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Indigenous-led clean-energy projects could power reconciliation

Many remote Indigenous communities are not connected to the electrical grid and produce their own electricity using diesel generators. (Ocean Networks Canada/Flickr)

The federal government recently announced a $20 million initiative to reduce diesel dependency in up to 15 remote Indigenous communities. At first glance, the program seems like an exciting opportunity for these communities to achieve stable, reliable and affordable clean energy on their own terms.

About 250 remote communities are not connected to Canada’s electricity grid and rely on local, diesel-powered generators to produce electricity. But diesel delivery is expensive and unreliable (due in large part to weather), which translates to high costs for consumers. It is also a dirty fossil fuel that contributes to climate change, the defining challenge of our time.

Addressing climate change in Indigenous contexts requires leadership from Indigenous peoples, communities, organizations and governments. But more often than not, Indigenous knowledge-holders are ignored, dismissed and even undermined by governments in the development of national policies.

As a collaborative team of Indigenous and settler researchers studying reconciliation in the context of renewable energy through a program called “A SHARED Future” — we had questions about this initiative, and we’ve been able to ask them.

We have a rare opportunity to look inside this federal initiative during the development stage to evaluate what’s working (and what’s not) and provide real-time feedback to the federal public servants rolling it out. Our participatory action research has sought to inform the design, and will continue to track the initiative over the next three years. Our aim is to show how future federal initiatives could reflect Indigenous leadership from concept to implementation.

The backstory

Our research is currently guided by an Indigenous research advisory committee (Ken Paul from the Maliseet First Nation/Wolastoqwey Neqotkuk in New Brunswick, Diana Lewis from the Sipekne'katik First Nation in Nova Scotia, and Melissa Quesnelle Naatoi'Ihkpiakii from the Kainai First Nation in southern Alberta), and we will seek additional members from the 15 communities eventually selected for funding.

Elder Barbara Dumont Hill leads a sunrise ceremony in the traditional territory of the Maliseet and Mi'kmaq. Heather Castleden/A SHARED Future

The foundation of our research lies in reconciliation between Indigenous and western knowledge systems. For example, we want to know what reconciliation looks like in the context of local-to-global demands for energy, and how we can work to repair historical energy injustices. We are also committed to examining Indigenous perspectives on any culturally relevant gender issues and impacts surrounding this initiative, as even the clean energy sector has inequities.

Help versus support?

In its announcement, the government noted that it wants to “help” and partner with Indigenous communities to build a cleaner energy future. We delve into whether this is an Indigenous-led initiative soliciting help, or simply another government-led program seeking validation.

In the context of Indigenous rights, sovereignty and self-determination, it’s important to know who designed the initiative, how it evolved, to what extent the eligibility criteria reflect Indigenous ways of knowing and expertise, and how the jury was selected to adjudicate the applications.

Perhaps most important, does this initiative truly reflect a nation-to-nation relationship in the spirit of truth, healing, reconciliation and calls to action?

Championing Indigenous-led clean energy

From coast to coast to coast, Indigenous communities in Canada are quickly becoming important leaders in the renewable energy sector.

First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples are involved in, or own, more than 150 large-scale clean energy projects. Many are developing renewable energy programs to break free of colonial ties, move towards energy autonomy, establish more reliable energy systems and secure long-term financial benefits. The right kind of projects may help with broader calls for reconciliation and nation-to-nation building in this country.

We also know that governments have a “consistent pattern of failures in public-sector policy and project implementation.” Indeed, the western science community continues to have difficulty working with Indigenous knowledge-holders and valuing their knowledge systems in relation to other environmental issues such as water policy and management.

But there is strong evidence that Indigenous-led and Indigenous-created programs, whether government-supported or research-based, have a better chance of success when “helpers” get out of the driver’s seat.

New opportunities or same old, same old?

The announcement speaks of working together, partnership, collaboration and self-determination. But it does not use the language of reconciliation or rights, show that Indigenous peoples are driving the agenda or indicate to what extent the team behind the initiative strove to do things differently.

A SHARED Future: Four elements teaching from Algonquin Elder Barbara Dumont-Hill. Simon Brascoupé

From the first phase of our participant-observation research, we know, for example, that the initiative originally targeted all remote diesel-dependent communities, and that it will now only include remote Indigenous diesel-dependent communities.

This is certainly a step in the right direction — as it could begin to mend energy inequities — and it’s the outcome of an unusually long period of engagement and the interventions of Indigenous clean energy champions, our research team and others.

