In an ideal world this would go without saying: the Trump administration and the policies it is currently advocating are unacceptable. The racism, xenophobia, transphobia, sexism, climate-change-denialism, nepotism, corporate cronyism and militarism emanating from the U.S. threaten global stability, but particularly portend strife in Canada. Because of our physical and cultural proximity to the U.S., I contend that we have a moral responsibility to resist the administration and its detrimental dictates.
As many others have argued, academics have a unique privilege and responsibility to be “dangerous to the state” as we shape political consciousness in students and steer debates in classes, and in our published work. What I advocate is neither a “meddling” in another country’s affairs nor a narrow leftist political agenda. Instead, I wish to underscore the recognition that in our increasingly interconnected world, powerful nations’ policies have truly global implications. Racism and deepening levels of social injustice in the U.S. should not be ignored simply because they are “over there” across the border.
While there are a range of tactics Canadian academics can take to de-normalize and fight the Trump administration’s misguided policies, I’ve built on a number of resources to offer eight strategies to guide future collective activism.
- Educate yourself while educating your students. Embrace critical and radical pedagogy to de-normalize Trump’s historically resonant brand of populist nationalism. Assign difficult, charged readings that take a stance against injustice. Make clear to your students that this trend is a threat to Canada and the rest of the world. There are plenty of fantastic popular press articles that can be incorporated into both undergraduate and graduate classrooms.
- Embrace public scholarship and scholar activism. In your research, mentoring, service, outreach, publications and related scholarly endeavors, connect your work to public policy, activism and social justice. Explicitly foreground your work’s public impacts. Without exception, disciplines across the spectrum of the university conduct work that is relevant to what’s happening south of the border. Publish politically charged, politically impactful articles; if you have tenure, use the protections afforded by that privilege. In addition to traditional academic journals, speak out in public forums such as the popular press, periodicals, workshops and city hall meetings.
- Host a research-a-thon. Earlier this year, the Schulich School of Law at Dalhousie University conducted a day-long session researching the legal intricacies of the Trump travel ban; this produced important guidance for Canadians impacted by the order or federal support for science research. Web designers, software engineers, digital humanities strategists and others can employ their technical capacities to effectively communicate research-a-thon outcomes. Connect your disciplinary knowledge to the university’s strong interdisciplinarity.
- Leverage Canada’s trade partnerships. Call or visit in person the offices of your MPs, local councilors and other government representatives to leverage Canada’s U.S. trade partnerships against Trump policies. Canada is a powerful trade partner and accordingly wields a significant bargaining chip. Whereas representatives may be attuned to more traditional political appeals, gesturing toward Canada’s trade relations may initiate a novel source of public pressure.
- Donate time, expertise or resources. Donations take many forms beside financial funds – time or expertise can be volunteered in courtrooms or media interviews; identify resources your institution can offer, such as web hosting; organize student work-groups to contribute to organizations’ missions. Balance donations to local organizations with national and international organizations. The long list of organizations in need include Idle No More, the Center for Reproductive Rights, Showing Up for Racial Justice and the Natural Resources Defense Council. As well, the media are under siege by the Trump administration, and supporting a free press is more important than ever. Thus, I can also list Democracy Now!, your local newspaper and ProPublica. (Note that financial donations to U.S. institutions are not tax-deductible.)
- Amplify marginalized voices – and know when to give someone else the microphone. Accentuate voices of immigrants, people of colour, LGBTQ folks, the geographically marginalized and the impoverished. Share their posts on social media. Read their writing and bring them up in conversations inside and outside the classroom. Design course outlines, assignments and in-class activities that incorporate them. Prioritize them in hiring. Involve them in panels, roundtables and discussions. Collaborate with them. Bolster them. Sometimes this means being quiet and listening to what others have to say.
- Create platforms for radical ideas. Organize speaker series, film screenings, colloquia, visual arts exhibitions and more, inviting politically impactful thinkers and voices. We must repeatedly give a platform for radical speakers who will mobilize collective anger in productive ways. For example, in 2016 the University of Calgary hosted the “Big Thinking” lecture series (affiliated with the Congress of the Humanities and Social Sciences) in which Naomi Klein and Leroy Little Bear spoke. These efforts open new avenues for critique and praxis.
- Draft public policy proposals. In your everyday workflow, collect, analyze, visualize and produce data and information with clear streams into policy circles. Write proposals for your municipalities, provinces, regions and the nation to accept more refugees; to improve food, transportation and housing access; and to mitigate the negative racial, gendered and sexual implications of laws. Underscore the inalienable dignity of all humanity through think-tanks like the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, the Broadbent Institute, the Parkland Institute and the Caledon Institute. Of course, this work becomes more viable with increased pressure on institutional tenure committees to value this mode of scholarship.
The next four years seem daunting, but our collective efforts can assuage the rising tide of nativism, misogyny, Islamophobia and environmental destruction.
Ryan Burns is an assistant professor in the department of geography at the University of Calgary. He’d like to thank several of his colleagues who gave their advice on the writing of this article.