Krusekopf: The view from Innsbruck

RRU Faculty member Charles Krusekopf celebrated 20 years of Canadian Studies at the University of Innsbruck, Austria with Stephane Dion, Canada's Ambassador to Germany and Special Envoy to the EU.

I (School of Business Faculty member Charles Krusekopf, immigrant to Canada) had the honour of spending a recent morning in Innsbruck, Austria with Stephane Dion, Canada's former Foreign Minister and current Ambassador to Germany and Special Envoy to the EU. Below I give an overview of his message, but first some background. I am in Innsbruck from Sep. 2017-July 2018 serving as a visiting professor at Management Center Innsbruck, with whom we offer a dual degree with the RRU MGM program and have student exchanges in Tourism and Hospitality. I am also assisting Royal Roads to locate new European partners and students, and recently attended the Canadian Education Fair in the UK as Royal Roads representative. If you have contacts or ideas you want me to explore while I am in Europe, please contact me via my RRU email. Everything here is a short train or plane ride away. Now back to Ambassador Dion…

Ambassador Dion was visiting Innsbruck to attend a special conference marking the 20th anniversary of the Canadian Studies Centre at the University of Innsbruck, one of 15 Canadian Studies Centres in German-speaking countries, including three in Austria. Who knew we were so popular in deutschsprachigen Ländern?

The conference highlighted many proud aspects of Canadian culture, including our leadership in international humanitarian affairs, the rich literature of Quebec, our scientific research work and the important ties between Canada and Europe. The aspect of Canada, however, that Stephane Dion highlighted in his remarks and in later conversations was Canada's modeling of how a multi-cultural society can develop and thrive in the 21st century. Ambassador Dion highlighted how immigration is the number one topic Europeans from all countries want to discuss, wanting to understand how Canada can maintain a successful immigration and refugee program as other nations, in both North America and Europe, retreat and seek to build border walls.

Read a recent speech Ambassador Dion gave at a conference in Brussels on the Canadian experience with immigration, titled "Diversity is a Fact; Inclusion is a Choice". He highlighted several of the messages in his Innsbruck talk. The topic of immigration is of great interest to me, as I am conducting research work here on how European countries are incorporating international students who attend university into their labour force. This is now the primary pathway to immigration in Canada, and has led to a rise in international students attending Canadian universities, as we have experiended at Royal Roads University. However it means we also take on a role as an immigration service provider and labour market entry point, thus I want to learn more about how European (esp. German) universities are working with companies, governments and students to build pathways into the labour force for international students.

In the speech, Ambassador Dion stresses that Canada has a very different context than other nations, especially those in Europe, when it comes to immigration. Due to geography Canada controls its borders and thus ensures that immigration and refugee settlement occurs in an orderly and controlled fashion. It is the feeling of disorder and lack of control that has many European countries wanting to impose new restrictions on immigration, especially from the south. Canada has a long and sustained history of immigration and a well-developed system for screening and settlement. Most European countries had more out migration than immigration until recent years, and Ambassador Dion highlighted that there is not a system in place for people to apply for immigration to most European countries from abroad - part of the reason migrants flooded to Europe in 2015-16 and continue to do so, as it is the only way to get into the EU to seek work.

Ambassador Dion mentioned that in Germany he often hears about the difficulties of absorbing 800,000 immigrants in just over a year, which is the number of people who came to Germany during the 2015-16 immigration "crisis". However he pointed out that the 300,000 immigrants and refugees that Canada accepts each year are comparable on a per-capita basis to 800,000 immigrants in Germany, per year. And Canada has sustained these immigration levels for over 100 years, which is why more than 20% of Canadians were born outside Canada, including almost half the people in Vancouver and more than half the people living in Toronto. He stressed that it is possible, if there are policies and social will, to support the inclusion of newcomers in a country.

Ambassador Dion emphasized that the real lesson from Canada is the importance of offering a relatively fast and easy path to citizenship for immigrants. Other countries, including most in Europe such as Germany, make obtaining citizenship difficult, and place road blocks such as the non-recognition of dual citizenship. As he stresses in his speech, citizenship is the glue that ties immigrants to their new home, giving them the long-term certainty they need to engage socially, economically and politically. Canada supports multi-culturalism within the context of citizenship, a trait that sets it apart and makes it an example for other nations. While Canada is not perfect, I believe it is worth reading his speech and thinking about the Canadian example, especially at this moment in time. (It also made me wonder what might happen in the US, my country of birth, if all the foreign citizens there had legal status and could vote… would millions of new citizens be able to shift attitudes and policies? And is this why Canadian politics are so different from those in the USA - we have a higher share of immigrants, and those immigrants can vote.)

Finally, in my discussions with Ambassador Dion I had the opportunity to ask a question raised by my RRU MBA students in a recent course on global issues – what lessons does Canada have for the EU, Spain and Catalonia given our experience with the 1995 independence referendum in Quebec. Ambassador Dion was a key participant in the development of the Clarity Act, passed by parliament in 2000, which defines the conditions under which the Government of Canada might enter negotiations with a province that wishes to secede from Canada. If you are unfamiliar with the Clarity Act (as I was) please look it up. For Catalonia, former political science professor Dion highlighted that only two countries in the Western world, Canada and the UK, have a constitution that allows territorial parts of the nation the right to secede under certain circumstances. The constitutions of all other nations, including Spain, define that the whole territory of the nation belongs to all people of the nation, thus no subset of people or land area can break away without a change to the national constitution. This would be a necessary first step in Spain he explained, offering some clarity on the situation to me. However given Brexit and concerns in Scotland and Northern Ireland, the fact that the UK can break up raised new questions.

For another day. Such is the state of Europe in December 2017. Happy to discuss these or other ideas of issues from my post in snowy Innsbruck, where the holiday markets are open and the Glühwein is flowing… Fröhliche Weihnachten!