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission calls for action and accountability through transparency. Our analysis will look at how to make the processes behind this initiative fully transparent. For example, what went into NRCan’s decision to engage with the two not-for-profit collaborators, the Pembina Institute and the Indigenous Clean Energy Social Enterprise (ICE SE)?

This research matters within the federal discourse of nation-to-nation relations because our future is uncertain, not just in terms of real reconciliation, but also in terms of the urgency needed to respond to the climate crisis.

As researchers, it’s important for us to understand how federal programs like this one can address the climate crisis and advance reconciliation. The right to self-determination — “nothing about us, without us” — is key to our analysis.

The ribbon-cutting ceremony is over

For the next phase, we’ll interview participating Indigenous community members, public servants, utilities, developers and not-for-profits involved in the development and roll-out of the Indigenous Off-Diesel Initiative. We want to understand the challenges and successes encountered in implementing clean energy projects, to what extent this work reflects a commitment to reconciliation and to what degree iterative feedback from our team and Indigenous community members is taken up, given this country’s colonial and bureaucratic structures.

The Government of Canada has expressed a clear desire to do things differently; it wants “innovative solutions to economic, environmental and social problems.” The funding for this initiative falls under the terms and conditions of Impact Canada, led by the Privy Council Office. Naturally, the Privy Council Office is watching the roll-out of this experiment that highlights partnership and collaboration with Indigenous clean-energy champions … and so are we.

Derek Kornelsen of Rootstalk Resources contributed to this article.

____________________________________________________________________________The Conversation

Heather Castleden is the Canada Research Chair in Reconciling Research for Health, Environments, and Communities and an associate professor in the Department of Geography and Planning and the Department of Public Health Sciences.

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

The Conversation is seeking new academic contributors. Researchers wishing to write articles should contact Melinda Knox, Associate Director, Research Profile and Initiatives, at knoxm@queensu.ca.

Personal truths exposed

  • Biba Esaad
    Biba Esaad's thesis work "explores the way in which materiality (and subsequently, the meaning) of historic mediums, like oil paint, can be altered depending on their built environment, surrounding installation and more broadly speaking, aesthetic and spatial relationship."
  • Claudia Zilstra
    Through costume-making, Claudia Zilstra "explores her reproductive health, and what it means to be feminine in society today."
  • Jessica Lanziner
    Jessica Lanziner's thesis work "investigates the way that the abandoned becomes reclaimed through the passage of time and the process of decay."
  • Makayla Thompson
    Makayla Thompson's art "depicts scenes of peaceful animals attempting to live among the only species which destroys on such a large scale, knowingly, and with little to no regard for consequence - humans."

The culmination of years of study, creativity, and hard work is on display this week as the graduating class from the Fine Art (Visual Art) program hosts its annual year-end exhibition.

Ontario Hall has been transformed into an art gallery for Exposed: BFA 19, featuring the work of 24 graduating students. The exhibition started on Sunday, April 21 and continues to Saturday, April 27.

There is an impressive range and depth of artwork on display throughout the historic building, from multimedia installations and paintings to sculpture and prints, and much more.

The exhibition is open to the public and provides a temporary escape right on campus.

Exposed is open 9 am-4 pm daily. The closing reception will be held on Saturday, April 27 at 6 pm in Ontario Hall.

To learn more about the exhibition and the artists, visit the Exposed: BFA 19 website.

More information about the Fine Art (Visual Art) program is available online.

Cities and countries aim to slash plastic waste within a decade

Plastic trash on a beach]
Volunteers work to clean up trash, including plastic bottles, on a beach. (Photo: Brian Yurasits/Unsplash)

If all goes well, 2030 will be quite a special year.

Global and local community leaders from more than 170 countries have pledged to “significantly reduce” the amount of single-use plastic products by 2030. Success would result in significantly less plastic pollution entering our oceans, lakes and rivers.

[The Conversation]Today, societies around the world have a love affair with disposable plastics. Just like some love stories, this one has an unhappy ending that results in plastic bags, straws and takeout containers strewn about the global environment.

As researchers who study the contamination and effects of plastic pollution on wildlife, it would be nice if by 2030 we no longer heard about plastics showing up in the stomachs of dead whales, littering the beaches of distant islands and contaminating tap water and seafood.

It is time for some good news about the environment, including stories about how cities and countries are managing plastics and other waste materials in more sustainable ways, and how children will have cleaner beaches to play on.

No reason to wait

Scientists have known about plastic pollution in our oceans for more than four decades. It is pervasive in rivers, lakes and soils too. Plastic pollution knows no boundaries, with small bits of plastic found from the equator to the poles and even on the remote slopes of the French Pyrenees mountains.

