rome Statute”, 2010). Myanmar has also made efforts to eradicate Rohingya ancestral land, seizing their living spaces and making it impossible for them to return; this violates Article 6 as destroying land deliberately creates conditions sought to bring about the destruction of Rohingya people (MacLean, 2019; “Rome Statute”, 2010). Furthermore, Myanmar has barred Rohingya from the right to education, as well as their culture and religion further destroying the group (O’Brien & Hoffstaedter, 2020). Melanie O’Brien and Gerhard Hoffstaedter (2020) state that genocidal violence does not end once Rohingyas flee Myanmar as becoming stateless further contributes to the destruction of the group.

    An important component of genocide can be the ideologies, like racism and purity, which motivate mass violence (Kiernan as cited in Anwary, 2020). Specifically, Myanmar perpetuates the ideology that Rohingyas are illegal immigrants (Anwary, 2020). This ideology is reflected through specific policy decisions including, denying Rohingyas’ citizenship and the right to elect government representatives, as well as politicians stating that Rohingya do not belong in Myanmar, calling them Bengalis, instead of Rohingya to deny their ethnic origins (Anwary, 2020).

    Afroza Anwary (2020) outlines why the mass killings in Rakhine state cannot be explained as something other than genocide. One theory for violence against civilians is that it is necessary in order to diminish the support of insurgents threatening the state (Anwary, 2020). Indeed, Myanmar claimed that the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) was to blame for “attacks on border security officers in 2017” (Anwary, 2020, p. 86). Anwary (2018) explains that Myanmar blaming ARSA’s actions for their need to target civilians is unreasonable, as the most prevalent insurgency in Myanmar, the Karen National Union, does not result in Karen civilians being targeted (Anwary, 2020). There is also proof that the mass killings and sexual assaults against Rohingya in 2017 were planned prior to the ARSA attacks (Anwary, 2020).

     Contested Action by the ICC

    Myanmar is not party to the Rome Statute (Hale & Rankin, 2019); however, the ICC has attempted to address the crisis by deciding to investigate forced deportations of Rohingya to Bangladesh (Hale & Rankin, 2019). While Myanmar is not a state party to the Rome Statute, Bangladesh is. This allows for the ICC to bring Myanmar’s forced deportations of Rohingyas under their jurisdiction given that the crime took place across the borders of the two states (Hale & Rankin, 2019). Forced deportations fall under Article 7 of the Rome Statute and constitute a crime against humanity (“Rome Statute”, 2010). Unfortunately, but not unexpectedly, Myanmar challenged the court’s jurisdiction by refusing to respond to the Court’s request for officials to submit observations (Hale & Rankin, 2019; Kumar, 2020).

    The case of forced deportations reflects the global nature of crimes which the ICC and the Rome Statute preside over. The decision of the ICC to undertake the case of forced deportations was significant as it stretched the judicial reach of the ICC (Hale & Rankin, 2019). The expansion of the Court’s jurisdiction is promising for future cases against Myanmar as well as other cases of genocide where the perpetrators are not party to the Rome Statute as the move “demonstrated a willingness to adhere to the law over politics” (Akhavan, 2019; Hale & Rankin, 2019, p. 27). However, the Court’s decision to open this dispute is contested and some believe that the reasoning behind expanding jurisdiction was unpersuasive and neglected preliminary examinations prior to deciding on the issue (Kumar, 2020). Payam Akhavan (2019), counsel to Bangladesh before the ICC, holds a differing view. Akhavan believes that given the transboundary nature of the Rohingya crisis, the ICC has developed “a strict interpretation of deportation”, and because the violation ended in a state party to the Statute the Court is protected “against accusations of jurisdictional overreach” (p. 344). However, Akhavan (2019) emphasizes that the Rohingya case does not end with the issue of forced deportations, and that other violations are also important to examine.

    The UN Security Council (UNSC) also has the ability to refer cases to the ICC under the UN convention against genocide established in 1951 (Dussich, 2018). Unfortunately, despite pressure on the UNSC to do so, they have taken no action in drafting a resolution to decide if the case should be forwarded to the ICC (Akhavan, 2019). International law is unlikely to be the force that resolves the Rohingya crisis and genocide due to the weak enforcement mechanisms (Shahabuddin, 2019), which are made evident in the inability of the UNSC and the ICC to enact significant change in the crisis. 

     Looking Ahead: Resolving the Crisis

    In order to properly address this issue, the Simon-Skjodt Centre for the Prevention of Genocide has put forward two recommendations to Myanmar and the international community (Dussich, 2018). The Centre demands that Myanmar “should immediately cease its attack on Rohingya civilians and investigate and prosecute those responsible for human rights violations and atrocity crimes” (Dussich, 2018, p. 23). Additionally, they should condemn the violence while working to end the anti-Rohingya ideologies throughout Myanmar (Dussich, 2018, p. 23). Moreover, to aid the Rohingya currently suffering, Myanmar should allow humanitarian organizations and journalists into Rakhine State (Dussich, 2018, p. 23). Finally, the Centre emphasizes that the international community must take unilateral action from “[i]ndividual governments and institutions, including the UN Security Council and UN General Assembly” to condemn, monitor, and enact targeted sanctions and arms embargoes against Myanmar (Dussich, 2018, p. 23).

    The consensus of the literature suggests that the Rohingya crisis constitutes genocide as defined by the Rome Statute. Clearly the crisis must be acted upon swiftly and seriously, however, current action taken by the ICC and the international community pale to the reality of what is required to enact real change.



    Akhavan, P. (2019). The Radically Routine Rohingya Case: Territorial Jurisdiction and the Crime of Deportation under the ICC Statute. Journal of International Criminal Justice, 17(2), 325–345. https://doiorg.proxy.bib.uottawa.ca/10.1093/jicj/mqz012

    Anwary, A. (2020). Interethnic Conflict and Genocide in Myanmar. Homicide Studies, 24(1), 85-102. DOI: 10.1177/1088767919827354

    Dussich, J. P. J. (2018). The Ongoing Genocidal Crisis of the Rohingya Minority in Myanmar. Journal of Victimology and Victim Justice, 1(1), 4-24. DOI: 10.1177/2516606918764998

    Hale, K., & Rankin, M. (2019). Extending the ‘system’ of international criminal law? The ICC’s decision on jurisdiction over alleged deportations of Rohingya people. Australian Journal of International Affairs, 73(1), 22-28. https://doi.org/10.1080/10357718.2018.1548565

    Kumar, A. (2020). Resolving the “Dispute” Under Article 119(1) of the Rome Statute. Asian Journal of International Law, 10(1), 3-49. DOI:10.1017/S2044251319000274

    MacLean, K. (2019). The Rohingya Crisis and the Practices of Erasure. Journal of Genocide Research, 21(1), 83-95. https://doi.org/10.1080/14623528.2018.1506628

    O’Brien, M., & Hoffstaedter, G. (2020). “There We Are Nothing, Here We Are Nothing!”—The Enduring Effects of the Rohingya Genocide. Social Sciences, 9. doi:10.3390/socsci9110209

     Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court. (last amended 2010). International Criminal Court. https://www.icc-cpi.int/resource-library/documents/rs-eng.pdf

    Shahabuddin, M. (2019). Post-colonial Boundaries, International Law, and the Making of the Rohingya Crisis in Myanmar. Asian Journal of International Law, 9(2), 334-358. http://dx.doi.org.proxy.bib.uottawa.ca/10.1017/S2044251319000055


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  • Who is the Real Threat Amongst the Iran America Conflict?


    Introducing the origin of the disputes

     Since the Iran revolution in 1979, when the Shah of Iran, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi was overthrown there has been a lot of hostility between Iran and The United States (Milani 46). The United States has made it clear that Iran is one of the biggest threats to the western world and blames a lot of the terrorist acts on being funded by Iran.

    However, western media does not depict the threats that the United States has on Iran and why Iran is so hostile towards America. Who is the real threat amongst the Iran America conflict?

    It is important to analyze this different perspective as it shows America is not as impartial as Western media makes it seem and how they tend put their own agenda first, even when it is detrimental to others.


    America and its Allies


    America’s threats on Iran have had an impact on how Iran is seen amongst the rest of the world. Since United States has put sanctions on Iran, Iran has had negative relations with other countries. Other Western countries that would want to continue to work with Iran, no longer can due to the alliances they have with The United States (Shannon 2019).

    Moreover, Iran is not a very popular country in the Middle East, countries like Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates and Israel have all publicly discussed their dislike of Iran and their allyship with USA(Stone 1642). Now that America has decided to put sanctions on Iran and publicly spoken about their dislike of Iran, other countries will take advantage of this and create even more hostility in the Middle East. 

    Iran’s Economic Perspective and Sanctions

    Unlike the United States which is concerned with hypothetical security breaches, Iran’s security is being threatened right now by United States. Unfortunately, western media does not show the Impacts of Iran’s security. Since the sanctions have been put on Iran there has been an array of different security threats on Iran.

    The first security threat on Iran that has been caused by United States is economic security. Since the sanctions have been put on Iran, Iran has gone into a deep recession (Landau 25). Landau explains that these sanctions were put on Iran to try and get Iran to get rid of their nuclear plant, Iran had already agreed to limit their nuclear production, but this was not enough for the Trump administration, who went back on the nuclear deal with Iran, even though Iran was complicit. The purpose of the sesanctions were to withdraw from trades and encourage other western countries to pull out of the deals they had with Iran.Since Iran’s economy is largely focused around their sale of oil, having western countries pull out of their trade agreements has caused Iran’s economy to continue to plummet.

    pic1.png In 2016, after the nuclear deal, the first set of sanctions were lifted off of Iran andIran’s economy started to do well again. After the nuclear weapon deal in 2016 Iran’s GDP grew 12.3% (US-Iran standoff 2019). After the sanctions were reinforced, the GDP went back down to the negatives. Showing the direct economic threat that USA has.

    Unfortunately, since the reinstatement of sanctions Trump has publicly said that he wants to bring Iran’s oil export to zero and is proud of wanting to enforce this. He knows that having Iran’s oil trade at zero will cause Iran to be unable to sell their products and this will hopefully encourage Iran to close their nuclear facilities (Six charts that show how hard US sanctions have hit Iran 2019). This reiterates that America is willing to put their own agenda first, knowing that Iran is significantly being impacted by these sanctions.

    pic2.pngMoreover, since the Sanctions Iran has had a difficult time selling their oil, which is the most important part of their economy. As stated before, many other Western countries have decided to side with The United States and comply with the sanctions. They no longer trade with Iran nor buy oil from Iran.


    Iran’s Humanitarian Perspective


    From a humanitarian standpoint, since the sanctions have been put on Iran the cost of living has become too expensive and people are not making as much money as they should be to maintain a livable lifestyle. This has resulted in Iranians quality of life going down. The Iranian Rial was worth 200,000 for 1 USD at one point in 2017, the sanctions have not only been detrimental to Iran’s economy but to Iranian citizens. (US-Iran standoff 2019). This has resulted in a decrease in Iran’s humanitarian security. Middle class Iranians are not able to afford the same way of life they had before, the price of food has gone up, even double in somesituations, making it very difficult for people to be able to feed themselves and their families.

    Moreover, finding employment in Iran is very difficult as well, people cannot afford to hire employees. As a result, not only is food expensive but also people cannot find work to be able to feed their families. Inflation is expected to reach 37% if the oil exports continue to fall (Catran et al 4).

    Unfortunately, this has not received much media coverage to show the difficulty that regular Iranians have been going through and how normal Iranians are struggling to ensure that their regular day to day activities. This is a security threat since individuals do not have the same basic human rights that they are entitled to and the US is clearly at fault due to their sanctions. In particular, more Iranians are going back into poverty since supplies are so expensive, the USA knows this and is still focused on their own agenda, regardless of what Iranians are being put though.

    Killing of Qasem Solemani

     January 2 2020 Iran’s military commander Qasem Solemani was shot by US drone strike in Iraq unprovoked (Gan 2020). Although Trump argues that Solemani was responsible for the deaths of millions of people and this was necessary to stop further deaths, this was a clear violation of international law and United States domestic law (Gan 2020). This is very clearly an act of terrorism and if the roles were reversed there would be outrage amongst the international community rather than excusing and validating this behaviour. Gan emphasises this has created even more hostility amongst Iran and America, Iran vowing revenge for Solemani’s death and America promising that if Iran gets their revenge there will be a bigger price to pay.

    America’s Perspective 

    The United states and the Trump administration especially,have claimed time and time again that Iran plays a role as a security threat to The United States. The United States is particularity concerned with Iran trying to obtain nuclear weapons, according to them Iran already acts radically, but if Iran were to obtain nuclear weapons they will act more radically and will be difficult to control Iran, resulting in Iran becoming more radical than before (Shannon 2019).

     Moreover, Iran’s government, as well as many Iranians have publicly said in Farsi ‘death to America’, which is an anti-American political chant that raised popularity during the Iranian revolution (Landau 27). The US takes this as a direct threat and has caused Americans to feel discomfort and feel threatened by Iran. So Americans are worried that once Iran has access to these nuclear weapons than they will try to bring death to America.


    Iran’s Right To Bare Arms

    Moreover, Iran argues that it is not fair for The United States to be able to control the production of Iran’s weapons. There are already nine confirmed countries that have nuclear weapons, including United States, at 6,185 nuclear weapons, it is very hypocritical for United States to say that Iran cannot have any weapons (Simbar 75).

     Iran wants to have nuclear weapons to protect themselves in case they are under attack. Israel and America have time and time again threatened to bomb Iran, even the Bush administration considered Iran to be part of the ‘axis of evil’ (Davis et al 9). Another country that was labelled tobe part of the axis of evil was Iraq, which was later invaded, so Iran has reservations and wants to protect themselves from those threats (Simbar 80). If United States can feel protected with Nuclear Weapons, why should Iran have to feel defenceless in a region where they have many public enemies?



    Overall we see how USA does pose a more significant threat on Iran’s security. America is worried about Iran’s potential threat, whereas Iran’s security is being threatened immediately. Although western media does not closely look at Iran’s security threat, Iran faces more security threats. United States main concern is Iran eventually accessing nuclear weapons and potentially using it on them. America possess an immanent security threat on Iran’s economic and human rights development. The West needs to put this into perspective so that they can see that America is not as nonpartisan as they try to seem.







    Davis, L., Martini, J., Nader, A., Kaye, D., Quinlivan, J., & Steinberg, P. (2011). Influencing Iran. In Iran’s Nuclear Future: Critical U.S. Policy Choices (pp. 7-18). RAND Corporation. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.7249/mg1087af.10


    Gan, N. (2020, January 03). Who was the Iraniancommander killed by a US airstrike? Retrieved December 16, 2020, from https://www.cnn.com/2020/01/03/asia/soleimani-profile-intlhnk/index.html


    Gladstone, R., & Specia, M. (2019, May 16). The Tension Between America and Iran, Explained. Retrieved December 16, 2020, from https://www.nytimes.com/2019/05/16/world/middleeast/iran-tensions-explainer.html.


    Landau, E., Litvak, M., & Kam, E. (Eds.). (2018). Iran in a Changing Strategic Environment (pp. 23-32, Rep.). Institute for National Security Studies. Retrieved from www.jstor.org/stable/resrep17021.5


    Milani, M. (2009). Tehran's Take: Understanding Iran's U.S. Policy. Foreign Affairs, 88(4), 46-62. Retrieved from www.jstor.org/stable/20699621


    Shannon, K.  (2019, January 25). Iran-U.S. Relations. Oxford Research Encyclopedia of American History. Retrieved 16 December, 2020, from



    Shavit, E., Shine, S., & Catran, A. (2017). (Rep.). Institute forNational Security Studies. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/resrep08419


    Simbar, R. (2006). Iran and the US: Engagement or Confrontation. Journal of International and Area Studies, 13(1), 73-87. Retrieved from www.jstor.org/stable/43107130


    Six charts that show how hard US sanctions have hit Iran. (2019, May 2). Retrieved from https://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-48119109.


    Stone, R. (2003). Another Middle East Showdown. Science, 300(5626), 1642-1644. Retrieved from www.jstor.org/stable/3834550


    US-Iran standoff: A timeline of key events. (2019, September 25). Retrieved from https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2019/06/iran-standoff-timeline-key-events-190622063937627.html.


