Students from several colleges and universities in the United States and Canada presented their work during the 30th annual Crossing Borders Conference, a multidisciplinary, undergraduate and graduate student conference on Canada-U.S. relations. The event, sponsored by Niagara University’s Office of the Provost, Department of History, and its Ontario campus, and Brock University’s Centre for Canadian Studies, was held March 24-25, 2023, on the NU campus.
Student work focused on topics including the psychology of casinos in Canada and the U.S., populism and campaign funding, tracking crime at the border and beyond, history and language, security and mobility rights at the border, and a reassessment of border policies.
Mabel Gardner, a Ph.D. student from Western University of Ontario, won “Best Student Paper” for her presentation on Canadian journalist Gladys Arnold, who fostered a dynamic career, chronicling the Free French forces led by General Charles de Gaulle during the Second World War. Arnold, supported by the wealthy Sifton family, also served as a voice for white settler colonialism in her reporting for the Regina Leader Post. The Sifton family urged white Canadians and immigrants to populate the western prairies at the expense of indigenous people and other ethnic minorities.
The contest judges, Dr. Monroe Eagles, professor of political science at the University at Buffalo, and Dr. Dan Malleck, professor of health sciences and director of the Centre for Canadian Studies at Brock University, highlighted Gardner’s “well-written analysis, backed by careful and original archival research” as a “compelling illustration of how one journalist’s career was shaped and advanced by Canada’s exclusionary immigration and settlement policies and by her receipt of the patronage of the Siftons.”
The keynote speaker was Dr. Stephanie Bangarth, professor of history at King’s University College at the University of Western Ontario. Her work, titled, “A Strong Re-enforcement of the American Initiative: The 1970s, Human Rights and Foreign Policy, and Canadian Trade (In)Action,” focused on the 1970s rhetoric of the Canadian government as “peacekeeper nation” while simultaneously supporting business initiatives with major human rights abuser countries like South Africa. She also noted a political family dynasty in Canadian Parliament actively fighting to ensure the government’s rhetoric matched its actions.
“This paper begins a conversation on the origins of legislated government and corporate social responsibility in Canadian human rights history and in a comparative framework with parallel American initiatives,” said Dr. Bangarth. “From the pinnacle of Canada’s principled stand on apartheid in the 1980s to the nadir of the largest arms contract in Canadian history signed with Saudi Arabia a few years ago, it is important to highlight how the defense of human rights has been articulated and circumvented.”
Participating students and panel moderators came from Brock University, Daemen University, Laurentian University, Niagara University, the University at Buffalo, the University of New Brunswick, the University of Pittsburgh at Bradford, Western University of Ontario, and Wilfrid Laurier University. The main planning for the conference was led by Dr. Shannon Risk, chair of the Department of History at Niagara University, and Elaine Aldridge-Low, administrative assistant in the Centre for Canadian Studies at Brock University.
Each year, the Crossing Borders Conference emphasizes a supportive experience for students, recognizing that some students are presenting their scholarly work for the first time in a public arena. For 30 years, the conference organizers have provided the platform for emerging scholars and policy makers that help to define the Canadian-U.S. relationship for decades to come. The conference will return in the spring of 2024, hosted by Brock University.