Trinity One Co-Curricular Lunches
Trinity One co-curricular lunches with guest speakers occur about every third Tuesday between noon and 2:00 p.m. at Trinity. Students are encouraged to keep this time slot open.
The co-curricular events draw upon the rich resources of the University of Toronto's School of Public Policy and Governance, Centre for Ethics, and Munk School of Global Affairs. These events enable students in all Trinity One streams to meet guest speakers and to engage in informal, but high-level conversation with one another, their professors and guest experts.
Some recent guests who visited the Margaret MacMillan Trinity One Program during the 2013-2014 academic year to discuss their work included the following, each of whom addressed the Trinity One community over lunch and kindly agreed to be interviewed by a faculty member or student.
Michael Ignatieff visited the Margaret MacMillan Trinity One Program during the 2013-14 academic year to discuss his new book, Fire and Ashes: Success and Failure in Politics, published by Random House in late 2013. He addressed the Trinity One community over lunch in the combination room, and kindly agreed to be interviewed by Trinity One interim director John Duncan.
John Duncan: As a successful academic at Harvard you had an impact, for example playing a significant role in the evolution of the Responsibility to Protect doctrine, an emerging international norm designed to stop mass atrocity crimes. You left all that to enter Canadian federal politics in 2005, but toward the end of Fire and Ashes you say that political life can drive intellectual curiosity and ideas out of your system. Is there some kind of incommensurability between academic ideas and politics?
Michael Ignatieff: As I say in the book, ideas are immensely important in politics: to differentiate yourself from the competition, to define yourself as a political actor and to inspire your followers. I had a few ideas in my time in politics: the idea that we should recognize the national identity of Quebeckers, the idea that we should eliminate all remaining obstacles to post-secondary education (‘if you get the grades you get to go’), the idea of a national home-care payment to ensure that families aren’t crushed by the burden of looking after loved ones at home; and quite a few more—but these were policy ideas, not academic ideas.
A politician’s job is to translate good ideas into effective ones, and I don’t think there’s any incommensurability between academic thinking and political thinking in principle: the issue is to create opposition and government parties smart enough and open enough to welcome academic ideas.
JD: A significant theme of the book is the hard-knocks education to which your leap into the political arena subjected you, but having studied politics you were about as prepared as anyone could be, weren’t you?
MI: Nothing in my education prepared me for the adversarial character of politics or for the need to become strategic, armoured, careful in your political communication. There are some things—politics for example—that can be learned, but they can’t be taught.
JD: There is a wonderful tug of war between authenticity and dissimulation in the book. Should a politician always speak consistently and from conviction, or sometimes dissimulate?
MI: Studies of great politicians—Roosevelt, Lincoln, Laurier—show that concealing your hand is essential to successful political strategy, yet too much dissimulation erodes the trust you need to generate with the people in order to win power and govern successfully. Every politician has to navigate that fine line.
JD: Amid the dissimulation, the public apathy, the attack adds, the data monkeys, and the dumpster bills you describe, where do you see the greatest possibilities for a more civil politics in Canada?
MI: I wanted to write a book that would inspire young people to go into politics while at the same time showing them exactly what it feels like. The two purposes are in some tension in the book: you have to have ideals if you’re going into politics and you have to be extremely realistic as well. The greatest hope for a more civil politics lies in the next generation, in their refusal to play the old games and in their capacity to imagine a better politics than we’ve seen. I mean a politics that works from the recognition of the distinction between enemies and adversaries, that does not question the standing of an opponent, that accepts the right of opponents to be in the ring, a politics that fights fair and abides by results even when they go against you, above all a politics willing to listen and engage with those we disagree with, a politics that brings into the arena, finally, those who are disenchanted, disillusioned or excluded.
Michael Ignatieff was twice elected Member of Parliament for Etobicoke-Lakeshore, leader of the Liberal Party of Canada and the Official Opposition, and is a prominent broadcaster, author, and academic. His Fire and Ashes: Success and Failure in Politics recounts his run for the leadership of the Liberal Party and the office of Prime Minister between 2005 and 2011.
