J.W. Dafoe Political Studies Students’ Conference
UM's J.W. Dafoe Political Studies Students’ Conference (PSSC) is the leading Manitoba-based forum on international affairs, defence and security which regularly leaves marks not only in Canadian strategic thinking but more broadly on the continent.
Free and open to the public, this annual conference features distinguished Canadian and international speakers exploring issues in international affairs and their implications for Canada. The conference aims to challenge conventional wisdom in the field and present policymakers with alternatives for the future.
2024 Conference (39th annual)
January 31 and February 1, 2024
Alliances in a New Age: Celebrating 75 Years of NATO
All events are FREE and open to the public. We ask that you reserve your free ticket using the registration links below.
View and print the 2024 conference poster (PDF)
Thursday, January 31
6:30 p.m. - 8:00 p.m.
The Paul Buteux Lecture
Mr. Robert Bains
Location: Robert B. Schultz Lecture Theatre, Fort Garry Campus, University of Manitoba
Friday, February 1
Location: Great Hall, Room 218 University College, University of Manitoba
10:00 a.m. - 11:15 a.m. - NATO of the Past panel
1:00 p.m. - 2:15 p.m. - NATO of the Present panel
2:30 p.m. - 3:45 p.m. - NATO of the Future panel
More about Mr. Robert Baines
Check back for more info.
Past conference themes have included:
2023: The Arctic is Hot
2022: International humanitarian law: Past trends, current reflections and the future (held online)
2021: The legacy of 911 and the defence of North America (held online)
2020: Manitoba at 150: Past, present, and future
2019: WWI and Versailles 1919: The making of the modern world (dis) order
2018: Terrorism and beyond: Defence and security in an new age
2017: Canada at 150: Canada in the world
2016: Elections: Democratic tools or democracy denied?
2015: he legacy of great wars: Marking history and humanity
2014: Canada and the Arctic: Challenges and opportunities
2012: 20 years of western military intervention: Protecting whose rights?
2010: Manitoba as an international actor
2007: Aerospace power and counter insurgency
2006: The state of the state: New challenges in the 21st century
2004: Transformation of war in the 21st century
2003: Geopolitical perspectives on world politics
2002: Globalism and regionalism the evolving international system
2001: Canada's security and defence policy: Continentalism and internationalism
2000: Canada's external relations into the 21st century
1999: The next frontier: Civilian and military implications of space
1998: Conflict in a New World: Is war obsolete?
1996: International intervention: A challenge to world order?
1995: Order and disorder: Domestic sources of regional instability
1993: Canada and the new Europe
1992: Canada, the United States, and new challenges to security
1991: In defence of Canada: Constitutional, economic and security dimensions
1990: The end of the cold war? Prospects for East-West security in the 1990s
1990: The end of the cold war?
Coordinated by students in the Department of Political Studies and aided by the Centre for Defence and Security Studies and faculty members, the Conference’s mandate is to explore issues of current relevance in international affairs by inviting speakers from the academic, diplomatic, and government communities to present their views in a variety of academic panels. Every year the conference is eagerly anticipated by students, faculty and the general public wishing to seize the opportunity to interact with leading thinkers and officials in an intimate, collegial setting.
History of the PSSC
Under the stewarship of Dr. Paul Buteux, Professor of political studies and founder and first director of the Center for Defence and Security Studies (CDSS), the Political Studies Students’ Conference (PSSC) was founded in 1985. Buteux's genuine commitment to the Conference had remained a key driver of the organizational efforts for the event in the following years.
In 1983 Rahul Aggarwall, an energetic University of Manitoba student with an interest in arms control and disarmament, came up with a concept of hosting a conference that would unite students, academics, and professionals from across Canada and eventually the world. Mr. Aggarwall brought together fellow students John Skynner, Jeff Brown, and Aaron Hywarren and under the stewardship of Dr. Paul Buteux, Professor of Political Studies and former Director of the Centre for Defence and Security Studies at the University of Manitoba, became the core group who put together the first annual Political Studies Students’ Conference. Soon after the first conference in 1985, Mr. Aggarwall decided to travel back to his home country of India and was regrettably killed in the bombing of Air India’s flight 182. The devastating terrorist attack and the loss of a close friend motivated Jeff Brown and Aaron Hywarren to keep Mr. Aggarwall’s dream and vision of a student conference alive. These two students would Chair the second annual student conference. During its third year the conference’s name started to become well known and it was no longer a conference strictly targeting International Relations students. Students became involved in the conference who were studying political administration and theory along with many other students not enrolled in the Political Studies Department. The third conference would eventually be the staple that solidified and stabilized many conferences to come.
After the arrival of Dr. James Fergusson in the Department of Political Studies in 1988, the CDSS became a regional hub in strategic research and a well-known, student-oriented think tank. Ever since, there has been a true synergy between the political studies students’ broader activities and the Centre’s research process.
The PSSC has invited numerous distinguished guests to present their views on a wide range of issues. Conference participants have included speakers from Canadian universities, as well as the London School of Economics, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the University of Leningrad (St. Petersburg), the Royal Military College, and officials from the United Nations, North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), RAND Corporation, Department of National Defence (DND), and the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade (DFAIT). Keynote speakers have included Romeo Dallaire, Commander of UN Peacekeeping Forces in Rwanda and Chief of Staff of the Canadian Forces; Susan Strange, prolific academic writer on globalization and international political economy; the Honourable Lloyd Axworthy, Minister of Foreign Affairs; and David Bercuson, historian and Globe and Mail columnist, just to name a few. Student "visitors" from the United States Military Academy (West Point), the U.S. Air Force Academy (Colorado Springs), the University of Moscow, Bulgaria, and Singapore have also had the opportunity to take part in the three-day Conference.
Although the range of topics has been diverse, the theme of each student conference has always centered on issues in international affairs and it's implications for Canada. Topics explore the economics, social, cultural, and political implications of the changes taking place in the world. The aim of the conference is to challenge conventional wisdom in the field and present policymakers with alternatives for the future.
Though remaining a distinct student initiative over the decades, PSSC has greatly benefited from the mutually reinforcing relationship between the students and the CDSS. Fully supported by the Centre’s director and lead staff, student enthusiasts who are involved in the preparatory work for each annual PSSC find a rewarding experience and great satisfaction in their overall engagement.
As a result, PSSC has gradually evolved into a nationally recognized forum on politics, defence and security with expanded international participation each successive year. It is now a long and prolific tradition that the graduate students in political studies, with the generous help of professors and undergraduate colleagues, are determined to keep alive and promote to new heights.