Plastic waste damages ecosystems, smothers coral reefs and fills the bellies of sea life. In the absence of action, the amount of plastic waste produced globally is predicted to triple between 2015 and 2060, to between 155 and 265 million tonnes per year.

As a welcome response, global leaders have decided to act. At the UN Environment Assembly in Nairobi in March, environment ministers from around the world signed a voluntary commitment to make measurable reductions in single-use plastic products, including straws, shopping bags and other low-value plastic items that are sent to landfill after being used once.

Similar goals to deal with plastic pollution have been introduced by municipal, provincial, federal and regional governments across the globe. Non-profit organizations and industry leaders are making efforts to tackle the problem of plastic pollution. For example, Ocean Conservancy is uniting citizens and organizations around the world in cleanups to meet their goal of an ocean free of plastics by 2030, and Unilever has pledged to use 100 per cent recyclable packaging by 2025.

Canada joins the movement

Canada introduced the Ocean Plastics Charter at the G7 summit in 2018, committing nations to work with industry to make all plastics reusable, recyclable or recoverable by 2030. That means sending no plastic waste to landfill.

Vancouver aims to be a zero-waste city by 2040. Although the city has reduced the mass of waste going to landfill by 23 per cent since 2008, it still has a long way to go.

Ontario also has its sights on being waste-free by developing a circular economy, which means keeping materials in use for as long as possible. The province aims to cut the amount of waste sent to landfills in half by 2030, a reduction of 4.5 million tonnes, through reuse and recycling.

To propel Ontario into action, Ian Arthur, the member of the Ontario provincial parliament for Kingston and the Islands introduced a private member’s bill in March to eliminate Ontario’s use of non-recyclable single-use plastic products such as straws, coffee cups and plastic cutlery, which ultimately end up in landfills. These plastics do not feed into a circular economy.

In addition, school children in Ontario are working towards collecting 10,000 signatures on petitions to ban single-use plastics in the province.

Canadians would like to see more action against plastic waste. According to a recent poll, 90 per cent of Canadians were either very concerned or somewhat concerned about the environmental impact of plastic waste, and 82 per cent thought government should do more to reduce plastic waste.

Bye bye plastic waste

Our research, and the research of others, has found that single-use plastic products litter our beaches and coastlines, small pieces of plastics contaminate our Great Lakes and the Arctic Ocean, and microplastics are present in our sport fish and drinking water.

Ambitious global, regional and local collaborations are sorely needed to truly realize these goals. It’s time to commit to ending the love affair with disposable plastics.

Individual action does work. Quench your need for caffeine by using a reusable mug. Hydrate with water from a durable and refillable bottle. Purchase groceries that come in containers that can be reused or recycled. Plan your kid’s birthday party and your work meetings without using disposable single-use plastics.

A decade of positive habits could lead to a future where plastic is no longer waste, but valued as a material that can be reused and recycled — shifting our current paradigm to a more sustainable one that lasts far beyond 2030.The Conversation


Chelsea Rochman is an assistant professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of Toronto.

Diane Orihel is an assistant professor in the School of Environmental Studies and Queen's National Scholar in Aquatic Ecotoxicology.

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

The Conversation is seeking new academic contributors. Researchers wishing to write articles should contact Melinda Knox, Associate Director, Research Profile and Initiatives, at knoxm@queensu.ca.

Mapping the connection gaps

[Team K-Connect]
A team of Queen's students – Xavier McMaster-Hubner (Computer Science), Sam Alton (ECEi), Erik Koning (ECE), Raed Fayad (ECEi), and Nathaniel Pauzé (ECE) – recently earned a top prize at the Mayor’s Innovation Challenge in Kingston.

Weak or unreliable wireless data connectivity is an ongoing frustration for consumers and businesses in Eastern Ontario. Imagine yourself committing to a multi-year wireless service contract only to discover that coverage is unreliable at home or at work, the areas where you spend most of your time. Regulators also need to know for sure where service gaps most need to be filled so they can prioritize new locations for cell tower permits.

A team of Queen’s students has come up with a novel way for consumers and regulators to more easily understand where there are gaps in wireless connectivity.  

Raed Fayad (Electrical and Computer Engineering – Innovation Stream), Sam Alton (Electrical and Computer Engineering – Innovation Stream), Nathaniel Pauzé (Electrical and Computer Engineering), and Xavier McMaster-Hubner (Computer Science) developed a proof-of-concept system to measure varying cellular data signal strength across Kingston and to display those data on a visual heat map. Users would be able to view the heat map online to see how reliable their cellular signal would be depending on where they are in the city.