Audrey Macklin visited the Margaret MacMillan Trinity One Program during the 2013-14 academic year to discuss her work on the status of refugees in Canada. She addressed the Trinity One community over lunch in the combination room, and kindly agreed to be interviewed by Trinity One student Sara Angel.
Sara Angel: The status of refugees rarely makes headlines. Why do you think that is so?
Audrey Macklin: I think it’s remote from the experience of many people. If you come from a country like Canada that is safe and far from countries that produce refugees there is no immediacy to the issue and you have little occasion to think about it. There are many people in Canada who were refugees or children of refugees, but they do not court the press partly because the experience of being a refugee is emotionally draining. Although refugees are relieved to have escaped dangers at home, they face alienation, insecurity, and precarious status in Canada, and so are not inclined to speak out. In addition, some experience shame or so-called ‘survivor guilt.’
SA: The federal government has been unresponsive to complaints from refugees, and last year passed a bill that made the refugee system significantly more stringent. What motivates governments to tighten refugee requirements?
AM: Governments are most responsive to the people who vote for them. Refugees are not citizens. There is little that politicians who focus narrowly on electoral gain think they have to gain by doing right by refugees.
SA: What changes are needed to address the needs of refugees?
AM: Fundamentally, what is needed is political will. Currently, the government is dedicated to dismantling the refugee system, preventing refugee claimants from coming to Canada, and otherwise evading our relevant international commitments. Doing away with the inland refugee determination system seems to be its current goal.
On the one hand, Canada is legally obliged to provide safe haven to those who meet the definition of a refugee; on the other hand, there is no political will to live up to those obligations. The government resolves the tension between its goals and Canada’s obligations by discrediting and vilifying those who seek refugee protection, labelling them as inauthentic, bogus and undeserving.
SA: What can be done to solve the crisis of political will?
AM: The government responds to demands made by the electorate. However, information about refugees provided to the electorate is incomplete and often misleading. It is not clear that the electorate currently cares enough to make refugee welfare a priority.
There have been examples where refugee welfare did become a priority, for example, with respect to the resettlement of tens of thousands of Indo-Chinese refugees some 30 years ago—the so-called ‘boat people.’ In that case, the government exhibited positive leadership, and the public rose to the occasion, mutually reinforcing the will to support refugees.
Today, unfortunately, the government’s leadership regarding refugees is almost entirely negative, and by-and-large the public has come to believe that refugees are problematic—that they are bogus, fraudulent, and undeserving—mutually reinforcing the will not to support refugees.
SA: Would you say that the public needs to be made aware of a refugee crisis?
AM: Well that’s certainly part of it, but it’s also a major challenge. How do you get the media interested? There are people who try—I’m one of them—but it continues to be a real challenge to attract the media and to successfully counter the tidal wave of vilification that comes from government. We need a positive and humane counter-narrative that reclaims the humanity of refugees and restores Canadians’ commitment to act justly toward them.
SA: Many of the policies toward immigrants and refugees in Canadian history were racist in nature. Does that trend continue today?
AM: It is worth noting that this year is the hundredth anniversary of the Komagata Maru incident, in which over 300 Sikhs were marooned in Vancouver harbour for two months until they were effectively coerced into leaving at a time when Canada’s doors were otherwise open to immigrants.
The Komagata Maru incident was specifically about excluding South Asians. Today the majority of immigrants to Canada are so called ‘visible minorities.’ Although it is more complicated to talk about than it used to be, racism and racialization is still a force in Canadian politics, culture, and society. After all it is only because of a history of racialized exclusion that we talk of refugees as visible minorities today. They’re only visible and they’re only minorities today because of historic policies of exclusion. But you can’t talk in a simple way about current Canadian policies of immigration as racist because as an empirical fact, the majority of incoming immigrants coming to Canada are in fact racialized.
Audrey Macklin is a Professor of Law and Chair in Human Rights Law at the University of Toronto. Her research focuses on transnational migration, citizenship, and forced migration. She is the author of more than 30 academic articles.