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  • Sustainable Cities- Taiwan Setting an Example to the West


    Introduction: Understanding the General Idea of Sustainability

    Sustainability and sustainable transportation is extremely important and prominent in today’s news. According to the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals, there is an extreme urgency to achieve the seventeen goals by 2030 (Costanza, R, 2016). Most recently, in 2016 the Paris Agreement to fight Climate Change signed 197 countries to commit to strengthening a global collective movement (Abby Muricho Onencan,Bartel Van de Walle, 2018). Sustainable transportation plays a key role in successfully reaching these goals as there is a major link between the emissions of greenhouse gases that are coming from vehicles and/or commercial traffic, as well as, the increasing CO2 levels contributing to climate change (Ramani & Zietsman, 2016). This blog will analyze the factors that make a city’s transportation sustainable. As the term ‘sustainability’ is quite broad; this blog will focus on one sector and define it accordingly. There are many determinants that provide sustainable transportation as there is a significant relationship between sustainable development and quality of life. The implementation of transportation plays an important role in humans’ day to day activities by reforming the way people travel, and in exchange, is a step towards environmental progression. This blog will use the sustainable transportation indicators to demonstrate their roles in developing means to counter climate change. Most notably, this blog will highlight barriers and considerations that planners face when developing such forms of transportation. 


    The Components to Sustainable Transportation: 

    The  concept of sustainability, rooting from the developed Western world, is seen to be inspired by the pre-existing notion of quality of life. In addition, both the Western world and International Organizations/Institutions believe in an enhanced quality of life. In the article, “Incorporating Sustainability Assessment in Transportation Planning: an Urban Transportation Vehicle-based Approach” by Mitropoulos and Prevedouros, the concept of sustainable transportation corresponds to the quality of life through three different frameworks. These frameworks are smart growth, sustainable growth, and inclusive growth (Mitropoulos & Prevedouros, 2016). Similarly to Mitropoulos’ framework, the authors from the article, “Development and deployment of public transport policy and planning in Taiwan” highlight the different societal factors planners must consider when developing sustainable transportation. Factors such as, accessibility to a bus stop, considering inclusivity when constructing infrastructure, affordability, and security are all introduced and explained throughout the article. To achieve these factors and considerations however, there are sustainable transportation determinants that lead this process towards a system that achieves such inclusivity, efficiency, and environmental friendliness. To illustrate the following points, this blog will apply Taiwan’s transportation system as reference as the country’s transportation system successfully implements almost all aforementioned factors. In the article, “Evaluating sustainable transport strategies for the counties of Taiwan based on their degree of urbanization”, Shiau demonstrates the strengths of the Taiwanese system. As the enhancement of transportation services rise, quality of life increases. 


    Connecting Quality of Life to Sustainable Transportation 

    Mitropoulos’ framework highlights key aspects, as well as establishes a relationship between sustainable transportation and quality of life by stating, “effective transportation planning accessing and means greatly contribute to improve urban QoL or habitability.” (Mitropoulos & Prevedouros, 2016). QoL is the scale that measures happiness, the feeling of one’s life, well-being, and pleasure experienced. Convenience is a major factor in determining one’s actions. Access to a personal vehicle provides individuals the ability to transport more objects in a shorter period of time in addition to being in the comfort of their own car; arguably more convenient than most public transportation. As a consequence of this convenience, greenhouse gas emissions become extremely high, there is an increased consumption of energy, and as a result, a decrease in QoL (Ramani & Zietsman, 2016). It can then be argued that there is a negative correlation between convenience and QoL. Traffic can be very long and risk long-term consequences for the environment. There are a couple of solutions, EV cable charging cars, electric scooters/bikes, and efficient public transportation. Taiwan’s quality of life is rated to be one of the highest in comparison to the rest of the world and a major determinant is the efficiency and sustainability within their transportation system. There are three innovative growth constructions; smart growth, sustainable growth, and inclusive growth (Wey, 2019). Taiwan practices all three in their infrastructure and planning. In the metropolitan city of New Taipei (Taiwan), there are four modes of transportation and a fifth one being built. All four of these modes reduce environmental impact, use renewable energy, maintains an urban ecosystem and provides diverse forms of transportation (Wey, 2019). 

    On a similar note, as QoL considers a quantitative perspective, qualitative factors are also necessary to address. There are secondary factors that must be considered when creating sustainable developments. The focus when looking at the transportation sector must be to work towards a secure, clean, and equitable environment (Shiau, 2013). Some priorities to consider are; improvement of accessibility for non-motorized modes and enhancing accessibility for people with disabilities and/or the elderly. Taipei in Taiwan has a bus system that experiences extremely high volumes. In response to providing accessible transportation for those experiencing disabilities and/or elderly, this metropolitan city provides subsidies to encourage all groups to participate in this collective movement. Taipei’s government created a program for these subsidies called, “Five Year Enhancement Program”; however, research to determine this programs success is ongoing (Wey, 2019). Taipei’s transportation systems are affordable for the public, and include discounted rates for passengers transferring from metro to bus or vice versa. This is critical as it provides an incentive for the public to use transit and lower the use of personal vehicles. Another factor to enhance quality of life through sustainable transportation is through making it secure. Terrorist attacks are becoming every country leader’s fear and the terrorist priorities and strategies are shifting to target bigger crowds. The threat of potential terrorist attacks on public transport has become a worldwide problem. As a result, governments are enforcing measures for all public transport operators to practice and prepare for these situations (Lan et al., 2006). The government plays a huge role to provide its citizens with sustainability to maintain good quality of life, while maintaining its commitment to combating climate change. 


    Wey, W.M. (2019). Constructing urban dynamic transportation planning strategies for improving quality of life and urban sustainability under emerging growth management principles. Sustainable Cities and Society, 44, 285.

    Challenges to Achieve and Measure Sustainability: 

    Urbanization and development increase globally at a rapid rate through infrastructure and transportation; however, it is equally putting a strain on the environment at a dangerous pace. In the article, “Constructing urban dynamic transportation planning strategies for improving quality of life and urban sustainability under emerging growth management principles”, the authors emphasize “the transportation problems generated by urban sprawl produce environmental pollution, consume energy, reduce economic production and lower QoL” (Mitropoulos & Prevedouros, 2016). There are many challenges analysts and planners face to ensure new developments are environmentally friendly, especially within the transportation sector. The first issue at hand, which, if resolved, can lead to an effective system as seen in Taiwan, is the lack of a strong relationship between the public and public transportation (Mitropoulos & Prevedouros, 2016). Through a political lens, it is difficult to ensure governments of all levels are passionate enough about this concern to dedicate a budget to provide sustainable transportation systems. To add, governments tend to fail in considering urban planning as a multi-sector process that truly requires collaborative and collective action amongst many different organizations and movements (Ramani & Zietsman, 2016). Another challenge urban cities face that is becoming more prominent is threats to security. There are many risks in high volume transports that require emergency protocol to prepare for these types of situations. In summary, these are a few challenges cities face to provide sustainable transportation systems. 


    The results illustrate sustainable transportation to look like Taipei’s system. Sustainable transportation provides an enhanced quality of life, while performing climate change effective actions. This type of transportation system must factor the challenges and threats that urban cities experience to providing sustainability that is inclusive, secure, and accessible. As the Taipei metro system continues to improve and cater to its population, this transportation system can be a reference to other countries. The UN and many International Organizations are working together to commit to actioning climate change through various sectors and channels. These major changes will create a significant impact to achieve the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals; however, policy integration and enforcement need to be applied for these goals to be accomplished by 2030. 



    Ramani, T. L., & Zietsman, J. (2016). Sustainable transportation – alternative perspectives and enduring challenges. International Journal of Urban Sciences, 20(3), 318–333.


    Mitropoulos, L. K., & Prevedouros, P. D. (2016). Incorporating sustainability assessment in transportation planning: an urban transportation vehicle-based approach. Transportation Planning and Technology, 39(5), 439–463.


    Wey, W.M. (2019). Constructing urban dynamic transportation planning strategies for improving quality of life and urban sustainability under emerging growth management principles. Sustainable Cities and Society, 44, 275–290.


    Shiau, T.-A. (2013). Evaluating sustainable transport strategies for the counties of Taiwan based on their degree of urbanization. Transport Policy, 30, 101–108.


    Lan, L. W., Wang, M.-T., & Kuo, A. Y. (2006). Development and Deployment of Public Transport Policy and Planning in Taiwan. Transportation, 33(2), 153–170.


    Costanza, R., Daly, L., Fioramonti, L., Giovannini, E., Kubiszewski, I., Mortensen, L., . . . Wilkinson, R. (2016). Modelling and measuring sustainable wellbeing in connection with the UN Sustainable Development Goals. Ecological Economics, 130, 350-355.


    Abby Muricho Onencan, & Bartel Van de Walle. (2018). From Paris Agreement to Action: Enhancing Climate Change Familiarity and Situation Awareness. Sustainability, 10(6), 1929.

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  • Human Rights Obligations and Accountability: How Donald Trump Is Getting Away with Grossly Violating International Human Rights Laws


    This paper seeks the answer to the question of whether or not the US president’s government is held to any true accountability to the international treaties that they uphold for other countries on the subject of Human Rights.

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  • American Gun Control Laws



    Introduction: Laws of Gun Control 

    Much of what is portrayed by the media tends to favour a negative point of view surrounding guns, gun control, and their associations with various forms of violence (Piquero, 2009, p. 4). One may think: considering the seemingly adverse effects of gun possession in the USA, why do they not create more stricter rules with gun control? The answer is far more complex, multi-faceted, and requires a more extensive research than what is currently available (Sproule & Kennett, 1989, p. 245). Sproule and Kennett (1989) explain that there are limited studies conducted in the US to justify the effectiveness of gun control in the nation. In comparison to their Canadian counterparts, an evident decrease in gun related crimes and violence was most prominently seen since 1976, when gun control legislation was enforced throughout the country (1989, p. 245-246). By definition, gun control simply refers to the regulation and/or banning of firearms of citizens, by the state or government (p. 246). Furthermore, it is speculated that such discrepancies can be attributed to “the differences in rigour and pervasiveness of gun control” between the USA and Canada even more (p. 245). 

    Moreover, in order to understand the societal impacts of gun use and possession in the USA, one must be ready to open debates on the multiple aspects of gun control (Singh, 2015, p. 498). According to the American health perspective on gun violence, much of the public outrage over gun deaths arise from the notion that they could have been prevented (2015, p, 498). Despite gun associations with violence and crime, Singh (2015) maintains that the usage of guns is integral to American freedom, democracy, and health. However, for non-Americans - “outsiders”to make sense of the roles and legislations of gun use, Singh (2015) proposes that it is even more important to develop new research methods, frameworks, and “cultural-ploys” in the future. 


    The Need to Reduce Gun Violence and the Right to Bear Arms 

    Through media reports and thoughtful questions posed by the American public, it is presently thought that the politicization of guns is counterproductive (Solce, 2014; cited in Singh, 2015). However, research conducted by Piquero (2009), suggests that the opposite may be true. The gun violence crisis in the state of Florida during the 1990s, saw a higher anxiety from citizens, who pressured the government for more extensive interventions on gun related crimes and violence (Helle & Livia, 2014).  From 1998 to 2003, only five years since the passing of the 10-20 Law in Florida, there was a 28 percent overall decrease in statewide crimes related to gun activity. 

    Nonetheless, the media also has a role in sensitizing the public to: “gun crimes, multiple shootings by deranged individuals, accidents with firearms, suicide rates, and children with guns” (Faria, 2012, p. 135). Although Faria (2012) argues that there is an important need to reduce gun violence, they also explain how citizens ought to be allowed to have possession of firearms to protect themselves, their families, and their property. Thus, “increasingly oppressive”governments that enforce the total disarmament of firearms among its citizens, demonstrate that they do not trust their citizens, tend to be “despotic … and are a potential danger to good citizens - a peril to humanity” (2012, p. 135). 

    Similarly, Vernick (2013) discusses how the Second Amendment to the US constitution is both problematic and difficult to adapt to the laws of modern society. The Second Amendment clearly states that: “the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed” (U.S. Const., amend. II.; cited in Vernick, 2013). Therefore, banning firearms and handguns in one’s home directly violates their right to the Second Amendment (2013). This alone invalidates individual laws created by states, such as seen in the 2008 case with District of Columbia v. Heller, where the US Supreme Court addressed the modern implications of the Second Amendment for the first time in 70 years (2013).

    Overall, the factors that contribute to gun crimes must also be considered including: tougher gun control laws, and greater access to mental health services (Smith & Spiegler, 2017). There appears to be a positive relationship between these factors and the instances of gun deaths and crimes, which suggests that there are ways of dealing with these problems before they worsen. Often, victims and perpetrators of gun violence are just the “ordinary person”, and “most of the perpetrators of violence are not criminals” (Faria, 2012). However, the availability and access to guns can turn you average person into a killer, if given the right conditions (2012).      



    To summarize, the issue of gun control in the USA is both a societal and political issue that is highly relevant, due to the prevalence of gun related violence, as perpetuated by the media. Although citizens have the right to use firearms to ensure their safety and protection, the issue becomes convoluted when the accessibility to guns is related to violence and crimes. Simultaneously, the state banning the possession of firearms would be a direct infringement to the rights of the Second Amendment in the US Constitution (Vernick, 2013). The major question now becomes: how does the USA maintain the rights of its people while also ensuring their safety from gun related violence?      



    Faria, M. A., Jr (2012). America, guns and freedom: Part II - An international perspective. 

    Surgical neurology international, 3, 135. doi:10.4103/2152-7806.103542


    Helle, L., & Livia, A.(2014). Use a Gun and You’re Done: How 10-20-Life and “Stand your 

    Ground” Together have a Disparate Impact on Florida Citizens. Southwestern Law 

    Review 43(3), 431-435. doi:19443706


    Piquero, A., R. (2009). Do Gun Laws Affect Crime the Way Steroids Affect Home Runs in 

    Baseball? American Journal of Criminal Justice. (34)1-2, 3-8. doi: 



    Singh, P. (2015). Opening up debate on guns in the USA. The Lancet. 385(9967), 498. doi: 



    Smith, J., & Spiegler, J. (2017). Explaining Gun Deaths: Gun Control, Mental Illness, and 

    Policymaking in the American States. Policy Studies Journal. 1(1). doi: 



    Sproule, C. F., & Kennett, D. J. (1989). Killing with Guns in the USA and Canada 1977 - 1983: 

    Further Evidence for the Effectiveness of Gun Control. Canadian Journal of Criminology, 1(3), 245-250. Retrieved from: https://heinonline-org.proxy.bib.uottawa.ca/HOL/Page?collection=journals&handle=hein.journals/cjccj31&id=258&men_tab=srchresults


    Vernick, J. S. (2013). Carrying Guns in Public: Legal and Public Health Implications. The 

    Journal of Law, Medicine & Ethics, 41(1), 84–87. doi: 10.1111/jlme.12047

    Introduction: Laws of Gun Control 

    Much of what is portrayed by the media tends to favour a negative point of view surrounding guns, gun control, and their associations with various forms of violence (Piquero, 2009, p. 4). One may think: considering the seemingly adverse effects of gun possession in the USA, why do they not create more stricter rules with gun control? The answer is far more complex, multi-faceted, and requires a more extensive research than what is currently available (Sproule & Kennett, 1989, p. 245). Sproule and Kennett (1989) explain that there are limited studies conducted in the US to justify the effectiveness of gun control in the nation. In comparison to their Canadian counterparts, an evident decrease in gun related crimes and violence was most prominently seen since 1976, when gun control legislation was enforced throughout the country (1989, p. 245-246). By definition, gun control simply refers to the regulation and/or banning of firearms of citizens, by the state or government (p. 246). Furthermore, it is speculated that such discrepancies can be attributed to “the differences in rigour and pervasiveness of gun control” between the USA and Canada even more (p. 245). 

    Moreover, in order to understand the societal impacts of gun use and possession in the USA, one must be ready to open debates on the multiple aspects of gun control (Singh, 2015, p. 498). According to the American health perspective on gun violence, much of the public outrage over gun deaths arise from the notion that they could have been prevented (2015, p, 498). Despite gun associations with violence and crime, Singh (2015) maintains that the usage of guns is integral to American freedom, democracy, and health. However, for non-Americans - “outsiders”to make sense of the roles and legislations of gun use, Singh (2015) proposes that it is even more important to develop new research methods, frameworks, and “cultural-ploys” in the future. 