The group came together as team K-Connect at the QHacks hackathon at Queen’s in early February.

“We used the Post-it note brainstorming method we learned in our APSC 200 Engineering Design and Practice course for our idea generation phase at QHacks,” says Pauzé. “One of our strongest ideas involved collecting Wi-Fi signal strength data inside the new Mitchell Hall building to find the best location to work on our project. We decided to scale-up our idea by collecting cell signal strength across campus. We moved forward with this project choice because we saw the usefulness of the data our product would collect.”

The idea earned the team one of two spots in the City of Kingston Mayor’s Innovation Challenge pitch competition a week later. They presented to a panel of municipal and academic leaders at Kingston City Hall, earning a top prize in that competition. (The other winner was Blackrose Technology led by Erik Koning (Electrical and Computer Engineering), who proposed using drones to monitor environmental threats or to help in search-and-rescue). Each team earned $4,000 in seed funding for their ventures and admission to the 2019 QICSI start-up accelerator program.

“Two members of our group are considering enrolling in the QICSI program,” says McMaster-Hubner. “We have options to further develop K-Connect, but our current situation for the summer makes it very difficult to try and prepare or do anything until we are back together as a group.”

This article was first published on the website of the Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science.

A new honour for John Meisel

  • John Meisel Gate presentation
    Principal and Vice-Chancellor Daniel Woolf and Dean of Arts and Science Barbara Crow unveil the plaque honouring Professor Emeritus Meisel. (University Communications)
  • John Meisel Gate presentation
    Professor John Meisel speaks after the unveiling of the John Meisel Gate, during a ceremony held Monday, April 15 in the Peter Lougheed Room of Richardson Hall. (University Communications)
  • John Meisel Gate presentation
    The newly-named John Meisel Gate is located between Dunning Hall and Richardson Hall. It is named after Professor John Meisel, who arrived at Queen's in 1949. (University Communications)
  • John Meisel Gate presentation
    Dean of Arts and Science Barbara Crow speaks about the influence and impact that Professor John Meisel had on Canadian politics throughout his multifaceted career. (University Communications)
  • John Meisel Gate presentation
    Principal and Vice-Chancellor Daniel Woolf displays the plaque that will be placed by the gate between Dunning and Richardson halls. (University Communications)

Every day, hundreds of Queen’s students, faculty, and staff pass through the black, wrought iron gate located between Dunning Hall and Richardson Hall.

Long a landmark of the university campus, the gate has never had a name – at least until now.

On Monday, April 15, Queen’s dedicated the gate to one of the university’s all-time great professors – John Meisel. During a ceremony at Richardson Hall Principal and Vice-Chancellor Daniel Woolf and Dean of Arts and Science Barbara Crow unveiled a plaque honouring Professor Emeritus Meisel, who first arrived at Queen’s in 1949 and would go on to become one of Canada’s most influential political scientists.

“The courtyard, bordered by Richardson, Dunning, and Mackintosh-Corry halls, has long been one of my favourite places on campus, and over the years the gate itself has acted as a symbolic entrance to the social sciences here at Queen’s,” Principal Woolf says. “I can’t think of a more suitable tribute to Professor Meisel than to name the gate in his honour for all he has done for Queen’s, the Faculty of Arts and Science, and the Department of Political Studies.”

A pioneer in research into political behaviour Professor Meisel also wrote widely on Canadian elections, political parties, Quebec politics, science policy, and cultural policy. He was the founding editor of two prestigious academic journals, the Canadian Journal of Political Science and the International Political Science Review. From 1980 to 1983 he was chair of the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) and later served as president of the Royal Society of Canada.

His contributions to Canada were recognized in 1989, when he was made an Officer of the Order of Canada, and again in 1999, when he was promoted to Companion, the highest grade in the Order.

In 2017, Professor Meisel was recognized by the Department of Political Studies with the establishment of the John Meisel Lecture Series. Each lecture addresses a timely political controversy and is followed by a town hall-style discussion that is open to both the Queen’s and Kingston community. 

To learn more about Professor Emeritus Meisel, watch this recent video interview.


Reconstructing the life of an object

Lorna Rowley speaks with Master of Conservation graduate students while Vanessa Nicholas examines a shawl from the collection through a microscope. Photo: Garrett Elliott
Lorna Rowley speaks with Master of Conservation graduate students while Vanessa Nicholas uses a microscope to examine a shawl from the Queen’s Collection of Canadian Dress. (Photo: Garrett Elliott)

Research on the provenance, style, and material of the oldest garment in Queen’s Collection of Canadian Dress – a Regency-style day dress once in Agnes Etherington’s possession – has taken Vanessa Nicholas (BFA’07) and Lorna Rowley, the 2019 Isabel Bader Fellow and Graduate Intern in Textile Conservation and Research, on a journey from the Cataraqui Cemetery to the colonial United States, and has piqued their interest in fashionable florals and silk worms.

