UBC Reports | Vol. 48 | No. 12 | Oct.
Five Questions for Colin Campbell
By Michelle Cook
Think you can learn all you need to know about the United
States from watching the West Wing? Think again says the head
of UBCs new U.S. Studies program in the Faculty of Arts.
How has the terrorist attack of Sept. 11 affected American
Its had a vast effect. If you back up, we had a period
of uncertainty about whether Bush was going to be president.
He took office amid very serious questions about the legitimacy
of his mandate. Initially, the administration advanced very
quickly in its core agenda items, but then it began to drift.
Then Sept. 11 happened and that galvanized support for the
Because of concerns for homeland security, the U.S. is placing
very serious challenges at the mat of its allies with regard
to individual rights and protections. For Canada, where the
Charter of Human Rights has only existed for 20 years, were
under tremendous pressure to reverse course by the nation
that provided us with the example of a Charter of Rights to
In addition, were dealing with an attitude toward trade
which has become considerably more protectionist than anybody
would have thought in such a small time frame. With the momentous
shift in Americas view of external reality, we have
to make myriad adjustments in our own perceptions of trade
relations, national security and even human liberties.
It sounds like an ideal time to be starting an American
I think most people realize that we cant be ostriches
in regard to the United States. Even before 9/11, people in
the business community and anyone in a leadership position
in Canadian society had to be aware of the U.S. UBCs
program has a strong rationale independent of the events of
last year, but they have driven home more clearly the need
for a program like this.
How is UBCs U.S. Studies program unique?
It will be the only program of its size in Canada. We hope
to provide a location for leading scholars to do cutting-edge
research. Our objective is to fund seven research chairs in
U.S. studies. This will provide the critical mass for more
focused undergraduate and graduate training in U.S. Studies.
For instance, we could offer undergraduates majoring in other
fields but who have a strong interest in the U.S. the opportunity
to do a minor concentration in U.S. Studies. I have begun
consulting with interested Arts faculty departments about
developing such a curriculum.
Recently, the U.S. has opted out of some high-profile
international initiatives like the International Criminal
Court and Kyoto Accord. Will our knowing more about the U.S.
make a difference?
I think it has made a huge amount of difference already.
The Canadian diplomatic core has proven to be historically
very savvy about how to do business with the U.S. and how
to negotiate and lobby on Capitol Hill. In Washington, the
Canadian Embassy has an exceedingly good reputation for its
effectiveness. In fact, senior British diplomats have always
used the Canadian Embassy as a model. Now that other embassies
are figuring out this type of diplomacy, Canada is going to
have to understand the U.S. political system even better to
be taken seriously.
The U.S. has been Canadas neighbour for a long time.
Why is this kind of program only appearing now at a Canadian
When I was teaching at York University during the 70s,
there was strong anti-Americanism due to the Vietnam War.
Apart from the war, there was strong Canadian nationalism,
and major concerns about U.S. ownership of Canadian industry
and media, and so the mood was quite different.
Now, were formally integrated with the United States
with respect to trade. However much you might object to free
trade, its part of our institutional framework and thats
unlikely to change. With the current war on terrorism, were
being asked to achieve a higher degree of military integration
with the U.S. If its not managed properly by our leadership,
it could very substantially reduce the sovereignty of our
country. If people dont mobilize some sort of interest,
then theyre going to wake up one morning and see that
if they didnt like free trade, they certainly wont
like the new Northern Command.
A Calgary native, Colin Campbell comes to UBC from Georgetown
University in Washington, D.C. where he taught for 19 years.
He holds a Canada Research Chair in American Studies with
expertise on the U.S. presidency.