    The Need to Reduce Gun Violence and the Right to Bear Arms 

    Through media reports and thoughtful questions posed by the American public, it is presently thought that the politicization of guns is counterproductive (Solce, 2014; cited in Singh, 2015). However, research conducted by Piquero (2009), suggests that the opposite may be true. The gun violence crisis in the state of Florida during the 1990s, saw a higher anxiety from citizens, who pressured the government for more extensive interventions on gun related crimes and violence (Helle & Livia, 2014).  From 1998 to 2003, only five years since the passing of the 10-20 Law in Florida, there was a 28 percent overall decrease in statewide crimes related to gun activity. 

    Nonetheless, the media also has a role in sensitizing the public to: “gun crimes, multiple shootings by deranged individuals, accidents with firearms, suicide rates, and children with guns” (Faria, 2012, p. 135). Although Faria (2012) argues that there is an important need to reduce gun violence, they also explain how citizens ought to be allowed to have possession of firearms to protect themselves, their families, and their property. Thus, “increasingly oppressive”governments that enforce the total disarmament of firearms among its citizens, demonstrate that they do not trust their citizens, tend to be “despotic … and are a potential danger to good citizens - a peril to humanity” (2012, p. 135). 

    Similarly, Vernick (2013) discusses how the Second Amendment to the US constitution is both problematic and difficult to adapt to the laws of modern society. The Second Amendment clearly states that: “the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed” (U.S. Const., amend. II.; cited in Vernick, 2013). Therefore, banning firearms and handguns in one’s home directly violates their right to the Second Amendment (2013). This alone invalidates individual laws created by states, such as seen in the 2008 case with District of Columbia v. Heller, where the US Supreme Court addressed the modern implications of the Second Amendment for the first time in 70 years (2013).

    Overall, the factors that contribute to gun crimes must also be considered including: tougher gun control laws, and greater access to mental health services (Smith & Spiegler, 2017). There appears to be a positive relationship between these factors and the instances of gun deaths and crimes, which suggests that there are ways of dealing with these problems before they worsen. Often, victims and perpetrators of gun violence are just the “ordinary person”, and “most of the perpetrators of violence are not criminals” (Faria, 2012). However, the availability and access to guns can turn you average person into a killer, if given the right conditions (2012).      



    To summarize, the issue of gun control in the USA is both a societal and political issue that is highly relevant, due to the prevalence of gun related violence, as perpetuated by the media. Although citizens have the right to use firearms to ensure their safety and protection, the issue becomes convoluted when the accessibility to guns is related to violence and crimes. Simultaneously, the state banning the possession of firearms would be a direct infringement to the rights of the Second Amendment in the US Constitution (Vernick, 2013). The major question now becomes: how does the USA maintain the rights of its people while also ensuring their safety from gun related violence?      



    Faria, M. A., Jr (2012). America, guns and freedom: Part II - An international perspective. 

    Surgical neurology international, 3, 135. doi:10.4103/2152-7806.103542


    Helle, L., & Livia, A.(2014). Use a Gun and You’re Done: How 10-20-Life and “Stand your 

    Ground” Together have a Disparate Impact on Florida Citizens. Southwestern Law 

    Review 43(3), 431-435. doi:19443706


    Piquero, A., R. (2009). Do Gun Laws Affect Crime the Way Steroids Affect Home Runs in 

    Baseball? American Journal of Criminal Justice. (34)1-2, 3-8. doi: 



    Singh, P. (2015). Opening up debate on guns in the USA. The Lancet. 385(9967), 498. doi: 



    Smith, J., & Spiegler, J. (2017). Explaining Gun Deaths: Gun Control, Mental Illness, and 

    Policymaking in the American States. Policy Studies Journal. 1(1). doi: 



    Sproule, C. F., & Kennett, D. J. (1989). Killing with Guns in the USA and Canada 1977 - 1983: 

    Further Evidence for the Effectiveness of Gun Control. Canadian Journal of Criminology, 1(3), 245-250. Retrieved from: https://heinonline-org.proxy.bib.uottawa.ca/HOL/Page?collection=journals&handle=hein.journals/cjccj31&id=258&men_tab=srchresults


    Vernick, J. S. (2013). Carrying Guns in Public: Legal and Public Health Implications. The 

    Journal of Law, Medicine & Ethics, 41(1), 84–87. doi: 10.1111/jlme.12047

    Read more about American Gun Control Laws
  • When Housing Policy Meets Innovation: How should we handle the Housing Crisis


    Introduction: Unpacking the Housing Crisis

    In the last year, many Western countries like the United Kingdom, the United States and Canada announced that their countries are in an affordability housing crisis.

    According to these governments, middle-and low-income families are finding it difficult to afford to rent and to own homes due to the rise in the standard of living – leaving many people to pay an overwhelming amount of their income on housing more than food and clothing (Valdez, 2019).

     In Canada, the federal Liberal government decided that the issue needed to be resolved and a “comprehensive national housing strategy” needed to be developed (Liberal Party of Canada, 2019). Their strategy required a “conjunction with all levels of government and social housing and private sector housing providers” to produce “a national housing action plan that would produce affordable, safe housing for Canadians at all income levels” (Liberal Party of Canada, 2019).

    The plan was supposed to begin, but a strategy has not yet been made. There is a definite realization by policymakers and politician that the poor housing strategy not only has caused the crisis but have led to more social problems like homelessness, poverty, and hunger (Liberal Party of Canada, 2019).

    More importantly, the issue crosses socio-economic, racialized and marginalized groups because those that are more vulnerable in the housing crisis are low-income families, immigrants, Indigenous peoples and those with physical disabilities. They go on and live “dramatically [shorten] and irrevocably damaged lives” (McIsaac & Porter, 2019).

    To many onlookers, the crisis doesn’t seem complicated – build more homes, lower inflation and develop stronger rent control. The crisis is a lot more complex than those solutions cannot even touch let alone solve the crisis that we have on hand.

    The affordable housing crisis is surrounded by ambiguities, misconceptions, and nuances that make it so difficult to address or resolve.

    There is an immeasurability problem when it comes to the crisis – we know where it has come from but not exactly where it is going and how bad it can truly get (Valdez, 2019). So, simply building new houses is not sustainable to respond to an unknown threat.  

    The misconceptions derive from the people that need it the most.  In Canada, there is an assumption that the crisis affects middle-class families more so, however, the populations most affected are those that are making under 30 thousand dollars a year. They are incapable of paying for rent or mortgages because their income is focused on food and clothing.  

    More importantly, many assume that affordable housing is a temporary need for families (Mcafee, 2009). However, many of these families rely on these homes some of them waiting years before they can afford something else or never leaving due to the extreme of their situation.

    Also, the nuances are focused around the quality of these homes Many affordable housing places are located in urban areas with poor quality schools, housing and social environments (Price, 1995, p. 730). There is still no solution provided to ensure that these individuals are not only isolated from communities but are provided with the same quality of tools as their counterparts.

    So, pooling money into social housing, lowering inflation rates and stronger rental control are beyond this problem. These old models are ineffective and have led to the many issues that we are facing today.

    The real question is how might we (HMW) solve the housing crisis to ensure that people are capable of living in quality and safe housing?

    Using Innovation to Solve the Housing Policy

    It is evident that the issues that lie within housing policy are that it is in desperate need to be innovated (Hulchanski, 2007, pp. 2-3). Thus, the goal must be to rethink the way we handle and discuss affordable housing as well as manage the crisis. To do so, we must understand what affordability housing means to the users that use it through design thinking practices first to then formulate a solution.  

    In this case, the crisis occurred due to barriers to access – it is important to rethink what affordability means – it means efficient, effective and equitable hospices for those in need (The Conference Board of Canada, 2010, p. 33).

    This requires policymakers to consider lowering the cost of the home or lowering the cost of goods (The Conference Board of Canada, 2010, p. 36), ability to transition people from social assistance and affordable housing out by developing the civil society through life and career development (The Conference Board of Canada, 2010, p. 38), and important to ensure these individuals have the same access to quality homes, resources and environments (The Conference Board of Canada, 2010, p. 42).

    The focus would to then be creating partnerships with these private organizations and expanding these individual’s capacity to own their own homes through a shared ownership

    Innovation in Practice: Designing Affordable Housing

    Many countries are developing these principles to design a better and more innovative housing policy strategy.

    For example, in the United Kingdom, they focused on smart building and design to enhance the community and the services that develop their growth. These are streets that are designed to ensure that people are not excluded from the community but have access to services that better their quality of life and the tools to get them out of affordable housing (Sheppard, 2019). Their goal was to be able to develop homes in places where people would want to live (UK Collaborative Centre for Housing Evidence, 2018).

    In Canada, cities that have been more affected by the affordable housing crisis like Vancouver have looked to developing innovative models from Vienna. Their goal is to purchase and use city-owned land to develop a community that develops itself from being affordable housing to simply housing (Vancouver Affordable Housing Agency, 2019). This will allow the government to set the price of the homes, while also allowing these individuals to have shared ownership with the city or province as well.

    Conclusion: So, what now?

    The many critiques of the current model are that we believe simply building houses is a better response to the challenge. However, it is the building of communities, services, and monetary capacities that helps alleviate the effects of the crisis. It is not the development of homes but building the capacities of the individuals by reducing the effects of the economic environment on these individuals.

    A solution can only be available when individuals participate in the process of change and the government understands the understand the context of the crisis – this is where innovative practices and stewards come in. With them taking lead on the project quickly we have come to realize that it is not simply the lack of homes; it is the lack of resources available to these families to be able to afford the necessities.

    Housing policy needs innovation to not only develop the dialogue but develop effective strategies to solve it.

    Works Cited

    Hulchanski, J. D. (2007). Canada's Dual Housing Policy. Toronto: Centre for Urban and Community Studies.

    Liberal Party of Canada. (2019). 162. AFFORDABLE NATIONAL HOUSING STRATEGY. Retrieved from Liberal Party of Canada: https://www.liberal.ca/policy-resolutions/162-affordable-national-housing-strategy/

    Mcafee, A. (2009, March 17). Housing and Housing Policy. Retrieved from The Canadian Encyclopedia: https://thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/housing-and-housing-policy

    McIsaac, E., & Porter, B. (2019, November). Housing Rights: Ottawa takes a historic step forward. Retrieved from Literary Review of Canada: https://reviewcanada.ca/magazine/2019/11/housing-rights/

    Price, M. J. (1995). The Canadian Housing Context. Housing Policy Debate, 721-758.

    Sheppard, E. (2019, September 24). The right housing in the right place - the councils investing in quality homes. Retrieved from The Guardian: https://www.theguardian.com/society/2019/sep/24/councils-investing-in-quality-homes

    The Conference Board of Canada. (2010). Building for the Ground Up: Enhancing Affordable Housing in Canada. The Conference Board of Canada.

    UK Collaborative Centre for Housing Evidence. (2018, July 11). HOW CAN INNOVATION CONTRIBUTE TO ADDRESSING THE UK HOUSING CRISIS? Retrieved from UK Collaborative Centre for Housing Evidence: https://housingevidence.ac.uk/how-can-innovation-contribute-to-addressing-the-uk-housing-crisis/

    Valdez, R. (2019, July 16). How Can We Solve A Housing Crisis that Doesn't Exist? Retrieved from Forbes: https://www.forbes.com/sites/rogervaldez/2019/07/16/mother-jones-government-cant-solve-a-housing-crisis-that-doesnt-exist/#301378ef7431

    Vancouver Affordable Housing Agency. (2019). The Vienna Model: Innovation in Affordable Housing. Retrieved from Vancouver Affordable Housing Agency: https://vaha.ca/this-post-does-has-all-kinds-of-content-but-no-feature-image/

    Read more about When Housing Policy Meets Innovation: How should we handle the Housing Crisis
  • Les mouvements écologistes et la place de l’engagement politique féminin en Inde


    Simran Hardeep Singh 


    A l’heure actuelle, les mouvements écologistes deviennent de plus en plus importants. Dans un contexte dans lequel la dégradation environnementale s’amplifie, on observe des conséquences néfastes non seulement sur la planète, mais aussi sur les populations dépendantes des ressources naturelles à leur survie. En effet, la dégradation de l’environnement est un phénomène qui touche de nombreuses populations, et plus lourdement les populations indigènes. L’Inde étant un vaste terrain de mouvements sociaux et ayant une population autochtone importante, elle a été marquée par plusieurs mouvements écologistes qui ont défendu les droits des autochtones ainsi que leur mode de vie. Parmi ces mouvements, les plus documentés restent le mouvement Chipko (1973-1980), le Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA) (1985), et plus récemment, le mouvement anti barrage de Tehri (2000). De façon intéressante, tous ces mouvements écologistes partagent une forte participation des femmes, qui se sont montrées au premier plan lors de plusieurs manifestations (Jain 1984 ; Routledge 2003 ; Drew 2014). Ce constat a conduit de nombreux politologues à étudier le lien entre l’engagement politique féminin et la défense de l’environnement. Bien que les femmes se soient toujours engagées dans les mouvements sociaux depuis la période coloniale en Inde, leur participation dans les mouvements écologistes est intéressante car elle évoque des particularités dues à leur condition féminine, étroitement liée à leur relation à l’environnement. Ce blog vise à expliquer le phénomène de la forte implication des femmes dans les mouvements écologistes à travers la discussion sur la relation entre l’environnement et l’engagement politique féminin en Inde. 

    Contexte : mouvements écologistes en Inde

    Tout d’abord, je vais discuter du contexte dans lequel s’inscrivent ces différents mouvements écologistes. Parmi ces mouvements écologistes, les mouvements anti barrage ont été les plus documentés et ont connu une croissance allant au-delà des frontières nationales. « Publié au mois de novembre 2000, le Rapport de la Commission Mondiale des Barrages reconnaissait qu’entre 40 et 80 millions de personnes avaient été déplacées à cause de la construction de barrages » dans le monde entier (Caubet 2012). Ces chiffres révèlent l’ampleur des constructions de barrages en termes de personnes affectées par celles-ci. Bien que dans ce blog il ne soit uniquement question du cas de l’Inde, ces données traduisent l’enjeu mondial de ces mouvements, non pas réduit à un seul pays, mais bien à plusieurs peuples et nations.

    Le texte de Racine (2001) argumente sur l’importance de la maîtrise de l’eau et sur la place des barrages à des fins agricoles en Inde. Depuis Nehru (Premier ministre indien), la politique du développement a donné une place importante à la construction des barrages pour assurer l’irrigation et la croissance de la production agricole. Cependant, ces plans de développements négligent souvent les populations affectées par la construction des barrages. Non seulement les habitants sont submergés ou déplacés, mais leur mode de vie en est aussi impacté sans recevoir ni rehabilitations ni compensations suffisantes (Racine 2001 ; Drew 2014). Le NBA, un combat médiatisé et internationalisé ayant duré sur une période de douze ans a notamment évoqué ces enjeux à travers une double articulation. D’une part, par la critique de la politique nationale, et d’autre part, par la critique générale du système mondiale qui appuient et renforcent ces plans de développement (Racine 2001). Ces mouvements écologistes sont significatifs car ils révèlent différents enjeux qui sont au cœur de la politique indienne : la négligence des populations indigènes, la critique de la domination étatique et de ses plans de développement économique (Racine 2001) et la façon dont les femmes sont les principales victimes de ces processus.

    Relation entre genre et l’environnement

    Dans cette partie, je vais davantage discuter de la relation entre genre et l’environnement, révélant comment les femmes sont les principales victimes des plans de développement de l’Etat.

