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Canada, Humanitarian Intervention,

and “the Responsibility to Protect”

A symposium organized and hosted by

the Canadian Studies Program,

UC Berkeley

co-sponsored by the Human Rights Center, UC Berkeley

with the support of the Government of Canada


Friday, November 13, 2009

Ida Sproul Room, International House

2299 Piedmont Avenue, UC Berkeley campus

Registration required


Rapporteur's summary

About participants


This symposium will explore the problem of how to protect human rights in the international community from a Canadian perspective, reflecting the influential role of Canada and Canadians in Western responses to mass atrocity crimes since the end of the Cold War.

The common 19th-century approach of "humanitarian intervention" re-emerged in the 1990s, but its legitimacy and practical ethics are controversial. As UN peacekeepers, Canadian troops witnessed mass atrocities in Bosnia; they helped to end them in Kosovo, as part of NATO intervention. Yet Canadian academics, practitioners and politicians are among the skeptics of armed humanitarian interventions. 

The most significant new approach is the doctrine of "the Responsibility to Protect" [R2P], first proposed in the 2001 report of the Canadian-established independent International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty, and subsequently officially endorsed by the UN General Assembly and Security Council and the European Union, and praised by French President Sarkozy and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon. The Toronto Globe and Mail declared "the Canadian-sponsored concept of 'responsibility to protect' […] the most significant adjustment to national sovereignty in 360 years."  However, progress in “operationalizing” R2P has been slow and it, too, is controversial.

This symposium will locate R2P and humanitarian intervention in the broader context of post-Cold War humanitarian crises and attempts at UN reform. It will explore the ways in which R2P reflects recent Canadian history and Canadian attitudes, and the extent to which these are strengths and weaknesses, before looking to the future, from both a Canadian and an international perspective.

Special thanks to Canadian Studies Visiting Scholar David Trim, who suggested this topic and has taken the lead in its organization.

We must include a sad note here. Tom Barnes, one of the program’s Co-Directors, was in fine form throughout the day and at the dinner that evening.  To our great distress this conference turned out to be his last official event for the Canadian Studies Program, which he helped to found in 1982.  After periods of illness over several months Tom died on March 10, 2010. Our Program remains a monument to his efforts to further the study of Canada at Berkeley and throughout North America. He was particularly pleased with the content and contributions of the R2P conference, and was looking forward to the journal publication.


9.00-9.30         Registration, coffee

9.30-10.30       Chair: Thomas G. Barnes (University of California, Berkeley)
David J. B. Trim (Pacific Union College/University of California, Berkeley): Canada, the international community and the origins of "Responsibility to Protect"

10.30 -10.45   Coffee

10.45-12.00     Chair: Roxana Altholz (University of California, Berkeley)
Michael A. Rostek (Royal Military College of Canada): The Canadian Forces in the 1990s: the foundation of a force for good?
Robert Nalbandov (Macalester College): Somalia: when force fails

12.00-12.45     Lunch

12.45-2.15      Chair: Harry Kreisler (University of California, Berkeley)
Neil MacFarlane (University of Oxford): Canada and human security from Chrétien to Harper (Note: Professor MacFarlane is unable to join us in person for the conferenece but will participate from afar.)
Jeremy Kinsman: (University of California, Berkeley) Stemming the depletion of Canada's political capital: the need to return to multilateralism

2.15-2.30         Coffee 

2.30-4.00        Chair: Camille Crittenden (University of California, Berkeley)
Fergus Watt (World Federalist Movement–Canada): Doing good and doing well: Canada and the Responsibility to Protect—a civil society perspective
Phuong Pham (University of California, Berkeley) The failure to protect: fear and exposure to violence in eastern Congo and northern Uganda

4.00-4:40         Wine and cheese reception

 4.45-5.30        Chair: Nelson Graburn (University of California, Berkeley)
Keynote address: Lloyd Axworthy (University of Winnipeg): R2P—an idea whose time has come

5.30-6.00         Chair: David Trim (Pacific Union College/University of California, Berkeley)
Plenary discussion


About participants

  1. Thomas G. Barnes was Professor Emeritus of History and Law, and Co-Director of the Canadian Studies Program, at the University of California, Berkeley. We are sorry to say that Tom died in March 2010. Please see the Canadian Studies website for details and tributes, at
  2. David J. B. Trim is Walter C. Utt Chair of History at Pacific Union College, and Visiting Scholar, Canadian Studies Program, University of California, Berkeley
  3. Roxana Altholz is Associate Director of the International Human Rights Law Clinic at Boalt Hall Law School, University of California, Berkeley
  4. Lt. Col. Michael A. Rostek is a PhD candidate at the Royal Military College of Canada and a staff officer with the Canadian Army
  5. Robert Nalbandov is Visiting Assistant Professor in International Studies at Macalaster College
  6. Harry Kreisler is Executive Director of the Institute of International Studies at the University of California, Berkeley
  7. Neil MacFarlane is Lester B. Pearson Chair of International Relations and head of the Department of Politics and International Relations at the University of Oxford
  8. Jeremy Kinsman served as Canada's Ambassador or High Commissioner to fifteen countries, including Russia, Great Britain, and the European Union; he is currently Regents’ Lecturer at the University of California, Berkeley
  9. Camille Crittenden is Executive Director of the Human Rights Center at the University of California, Berkeley
  10. Fergus Watt is Executive Director of the World Federalist Movement––Canada
  11. Phuong Pham is Director of Research at the Human Rights Center at the University of California, Berkeley, and Adjunct Associate Professor at Tulane University's Payson Center for International Development
  12. Nelson Graburn is Professor of the Graduate Program in Anthropology, Curator of North American Ethnology at the Hearst Museum of Anthropology, and Thomas Garden Barnes Chair of Canadian Studies, at the University of California, Berkeley
  13. The Honourable Lloyd Axworthy (Keynote speaker) is President and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Winnipeg; he was formerly (1995–2000) Canada’s Foreign Minister


This is a free event open to all, but advance registration is required. If you would like to attend RSVP to Rita Ross at (510) 642-0531 or, ASAP but no later than Friday, November 6th.


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Last updated 04/2710:rr