The dress is one of four garments – along with another dress and two shawls – in the collection that are the focus of the 2019 fellowship project. Each of the garments has been subjected to historical and scientific analysis with the aim of determining their provenance and materials.

“These garments and accessories all pre-date Confederation, and our oldest case study is a silk day dress made in a style that dates to the early 19th century” says Nicholas, a PhD candidate in the Department of Visual Art and Art History at York University, who has an Master's of Arts from the Courtauld Institute of Art and a Bachelor of Fine Arts from Queen’s. “Curiously, the dress’s silk likely dates to the 1770s or 1780s, and we have synthesized genealogy, fashion history and lab results to reconstruct the life of this object.”

This research will be contextualized within environmental history, which studies the relations between human culture and the natural world.

In residence until the end of April at the Agnes Etherington Art Centre and the Master of Art Conservation Program at Queen’s, Nicholas and Rowley have been sharing their expertise with conservation students through workshops and discussions, as well as consulting with other conservators and professionals in the field about their research.

Rowley holds an MPhil in Textile Conservation from the Centre for Textile Conservation and Technical Art History, University of Glasgow, and a BA in the History of Art and Design from the National College of Art and Design, Dublin, with a specialty in embroidery.

The two will present an insider art talk to the public on their research into some of the oldest materials in the Queen's Collection of Canadian Dress as part of the INSIDE AGNES: Music and Art Series on Sunday April 14, 2-3:30 pm. Admission is free, and all are welcome.

The Isabel Bader Fellowship in Textile Conservation and Research is a four-month residency and research opportunity that promotes investigation in textile conservation and costume history. Through the generous support of Dr. Isabel Bader, the fellowship links two of Queen’s University’s  unique resources: the Queen’s University Collection of Canadian Dress at the Agnes, which comprises more than 2,000 articles of fashion from the late 1700s to the 1970s, and the Master of Art Conservation Program, which offers Canada’s only graduate degree in conservation theory and treatment.

For more information, contact Kate Yüksel, Communications Coordinator at 343-333-5478 or kate.yuksel@queensu.ca.

The Conversation: Remembering minorities amid Eastern Europe’s centenary celebrations

[Lithuania Celebration]
People gather in the streets in Vilnius, Lithuania to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the country’s statehood.

Over the past year, states across central and eastern Europe have been celebrating the 100th anniversary of the creation or re-creation of their countries.

Some will continue to do so through 2019 and 2020 as they mark 100 years since maps were redrawn and nation-state status was granted to groups that were formerly part of vast, diverse empires.

Amid the festivities and fanfare, let’s not forget to include minority views and voices in the dialogue. A centenary is an important moment for these states, no doubt. It is also important for citizens — including minority citizens, many of whom remember the events of 1918 to 1920 from a different perspective. What they tend to remember of those years are grievances, losses of status, forced migration and changed homelands.

Different memories

During my field work in the region, speaking with minority and majority groups, I learned that minority members tend have different interpretations and contrasting memories of the events of 1918-20, many of them painful. So they were not likely to participate in the centenary celebrations. More often, they were celebrating occasions of national and cultural significance to their particular group.

There are about 400 minority communities in Europe today, comprising more than 100 million people. “Minority” refers to groups that are distinct in ethnicity, culture and language from the group that is numerically dominant in the state. They are also in a politically non-dominant position within the state.

Some of these groups became minorities through displacement and forced migration amid the upheaval of war. Some became minorities through the arbitrary redrawing of lines on maps, meaning they suddenly found themselves living in another country as “accidental diasporas”. In other words, minorities can arise when people move across borders, or when borders are redrawn around people.


The First World War brought about the collapse of large multi-ethnic empires and the formation of several nation-states in their wake.

Recognition of these new states was based upon the famous, or perhaps infamous, idea of self-determination, promoted at the Paris Peace Conference and in post-war treaties. Recognition was also based on the principle of nationality, which advocated and justified the notion of states created of and for particular nations. The logic was: one ethno-cultural group per country, one nation per state. In reality, none of these states was entirely homogenous.

Stately celebrations

For Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland and Romania, the events of 1918-20 signify the recognition of statehood. The years 2018-2020, therefore, mark the centenary of this stately occasion. The governments of these countries have put a lot of time and resources into the celebrations.