Graeme Smith visited the Margaret MacMillan Trinity One Program during the 2013-14 academic year to discuss his new book, The Dogs Are Eating Them Now: Our War In Afghanistan, published by Random House in late 2013. He addressed the Trinity One community over lunch in the combination room, and kindly agreed to be interviewed by Trinity One interim director John Duncan.
John Duncan: The Dogs are Eating Then Now is a moving collection of stories about events in Afghanistan. Each story reveals a key aspect of the war, not so much by analysis and statistics, but rather in the form of a short literary docu-drama. Together the collection of stories gives readers a front-row seat on a very distant and complex struggle. How did you go about selecting and documenting events, and crafting the stories?
Graeme Smith: You give me too much credit with the delicate phrase, "selecting and documenting events," because the reality is that I spent a few years in southern Afghanistan as a newspaper writer, recording a bunch of audio: interviews, conversations, sometimes whole days of battle. Then I sat down in cafes in Toronto, Istanbul and Delhi and plugged in my headphones and leafed through my stacks of notebooks. Sometimes I just sat there and stared into space with glassy eyes, completely overwhelmed by memory and the impossible task of condensing the awful chaos into book chapters. What you get is a collection of stories that do not pretend, in any way, to represent a comprehensive history of the war in southern Afghanistan. But, hopefully, they give you an intuitive sense of that strange time when NATO, the greatest military alliance in history, screwed up its biggest mission outside of its own territory.
JD: An important arc of the book runs from untutored hopes to an experience-based skepticism. What is your sense of the various learning curves experienced in Afghanistan?
GS: Afghanistan made me deeply interested in the various ways the international community learns -- or, more often, fails to learn. It's a fascinating topic. You had this large collection of multilateral agencies, donor countries, military organizations, intelligence groups, private actors, the whole circus, failing to think clearly about what was happening in Afghanistan. Information did not percolate from the ground up to the decision-makers; major organizations failed to reach consensus about basic facts. As we speak, more than a dozen years into the intervention, the Pentagon and the UN have published divergent assessments of the 2013 fighting season: the Pentagon says fighting cooled down and the UN says the conflict heated up. These should not be matters of debate. We should be able to count how many things go "bang," how many explosions and assassinations, how many insurgent attacks. Personally, after months of field research in 2013, I'm convinced the Pentagon is wrong. This war is escalating. You can label me a skeptic because of that observation, but I'd suggest that such labels also represent shoddy thinking. Should we be optimistic about the Afghan forces' ability to stand on their own, and pull out all the international troops? Should we be pessimistic about corruption in the Afghan Government and cut off the supply of aid funding? I'd say "no" to both questions. This false dichotomy between optimism and pessimism, between pro- and anti-war camps, has clouded our ability to figure out what's best for Afghanistan. We need to be clear-eyed in our understanding that the situation has gotten worse in the last several years and think about ways of mitigating the problems.
JD: What is the most important thing you would tell Canadians about what occurred in Afghanistan?
GS: Canadians need to know that their soldiers, diplomats, and other personnel generally worked very hard in Afghanistan and did their best to salvage a good outcome from a difficult situation. That's part of why the whole thing has been so heartbreaking. Blood, sweat, tears, millions of dollars -- we gave it everything.
JD: Why did you leave The Globe and Mail to work for the International Crisis Group in Afghanistan? What is it like to live in Kabul?
GS: I quit my dream job, as a correspondent for a great newspaper, because I wanted a front-row seat in Afghanistan as the country goes through the difficult period of troop withdrawals in 2014. The International Crisis Group offered me a job in Kabul and I leaped at the opportunity. I'm still a writer, except that now my writing has footnotes. Much to my surprise, I'm discovering that footnotes are really fun. Wouldn't it be great if newspaper articles had footnotes?