    Le mouvement Chipko, mentionné dans l’introduction, est le premier mouvement écologiste en Inde à avoir pris une ampleur significative tout en témoignant d’une implication massive des femmes. Ce mouvement contestait un projet de déforestation dans la région de l’Uttarakhand, et qui par la suite a été repris par d’autres militants dans plusieurs états indiens avec des objectifs similaires. La haute participation des femmes dans ce mouvement a conduit des éco féministes telles que Shiva (1988) à associer ce mouvement à un mouvement féministe. Selon elle, la participation des femmes s’explique à travers l’existence d’une relation naturelle entre l’environnement et les femmes. Autrement dit, les femmes seraient prédisposées à défendre l’environnement à cause d’une connexion biologique entre elles et la nature. Ces idées ont été rapidement réévaluées et contestées par d’autres auteurs notamment, Jackson (1993). Cette auteur démontre que la connaissance que possèdent les femmes sur l’environnement est une conséquence d’un construit social et non d’une relation naturelle (Jackson 1993). Les femmes sont plus impliquées à préserver l’environnement car les ressources naturelles ont un lien direct avec la division sexuelle des tâches ménagères et du travail (Agarwal 2000). Par ailleurs, les femmes rurales sont plus dépendantes des ressources naturelles car they have much less access to private property resources: land, employment, productive asset” ainsi que “to markets, to the cash economy and, in societies with strict female seclusion, even to the marketplace” (Agarwal 2000, p.299). En ce sens, le mouvement Chipko n’est pas de nature féministe car il ne vise pas à contester les rapports de force de genre, mais à défendre un enjeu qui concerne plus souvent les femmes (Jain 1984).

    Toutefois, Jain démontre que le mouvement est en effet révélateur de la prise de position des femmes et de leur capacité à se mobiliser pour défendre une cause qui leur est chère. Bien que ce mouvement et d’autres mouvements écologistes dont j’ai discuté ne soient pas de nature féministe, ils peuvent être étudiés à partir d’une approche féministe, autrement dit, à travers une focalisation sur les militantes, la nature de leur engagement et les changements qu’ils apportent dans leur vie quotidienne.

    L’engagement politique féminin dans la préservation de l’environnement

    Drew, une chercheuse qui a étudié l’engagement politique féminin dans le mouvement anti barrage à Tehri (2000) évoque une analyse du croisement entre genre et classe (2014). Elle étudie particulièrement l’engagement politique des femmes rurales et des femmes urbaines et démontre que les femmes ne constituent pas d’un groupe homogène et donc que leur rapport à l’environnement diffère. Le barrage de Tehri devait être construit sur la rivière sacrée du Ganges et tandis que les femmes urbaines l’ont contesté d’un point de vue religieux, les femmes rurales étaient plus concernées par la diminution de l’accès à l’eau et par la survie de leur mode de vie. Ainsi, son analyse démontre que le rapport entre genre et environnement peut être multiples selon la classe auxquelles appartiennent les femmes.



    Ce blog tenait à souligner le poids des mouvements écologistes qui sont révélateurs des enjeux d’inégalités de genre et de classe auxquelles on ne penserait pas au premier abord. Une étude de ces mouvements est révélatrice d’enjeux plus larges dans le contexte indien, notamment de la politique du développement et de ses conséquences néfastes sur les populations indigènes. Parmi ces populations, les plus affectées sont souvent les femmes à cause du rapport qu’elles entretiennent avec l’environnement. Ces femmes recours à l’usage des ressources naturelles dans leur activités quotidiennes, et ainsi, celles-ci constituent d’une partie importante de leur mode de vie. La forte participation des femmes au sein des mouvements écologistes met en avant cette relation entre genre et environnement, à laquelle s’ajoute aussi une dimension de classe.

    Malgré cette implication élevée de la part des femmes dans les mouvements écologistes, d’après Agarwal (2000), la représentation des femmes dans les positions de leadership reste faible. Toutefois, selon elle, étant donné des réseaux quotidiens entre femmes, et de leur activités qui impliquent la maîtrise des ressources naturelles, les femmes doivent être davantage représentées et devrait jouir de position de leadership non seulement au sein des mouvement écologistes, mais aussi dans l’action collective quotidienne telle que les groupes de foresterie communautaire. D’après elle, le lien qu’entretiennent les femmes avec l’environnement est une force cruciale dans l’action collective pour la préservation de la nature et ne devrait pas être négliger.




    Agarwal, B. (2000). Conceptualising Environmental Collective Action: Why Gender Matters. Cambridge Journal of Economics, 24(3), 283-310.

     Caubet, C. (2012). Comment peut-on se soulever contre des barrages ?. Multitudes, 50(3), 149-153. doi:10.3917/mult.050.0149.

    Drew, G. (2014). ‘Our bones are made of Iron’: The political Ecology of Garhwali Women's Activism. Australian Journal of Anthropology, 25(3), 287-303

    Jackson, C. (1993). Doing What Comes Naturally? Women and Environment in Development. World Development21(12), 1947-1963.

    Jain, S. (1984). Women and People's Ecological Movement: A Case Study of Women's Role in the Chipko Movement in Uttar Pradesh. Economic and Political Weekly, 19(41), 1788-1794.

    Racine, J. (2001). Le débat sur la Narmada : l’Inde face au dilemme des grands barrages. Hérodote,102(3), 73-85.

    Routledge, P. (2003). Voices of the Dammed: Discursive Resistance Amidst Erasure in the Narmada Valley, India. Political Geography22(3), 243-270.

    Shiva, V. (1988). Staying Alive: Women, Ecology and Survival, London, Zed Books.

    World Bank, Commission Mondiale des Barrages. (2000). Rapport Final, Barrages et Développement : Un nouveau cadre pour la prise de décision, www.worldbank.org/dams



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  • Kashmir: How has the nuclearisation of South Asia fueled internal unrest in the contested territory of Kashmir? 



    Kashmir is a contested territory between India, Pakistan, and China. It is a multi-faceted conflict mostly between India and Pakistan and crosses through religious and ethnic lines. The issue of Kashmir- whether classified as territorial, international, religious or ethnic- began just as a dividing line was drawn along the border hastily by Sir Cyril Radcliffe as the British prepared to leave India after 200 years of violent colonial rule. The problem of the princely state of Kashmir was unique in itself. The region was at the center of the dividing line with a Muslim majority population but a Hindu ruling monarch, which made the decision was conflicting. Kashmir held symbolic strategic importance for both states. For India, Kashmir meant a legitimization of its claim as a secular state, and for Pakistan, it meant monopoly over its natural resources since, by the virtue of geography, India held all major economic centers (Bombay, Delhi, Bengal) within its borders (Ganguly, Smetana, Abdullah & Karmazin, 2018). The princely state of Kashmir now had to decide whether to secede to India or Pakistan and the Hindu ruler chose India despite a Muslim population, which triggered a long 70 year and counting military conflict and a division of Kashmir where Pakistan controls the North-West, and India controls the rest.  This blog will highlight the consequences of nuclearisation on the civil unrest in Kashmir. Both countries have contentious relations and are nuclear powers. This animosity and nuclear dynamics cause increased internal violence in Kashmir as both states aim to tighten their grip, which has made Kashmir the most militarized region in the world. The nuclear aspect has led to instability rather than stability as theories like the security dilemma conclude. 


    India, Pakistan and Nuclear Theories.

    Nuclearisation is a modern post-world war II phenomenon and has been extensively studied through all schools of thought in International Relations- most dominantly realism. The accumulation of nuclear weapons by states leads to some dominant patterns of behavior and actions. One such theory is the security dilemma. As scholars like Glaser (1997) elaborate,


    “the security dilemma is the key to understanding how in an anarchic international system states with fundamentally compatible goals still end up in competition and at war. The security dilemma The Kashmir conflict is a longtime multi-faceted dispute between India and Pakistan with massive human rights issues into play. exists when many of the means by which a state tries to increase its security decrease the security of others… interaction between states that are seeking only security can fuel competition and strain political relations” (pp. 171). 


    It has long been argued that nuclear proliferation could increase the probability of international peace. Experts in nuclear theory like Kenneth Waltz (2012) point out how this could stabilize the regional hegemony. Neo realist theories argue that a balance of power and nuclear overreach will deter any conflict in the region because both parties realize the costs and destruction, which will encourage stability. The stability-instability-paradox argues that the effects of nuclearisation are binary and in contrast with each other. It argues that when states acquire nuclear ammunition, they act with restraint and recognize the principle of (Mutually Assured Destruction) like Waltz’s argument. However, the case of Kashmir shows that on the contrary, it also leads them to exploit and engage in several small scale diplomatically relevant conflicts or insurgencies that cause civilian violence. A classic historical example would be the Cold War. While both the US and USSR exercised restraint when it came to a blown-out nuclear war, they also engaged in precarious proxy wars around the world that caused major destruction. 


    Kashmiri Context

    The cycle of political violence is heavily caused by the wayside which these above theories affect the relationship between India and Pakistan. Firstly, as mentioned above, the development of nuclear weapons by both states has given rise to regional behavioral shifts which has destabilized South Asia and made it more insecure. As soon “as the state arms, it makes its adversary less secure by reducing the adversary's ability to defend itself. The adversary then buys additional arms in order to restore its military capability.”(Glasser, 1997; 174).  As Dittmer (2001) points out, there has been an increase in defensive behavior by India, Pakistan and even China and the Sino-Pak alliance has since strengthened. Pakistan and China have conjoined their regional goals following India’s rapid military and economic growth to curb its influence. Pakistan's reliance on China has led to mistrust and insecurity for India as China also holds claim to north-eastern Kashmir by the name of Aksai Chin and has border disputes with India in the north-eastern Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh. These external factors explain the deployment of more than 700,000 Indian troops in the region along with Kashmir’s special status through Article 370 of the Indian Constitution. This, in turn, reflects India’s heavy military and institutional presence in the region along with the nature of political violence that persists today. 


    When assessing insurgencies and violence and Kashmir, it is impossible to not analyze the role of Pakistani intelligence aiding and abetting militant groups in the region, and causing more violence. This can be argued in a stability-instability paradox context. As Ganguly (1995) demonstrates, both sides are trying to fuel contentious internal conflict. Pakistan has countless of times supported insurgencies and militant activity in India through aid and intelligence The stakes were raised immensely post 1998 when Pakistan tested nuclear missiles in Chagai, twenty-three years after India had gained nuclear capabilities in 1974. Subsequently, the two nations conducted “back-to-back nuclear tests in May 1998… even though the two states were not signatories to the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, they had faced considerable international opprobrium for their crossing of the nuclear Rubicon" (Ganguly, 2008; 169).


    Consequentially, Pakistan's heavy involvement and proximity with China has led to increased activity and helplessness among civilians. The competing violence of military and militancy has led to fatigue in civilians. Moreover, by shifting direction to structure, it has been established that all the instability in the region has its roots in the structural and institutional monopoly that the state possesses. As highlighted by Mann(1984), structural power can be used as a tool to initiate conflict and violence. Other than not holding a referendum on the fate of Kashmir while they were required to, both India and Pak’s state strategies have instilled a sense of exhaustion. While, India incorporated Kashmir in its constitution and gave it a special autonomous status through article 370, access to legal pathways for justice when there is abuse by military personnel is extremely tiresome. What renders more injustice, is Kashmir as a center of hostility because it sets a precedent for the Indian state to apply legislation like the Disturbed Areas Act, the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) and the Public Safety Act (PSA), which grant military troops and domestic police unchecked power to carry out operations (Haley & Hoffman, 201; 46). 



    In conclusion, Kashmir is a complex conflict with a multi-faceted and cyclical. As elaborated, after the nuclear armament of both nations, this nature of violence became more brutal as the stakes were raised for both India and Pakistan. India’s failure to repair the institutional damage done by years of injustice has strengthened the self-determination uprisings in the region. Nuclearisation has been thoroughly researched in South Asia in a Kashmiri context because it is the hotbed and at the center of the contention between the most important key players in the region. This has directly impacted civilian life and human rights. 




    Ganguly, S. et. al (2018). India, Pakistan, and the Kashmir dispute: unpacking the dynamics of a South Asian frozen conflict. 129–143. Asia Europe Journal  17 (1). https://link-springer-com.myaccess.library.utoronto.ca/content/pdf/10.1007/s10308-018-0526-5.pdf

    Waltz, K. (2012) “Why Iran Should Get The Bomb”, Council On Foreign Affairs. https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/iran/2012-06-15/why-iran-should-get-bomb

    Ganguly, S. (1995). Indo-Pakistani nuclear issues and the stability/instability paradox. Studies in Conflict and Terrorism, 18(4), 325. Retrieved from http://myaccess.library.utoronto.ca/login?url=https://search-proquest-com.myaccess.library.utoronto.ca/docview/198300555?accountid=14771.

    Dittmer, L. (2001). South Asia's security dilemma. Asian Survey, 41(6), 897-906. Retrieved from http://myaccess.library.utoronto.ca/login?url=https://search-proquest-com.myaccess.library.utoronto.ca/docview/60605481?accountid=14771. 

    MANN, M. (1984). The autonomous power of the state: Its origins, mechanisms and results. European Journal of Sociology / Archives Européennes De Sociologie / Europäisches Archiv Für Soziologie, 25(2), 185-213. Retrieved from www.jstor.org/stable/23999270

    Duschinski, H., & Hoffman, B. (2011). Everyday violence, institutional denial and struggles for justice in Kashmir. Race & Class, 52(4), 44–70. https://doi.org/10.1177/0306396810396583

    Glaser, C. L. (1997). The security dilemma revisited. World Politics, 50(1), 171-201. Retrieved from http://myaccess.library.utoronto.ca/login?url=https://search-proquest-com.myaccess.library.utoronto.ca/docview/274302756?accountid=14771.

    Ganguly, S. (2008). War, Nuclear Weapons, and Crisis Stability in South Asia. Security Studies 17 (1): pp.164 184. https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/09636410801894233?journalCode=fsst20

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  • Secular Stagnation and the Dual Economy in the US.


    By Andrés Copa-Hinostroza

    The purpose of this article is to explain to the reader, in simple terms, a somewhat recent term used in politics (in this case, frequently used in Political Economy). To do this, a few articles were selected from the IJPE (International Journal of Political Economy) issue of winter 2017. The chosen issue to be explained here is that of "Secular Stagnation."

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  • Argentina and the National Security Doctrine: State Terror for State Security? By: Nathalie Chaar


    Introduction: An Authoritarian Turn  

    Between the 1960s and the 1980s, military-run dictatorships took control of the majority of Latin American countries (Rosigno, 2015; Zoglin, 1989). This period was marked by human rights abuses committed by governments against large parts of their populations. For instance, during Argentina’s dictatorship from1976 to 1983, large parts of the population were routinely tortured and killed by state agents (Pion-Berlin, 1983). In order to understand this regional shift to authoritarianism and state repression, it is important to look at the dominant military ideology of the period. In the late 1950s, the majority of armed forces in Latin American countries underwent an “intense restructuring” of the theoretical backgrounds that shaped their military strategies (Rosigno, 2015, 148). This shift was influenced by a growing fear of the spread of communism. This fear intensified after the successful installation of a communist government in Cuba following the 1959 Cuban Revolution (Rosigno, 2015; Pion-Berlin, 1988). The dominant ideology being taught in Latin American military academies during this period quickly became the National Security Doctrine (NSD). Understanding NSD gives an important insight into the motivations behind the actions of these dictatorships, as well as the consequences of these regimes on human rights protection and individual freedom. This will be done by looking at the origins of NSD and its subsequent development in the Argentinian context.  

    The Origins of the National Security Doctrine  

    While it eventually became synonymous with the region, NSD was not actually developed in Latin America. Its spread can be traced back to the involvement of both French military officers and American espionage agencies, namely the CIA, in Latin American military training centers. In the 1950s, France developed counterinsurgency tactics in response to colonial wars in both Algeria and Vietnam (Carlson, 2000; Pion-Berlin, 1983). The officers that took part in France’s efforts to quell anticolonial forces developed very distinct views on these revolutionary groups. Rather than frame them as nationalists who were fighting for the independence of their countries, officers saw them as “instrument[s] for a larger and more ominous movement against Western civilisation and its ideals” (Pion-Berlin, 1983, 99). Specifically, they saw them as enemies who were working in the interests of the international communist cause and whose goal it was to undermine the foundations of Western culture (Carlson, 2000). Moreover, these threats were made even more foreboding by the prevailing belief within NSD that these enemies could easily dissimulate themselves in society. This meant that threats to the state could come at any time, from anywhere, and that military strategy must always be prepared to crush these “subversive elements” (Crenzel, 2011, 1064; Calvo, 1979). This framework was propagated throughout the region when French military officers were welcomed at numerous military training academies. In Argentina in particular, institutions such as the Escuela Superior de Guerra (High Warfare Academy) began teaching this doctrine starting in 1958 (Rosigno, 2015; Carlson, 2000). The CIA supported these teachings, and would also support Latin American military coups d’état in the 1970s and 1980s as a part of their anti-Communist strategy (McSherry, 1999).  

