The reviews are in. The “Challenging Canada” conference held at Trent University Mary 21-23 was a resounding success. With about 120 participants in attendance from across Canada and the U.S., as well as international guests, registrants were uniformly enthusiastic about the speakers and sessions and came away refreshed and re-energized about the role and place of Canadian Studies in public life and the academy. One delegate reported that she was “sad to return home” at the end.
The conference opened with an assessment of Canadian Studies 40 years after founding Trent president Tom Symons prepared his seminal study, To Know Ourselves. This first session served as a springboard into a series of conference panels that covered a wide and eclectic range of topics, including: art and politics and politics and art, the archival challenge of preserving digital records, the view of Canada from abroad, and work and employment today.
Interspersed between the sessions were several keynote addresses. Celebrated author Miriam Toews did a public reading at Peterborough’s Market Square and explained how her personal experiences, including growing up Mennonite in rural Manitoba, shaped and informed her writing. Activist Maude Barlow talked about the urgent need for a water bill of rights. Inuit Elder and past Trent University chancellor, Mary Simon spoke about how education was one of the most pressing challenges in northern Canada today and what needs to be done to keep kids in school and graduating. And Erica Lee, a co-founder of the Idle No More movement, told a spellbound audience what it was like growing up Aboriginal in Saskatoon and why First Nations people today are angry.
The Peterborough arts and culture community was also involved in the conference and played host to a variety of activities and events.
The conference brought to light the historic and continuing role that Trent has played in sustaining the study of Canada and demonstrated why Trent University is the undisputed home for Canadian Studies.
“People were keen to take this opportunity to engage in an interdisciplinary dialogue about historical and contemporary interpretations of Canada, about the important issues we face today,” said Dr. Joan Sangster, professor at Trent and co-organizer of the conference. “The conference allowed connections to be built between regional, national and international organizations who understand the importance of talking about our country.”
To learn more about the discussions had at the “Contesting Canada’s Future” conference, follow #ccfconference15.