There are countless special events and programming such as “100 Years” walking tours, speeches, concerts, flag and firework displays, museum exhibitions, patriotic parades, youth marches, military tributes and bonfires.

The national colours of each state are visible in public squares and streets, and at night they light up historic buildings and landmarks. National anthems are played, and national poetry and literature recited, as each nation-statehood is observed.

The Pope visited the three Baltic states in September 2018 in a gesture seen to acknowledge their struggle for independence. There have even been Twitter hashtags, 100 Year playlists on Spotify and restaurants serving centennial meal specials. It’s the spectacle of a national holiday but amped up several times.

[Map of Europe 1920]
Map of Europe, post First World War. (The European Institute, copyright 2009)

What about the minorities?

The fanfare is exciting for the dominant groups in these states. But what about the groups that are not dominant — the minorities? Where do they fit in all of this? Are they celebrating?

In Romania, members of the Hungarian minority view the 100th anniversary of Romania’s “Great Unification” as more of a division – as a historical tragedy rather than triumph. The 1.2 million Hungarians in Romania today are there mainly because lines on the map were redrawn.

In 1920, Hungary was carved up by the Treaty of Trianon, and some Hungarians suddenly found themselves living in the new state of Romania. The Hungarian minority now constitutes 6.5 per cent of the population of Romania, concentrated in the northwest in the region of Transylvania.

This community tends to celebrate Hungary’s annual National Day over Romanian national days, and to partake in Hungarian Cultural Days.

An anniversary that may resonate for Romania’s Hungarians in 2020 is the proposed and very political Trianon Memorial Year. Trianon resulted in Hungary losing two-thirds of its territory and population. Today, many Hungarians still view the Trianon “dismemberment” as a violation of Hungary’s sovereignty and national integrity.

It remains one of the most traumatic events in Hungarians' collective memories, and a recurring issue in Hungary’s domestic politics and regional relations.

[Signs of congratulations in Vilnius]
In a creative display outside a school in Vilnius, several countries express their congratulations and greetings to Lithuania on its 100th anniversary of statehood. Atkurtai Lietuvai means Restored Lithuania.

In Lithuania, members of the Polish minority associate the years 1918-20 more with the re-emergence of the Polish state than the restoration of the Lithuanian state. Poland experienced three territorial partitions, in 1772, 1793 and 1795, and effectively disappeared from the map until 1918.

Similar to Hungarians and Romanians, Poles and Lithuanians have had a long and contested relationship over borders, history and identity. The Polish minority constitutes 6.6 per cent of the population in Lithuania, concentrated in the southeast in the Vilnius region.

This community strongly celebrates the annual Polish Diaspora and Poles Abroad Day with a ceremonial march through the streets of Vilnius . Though the parade is a sea of red-and-white Polish flags, the red, yellow and green of the Lithuanian flag can be seen as well. There are celebrations on May 3, the day when the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth proclaimed a Constitution in 1791, and also Polish Culture Days in Vilnius.

The Russian-speaking minorities in the Baltic states haven’t had much of a presence at the centenary celebrations. These groups have different memories of the years following the First World War. Russia withdrew from the war in 1917 and then civil war broke out between the Bolsheviks and the White Guard.

Amid these grand celebrations in places like Bucharest, Riga, Tallinn, Vilnius and Warsaw, let’s look for whether and how minorities are celebrating. Their voices and perspectives are an important part of the story. Just as the armistice is commemorated differently in western Europe and eastern Europe, the years 1918-1920 mean different things to different national groups across the continent.

______________________________________________________The Conversation

Alexandra Liebich is a PhD candidate and teaching fellow in the Department of Political Studies at Queen's University.

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

The Conversation is seeking new academic contributors. Researchers wishing to write articles should contact Melinda Knox, Associate Director, Research Profile and Initiatives, at knoxm@queensu.ca.  


Professor Emeritus Tom Courchene finalist for book prize

Professor Emeritus Thomas Courchene’s (Economics, School of Policy Studies), recent book, Indigenous Nationals, Canadian Citizens: From First Contact to Canada 150 and Beyond, is a finalist for the 2018/19 Donner Prize.

The Institute of Intergovernmental Relations (IIGR) at Queen’s published the book as part of the McGill-Queen’s University Press Policy Studies Series. Dr. Courchene gave the IIGR’s 2018 Kenneth MacGregor lecture on the book.

The Donner Prize recognizes the best public policy book by a Canadian. The prize “encourages and celebrates excellence in public policy writing by Canadians and recognizes the role good public policy plays in the well-being of Canadians and this country’s success.”