    NSD: Core Components and Mutations  

    NSD bases its theoretical framework on three main doctrines: counterinsurgency, geopolitics and development (Pion-Berlin, 1988). As mentioned above, counterinsurgency frames internal enemies as representative of outside threats to the nation. Therefore, from this perspective, internal “subversives” had to be dealt with using “military action” and “campaigns of state violence” Pion-Berlin, 1988, 388; Osiel, 2001). This means that armed forces gave themselves a wider breadth of acceptable actions to use against any individuals or groups in society that they viewed as threats, including torture and summary executions (Rosigno, 2015).  

    Geopolitics is a field which deals with the power dynamics between states. Geopolitical theorists argue that states are in “endless competition” with one another (Pion-Berlin, 1988, 388). Because of this competition, states are constantly trying to exert their strength against other states. However, within NSD, the relationship is flipped. The distinction between external and internal threats is blurred and militarization comes to affect relations both within and outside the country (Pion-Berlin,1988; Gatti, 2014; Rosigno, 2015). In fact, during the height of authoritarian rule in Latin America, many authoritarian governments were more concerned with internal threats than external ones. Governments would often collaborate to exchange citizens who were fleeing violence, which made seeking asylum from political violence almost impossible (Pion-Berlin, 1983). Therefore, geopolitics is present in NSD, but the threat is framed in a different way.  

    Development is also an important part of NSD because military leaders felt that communism thrived when a country was underdeveloped. However, while they focused on the importance of infrastructure and industry, they ignored social justice and were generally distrustful of poor people (Calvo, 1979; Gatti, 2014). NSD is an elitist ideology that sees democracy as creating conflict and inefficiency, and sees the armed forces as being the only ones able to lead a country in turbulent times (Zoglin, 1989). Therefore, development was understood as a safeguard against communism through industrialisation and militarization, rather than through addressing the concerns of a country's most vulnerable citizens (Pion-Berlin, 1988). In fact, poor citizens were often victims of state violence because they were seen as hostile and dangerous to the social order (Calvo, 1979). All three of these subdoctrines were important in the development of NSD throughout the region and were incorporated in each country in diverse ways. The Argentinian case illustrates how the influence of NSD led to transformations in the realm of state repression and terror.  

    NSD in Argentina: The Proceso de Reorganización Nacional and the “Dirty War”  

    In 1976, a military coup d’état overthrew Argentina’s democratically-elected president Isabel Perón and installed a military junta (Zoglin, 2015). This junta was made up of three high-ranking officers from the three branches of Argentina’s military: Lieutenant General Jorge Rafael Videla of the army, Admiral Emilio Eduardo Massera of the navy and Brigadier-General Orlando Ramón Agosti of the air force. These military leaders argued that the democratic government was inefficient in addressing Argentina’s economic problems and that they had allowed left-wing “subversives” to thrive in an uncertain political environment, echoing fears central to the NSD (Zoglin, 1989; Pion-Berlin, 1983). They called their rule the Proceso de Reorganización Nacional (National Reorganisation Process, PRN). The goal of the PRN was to root out any potential left-wing or communist dissidents, in order to optimize the efficiency and security of the country (Carlson, 2000; Pion-Berlin, 1983). What was hidden behind this argument of efficiency of the PRN was the brutality of the state terror that would accompany it (Gatti, 2014; Crenzel, 2011). The junta was extremely paranoid and deployed police, military and paramilitary forces against segments of the population seen as threatening. This included trade union workers, intellectuals, journalists, lawyers, students, poor citizens, priests etc. (Crenzel, 2011).   

    State terror was enforced systematically. The country was divided into five “Defence Zones”, each of which was controlled by “Zone General Commander” (Rosigno, 2015, 149-151). Within these zones, there was further division into “sub-zones, areas, and sub-areas" all of which set “a fine grid of control over the territory and its population (Rosigno, 2015, 149). This subdivision allowed for repression to be carried out in a systematically. A major invention of the Argentinian military government was the practice of forced disappearances. This is a process through which suspected dissidents were kidnapped by state agents at night and brought to one of 340 clandestine detention centers (CDCs) in the country. In these CDCs, kidnapped citizens were tortured and killed and their bodies disposed of (Zoglin, 1989). It was a process of literally making people disappear without a trace in order to silence their critical voices (Gatti, 2014). This form of extrajudicial killing is particularly brutal because families were unable to get any information on the whereabouts of lost members, since the perpetrators of the violence were state agents (Zoglin, 1989). It is estimated that between 9,000 and 30,000 people were victims of forced disappearance (Crenzel, 2011; Pion-Berlin, 1988). This process of mass torture and killing by the state was referred to by the junta as the “Dirty War”; a war which they saw as brutal but necessary for the maintenance of social order (Pion-Berlin, 1983; Carlson, 2000). Forced disappearances are an Argentinian military invention that fit within their interpretation of NSD. The junta was extremely paranoid and intolerant of criticism. Since they saw themselves as Argentina’s saviours, any threat to their power became a threat to the security of the nation, and any amount of force, no matter how brutal, was then justified to crush opposition (Pion-Berlin, 1983).  


    Conclusion: The Ultimate Contradiction of the National Security Doctrine   

    The irony of NSD and its manifestation in Argentina is that it “undermined the very goals it sought to address” (Zoglin, 1989, 266). In their effort to defend national security, the military government created a process of “institutionalization of terrorism by the state,” in which thousands of citizens were victimized and killed (Zoglin, 1989, 267; Gatti, 2014). The security of citizens was sacrificied in the junta’s paranoid attempt to root out all dissident voices (Gatti, 2014). NSD, in its contradictory logic, claimed to protect Western values while simultaneously crushing democratic free speech and individual rights. In NSD, we can see an example of an ideology which at its core contradicts its primary goals, and which is at the root of state sponsored terror and repression.  


    Reference List  

    Calvo, R. (1979). The Church and the Doctrine of National Security. Journal of Interamerican Studies and World Affairs, 21(1), 69-88. doi:10.2307/165691 

    Carlson, E. (2000). The Influence of French “Revolutionary war” Ideology on the Use of Torture in Argentina's “Dirty war”. Human Rights Review1(4), 71-84. doi:10.1007/s12142-000-1044-5 

    Crenzel, E. (2011). Between the voices of the state and the human rights movement: Never again and the memories of the disappeared in Argentina. Journal of Social History, 44(4), 1063-1076. doi:10.1353/jsh.2011.0044  

    Gatti, G. (2014).” A Catastrophe for Identity and Meaning: Forced Disappearance, Modernity, and Civilization in Surviving Forced Disappearance in Argentina and Uruguay: Palgrave Macmillan US.  

    McSherry, J. P. (1999). Operation Condor: clandestine inter-American system. Social Justice, 26(4), 144–174. Retrieved from https://search-ebscohost-com.proxy.bib.uottawa.ca/login.aspx?direct=true&db=eue&AN=507675659&site=ehost-live 

    Osiel, M. (2001). Constructing Subversion in Argentina's Dirty War. Representations, 75(1), 119-158. doi:10.1525/rep.2001.75.1.119 

    Pion-Berlin (1983). Security Ideology, Liberal Economics, and the “Dirty War” in Argentina, 1976-1983 in The Ideology of State Terror: Economic Doctrine and Political Repression in Argentina and Peru, Lynne Rienner Publishers: Boulder & London.  

    Pion-Berlin, D. (1988). The national security doctrine, military threat perception, and the “Dirty war” in Argentina. Comparative Political Studies, 21(3), 382-407. doi:10.1177/0010414088021003004 

    Rosignoli, B. (2015). Archaeology of state terrorism: Exploring the territorial strategies of clandestine repression in Argentina (1976–1983). Archaeologies, 11(2), 144-168. doi:10.1007/s11759-015-9279-6 

    Zoglin, K. (1989). The national security doctrine and the state of seige in argentina: Human rights denied. Suffolk Transnational Law Journal, 12(2), 265-298. 



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  • Could transitioning from Petroculture lead to political disruption?


    Oil and the centrality of non-renewable resources as the source and supplier of daily modern life is often used without a second thought as people go about their daily lives. Flicking on the lights, turning on the stove, or dropping off family members at engagements are all habits and activities that have become second nature that people in modern society have become accustomed to and expect. The reliance on these necessities and the foundation and manifestation of petroculture is so deeply embedded in habits and norms that their ease of use and immediacy are not only expected but relied on, and are what has propelled the rapid advancement of society at speeds that are historically unprecedented and thus difficult to compare. Petroculture, defined as the ways in which post-industrial society today is an oil society [1], and the way that fossil fuels are “defining modernity” [2] are all attributes of the phenomenon. The way in which major energy sources present themselves through disruptions, habits and norms, is something that can also be seen through water and wind to eventually coal in the UK during the 19th century, according to Malm. [3]. The Petrocultures Research Group speaks to the multiple ways in which the forms of energy which a society depends on shape that society in fundamental ways as they speak to the critical role in determining the shape, form, and character of our daily existence, and that the “dominant form of energy in any given era…shapes the attributes and capabilities of societies in a fundamental way.” [1]. Thus, changes from non-renewable resources as the dominant energy supply would heavily impact and disrupt current norms and ways of life. The transcendence of oil into all aspects of daily modern life is one which should be incorporated further into public discourse if not to amplify the growing body of research on the topic but also to greater reflect on the potentially challenging political disruption that could arise from improperly managing and mediating challenges that will arise from dealing with and transitioning through petroculture.

    Stephanie LeMenager states that petroculture is today’s modern, normative culture that is the way of life in wealthier parts of the world [4]. It is manifest in all aspects of life from highways and infrastructure, to fillings in people’s mouths, to the suburban dream in North America [4]. LeMenager’s focus on petroleum and petroculture is situated on the foundational role that it has played in the (American) imagination while cognizant of the fact that the narrative of petroleum continues to shift [11]. From exploring the motivations to switch to oil as partially motivated by lessening the workload and adding to the quality of man’s life [11], to reflecting on the boom of the middle class  in the mid-twentieth century and the social adjustments and movements that came with it such as the cultivation of public education, social movements such as feminism and antiwar activism, and the replacement of back-breaking labour associated with coal, LeMenage brings social considerations of enhanced entrepreneurial individualism and social movements into the greater conversation of petroculture [11]. Perhaps one of the best displays of the centrality of petroculture and oil in everyday life is shown through the Enbridge campaign “Life takes energy” [5] in which the company exemplifies the ready and reliable source of energy coupled with notions and imaginations that non-renewable energy has in fueling all aspects of a comfortable modern lifestyle. By taking E=mc2 and equating non-renewable energy with all aspects of modern life the campaign elevates the consciousness of the foundational role of non-renewable resources and dependence on petroleum. Not only is an unconscious reliance raised but an emotional response is aroused in each poster and film in the campaign, effectively mounting support for non-renewable energy and the social norms and actions that surround it while indicating that shifting away from the source would threaten to disrupt these comforts and norms.

    A prime example of a video from this campaign shows scenes of a father cooking a meal for his young daughter and ending with the message “E=best dad ever” [6], showing a memorable and heart-warming scene. While another video example of the campaign appeals to the wonders and imaginations of childhood dreams as it shows a young boy practicing magic tricks with his brother and grandfather lounging near him in their comfortable home with the lights off.  Simultaneously and seamlessly as the young magician ushers a spell his grandfather flicks on the lights which triggers immediate joy and belief in the boys own magic. The scene is immediately followed with a focused shot of the young magician gazing in wonder at the lights above him with the message “E=believing” laid over top [7]. Here not only is the utility of lighting a home shown but also the emotional response of a grandfather bringing joy and belief to his young grandson who is mystified. Both of these videos, as well as other pieces in the campaign, end with the same adage from Enbridge as a narrator states that when the “energy you invest in life meets the energy [they] fuel it with, beautiful things happen.” [7]. With petroculture in a broad and simple definition referring to the “social imaginaries constituted by knowledge, practices and discourses resulting from the consumption of and subsequent dependence on oil” [8] it is evident that this campaign engages in displaying not only the materiality of oil in modern society but also employing the social imaginaries that it provides and shapes.

    A large body of research exists on the reality and embedded prevalence of petroculture. Contributing to the advancement of this field, the Petrocultures Research Cluster at the University of Alberta focuses on and supports research that is focused on the “social and cultural implications of oil and energy on individuals, communities, and society” [9]. In the Canadian context, a significant amount of political and media discourse has been dedicated to issues concerning energy politics and the oil industry but the broader concept of “petroculture” has all but been left out of these broader conversations, having yet to permeate mass media and public discourse. The dominant, hegemonic form of energy at present is petroleum [10], and the concept of petroculture ascertains that the current way of life has been shaped by oil in physical and material ways, through influence on values, practices, habits, and beliefs, and that overall it is difficult to isolate the ideals of autonomy and mobility from this entity. Essentially, the capacities and freedoms of modern life have been shaped by the role of fossil fuels and the social aspect of oil. As Szeman says, the way in which systems “go” is not only a result of “raw stuff of fossil fuels” but also the “ideas and ideals” that drive our agreed upon freedoms [10]. This includes, but is not limited to the ability of individuals to travel where and when they like, as well as international trade and cultural exchanges. Further to this Szeman points out that modernity has rarely had the “massive expansion of socially available energy” (in this case fossil fuels), and the “redefinition” of practices, behaviours, and beliefs as a result. Overall, the omission of petroculture in the discourse and consideration surrounding modern life could be argued as resulting in a “lack of a full understanding” of energy and the politics, culture, and social norms that surround it [10].

    With the source and driver of modern society being a finite resource it is clear some major shift in energy supply will be needed in the future. In June 2015 G7 nations declared that “the era of fossil fuels would end by 2100” [1]. In this short period of time the goal is daunting with the scope being the whole of Earth’s population, and the scale impacting global infrastructure [1]. The movement towards this goal indicates a faster replacement of the primary energy source and social transformation that would outpace the speed at which fossil fuels and petroculture came to fruition (if measured starting in the 1850s). This would constitute a bigger economic, political, and social shift than that which ushered in petroculture. With daily reminders and activities embedded in the culture of petroleum and transnational commitments to move off of fossil fuels in less than one hundred years the viewpoint of the Petrocultures Research Group that this is an ambitious social transformation which lacks historical precedent is not far from the mark.

    The intent of this article is not to argue one way or another in terms of the direction that thought leaders, politicians and government and industry should act on the energy industry but rather to speak to the research underway and the scientific realities as well as imminent political disruption. While the job losses that are directly dependent on the fossil fuel industry in Canada and the economic disruption and direct political impacts as a result of this may be a clearly visible impact of shifting away from fossil fuels are may be the most clear and evident impacts, what will be more difficult to quantify however are the social disruptions that will arise as a result and impact aspects of daily life that are not commonly spoken of. With campaigns such as the one highlighted in this article, it is clear to see that material dependency and emotional associations are part of this current petroculture and that shifts in the industry and thus culture are likely to impact norms and ways of being and comfort that could ultimately result in high levels of political disruption. Just as fossil fuels reshaped and redefined who had access to what capital, freedoms that we associate with the liberal world view and order, and norms and cultures shaped in the modern world in unprecedented ways, an impending energy source shift will likely engage in similar adjustments and disruptions. The shift in energy supply and transformation of the dominant energy source will shift these parameters and norms. Regardless of if the transition is smooth or littered with hurdles, the limited value of the resource dictates that a new energy source must eventually take over,and in a petroculture in which citizens are not only materially dependent on the good but also have it embedded in their norms, practices, and in some cases emotional responses (as is shown by the Life takes energy campaign), politically it is bound to be disruptive in one way or another.

    Lhori Webster is an undergraduate student at the University of Ottawa pursuing her Joint Honours BA in Political Science and Communications.


    [1] Petrocultures Research Group (2016) After Oil. Petrocultures Research Group. Department of English and Film Studies. University of Alberta. Edmonton, A.B., Accessed February 6, 2019.

