About the Lecture:
Canada as safe haven? Two generations of US war resisters cross the border into shifting political landscapes
Alison Mountz, Canada Research Chair in Global Migration, Wilfrid Laurier University
This talk dwells in the borderland between Canada and the United States, drawing on research with two generations of US war resister migrants who came to Canada in search of safe haven during US-led wars in Vietnam and Iraq. The juxtaposition of oral histories with both generations complicates understandings of Canada’s role as a safe haven. There are parallels in the journeys of the two generations, places where these intimate geopolitical histories resonate and even intersect, and important moments where their stories part ways. The talk includes clips from a new feature-length documentary film, a collaboration that emerged from the SSHRC-funded research and features participants as subjects from both generations. The powerful stories in Safe Haven show the reality and the myth of Canada as a welcoming country to those seeking protection. The film delves into the life worlds and decision-making of people deciding to leave home and military service, reflecting on these decisions at different stages of the life course. People who found safe haven, and who were forced home discuss their lives on both sides of the border. As conscription and enlistment are experienced from one generation to the next, militarism emerges as a haunting form of violence that travels across generations, through families, and across the border, staying with resisters throughout the life course.
About the Speaker:
Alison Mountz s a geography professor and Canada Research Chair in Global Migration at the Balsillie School of International Affairs at Wilfrid Laurier University. Her work explores how people cross borders and access migration and asylum policies. Her recent scholarship addresses detention and asylum-seeking on islands and US war resister migration histories in Canada. She is currently running two research projects about the search for political asylum in Canada. Both ask what kind of safe haven Canada has been in the past, and what kind of safe haven Canada is today, in the present, and for whom.
Before moving to Laurier, Alison worked at Syracuse University for eight years and also spent two years at Harvard University’s Canada Program, most recently as the Mackenzie King Visiting Professor of Canadian Studies. Alison’s first monograph, Seeking Asylum: Human Smuggling and Bureaucracy at the Border (Minnesota), was awarded the Meridian Book Prize from the Association of American Geographers. Last year she published Boats, Borders, and Bases: Race, the Cold War, and the Rise of Migration Detention in the United States (with Jenna Loyd); this is a history of the US detention system, the largest in the world. In 2020 her new book, The death of asylum: hidden geographies of the enforcement archipelago, will be published (Minnesota). Mountz directs Laurier’s International Migration Research Centre, edits the journal Politics & Space, and is a member of the College of the Royal Society of Canada.
Her work explores the tension between the decisions, displacements, and desires that drive migration and the policies and practices designed to regulate migration. She is the Director of Laurier’s International Migration Research Centre and editor of a journal called Environment & Planning C: Politics & Space.
The Borders + Migration Public Lecture, an annual lecture series facilitated by Professor William Walters, FPA Research Excellence Chair (2019-2022).