So far, life in the wealthy heart of Kabul remains mostly safe and pleasant. It's a world apart from the rest of Afghanistan. My girlfriend and I take yoga classes. We were learning tango, but recently switched to salsa. I like to cook, which makes up for the lack of great restaurants.
Graeme Smith covered the Afghanistan war for The Globe and Mail, spending more time in southern Afghanistan than any other Western journalist between 2005 and 2011, and he is the winner of many awards, including an Emmy. Currently he is a senior analyst for the International Crisis Group. His The Dogs Are Eating Them Now: Our War In Afghanistan, for which he won the Hilary Weston Writers’ Trust non-fiction award, recounts his experience in Afghanistan when Canada made its greatest contributions to the war.
Natalie Zemon Davis visited the Margaret MacMillan Trinity One Program during the 2013-14 academic year to discuss her upcoming work on the history of slavery. She addressed the Trinity One community over lunch in the combination room, and kindly agreed to be interviewed by Trinity One student Aylin Manduric.
Aylin Manduric: You frequently use archival sources to re-create stories from individuals’ lives, rather than focusing on the movers and shakers of history. How do you choose what stories to tell?
Natalie Zemon Davis: It’s true that I don’t work on movers and shakers but I try to take examples that can be relevant to historical change. The individual’s story can be connected with change, or it can be something that illustrates something really interesting about how a society is organized or the things that it believes.
AM: Why did you choose to explore slavery in Suriname in your current book?
NZD: In a book that I published in 1995, I included a woman who was an entomologist, a botanist and an artist from the Netherlands who went to Suriname to study the flora and fauna and used slaves to help her with her work. I thought ‘Am I going to write a book in which I somehow glorify, rightly, the adventures of European women but don’t pay any attention to the slave women who were helping her?’ I wanted to find ways to write from a non-European point of view. The book that particularly interested me, that led to my doing the four generations of a slave family, was by a soldier of Scotch and Dutch background who came over because of the uprising of the Maroons. After he spent four and a half years in Suriname, during which he had an enduring relation with a young slave woman, he went back to Europe and wrote a book about his years there. It had in it, woven all the way through, not only an autobiography, but the story of this relationship and I thought: ‘This is a good story, and I would like to see what’s behind it.’
AM: Has your recent work changed your outlook on slavery?
NZD: Plunging into it forced me to try to understand how whole societies accepted and believed in this as something that was moral and ethical. That led me to have to look carefully at how the society could last so long and work. If things don’t work at all, things will crumble. What is sometimes quite controversial in the standard abolitionist narrative is that not only were there various forms of slavery, but that when people were manumitted, if they were free artisans, free carpenters, they might in turn own slaves. That was an eye-opener for me.
AM: In your writing, you tend to cross disciplines to produce a very readable history that is also very rich in fact. When you write about history, who do you write for?
NZD: Not just anybody who might pick up a book, but hopefully not just students. I try to refer to big arguments that might be going on in history and so forth, but I don’t like to draw upon a lot of unnecessary theory or lots of jargon. I try to get the ideas in with simple language.
AM: When looking back into someone's life you get a chance to see what was acceptable to society at that time. Do you think that there are institutions today that future scholars might question?
NZD: There are a lot of possibilities, with the climate and our waste of resources, the way we live today might seem scandalous. The one thing I don't think will ever stop is some spirit of criticism, even if values change. I've never seen any period where somebody has not spoken in terms of human generosity and human hope. There's always somebody. I don't think that is going to change.
Natalie Zemon Davis is a renowned historian of the early modern period. She was been awarded the Holberg International Memorial Prize and National Humanities Medal and been named Companion of the Order of Canada. Among her many acclaimed published works are Women on the Margins, which follows the lives of three seventeenth-century women, and Trickster Travels, in which Davis ventures outside the European perspective to tell the story of Leo Africanus, a sixteenth-century Muslim traveller from North Africa.
Robyn Doolittle visited the Margaret MacMillan Trinity One Program during the 2013-14 academic year to discuss her new book, Crazy Town: The Rob Ford Story, published by Penguin in 2014. She addressed the Trinity One community over lunch in Seeley Hall, and kindly agreed to be interviewed by Trinity One interim director John Duncan.