    [2] Wilson, S. (n.d.). Petrocultures: Oil, Politics, Culture. MQUP.

    [3] Malm, Andreas. (2013) “The Origins of Fossil Capital: From Winter to Steam in the British Cotton Industry,” Historical Materialism 21.1 (2013): 31

    [4] Hartman, Steven., Norman, Peter., Birgersson, Anders., LeMenager, Stephanie. (2017) “What is Petroculture?” Bifrost Insights. Accessed April 22, 2019. Accessible here: https://bifrostonline.org/what-is-petroculture/

    [5] Enbridge (2019) “Life takes energy” Enbridge, Home, About us. Accessed April 22, 2019. Accessible here: https://www.enbridge.com/about-us/life-takes-energy

    [6] Enbridge (2019) “E= best dad ever” Enbridge, Home, About us, Life Takes Energy. Accessed April 22, 2019. Accessible here: https://www.enbridge.com/about-us/life-takes-energy

    [7] Enbridge (2019) “E=believing” Enbridge, Home, About us, Life Takes Energy. Accessed April 22, 2019. Accessible here: https://www.enbridge.com/about-us/life-takes-energy

    [8] Baptista, Karina. (2017). “Petrocultures.” Global South Studies: A Collective Publication with The Global South. Accessed April 22, 2019. Accessible here: https://globalsouthstudies.as.virginia.edu/key-concepts/petrocultures

    [9] Petrocultures Research Cluster (2018) “Petrocultures” Petrocultures Conference. University of Alberta.  Accessed April 22, 2019. Accessible here: https://petrocultures.com/

    [10] Szeman, Imre (2017) “Conjectures on world energy literature: Or, what is petroculture?” Journal of Postcolonial Writing. 53(3) p. 277-288.

    [11] LeMenager, Stephanie. (2014) Living Oil: Petroleum Culture in the American Century. Oxford University Press.

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  • The Classification of Armed Conflicts by Jillian Hawley



                War is a fundamental element of the human condition. Hans Magnus Enzensberger put it best in saying that “Animals fight, but they don’t wage war. Only man – unique among primates – practises the large-scale, deliberate and enthusiastic destruction of his fellow creatures,” (Armitage, 2017, 8). Even while many in the world today, specifically those living in the developing world, have been living in what is commonly referred to as the “Long Peace” since 1945, the world remains a very violent place (Armitage, 2017). War, or rather armed conflict, is woven into the history and identity of the human nation, and so it is crucial to understand what it is and how it is classified in our modern world.

                In simplified terms an armed conflict is understood to occur when one party uses force against another, though even this determination is a point of contention (Kolb, 2014; Sriram et al, 2014). Traditionally, for example, the supposed parties of such conflicts were assumed to be states, but this has changed in the contemporary period (Gantzel and Schwinghammer, 2000). The two main distinctions between actors in armed conflicts are as either combatants or non-combatants; that is, those who participate in the armed conflict and those who do not (Kolb, 2014). While this distinction can often seem ambiguous, as will be discussed later in this blog, it is crucial in identifying the certain rights of those involved and the laws which can be applied (Wilmshurts, 2012). International laws serve to define and regulate the conduct during considered armed conflicts (Abass, 2014). These laws include the Four Geneva Conventions of 1949, and the two Additional Protocols from 1977, as well as a number of other supplementary treaties (Sriram et al, 2014). These treaties are the foundations for International Humanitarian Law (IHL) (Kolb, 2014). Within this legal framework, the two main classifications of armed conflicts are international and non-international armed conflicts, in addition to cases where both are present simultaneously (Duxbury, 2007; Kolb, 2014). I will discuss these three cases below.

    International Armed Conflicts

    International armed conflicts (IAC) are conflicts which are solely between two or more states (Kolb, 2014). For this reason, international armed conflicts are also referred to as inter-state conflicts (Sriram, 2014). As an example, we can consider the wars between India and Pakistan (Sharma, 2012). These wars, as the name implies, were a series of conflicts between the countries of India and Pakistan which took place in 1947, 1965 and 1971 (Ganguly, 1995). Here we have a clear example of two international actors, i.e. states, engaging in an armed conflict with one another, thus making it an international armed conflict.

    The laws concerning IACs specifically are much more refined than its counterpart because this form of armed conflict is the one which IHL was based upon (Kolb, 2014). International Humanitarian Law is predominantly concerned with regulating the behaviour of those who participate in armed conflicts, which was traditionally understood to be only a state’s military (Wilmshurts, 2012). Paramount among its rules is the principle of distinction, which concerns distinguishing between combatants, such as soldiers, and non-combatants, namely civilians (Bissonnette, 2016). Thus civilians are to be protected at all times from attack and are to be excluded from hostilities (ibid).

    Non-international Armed Conflicts

                In contrast, a non-international armed conflict (NIAC) is an armed conflict that is “…between governmental forces and insurgents or between armed groups” (Kolb, 2014, 22). This means that a NIAC occurs when non-state actors, that is, individuals who are not representing the state’s government or military forces, also engage in the conflict. Legally, this is encoded in Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions (Paust, 2016). A historical example of a NIAC is the American Civil War. The war began in 1861 with two factions within the country, the Southern Confederacy and the Northern Union, engaging in the conflict (Carroll, 2012). Rather than two sovereign nations waging war against one another, this situation involved members of the same political unit, a country, fighting against their fellow citizens (Armitage, 2017). As one can imagine, this situation is much more complex than IACs. Combatants are traditionally understood to be a part of a state’s military forces, but when those who are participating in hostilities are not all a part of state forces, the line which is necessary in order to practise the principle of distinction can be blurred. Thus innocent people can be targeted and lose their lives without proper legal recourse to protect them. Additionally, under IHL an important protection is combatant immunity, where combatants are immune from the consequences of what would otherwise be considered murder because their actions are legally sanctioned (Kolb, 2014). Conversely, members of armed groups who are not a part of state forces are not afforded this same protection because they are not acting on behalf of a state government (ibid).

    At first glance it may seem strange that such inconsistencies still exist. The main reason that there remains this distinction between IAC and NIACs, however, is because states are the main players in international law and internal conflicts threaten their sovereignty (Abass, 2014). Sovereignty is the founding principle of international law, and holds that state governments are in control of their territory and that territory cannot be breached or taken over by another state (Haj, 2013). When armed groups rise up against the state, or mobilize outside of the state’s control, this puts its own authority in jeopardy. For this reason, states do not have an interest in legitimizing armed groups that participate in internal conflicts with legal status comparable to IACs, and specifically armed groups who participate in them, because this would presumably undermine the states’ governments’ ability to treat such conflicts as unlawful (Wilmshurts, 2012). These kinds of conflicts, however, also referred to as intra-state conflicts, not only are the most common form of armed conflict today, but also last longer than conflicts between states (Sriram, 2014; Wilmshurts, 2012; Armitage, 2017). So while NIACs are lacking in legal representation, they are the most pervasive in our modern world.

    A “Mixed-Bag” Conflict

                The two classifications above are understood as the “two basic types of armed conflicts,” but in practise this distinction is not so clear (Kolb, 2014, 22). For example, during the American Civil War there was a threat of British intervention in the conflict, which would have also added an international element (Carroll, 2012). There can also be cases where within the same state borders there exists both an internal armed conflict and an international one, such as the Syrian Civil war, for example (Kolb, 2014). While its name may be misleading, the Syrian conflict in fact includes both an IAC and NIACs within the same borders. The conflict began in 2011, and since that time the country has seen a multitude of actors take up arms (Seeberg, 2014). There was the conflict between the Syrian government, led by Bashar al-Assad, and the Syrian rebels (Corstange, 2018). This would appear to be a textbook example of an internal conflict, except for the fact the involvement of states such as Russia and the United States in supporting groups in order to secure their own interests, which also adds an international component to the war (Erlich, 2014). Additionally, the conflict became more convoluted with the participation of armed groups, such as the Islamic State, who are not necessarily fighting for the rebels or the government, but for an entirely different set of interests (Bennis, 2016). Thus this brings the war on terror into the fore, involving world powers in the conflict as well as Syria’s regional neighbours (ibid). This is a simple snapshot of an incredibly complex issue, but shows just how these classifications can overlap.


    In this brief explanation it is clear that inconsistencies exist within these classifications and their relationship with international law. Thus, while it is vital to understand these classifications, it is also important to be aware that they are simply meant to serve as a stepping stones, and are not perfectly comprehensive. However, by shedding some light on the devices that are used to understand these concepts and how their roots are imbedded in the human narrative, this will help us to also understand ourselves.



    Abass, Ademola. (2014). International Law: Text, Cases and Materials. Oxford University Press, United Kingdom.

    Armitage, David (2017). Civil Wars: A History in Ideas. Penguin Random House LLC, New York.

    Bennis, Phyllis. (2016). ISIS and Syria: the new global war on terror. Oxford, United Kingdom

    Bissonnette, Camille Marquis (2016). The Definition of Civilians in Non-International Armed Conflicts. Journal of International Humanitarian Legal Studies, Vol.7 (1), pp.129-15

    Carroll, F.M. (2012) The American Civil War and British intervention: The threat of Anglo American conflict. Canadian Journal of History, Vol. 47 (1), pp.87-115

     Corstange, Daniel; York, Erin A. (2018). Sectarian Framing in the Syrian Civil War. American Journal of Political Science, Vol. 62 (2), pp.441-455

     Duxbury, Alison (2007). Drawing lines in the sand - characterising conflicts for the purposes of teaching international humanitarian law. Melbourne Journal of International Law, Vol. 8 (2), p. 259 (14)

    Erlich, Reese W. (2014) Inside Syria: the backstory of their civil war and what the world can expect. Prometheus Books, NY

    Ganguly, Sumit. (1995). Wars without End: The Indo-Pakistani Conflict. The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, Vol. 541(1), p.167-178

    Gantzel, Klaus Jürgen; Schwinghammer, Torsten. (2000). Warfare Since the Second World War. Transaction, New Brunswick

    Haj, Ayman Abu Al. (2013). Principle of the state's sovereignty and the phenomenon of humanitarian intervention under current International Law. Canadian Social Science, Vol. 9(1), p.116(19)

    Kolb, Robert. (2014). Advanced Introduction to International Humanitarian Law. Edward Elgar Publishing, Massachusetts

    Paust, Jordan J. (2016). NIAC nonsense, the Afghan war, and combatant immunity (non international armed conflict). Georgia Journal of International and Comparative Law, Vol. 44 (3), pp.555-575

     Sharma, Ashok. (2012). The enduring conflict and the hidden risk of India-Pakistan war. SAIS Review, Vol. 32 (1), pp.129-142

    Seeberg, Peter. (2014). The EU and the Syrian Crisis: The Use of Sanctions and the Regime's Strategy for Survival. Mediterranean Politics, p.1-18

    Sriram, Chandra Lekha; Martin-Ortega, Olga; Herman, Johanna. (2014). War, Conflict and Human Rights: Theory and Practise. Routledge, New York.

    Wilmshurts, Elizabeth. (2013). International Law and the Classification of Conflicts. Oxford Scholarly Authorities on International Law, Royal Institute of International Affairs.


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  • The impacts of Communism on Russia by Sahar El-Zaylaa



    Communism is a theory and social practice that was theorized by Karl Marx, a German economist and sociologist, and Friedrich Engels, a German social scientist and journalist, in the 18th century. In order to fully understand the theory and impacts Communism has had on people living under such a state, it is crucial to familiarize oneself with the social context in which Communism derived. After being exiled from Germany because of his controversial writings, Marx fled to London and continued to develop his writing in collaboration with Friedrich Engels. During the 18th century many events took place that inspired the duo to write their infamous document The Communist Manifesto; the world’s most influential political document which explains the philosophy of Communism (Musto, 2008). One of the most important events that took place in the 18th century was the Industrial Revolution that began in London and made its way around the globe. The Industrial Revolution was a new way of producing goods and products that used new technologies to dramatically increase productivity. It had major features including the creation of factories, cities, new technologies and the consumption of more stuff; new technologies mass produced products and were accessible to many people (Engels & Marx, 2007). The Revolution dramatically changed almost every aspect of life by increasing standard of living, giving new roles to women, forming new social classes, developing new ideas and new sources of power for countries. Of these changes, Marx and Engels were mainly concerned with the impacts the Revolution had on the formation of socioeconomic classes and the repercussions that came with it (Kemp, 2008). The economic system that gave rise to the Industrial Revolution was Capitalism; an economic system based on the private ownership and supply and demand. Private ownership and the formation of factories led to apparent social stratification, in other words, it led to a system of social rank where groups of people had more status, wealth, and control than others (Lehman, 2014). This type of hierarchy was not new to Marx and Engels, to the contrary, it was evident throughout history between the bourgeoisie (wealthy class) and proletariat (working class). With Capitalism, Industrial Revolution and social inequalities amongst workers, Marx and Engels wrote The Communist Manifesto to influence and create social change with the vision of closing socioeconomic gaps in society. However, is important to note that although Marx and Engels theorized Communism, they never got a chance to witness its application.


    As previously mentioned, The Communist Manifesto sets out the goals of Communism. This section will objectively explain the theory according to Marx and Engels. According to The Communist Manifesto, throughout history, there has always been class struggle where the bourgeoisie control the means of production i.e factories, land, agriculture etc. and become the most powerful group and oppress the proletariat by keeping the profit to themselves. In order to stay on top, the bourgeoisie expand across the globe, acquire resources and make the working conditions for the proletariat miserable and unbearable causing conflict between the classes.

    According to Marx and Engels, Communism sets out to get rid of private property by putting the means of production in the hands of the community. Communism calls the proletariat to strip the bourgeois of their wealth and abolish inheritance until class distinctions completely vanish. Marx and Engels call to the unification of all workers around the world and criticize other social movements that want to reform Capitalism. Marx and Engels believe that capitalism as a system needs to be overthrown completely and not reformed. The method to overthrow the bourgeois was to be through a forceful revolution.  This revolution will end oppression against the working class by destroying anything that perpetuates inequalities amongst classes including: family organization, religion, morality and the like. Communism aims to rid society of family organization because of the hierarchy and oppression found within the system, more specifically the patriarchy; men are the most powerful and rule the family. Likewise, religion and morality are seen as oppressive tools since one gives the ruling class power by promising the poor eternal bliss in the afterlife while the other sets out guidelines and limitations that restricts individuals from climbing the socioeconomic ladder (Engels & Marx, 2007). Other characteristics of Communism includes heavy progressive income tax, free education, and the abolition of child labor. Communism is known for its command economy whereas capitalism is known for its market economy. Command economy is where a central government follows a 5 year economic plan on behalf of the people, the government is the center of all economic practices and owns and controls property and businesses. Market economy relies on supply and demand to direct the production of goods and is open to free choice, self-interest, competition and limited government control (Weeks, 2013).


     In 1917, the rise of the Soviet Union, the new Communist state, was the successor to the Russian Empire and the first country to be influenced and based on Marxism. All levels of the government were controlled by the Communist party. In addition,  industry was owned and managed by the government, and agricultural land was divided into state-run collective farms. Lenin, the leader of Russia at the time, aimed to rid the country of old symbols and structures that enforced inequalities such as: noble titles, ranks and government departments. Private property was to be abolished. Property that were once owned by rich nobles and landlords , would be given over to the peasants. It aimed towards civil rights and improved conditions for workers. Women were given equality and voting rights, healthcare and literacy programs were to be introduced. These plans stirred optimism among the people. Although Russia's command economy built up the military might to defeat the Nazis, civil war and economic deprivation prevented the Soviet State from fulfilling many of its promises. The State became one of the most oppressive in the world. The government determined the  careers of students, assigned housing locations and abolished free markets. This lead to an oppressive state and the deaths of millions due to suicide, starvation and execution. Over 70 years of Communism passed since the revolution, yet people lacked adequate housing, harvest would rot due to a shortage of equipment for harvest and transport and factories were poorly maintained (Maltsev, 2017). Anyone who practiced religion and opposed Atheism and Communism would be killed. The conditions worsened as Communist Atheists began to destroy churches, and valuables within them were stolen and sold. By 1921, 11,000 religious leaders were arrested and 9,000 of them were executed. Following that year, 2000 church hierarchs were shot. By the end of the world war, hundreds of thousands of believers in religion were sent to labor camps. Their children died of starvation and disease due to exile and murder. In 1935, Article 12 of the USSR Criminal Code introduced by Stalin, permitted the imprisonment and death of children twelve years and over. This law was used to rid the nation of the orphans of victims in case the children turned out like their parents. The children who were sent to jail were abused and raped by the guards. Furthermore, individuals such as Nikolai Vavilov were killed because they adhered to the science of genetics (Maltsev, 2017). The dissolution of Communism occurred in 1991, with the crumbling of Russian economy and the state the country was in, the Communist party handed over its power after the declaration of the Supreme Soviet of the Soviet Union.