The book and its outline are available on the MQUP website.

Dr. Courchene is also the inaugural winner of the Donner Prize, awarded for the first time in 1998, for his book From Heartland to North American Region State: The Social, Fiscal and Federal Evolution of Ontario, with Colin Telmer.

The winner will be announced May 1. More information is available at the Donner Prize website.

Rising waters

New research suggests that glaciers are disappearing and sea levels are rising.

Excluding the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets, the Canadian Arctic hosts the largest area of glaciers and ice caps in the world, covering an area of 145,000 square kilometres. (Photo: Laura Thomson)

As part of an international research collaboration, Queen’s University scientist and lead Canadian researcher Laura Thomson examined the contribution of Canadian glaciers and ice caps to global sea level rise. The research shows that, with the exception of the Greenland and Antarctica ice sheets, the Canadian Arctic has become the largest contributor to global sea level rise in recent years (2006-2016).

Taking into account statistical uncertainties, the findings suggest the mass loss of glaciers may be larger than previously reported.

Dr. Thomson, who leads the new Snow and Ice Research Laboratory in the Department of Geography and Planning, says the Canadian Arctic is currently responsible for 30 per cent of meltwater added to the oceans each year, which amounts to approximately a 1.1 millimetre sea level rise every five years.

Climate variables measured at weather stations are used to determine the key processes responsible for glacier response. (Photo: Laura Thomson)

“This study incorporates more than 50 years of observations by Canadian glaciologists, including federal scientists and university researchers who contribute their findings to the World Glacier Monitoring Service,” Dr. Thomson explains. “Since Canada hosts the largest area of glaciers outside of Greenland and Antarctica, a study like this requires collaboration and contributions from many researchers. In addition to collecting field-based observations, my contribution includes collecting and assimilating measurements from Canadian ice masses for the World Glacier Monitoring Service.”

University of Zurich Professor Michael Zemp, and colleagues including Dr. Thomson, used observational data collected from over 19,000 glaciers using two different methods to determine mass changes between 1961 and 2016. From this the research shows that glaciers contributed around 27 millimetres to global mean sea-level rise over this period.

“By combining field methods with satellite-based observations of glacier thinning, this study updates and improves upon previous estimates of glacier and ice cap contributions to sea level rise,” says Dr. Thomson. “This integrated approach also accounts for and corrects a previously existing bias associated with traditional field-based methods, allowing us to more accurately determine regional glacier losses from point measurements.”

The authors of the paper then calculated the mass-change rates for glaciers from 2006 to 2016 and found that during this decade alone they contributed nearly one millimetre each year to sea-level rise.

“Based on our findings, we suggest that glaciers could almost disappear in some mountain ranges by 2100 (including the Caucasus, Central Europe, Western Canada and the USA, and New Zealand),” Dr. Thomson says. “However, regions with many glaciers like the Canadian Arctic will continue to contribute to sea-level rise beyond this century.”

The new research was recently published in Nature.

The Conversation: Perverse passions that will not die

[Bela Lugosi as Dracula]
Bela Lugosi’s portrayal of Dracula in Tod Browning’s 1931 horror film is influenced by John Polidori’s tale of terror, ‘The Vampyre,’ first published — suggestively — on April Fools’ Day 1819. Universal Pictures

Vampires have stalked humans for thousands of years, but it was just 200 years ago that a young English doctor named John Polidori introduced the modern version of the ancient demon.

Although far less well-known than Bram Stoker’s Dracula, Polidori’s The Vampyre was first published — suggestively — on April Fools’ Day 1819. This brief tale of terror set the pattern for all future representations of the vampire, including Stoker’s, and it launched a vampire craze that after two centuries still retains its ability to grab us by the throat.

It is hard to imagine, but The Vampyre as well as Frankenstein, two of Western literature’s most enduring myths, were the results of the same ghost story writing contest.

Vampires today inhabit a wide realm of the popular imagination in everything from novels, films and television shows to cartoons, video games, comic books and advertisements. They are also a powerful metaphor for conceiving and representing all manner of cultural practices and social problems, from the spread of sexually transmitted disease, through the mental and bodily pains of drug addiction, to the many ways in which technology and social media penetrate our daily lives.

The writing contest

Handsome, arrogant, and hot-tempered, Polidori was educated at a Catholic boarding school and then at the University of Edinburgh, where in 1815 he received his medical degree at the age of just 19. Less than a year later, the course of his life changed dramatically when Lord Byron, the most famous literary man of the day, hired him as his travelling companion and personal physician.

