Canada’s Foreign Policy and Academia

Should social scientists seek the truth regardless of whose toes may be stepped on and cite, up front, possible conflicts of interest regarding matters they study?

All academic disciplines claim independence of thought and transparency are principles that guide good research. So, what to make of a Canadian foreign policy discussion dominated by individuals with ties to the decision-making structures they study?

The highly regarded Norman Paterson School of International Affairs (NPSIA) is a prime example. The oldest global affairs school in Canada, Carleton University’s graduate program was established in 1965 with $400,000 ($5 million today) from long-time Senator Norman Paterson, a grain-shipping magnate. During World War II his company provided vessels for Atlantic convoys and Paterson was a major player within the Liberal Party.

Twice under-secretary of External Affairs and leading architect of post-World War II Canadian foreign policy, Norman Robertson was the school’s first director. Unhappy in a diplomatic post in Geneva, External Affairs colleagues secured Robertson the NPSIA position. During his time at Carleton, Robertson continued to be paid as a “Senior Advisor” to External Affairs, overseeing a major review of a department concerned about growing criticism that it was acting as a U.S. “errand boy” in Vietnam.

The initial chair of Strategic Studies at NPSIA was a former deputy minister of Veterans Affairs and Canada’s principal…

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