    According to many economists, one of the biggest reasons Communism has failed in Russia and continues to fail elsewhere is because of its command economy.  Ludwig von Mises was one of the first people to predict the failure of Communism due to the abolishment of free markets. The abolishment of free market led officials to have no market prices to guide them in planning production (Von Mises, L., & Greaves, B, 2005). Russia’s plan was launched with high hopes, its goal for planning was to be done by a central committee. This way the state would ensure there was plenty for everyone. Mises noted the raw materials, tools, machines as well as the labor used within a socialist production were outside of the market. They’re owned and controlled by the planners within the government. Consequently, the market prices cannot develop because they are not exchangeable. To make any planning decisions, planners would need to know the relative values of products involved. When the factors are solely government owned, there would be no trade, leading to no market prices. Lack of these prices leaves planners clueless about relative values (Von Mises, L., & Greaves, B, 2005). The poor maintenance of housing, harvest and factories was because they were not privately owned. Prices are not able to develop without the offers of private ownership. Furthermore, prices that reflect their relative market values are not able to develop as well. Finally, without the market prices, it would be impossible to allocate production activities so that goods/services will be readily available to consumers. Other factors make Communism more of a dictatorship such as enforcement of ideological beliefs on the people. In order to establish true equality, Communism calls for the abolishment of religion, morality and other belief systems, even scientific ones that individuals may identify with. Forcing a specific  lifestyle leads to the oppression of many and execution of those who do not abide with the state (Lehning, 1957).


    Engels, F & Marx, K. (2007). The Communist Manifesto.

    Kemp, A. (2008). THE RISE OF POP ECONOMICS. Review - Institute of Public Affairs, 60(3), 28-29.

    Lehman, D. (2014). Capitalism. Harvard Review, (46), 56-57.

    Lehning, A. (1957). Buonarroti's Ideas on Communism and Dictatorship. International Review of Social History, 2(2), 266-287.

    Maltsev, Y. (2017). Mass Murder and Public Slavery: The Soviet Experience. The Independent Review, 22(2), 183-189.

    Musto, M. (2008). Marx in the years of 'Herr Vogt': Notes toward an intellectual biography (1860-1861).(Karl Marx)(Essay). Science & Society, 72(4), 389-402.

    Von Mises, L., & Greaves, B. (2005). Liberalism : The Classical Tradition (Von Mises, Ludwig, 1881-1973. Works. 2005). Liberty Fund, Incorporated.

    Weeks, K. (2013). The critical manifesto: Marx and Engels, Haraway, and utopian politics.(Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels' 'The Communist Manifesto' and Donna Haraway's 'Manifesto for Cyborgs')(Critical essay). Utopian Studies, 24(2), 216-231.


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  • Understanding Post-Conflict Aid and its Importance? By: Sapphira Thompson-Bled


              So long as conflict continues to exist and nations free from conflict remain in the position to help, post-conflict aid should be offered to those in need and to support conflict-stricken nations in their re-entry as participating states in the international sphere. To qualify for post-conflict aid there must first be a conflict to respond to. As such, there would be an intra-state conflict, a conflict within the country between the government and another armed group also referred to as a civil war, or an inter-state conflict, also known as a war between states.

               While both of these conflicts are threatening to a state’s security and their populations’ safety, academics specify that civil wars lead to large scale destruction and dislocation (Suhrke, Villanger, Woodward, 2005, p.340). Similarly, the World Bank identifies intra-state conflicts as a form of ‘development in reverse’ because they suggest that conflicts have the capability of inciting results that directly contradict the core purpose of aid (Donaubauer, Herzer & Nunnenkamp, 2019, p.721). As such, the term ‘development in reverse’ is applicable because during conflicts there is a decrease in non-military expenditures to develop social and economic infrastructure. Moreover, social and economic funding are reallocated for military purposes which consequently affects infrastructure negatively (Donaubauer et al., 2019, p.721).

             The need for post-conflict aid appears to have become more applicable in contemporary society based on the increase in aid given to conflict-affected and fragile states (Donaubauer et al., 2019, p.732). The need for post-conflict aid also correlates with the amount of funding allocated towards these areas. In the 1990s, it was reported that a total of $100 billion was spent on aid for 3 dozen nations following the conflicts that occurred (Kang & Meernik, 2004, p.152). Likewise, foreign aid has been implemented at an increasing rate shown in statistics from the 1996-1998 time period compared to the 2006-2008 time period (Donaubauer et al., 2019, p.720). In response to the ability for post-conflict aid to have a positive and lasting impact in war torn countries, this blog will elaborate upon the importance of post-conflict aid and what motivates states to offer it.

    What is Post-Conflict Aid?

                Post-conflict aid differs from development aid in that the latter contributes to domestic savings and boosts long term investment and growth, it also helps lower poverty (Demekas, McHugh & Kosma, 2002, p.3). Similarly, development aid is more stable and occurs at lower costs than post-conflict aid, for example according to official development assistance statistics from 1995-2000, aid for low-income countries was between 2.5% and 3% of their Gross National Income (Demekas et al., 2002, p.3). Meanwhile, at its core post-conflict aid seeks to fulfill humanitarian and development goals in former combat zones. The humanitarian goal relates to providing assistance during humanitarian emergencies, examples of which are displacement and the loss of shelter(p.3). On the other hand, the reconstructive goal refers to donor contributions to repairing and rebuilding infrastructure which may include roads, waterways, energy, communication networks, or public services like security, law enforcement, or public health (p.3). This also relates to the idea of road rehabilitation which advocates for the need to invest in infrastructure so the private sector can recover and to create employment (Donaubauer et al., 2019, p.723). Furthermore, academics suggest that conflict nations with an open economy adjust better to foreign aid because their familiarity with international aid and international markets increases their ability to accept and adapt to the aid. So, it is suggested that these nations generally receive more assistance from the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) (Kang & Meernik, 2004, p.155).

    Why is Post-Conflict Aid so Important?

                Post-conflict aid plays an important role in the world’s reaction to conflict because it has the ability to address humanitarian concerns and to contribute to the redevelopment of another nation that will eventually participate in the international community in ways that may also benefit donor countries. First, as a positive contribution, post-conflict aid contributes to repairing and rebuilding the economy to function at a productive level, and this may also include an efficient level where resources are not wasted and are instead employed to the maximum (Demekas, 2002, p.4). Aid also has the ability to encourage foreign direct investment (FDI) amongst other forms of investment where states simultaneously demonstrate good governance and the potential for financial market development (Garriga & Philips, 2014, p.283). Although, investors also search for information about the country’s economy and aid concessions that may have been made because this also indicates how credible the government is (Garriga & Philips, 2014, p.283-285). Moreover aid serves as an expensive example of the donor state’s dedication and trust in recipient states and governments (Garriga & Philips, 2014, p.283-285).

            As a preventative contribution, post-conflict aid has the ability to intervene when citizens are arguably most desperate and thus willing engage in criminality, some of which would comprise of rent-seeking behaviour, a form of behaviour that includes engaging in bribery in reaction to the scarcity of resources (p.3). Likewise, post-conflict aid has the ability to discourage a relapse into conflict and the threat of terrorism by supporting education, health care, civil society, and conflict prevention (Kadirova, 2014, p.888). Academics also explain that post-conflict aid promotes peace, but unfortunately this occurs at decreasing returns to scale, which suggests that the inputs will eventually be greater than the results (Donaubauer et al., 2019, p.723). Along similar lines, in some cases donor states offer aid to force parties to end the conflict and negotiate peace (Meininghaus, 2016, p.1457).

            The need for post-conflict aid is also reemphasized in the World Bank’s World Development Report on Conflict, Security and Developmentwhen they describe conflict torn countries as more likely to experience malnourishment, unsanitary water, inadequate education and higher child mortality rates (Donaubauer et al., 2019, p.721). Furthermore, some academics reiterate the importance of restoring heritage to ensure societal reconstruction. As such, they argue that reconstructing churches, temples, mosques and other historical buildings protects the community and helps move towards reconciliation (Higueras, 2013, p.95-97). An example of this is the importance of reconstructing the Ottoman bridge of Mostar in Bosnia-Herzegovina for Muslims, the Turkish state and the international community (Higueras, 2013, p.97). While aid had previously conformed more to the Western idea of aid and neoliberal development, which is often in favour of free-market capitalism, aid is now beginning to adapt to different cultures and regions in response to the influence of different religions and other major donors, like China and Russia (Meininghaus, 2016, p.1457).

    What Motivates States to Provide Post-Conflict Aid?

                Although states provide aid based on good intentions, they are also influenced by state interests. Subsequently, humanitarian aid is used for military purposes or to gain support in certain regions (Meininghaus, 2016, p.1466). To the United States of America (US), like with many other states, national security goals offer strong explanations for their decision to aid or not, such as with cases related to military presence in the country, a country bordering a communist country, or a US ally (Kang & Meernik, 2004, p.151-152). This behaviour is also described as representing geostrategic reasons, which refers to global security concerns, however, because of the US’s status as the world’s hegemon and their international military presence, this standard is particularly important (Garriga & Philips, 2014, p.286). It is also suggested that the US uses aid to buy votes in the UN Security Council where non-permanent members get 59% more US aid (Garriga & Philips, 2014, p.286). Nevertheless, in spite of their intentions being questioned, the US remains the world’s highest aid contributor (p.286).

            Moreover, it is suggested that OECD states are more likely to offer aid when there is a chance to spread democracy, and they expect democratic countries to offer more economic opportunities to their private sector (Kang, 2004, p.155). Notwithstanding, some donor states expect recipients to meet certain criteria to qualify for aid because this better supports its successful implementation.


                Syria will soon be in need of post-conflict aid because of the large-scale damages that have resulted from the war. It is suggested that 13.5 million people require aid, 1.7 million people live in shelters or camps, and in addition to this there are also reports of malnourishment, wide spread disease, lack of sanitation, and many people are developing mental illnesses as a result of the trauma (Meininghaus, 2016, p.112). Additionally, because citizens were traditionally so reliant on government social services, being without these services has only contributed to the extreme poverty where now more than half of the population live in poverty (Meininghaus, 2016, p.1460 & 1466).


                Without post-conflict aid, the pain and suffering that result from conflict would be prolonged for many people and may even incentivize more conflict. One of the academics claims that “[t]he goal of humanitarian aid cannot be to resolve the crisis, but it is to safeguard the survival of those in need. A credible claim to neutrality is its only means to protection” (Meininghaus, 2016, p.120) and this suggests the importance of aid being provided without discrimination and equally. As such, although state interests are important when deciding whether or not to provide aid, states should still prioritize humanitarian rights and providing post-conflict aid is one way this can be done.



    Demekas, D.G., McHugh, J., & Kosma, T. (2002). The Economics of Post Conflict Aid. International Monetary Fund Working Paper. Working Paper. Retrieved from https://www-elibrary-imf-org.proxy.bib.uottawa.ca/doc/IMF001/06909-9781451860078/06909-9781451860078/Other_formats/Source_PDF/06909-9781451905434.pdf

    Donaubauer, J., Herzer, D., & Nunnenkamp, P. (2019). The Effectiveness of Aid under Post-Conflict Conditions: A Sector-Specific Analysis. The Journal of Development Studies, 55(4), 720-736. Retrieved from https://journals-scholarsportal-info.proxy.bib.uottawa.ca/pdf/00220388/v55i0004/720_teoaupcasa.xml

    Garriga, A. C., & Philips, B.J. (2014). Foreign Aid as a Signal to Investors: Predicting FDI in Post-Conflict Countries. Journal of Conflict Resolution, 58(2), 280-306. doi:https://doi.org/10.1177/0022002712467937.

    Higueras, A. (2013). Aid and Reconstruction of Heritage in the Context of Post-Conflict Societies. Journal of the World Archaeological Congress, 9(1), 91-105. doi: 10.1007/s11759-013-9224-5

    Kadirova, D. (2014). Implementation of Post-Conflict Reconstruction and Development Aid Initiatives: Evidence from Afghanistan. Journal of International Development, 26(6), 887-914. doi: 10.1002/jid

    Kang, S., & Meernik, J. (2004). Determinants of Post-Conflict Economic Assistance. Journals of Peace Research, 41(2), 149-166. Retrieved from https://journals-scholarsportal-info.proxy.bib.uottawa.ca/pdf/00223433/v41i0002/149_dopea.xml

    Meininghaus, E. (2016). Humanitarianism in intra-state conflict: aid inequality and local governance in government- and opposition-controlled areas in the Syrian War. Third World Quarterly, 37(8), 1454-1482. Retrieved from https://journals-scholarsportal-info.proxy.bib.uottawa.ca/pdf/01436597/v37i0008/1454_hiicaioaitsw.xml

    Suhrke, A., Villanger, E., & Woodward, S.L. (2005). Analysis: Economic aid to post-conflict countries: a methodological critique of Collier and Hoeffler. Conflict, security, development, 5(3), 329-361. Retrieved from https://journals-scholarsportal-info.proxy.bib.uottawa.ca/pdf/14678802/v05i0003/329_eatpcamcocah.xml


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  • Speciesism: does it exist and should we care?


    By: Alyssa Austin


    In short, yes it exists and it certainly is an issue we should care about. However, the more difficult question to answer is can and should we be taking steps to eliminate it from our society? Is it our moral duty as humans to eliminate the social hierarchy of living things that places nonhuman animals beneath humans? Or can we allow animals to continue living in an oppressed situation because they are just animals and they provide benefits to us as a species?

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  • A Call for Anarchism: Beyond Neoliberal Capitalism and Communism as Modeled by the EZLN By Noah Goslin


        Following the National Zapatista Liberation Army's (EZLN) struggles against the neoliberal Mexican State it becomes clear their ability to build autonomy in the realms of governance, economics, and international affairs demonstrates success for alternative governance models. By reviewing the philosophical and radical ideological underpinnings of the Zapatista struggle, it illuminates the wealth of historical presence of Anarchism in Mexico and perhaps suggests Anarchism is a successful praxis for social struggle requiring further serious inquiry.

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  • “Getting an IUD means I have a tool in my body that the government can’t touch": Contraceptive health and the War on Women


    In 1989, feminist Andrea Dworkin wrote in a book introduction about a “war on women”; twenty-one years later, the term became common in American political discourse following the 2010 congressional election, in relation to the contraceptive mandate in the Affordable Care Act (Nadler & Lowery, 2018). As the term suggests, women’s bodies have long been a battleground for ill-conceived, unsolicited, and often dangerous political ideologies to be played out. It was largely used to criticize certain Republican Party policies and legislation as a wide-scale effort to restrict women’s rights. But the most important question is perhaps how have women interacted with this war? And how have they come to weaponize emerging contraceptive rights to fight back?

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  • Conspiracy Theories: New World Order and Knowledge


    There have been many theories about who and what makes a conspiracy theory stick in the minds of some and not others. The competing and often contradictory evidence is clear: we don’t know what “type” of individual is more susceptible to being a “believer.” Conspiracy theories are not just the metaphorical middle finger to the stressful and uncontrollable nature of our world today, but a refusal to accept the monopoly of science over knowledge production.

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  • Boosting the economy while decreasing emissions: How Canada’s local urban policy and light rail projects can help achieve its international Paris Agreement carbon emissions goals


    Canada’s commitment to the Paris Agreement is a huge advancement for its future environmental policies and global reputation, but it is easier to make a promise than it is to fulfill one. A localized, urban transportation policy may help Canada meet its international commitment.

    It is commonly accepted that the health of the economy and environment are not mutually exclusive. If this is the case, Canada should attempt to reach its carbon emissions targets and simultaneously improve its economy. The challenge, of course, is how? Could a reduction of automobile use, by developing light rail transit in Canada’s metropolitan areas, be part of the solution?