Quick to see the commercial potential of the arrangement, Byron’s publisher, John Murray, commissioned Polidori to keep a diary of his time with the notorious poet, whose passionate interest in young men and scandalous love affair with his half-sister Augusta had hastened his departure from England.

Polidori immediately saw the predatory side of Byron’s personality.

“As soon as he reached his room,” Polidori wrote from Belgium in April 1816, “Lord Byron fell like a thunderbolt upon the chambermaid.”

Shortly thereafter, Byron and Polidori took up residence at the Villa Diodati on Lake Geneva. Polidori saw himself as a rival to Byron and relations between them soon deteriorated.

“What is there excepting writing poetry that I cannot do better than you?” Polidori demanded.

“First,” Byron snapped in reply, “I can hit with a pistol the keyhole of that door – Secondly, I can swim across that river to yonder point – and thirdly, I can give you a damned good thrashing.”

The aristocrat and his doctor were soon joined by a like-minded trio of literary and sexual renegades: the radical poet and free-love advocate Percy Bysshe Shelley, his 18-year-old lover Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin, and Mary’s stepsister Claire Clairmont, also 18 and Byron’s most recent amour. It was an extraordinary meeting of minds and bodies.

Bad weather kept the group indoors, and in mid-June Byron challenged each of them to write a ghost story. Claire defaulted. Shelley may have produced a brief verse fragment as his contribution to the competition. Byron started but did not complete the short tale of terror now known as Augustus Darvell.

The winners are…

Godwin (the future Mary Shelley) and Polidori each produced a finished and immensely influential work. She created Frankenstein. He composed The Vampyre.

These spectacular results make the competition the most famous in all of English literary history. It is a striking thought that the same writing contest gave us both Frankenstein and The Vampyre, the two most enduring myths of the modern world.

Before Polidori, vampires were very different creatures. Shaggy, fetid and bestial, they preyed on family members, neighbours or livestock in nocturnal raids that in many accounts approached both the risible and the revolting. Polidori changed all that.

His vampire was highly resourceful and haunted, not the village or the district, but the drawing rooms of polite society and the pleasure dens of international travellers. What is more, instead of the peasant-turned-ghoul of ancient folklore, Polidori elevated the vampire to the ranks of the aristocracy, where as a hypnotically handsome predator he seduced beautiful young women and sucked their life away.

Polidori’s tale centres on fatal vows, paralysis, isolation, betrayal and the return of the dead. He clearly models his vampire, Lord Ruthven, on Lord Byron, for the two have in common good looks, callousness, high rank, mobility, wealth and keen sexual appetites. Aubrey is Ruthven’s friend and travelling partner, and his relationship with Ruthven is usually read as Polidori’s own complex fascination with Byron — a fascination that both attracts and appalls him.

In the tale, Ruthven sucks strength from Aubrey as their relationship declines, but he takes a much more deadly interest in Aubrey’s unnamed sister and Aubrey’s close friend, Ianthe, both of whom he dispatches with his insatiable fangs:

“Upon her neck and breast was blood, and upon her throat were the marks of teeth having opened the vein: – to this the men pointed, crying, simultaneously struck with horror, ‘a Vampyre, a Vampyre!’”

A scene from the 1922 silent horror classic, ‘Nosferatu,’ influenced by Bram Stoker’s ‘Dracula.’

A 200-year-long fascination

There have been many more sophisticated and explicit renderings of vampiric lore in the two centuries since Polidori’s tale first appeared. Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu popularized the female vampire in his tale of terror Carmilla (1872), Stoker took the lordly fiend to new heights in Dracula (1897) and over the course of the last 100 years novelists, poets, playwrights, artists, movie makers and screenwriters have returned obsessively to vampires.

Polidori’s tale touched off this fascination. Two centuries ago he corrected the drastic deficiencies of the folklore and reimagined the vampire as a suave, mysterious, sexually dynamic elite who defies time and place, who consumes ravenously and without guilt, and who represents perverse passions that will not die.

But the spread of vampirism does not end there. Vampires terrify us now because, in the hands of the countless writers and artists who have drawn their creative lifeblood from Polidori’s reincarnation, they serve as potent and protean representations of whatever we most fear about foreignness, sexuality, selfhood, disease, the afterlife, history and much else. They represent our undying urge for gratification. They embody the monstrous return of what we bury both in ourselves and in our collective past.The Conversation


Robert Morrison is a professor of English Language and Literature at Queen's University. 

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

The Conversation is seeking new academic contributors. Researchers wishing to write articles should contact Melinda Knox, Associate Director, Research Profile and Initiatives, at knoxm@queensu.ca.  


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