On September 23, the McGill Institute for the Study of Canada (MISC) will celebrate its 20th anniversary with a public symposium, Canada Remix. MISC Director Will Straw has recently returned from a sabbatical leave. The Reporter caught up with Dr. Straw to talk about this and other upcoming events at the MISC.
What have you been up to while on Sabbatical?
My sabbatical involved a great deal of travelling, some of it related to Canadian studies, some of it related to other topics. In January, I went to Bogota, Colombia, where I delivered the opening lecture at the opening of the “Semester of Canada” at the Universidad del Rosario, in the company of representatives of the Canadian Embassy. In February, I spent time in Mexico City, where I was a featured speaker at a conference marking 70 years of diplomatic relations between Canada and Mexico. I also organized, in Mexico City, a symposium on one of my current research interests, the ways in which cities deal with their night-time cultures. McGill colleague Professor Alanna Thain (Department of English) and UQAM colleague Anouk Bélanger (Ecole des communications) joined me there for that. In March, I was an invited speaker at a very interesting symposium, in Sao Paulo, Brazil, on the regulation of night-time life in cities. I spoke about the history and experience of Montreal. In April, I spoke on Quebec cinema on two occasions: at the Guadalajara Film Festival, where I gave a talk on Quebecois filmmaker Denis Côté, and in Paris, where I spoke on representations of Montreal in Quebec cinema, in a seminar organized by this year’s Chair of Quebec Studies at the Sorbonne.
While in Paris, I was hospitalized with something unexpected and scary called Guillain Barré Syndrome, and spent 25 days in the hospital. I was very pleased with French health care, and with the fact that France and Quebec have an agreement to look after each other’s citizens. I’m pleased, as well, to say that I seem to have made a full recovery.
You’re back at a busy time for the MISC – the Institute is celebrating its 20th anniversary. How are you marking the occasion?
This year MISC celebrates twenty years, quite extraordinary. I arrived at McGill just as MISC was being set up and was involved in hiring its first director and teaching, in collaboration with then-Dean-of-Arts John McCallum, its first course. These were heady times, with the 2nd referendum in Québec, the introduction of NAFTA, and many other events. I’m pleased that, over twenty years, MISC has been able to maintain its reputation as a politically independent, lively institution looking outward to the public and inward to the McGill Community.
Our 20th anniversary event, on September 23, will bring together politicians, artists, activists and public figures to ask how we might “Remix” Canada? What do we need to ensure the future development of our democracy? What can we do to improve the quality of our civic life? Do we, as Canadians, get the information we need? These are some of the questions we hope to tackle.
You’re also launching an Indigenous Studies program – what’s the story behind its creation?
One of the things of which I’m proudest is that MISC is launching a new Indigenous Studies program – an undergraduate minor – in 2014-2015. This is the culmination of years of research and preparation by First People’s House and other groups at McGill, and I’m proud that the program will be housed at the MISC. This year we welcome, as well, our first Indigenous Studies Postdoctoral Fellow, Allan Downey, who will be teaching our new introductory course, “Introduction to Indigenous Studies.” Look for lots of other events marking this new program.
What else is coming up at the MISC?
In addition to the Canada Remix anniversary event and the launch of the Indigenous Studies programs, look for lots of other events. In September, we’re hosting a seminar at Pop Montreal on the future of music streaming in Canada – an issue that affects the livelihood of musicians and the future of Canadian Content regulations. Cindy Blackstock, Executive Director of the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society of Canada, and Associate Professor at the Univeristy of Alberta, will be giving this year’s Mallory Lecture. In the winter, we will be holding an event to offer a critical look at World War I. We also hope to host the 2015 meeting of the Canadian Studies Network, which brings together scholars from across the country. And there will be exciting events related to our Canada in the Americas Initiative, which looks at Canada’s place in the Western Hemisphere.
To register for Canada Remix, click here.