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SFU summit examines Canada’s role in chaotic world

Academics, journalists, Nobel Prize nominees discuss Canadian foreign affairs post-Brexit, post-Trump
Guest speakers at SFU’s fifth annual Community Summit include (clockwise from top left) Yuen Pau Woo, Sheila Watt-Cloutier, Robert Fisk and Roland Paris.

With titles like “Who Needs Canada?” and “The Anger of Nations” the focal point is undoubtedly to provoke.

And that’s part of the point.

Simon Fraser University’s (SFU) fifth annual Community Summit kicks off Feb. 27, with members of government and academia, journalists and Nobel Prize nominees convening for a week’s worth of discussions around Canada’s role in foreign affairs.

“We want people to understand that they have a role, responsibility and a voice that they can express that can influence how Canada approaches these things moving forward,” said Janet Webber, executive director of SFU’s Public Square initiative. 

The first of several roundtables begins Monday at the Vancouver Playhouse under the moniker of “Who Needs Canada? Canada's Role in the World.” Guest speakers include Senator Yuen Pau Woo, policy advisors and academics Shuvaloy Majumdar and Roland Paris and Nobel Peace Prize nominee Sheila Watt-Cloutier.

The four will speak to a post-Brexit and post-Donald Trump world and where Canada best fits into that equation.

Ironically enough, the topic of Canadian foreign policy was chosen before the Brexit vote and Trump’s presidential victory. That those two events took place after the fact only adds to the discussion’s relevance.

“Whereas a lot of folks are spending their time thinking about Canada with an internal focus, we’re really inviting our communities to think about Canada in the global context: what is our role that we can play on the work stage, what is the value that Canada can offer, what are the risks and what are the opportunities for Canada,” Webber said.   

Other discussions topics delve into the Syrian refugee crisis, Canada-U.S. relations moving forward and the need for cross-cultural dialogue with China. “The Anger of Nations: Trump, Trudeau, Merkel and Farage in an Age of Voter Rage” will examine the rise of far right-wing ideology on both sides of the Atlantic.

Each event has a purposely thought-provoking, if not edgy, title attached to it.

“We absolutely want to provoke curiosity and start conversation,” Webber said. “Sometimes you need use language that will make people skip a beat and say ‘Wait a minute.’ That’s exactly our way of inviting people to join that conversation.”  

The 2017 Community Summit runs from Feb. 27 to March 8 at a series of venues across Vancouver including the Queen Elizabeth Theatre, the Goldcorp Centre for the Arts and the Vancouver Playhouse. For info and event times, see


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