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Thomas O. Enders Symposium – The U.S.-Canadian Relationship as Seen from South of the Border

October 31, 2010

Above: Canadian Consul General, Seattle (left) discusses the symposium with Michael Treleaven, Executive Director of the Pacific Northwest Canadian Studies Consortium (middle) and Doug Nord, symposium chair.

On 29 October 2010 the biennial Enders Symposium, sponsored by the Association for Canadian Studies in the United States (ACSUS), the Thomas O. Enders Foundation, and the Center, was held at the University of Washington.

Presenters and respondents came from across the United States and Canada including Doreen Barrie, University of Calgary; Tim Casey, Mesa State College; Heather Smith, University of Northern British Columbia; Stephen Blank, Centre for International Governance Innovation; Barry Prentice, University of Manitoba; Clayton Mosher, Washington State University; Robert Gordon, Simon Fraser University; Robert Thacker, St. Lawrence University; and Laurie Ricou, University of British Columbia.

The goal of the conference was to better understand why Americans might be interested in studying Canada and what might be some of their particular areas of interest.

Stephen Blank focused on Canada-U.S. trade integration in his presentation entitled “Making Stuff Together: An Examination of North America’s Auto Industry.” He observed that, “When we look at the infrastructure of North America we find that Canada and the United States are deeply integrated.” In fact, Blank suggested that rather than focusing solely on the Canada-U.S. trade relationship, our attention should be directed toward the “production relationship” between the two countries. “Our relationship is defined by structural integration,” argued Blank. “We don’t sell stuff to each other. We make it together. We are not a trade block, we are a production block.”Douglas Nord, Chair of the symposium and President of ACSUS, opened with a discussion on “Discourse and Dialogue between Americans and Canadians” asking to what extent, over the last few years, has there been a change in how Americans see Canada. One of the most significant changes that Nord observed is that Canada is increasingly referred to by Americans as a laboratory for social policy – as an alternative case to the United States particularly in the areas of health care, same sex marriage, and foreign policy. He also suggested that American knowledge and understanding of “the people who live next door” has grown in recent decades.

Tim Casey in his talk “A Model Environmental Nation?” discussed the utility of examining Canadian environmental policy in comparison to that found in the United States. He noted that the two countries share some similar environmental goals but may not approach them in exactly the same fashion due to differences in government structure and legal practice. He observed that in both countries, local and regional initiatives have made major contributions to the fashioning national policies.

Consul General Stevens picked up on this theme in his luncheon address, noting that there is a good deal of collaborative environmental interaction between regional groups in Washington and British Columbia. Speaking more broadly, he observed that the single largest challenge for Canada is getting the Canadian agenda on the U.S. “radar screen.” “The three priority messages of all the Canadian missions today,” noted Stevens, “are our integrated economy, our energy partnership [Canada is the number one supplier of oil to the United States], and common security concerns.” Increasingly, Government of Canada research and teaching grants awarded to U.S. faculty are helping to raise American attention to each of these issues.

The program ended with a focus on American understanding of Canadian literature and poetry. Robert Thacker, “Reading North Through the One-Way Mirror,” pointed out that there are few American scholars of Canadian literature today. He argued that there is a need to expand American familiarity with the literature of our northern neighbors and for Americans to make their own unique contributions to its study and analysis. Literature and history used to be the largest disciplines represented at the ACSUS conference but this has changed.Clayton Mosher’s presentation “Convergence and Divergence? Recent Developments in Crime Policies in Canada and the United States” noted that the United States is the world’s largest jailer, whereas Canada has a much smaller rate of incarceration. He discussed some of the reasons for this divergence between the two countries. Mosher noted that while crime rates in Canada may be presently lower than those found in the United States, some Canadian approaches to crime and drugs are being fashioned from the American experience.

This is the sixth Enders’s symposium and the first to be held at a western institution. It is also the first Enders’ symposium to focus on the U.S. perspective on Canada versus the reverse.


Thomas Enders was a U.S. statesman whose life, work, and service – particularly as U.S. Ambassador to Canada and Assistant Secretary of State of Inter-American Affairs – strengthened the political and economic links as well as the friendship between the United States and Canada. The Enders Endowment within ACSUS is designed to encourage scholarship on the Canada-U.S. relationship.

This symposium was sponsored by the Thomas O. Enders Foundation, the Government of Canada and by the Canadian Studies Center’s Title VI grant, International Programs Service, and the U.S. Department of Education.