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Canada’s Past and Current Realities: Studying the Country’s Dynamic

Sixteenth European Seminar for Graduate Students in Canadian Studies

27-29 September 2007, Saint Petersburg, Russia

A conference discussing past and current realities could have not been set in a more appropriate city than the kaleidoscope of history and innovation that Saint-Petersburg provides. The conference was held in the building that houses the Saint-Petersburg Association for International Collaboration, which itself was in the process of having its facades renewed to its state of former glory. This organization, which houses the Russian Association of Canadian Studies, provided a beautiful and central location near the corner of the historic Nevsky Prospect and Liteyny Prospect.

Attended by many of the presidents of various European Canadian Studies Associations, this conference provided an excellent opportunity for the participant graduate students to experience the best that Canadian Studies has to provide. The participation of senior Canadianists such as BACS President Rachel Killick, the Italian Association’s President Luigi Bruti Liberati, the Irish Association’s President Vera Regan and the European Network’s President Serge Jaumain provided an excellent opportunity for the graduate student attendees to form relationships with long-time Canadianists. In addition, the attendance of Jean Labrie, the Head of Canadian Studies Section, Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, provided an interesting addition to the discussions of Canada’s role in an International context.

This conference, which brought together participants from 17 countries, provided the basis for a broad and diverse exploration of Canada’s past and current realities. Topics such as Canadian multiculturalism, Canadian heritage, Canada’s First Nations, and both domestic and international Canadian politics incited interesting and thoughtful debate that proves that Canadian Studies, as an area of study, is alive and well in Europe. Indeed, the diversity of topics and approaches that were presented in this conference promises to add new and innovative dimensions to Canadian Studies from emerging Canadianists in Europe. Of particular note were papers given by Maria Shtiglitz on “Educational Programs and Canadian Foreign Policy”, and Olga Rosa Gonzales Martin all the way from the University of Havana discussing recent changes in ownership of “The Canadian Media.”

The British Association of Canadian Studies had three participants this year that demonstrated that emerging scholars in Britain are also engaging in exciting research on Canada. Thomas Snell presented on the representations of Aboriginal people in French-Canadian literature. His paper explored ways in which works by authors from First Nation backgrounds ‘represent’ their people’s past and present realities in both senses of the word (i.e. ‘to portray’ and ‘to speak for’) and discussed how this allowed for a re-establishment of cultural heritages. Will Smith presented an engaging paper on contemporary writing from Atlantic Canada that questioned the tensions of readership, publication and traditional regional conceptions. Tracie Scott presented on the influence that historiographical approaches has had upon Aboriginal land claims jurisprudence in Canada.

Ultimately though the success of the conference should be attributed to Dr. Vassily Sokolov and his team of dedicated volunteers. An event particularly enjoyed by the attendees was a boat trip on the canals of Saint Petersburg that provided a beautiful and scenic view of the city.

Tracie Scott, William Smith, and Thomas Snell


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(C) 2008 British Association for Canadian Studies