John Duncan: Mayor Ford and his supporters say he should be judged on his record—for example, on transit and saving money for the city. What is your sense of his record?
Robyn Doolittle: I think it is impossible to separate Mayor Ford’s personal situation from his record. By the end of his term in office he will have spent about two years dealing with allegations of having a drinking problem or a drug problem, and of associating with nefarious individuals involved with the criminal underworld, including street gangs. It is impossible not to take that into account for the mayor of the city, who has official influence with respect to the police budget and people on the police oversight board, who is the CEO of 50,000 civic employees, and who is expected to speak for the city in times of tragedy, such as after a major shooting.
On the other hand, there is no doubt that Mayor Ford’s politics continue to be very popular. We already have four declared mayoral candidates for the upcoming election who are gearing up to run with campaigns that borrow heavily from the Ford agenda—essentially the idea that we should respect the tax payer, that customer service should be a priority, and that taxes should be low. Karen Stintz, John Tory, David Soknacki and Mayor Ford himself are all running on that agenda. So there’s no question that he has had a significant impact, and certainly in his first year in office he was successful in pushing his agenda through. But for the majority of his term he has been completely disengaged. He doesn’t show up; his staff doesn’t know where he is sometimes. He is not an active force at City Hall, and that was the case long before his powers were reduced.
JD: There is some concern that the media is turning the Ford story into a circus. As a journalist do you have any such worries?
RD: Yeah, I mean, I’ve heard that and I, predictably, completely disagree. The media’s job is to hold elected officials to account. If there is a video of the mayor threatening to rip someone’s eyes out, saying he is a “sick motherf’er,” and obviously looking very impaired, we don’t not report on it because we think it will be embarrassing for him. We are not going to ignore a video that comes out showing the mayor speaking in Jamaican patois as he criticizes the Chief of Police and makes fun of the police investigation then focused on him. This is the chief magistrate of the city. He is running one of the largest governments in the country. If he is creating a circus it is our job to document it as fairly and as accurately as we can.
JD: This has been an epic journey for you—investigating the mayor of the largest city in the country for a couple of years. In the process, what has been most frustrating? Most rewarding?
RD: The most frustrating part was right after I heard about the crack video. It was April 1st of 2013 when I got the call. That led to six very lonely weeks. Only a very small group of people at the newspaper could know about the story we were working on. It had to be that way, of course, but it meant that there was this huge thing I couldn’t talk about with people, especially after I saw the video and knew it was real. Having to come back to City Hall and report on, you know, food by-law debates, knowing what I knew was very frustrating. I wanted everybody else to know.
Obviously writing the book has been really great. I’ve been reporting on this mayor, and investigating him since 2011, and along the way you pick up details that can’t work in a news article. You can’t deal with the more sensitive issues around the family and some of the influences in his personal life in a 900 word story, but you can in a 90,000 word narrative. So that’s been lovely. Also it has been great to explain to people how a newsroom works and how this story unfolded, which I do in the book.
JD: Finally, the question to which so many want an answer: why, after so many indiscretions, is Rob Ford still the mayor of Toronto?
RD: It is a question that has fascinated, especially America. By all conventional wisdom you would think he would resign, but I think there are two main reasons he hasn’t. One is that he won’t. He refuses to leave. Many politicians in his situation would probably want to resign just to avoid having to answer embarrassing, maybe demeaning, questions every single day, but not Rob Ford. Secondly, there’s no mechanism for the City to remove him. Although the Province could give the City of Toronto additional powers to remove him, politicians from the left to the right are reluctant to go that route. The Ford case is extreme and unlikely to ever happen again, and so we are very reluctant to set a precedent that could be abused in the future, of empowering a city council to easily oust its mayor.
Robyn Doolittle is a reporter for the Toronto Star. Her Crazy Town: The Rob Ford Story is the result of a multi-year investigation of the most controversial leader of a major city in the world today.