    Much of the difficulty of reaching the carbon targets is that restructuring the economy towards fewer carbon intensive-endeavours, such as funding research and development for clean energy, may be too time-consuming and financially costly since the return on investment is often ambiguous. It could also be politically devastating for governments that choose to mitigate  natural resource industries in the economy where the industry is quite prevalent, such as in Canada.


    Since 2000, Canada’s oil and gas extraction industry hovered at around 6% (Figure 1) of its total GDP. The oil and gas industry brings several benefits to Canadians and helps improve their standard of living, but the industry’s magnitude certainly complicates achieving the Paris carbon emissions targets. The situation is even more complex since a significant portion of the oil and gas extraction industry has typically accounted for more than 70% of its total mining and quarrying industry (Figure 2). Additionally, according to a report from Environment and Climate Change Canada (2017), the oil and gas sector was the biggest contributor to greenhouse gas emissions followed by the transportation sector (p. 8-9).

    Figure 1


    Source: Statistics Canada. Table 379-0031 - Gross domestic product (GDP) at basic prices, by North American Industry Classification System (NAICS), monthly (Canadian dollars). Seasonally adjusted. Prices changed to 2007 dollars.

    Figure 2


    Source: Statistics Canada. Table 379-0031 - Gross domestic product (GDP) at basic prices, by North American Industry Classification System (NAICS), monthly (Canadian dollars). Seasonally adjusted. Prices changed to 2007 dollars.

    Considering the sheer size, importance, and recent politically charged discourse of Canada’s oil and gas industry (e.g. pipeline disputes between indigenous groups and the provinces of British Columbia and Alberta), it may be more feasible to mitigate carbon emissions from the transportation sector, especially in urban regions, through local transportation policy. Local policy could achieve this if it were to incentivize the financing, construction, and use of public transportation like light-rail, but it will take a dedicated effort considering Canada’s long history with the automobile.

    During the post-war era, Canadian urban planning and development policy regularly prioritized the construction and maintenance of automobile-friendly transportation infrastructure (Simmons et al., 2011, p. 93). Increased automobile-friendly infrastructure to improve commute times seemed to be a logical solution to combat the issues related to rising populations, such as congestion and gridlock. Unfortunately, the incentive to drive more resulted in a higher number of cars on the roads, which in turn increased congestion, gridlock, excessive carbon emissions, and urban sprawl and suburbanization. These issues continue to plague many of Canada’s major metropolitan centres.

    Considering Canada’s past planning policies, it is unsurprising that Canada is the second largest producer of carbon emissions per capita amongst the G8 countries (Figure 3). Aside from the previously discussed oil and gas industry, it is important to acknowledge that part of Canada’s addiction to carbon emissions is due to Canada being a large, cold landmass with low-density populations. The demands for electricity, heating, and transportation are therefore much higher in comparison to other developed societies.

    Figure 3


    Source: Carbon Dioxide Information Analysis Center, Environmental Sciences Division, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Tennessee, United States. Note that carbon dioxide emissions are those stemming from the burning of fossil fuels and the manufacture of cement. They include carbon dioxide produced during consumption of solid, liquid, and gas fuels and gas flaring.

    If increasing the amount of automobile infrastructure does not resolve civic transportation demands and only results in more carbon emissions, gridlock, and inadequate urban dynamism, Canada’s urban policy should emphasize other modes of transportation. A multifaceted solution like light rail could combat high carbon emissions, gridlock, and inadequate urban dynamism.

    Currently, many Canadian cities are undergoing light rail projects – Waterloo, Ottawa, and Surrey, to name a few. Many of the cities face similar issues with respect to growing populations and exhausted public transportation infrastructure. Canada’s population is expected to grow to between 40 million and 63.5 million by 2063, according to Statistics Canada (2015, p. 3). Growing populations generally require greater and more efficient access to jobs, housing, and various other amenities. Growing populations also mean larger ecological footprints for cities. To help reach their carbon emissions goals, Canadians must be able to move efficiently between their place of work, home, and various other points of interest via public transportation, which is achievable with electrical, non-carbon emitting light rail.

    Implementing light rail projects would not only resolve transportation demands, road congestion, and high carbon emissions, but it would also be advantageous to local Canadian economies. Simply put, the planning and construction of public transportation infrastructure projects would create jobs across multiple industries like construction, engineering, science, and public policy. This is because infrastructure projects generally require government bureaucracies to contract out work to the private sector, creating a public-private relationship known as an organization-based policy instrument (Howlett, Perl, and Ramesh, 2009, p. 133). These organization-based policy instruments are advantageous because they offer more flexibility and precision when delivering goods and services. This is useful since private entities involved in these efforts are generally more familiar with the requirements and recent developments within their industry than governments. Essentially, this means public funding but private administration for leaner policy implementation.

    Aside from the public-private relationships, light rail construction would also help to rebalance the transportation market by providing commuters with additional, more environmentally friendly modes of commuting. Recent data highlights a declining demand for vehicle ownership, in which the trend in the units of passenger vehicles sold amongst Canada’s most populated provinces and territories (Figure 4) has decreased in the past few years. Determining the cause of this trend is difficult, but The Conference Board of Canada (2018) suggests that the demand for vehicles will continue to ease in 2018 and onward. This is largely due to changing market demographics amongst aging baby boomers and millennials who may have greater interest in ride-sharing services such as Uber and Lyft, in addition to the advancements in automobile technology which has extended the life of current vehicle ownership. Thus, the need to purchase a car is reduced. Canada’s auto-industry will suffer if this trend were to continue, but the trade-off would mean less carbon emitting vehicles on the road and a greater likelihood of reaching Canada’s Paris Agreement targets.

    Figure 4


    Source: Statistics Canada. Table 079-0004 - New motor vehicle sales, Canada, provinces and territories, seasonally unadjusted, annual.

    Based on these trends, it is unsurprising that some of these advantages of light rail transit have caught the attention of the federal government. On 16 June 2017, the Prime Minister of Canada, Justin Trudeau, acknowledged the various economic and ecological benefits of Ottawa’s light rail transit system, and pledged an additional $1.09 billion in funding for its extension to suburbs outside the city.

    Light rail projects, despite their complexity and costs, are probably, a more feasible solution to help reduce Canada’s carbon emissions rather than completely altering the natural resource industry. Urban and local policy should therefore not be glossed over when considering Canada’s global commitments. Light rail is multifaceted in its approach to appeal to several demographics, assist transportation demand, and simultaneously improve the economy and environment without radically altering current industries. Thus, light rail construction is a politically feasible public infrastructure solution to tackle Canada’s Paris Agreement targets.

    It will take serious dedication, but, in time, local Canadian urban policy may prove to be vital for Canada’s global standing and commitments. Cities matter, and it would be short-sighted to ignore them.  

    About the author

    Usman Khan is a fourth-year political science and public administration student at the University of Ottawa. He has a keen interest in the relationship between Canadian politics and its relation to urban planning and development policy.


    Carbon Dioxide Information Analysis Center, Environmental Sciences Division, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Tennessee, United States.

    Environment and Climate Change Canada. (2017). Canadian environmental sustainability indicators: greenhouse gas emissions (En4-144/18-2017-PDF). Ottawa, ON: Minister of Environment and Climate Change. Available at: https://www.canada.ca/content/dam/eccc/migration/main/indicateurs-indicators/f60db708-6243-4a71-896b-6c7fb5cc7d01/ghgemissions_en.pdf

    Howlett, M., Perl, A., & Ramesh, M. (2009). Studying public policy: policy cycles & policy subsystems. Toronto, ON: Oxford University Press.

    Prime Minister of Canada. (2017, June 16). Prime Minister announces significant funding to extend Ottawa’s Light Rail Transit system. Retrieved February 22, 2018, from https://pm.gc.ca/eng/news/2017/06/16/prime-minister-announces-significant-funding-extend-ottawas-light-rail-transit

    Simmons, J. et al. (2011.). Political Economy, Governance, And Urban Policy In Canada. In Canadian Urban Regions: Trajectories of Growth and Change (1st ed., pp. 81-98). Don Mills, ON: Oxford University Press.

    Statistics Canada. (2015). Population projections for Canada (2013 to 2063), provinces and territories (2013 to 2038) (91-520-X). Ottawa, ON: Minister of Industry.

    Statistics Canada. Table 379-0031 - Gross domestic product (GDP) at basic prices, by North American Industry Classification System (NAICS), monthly (dollars). Seasonally adjusted. Prices changed to 2007 dollars.

    Statistics Canada. Table 079-0004 - New motor vehicle sales, Canada, provinces and territories, seasonally unadjusted, annual.

    The Conference Board of Canada. (2018). Canadian Auto Industry to Gear Down in 2018. Retrieved February 25, 2018, from http://www.conferenceboard.ca/press/newsrelease/2018/01/09/canadian-auto-industry-to-gear-down-in-2018?AspxAutoDetectCookieSupport=1

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  • 'Kids These Days': The Politics of the iGeneration


    The iGeneration had the luxury of a childhood without bomb drills done in schools or conscription like the Baby Boomer generation beforehand. However, they have grown up with the looming fear of possible terrorist attacks, school shootings, and economic collapse. In addition, they played games like Candy Crush on iPads instead of toys like Connect Four because, the seismic technological shift impacted their childhood and education directly. The combination of ingrained fear and a deep connection with technology, has created a generation of upcoming voters who are untrusting of the democratic process and increasingly conservative.

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  • Student Government: Political Science’s Missing Piece


    By: Justin Patrick

    In the field of political science, the topic of political education is often approached with a focus on the educator and the state while end-user perspectives of the students themselves are almost completely missing. If academics do not think student government is important enough to write about, what impact does this have on how student government is viewed in society?

    Though there was some small progress in theory development in the beginning of the 20th century with John Dewey’s works such as Democracy and Education, a perspective that draws from aspects of Rousseau to present the idea that students should contribute to the formation of their curricular learning and have opportunities to apply what they learn in practical settings, it would not be until Robert Hart’s 1992 essay, Children’s Participation: From Tokenism to Citizenship, was published by UNICEF that such notions would be widely accepted as a guiding document for more practical study and policymaking (Dewey, 1997, Ch. 1-11; Hart, 1992, p. 1-14). However, even these works have limits to legitimizing student participation in education’s decision-making processes, since they do not examine the potential that democratic student organizations such as student governments can impact policy development in education and other aspects of society.

                In field research, student government is even more neglected, with most articles consisting of a unique case study or an autoethnographical piece, and all of which tend to be small scale with minimal numbers of research subjects (Golden and Schwartz, 1994, p. 19-30; Densford, 1926, p. 879). In these scant studies, students are portrayed as learners as opposed to policy contributors with the focus being on students’ personal development (Koller and Schurgurensky, 2011, 350-360). While it is important to gauge students’ learning experiences in order to evaluate education systems, solely focusing on this topic ignores students’ capability to be rational political actors and at worst, can portray students as seemingly incapable of tangible political action. Koller and Schurgurensky’s 2011 study of Ontario student trustees reveals that this bias pervades to a contemporary context, as they primarily focus on what the student leaders learned from their experience as opposed to their ability to influence the province’s education policy as elected representatives of over 2 million Ontario elementary and secondary students (355-360).

                Despite the near-disregard for student government structures as political institutions, contemporary academics are not entirely to blame, since the bias is woven into the history of education itself. Despite a handful of researchers like Helen Lefkowitz Horowitz and Nigel Moses who have studied the history of student institutions and student cultures, much of the information lies untouched in university archives and dates back centuries (Horowitz, 1988, p. 115-220; Moses, 1995, p. 1-30). Even in cases where students orchestrated significant political change like in Brazil in the 1960s or more recently, the Arab Spring, the role of student governments is reduced to a mention of their names without any information about their organizational structures or internal operations (Langland, 2013, 1-15; Naser-Najjab, 2012, 279-291). Today, literature on student government that is not related to developmental education seems to have gained little ground in terms of both content and prevalence in academic circles, with 21st century student government researchers like Titus Gregory resorting to publishing essays and theses on personal blogs that occasionally crash for months at a time due to a lack of funding (Gregory, 2010, p. 1-30).

                While an overview of key literature on student government, or rather the absence of it, provides qualitative evidence to suggest that an expansion of thought in political science is needed, the existence of quantitative data can really drive the point home as to exposing the shortage. To illustrate this, I consulted the Google Books Ngram Viewer, a feature of Google Books that allows searches to be conducted on the frequency of words in all the text sources in the Google Books database with publication dates ranging from 1500 to 2008. I searched for the phrases “student government”, “student politics”, “student council”, “student union”, and “political education” in books published between 1800 and 2008. The results confirmed what I had experienced in my own research.


                A key initial observation is that political education has almost consistently surpassed all of the other terms in frequency, yet that was expected. What really startles me is that the frequency of political education has also been decreasing for decades, which makes the crisis of student government literature all the more urgent. By not writing about student government, its legitimacy becomes weaker, making it more difficult for student representatives to contribute to education policy development, or to put it simply, make their voice heard in contemporary society.

                So how can this gap in political science research be alleviated? I believe the first step is to expand current research perspectives to include the policy contributions of student governments and treat them like any other democratic institution. This would allow various political theories to be applied in a uniquely student government context. Furthermore, the study of social movements should place extra focus on how students make decisions collectively and should understand that democratic organizations of students exist and have existed for a long time within education systems, laying the kindling for the sparks of student activism that attract researchers’ attention. Thirdly, there need to be more historical works on student government using existing primary sources in order to provide a grounding for political science research and theory. On a final note, it must be understood that students are not only able to enact political change, but are capable of organizing themselves to make collective decisions democratically. Students are not only the future of politics, they are part of the now.


    Densford, K. (1926). Student Government in Schools of Nursing. The American Journal of Nursing, no. 11, p. 879.

    Dewey, J. (1997). Democracy and Education: An Introduction to the Philosophy of Education. Retrieved from http://www.gutenberg.org.proxy.bib.uottawa.ca/ebooks/852

    Golden, D., and Schwartz, H. (1994). Building an Ethical and Effective Relationship with Student Government Leaders. In Melvin C. Terrell and Michael J. Cuyjet (Eds.), Developing Student Government Leadership, (19-30). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass Publishers.

    Google Ngram Viewer. (n.d.). Retrieved March 3, 2018, from https://books.google.com/ngrams/graph?content=student+union%2Cstudent+government%2Cstudent+politics%2Cstudent+council%2Cpolitical+education&year_start=1800&year_end=2018&corpus=15&smoothing=3&share=&direct_url=t1%3B%2Cstudent%20union%3B%2Cc0%3B.t1%3B%2Cstudent%20government%3B%2Cc0%3B.t1%3B%2Cstudent%20politics%3B%2Cc0%3B.t1%3B%2Cstudent%20council%3B%2Cc0%3B.t1%3B%2Cpolitical%20education%3B%2Cc0

    Gregory, T. (2010). Solidarity for Their Own Good: Self-determination and the Canadian Federation of Students. studentunion.ca.

    Hart, R. (1992). Children’s Participation: From Tokenism to Citizenship. UNICEF ICDC, 1992. http://www.unicef-irc.org/publications/pdf/childrens_participation.pdf  

    Horowitz, H. (1988). Campus Life: Undergraduate Cultures from the End of the Eighteenth Century to the Present. New York: University of Chicago Press.

    Koller, D., and Schugurensky, D. (2011). Examining the Developmental Impact of Youth Participation in Education Governance: The Case of Student Trustees. Journal of Research on Adolescence, 21(2), 350–360. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1532-7795.2010.00673.x

    Langland, V. (2013). Speaking of Flowers: Student Movements and the Making and Remembering of 1968 in Military Brazil. Durham: Duke University Press.

    Moses, N. (1995). All that was left: student struggle for mass student aid and the abolition of tuition fees in Ontario, 1946 to 1975. Academia.edu. Retrieved from: https://www.academia.edu/2025011/All_that_was_left_student_struggle_for_mass_student_aid_and_the_abolition_of_tuition_fees_in_Ontario_1946_to_1975

    Naser-Najjab, N. (2012). Palestinian youth and the Arab Spring. Learning to think critically: a case study. Contemporary Arab Affairs, 5(2), 279–291. https://doi.org/10.1080/17550912.2012.672000


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