Trump-Trudeau tiff is the latest in a history of President-PM disputes

Written by Ron Stagg, Ryerson University. Photo credit The Canadian Press/Justin Tang. Originally published in The Conversation.

Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau meets with U.S. President Donald Trump at the G7 leaders summit on June 8, 2018. Trump sent angry tweets about his Canadian host shortly after the summit ended.

Canadians were puzzled by Donald Trump’s suggestion that national security concerns required tariffs on Canadian steel and aluminum — and then stunned even more by the U.S. president’s personal attacks on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in the aftermath of the G7 summit.

What perhaps was more bewildering was Trump’s threat to punish Canada for Trudeau’s rather mild rebuke about the tariffs. Even some Americans were so shocked that they leapt to the defence of Canada.

The short-term effect of this one-sided confrontation is causing a drop in value of the Canadian dollar, and calling into question the success of NAFTA talks with a belligerent U.S. administration.

While this very public spat is perhaps the most publicized disagreement between an American president and a Canadian prime minister, there have been notable confrontations in the past.

JFK and Dief disliked each other

In the modern era, perhaps the spat that came closest in tone to the current one was between John F. Kennedy and John Diefenbaker, only in that case both sides were confrontational.

The reasons for the animosity were numerous. Diefenbaker, from an earlier generation, came from a modest background. He saw Kennedy as a spoiled rich kid. Kennedy felt that Diefenbaker, who spoke in language suited to the 19th century and tended to lecture, boring and pedantic.

The Canadian was an anglophile who regarded the United States as a brash upstart which was a danger to the Canadian economy. The late 1950s saw a surge in American investment in Canadian natural resources. The Kennedy administration wanted Canada to cut ties with post-revolutionary Cuba, which it had refused to do, and to accept nuclear weapons under American control, stationed on Canadian soil.

Kennedy visited Ottawa in 1961, hoping to pressure Ottawa on these and other issues. He pronounced Diefenbaker’s name incorrectly, which offended the thin-skinned prime minister, and accidentally left behind a memo listing ways the Canadians could be “pushed” to accept the American position.

When the memo was found, this only confirmed Diefenbaker’s worst ideas about the Americans. Reportedly, Kennedy had scrawled “SOB” in the margin, no doubt in frustration. Kennedy’s description of Diefenbaker to his confidants was, as they say, not suitable for a family newspaper.

Another irritant for Diefenbaker was Kennedy’s friendly relationship with Diefenbaker’s opponent, the Liberal leader Lester Pearson. The Liberals had changed their position to one of accepting nuclear weapons. They got along so well that the Kennedy administration assisted the Liberals to defeat Diefenbaker in 1963 by sending Kennedy’s personal pollster, an early expert in the field, to assess what the public wanted.

Did LJB grab Pearson by the lapels?

However, Pearson had a falling out with Kennedy’s successor, Lyndon Johnson. Though Pearson’s government sold war materials to the United States, its position was that the United States should withdraw from Vietnam.

Prime Minister Lester B. Pearson and President Lyndon B. Johnson talk with the media at Camp David in 1965. The day before this picture was taken, Pearson had delivered a speech that questioned the U.S. role in Vietnam. Photo credit the Associated Press.

The Canadian government did not heavily emphasize this position, because it didn’t want to create a rift with its ally, but in 1965 Pearson gave a speech at Temple University in Pennsylvania in which he suggested it would be best if the United States withdrew. Johnson requested that Pearson come to see him and then tore into Pearson.

Accounts of the meeting vary, in terms of whether Johnson grabbed Pearson by the lapels or not, but he definitely said something like, “don’t come into my room and piss on my rug.”

Pierre Trudeau angered Nixon, Reagan

Pierre Trudeau was the prime minister who incurred the anger of two presidents.

In his youth, Trudeau had visited China in the 1950s, when it was unusual for foreigners to go to the newly communist country, and as prime minister he had a friendly relationship with Cuban leader Fidel Castro, arch-nemesis of American conservatives. Trudeau was regarded by these conservatives — and even some who were not conservative — as a leader who was, at best, soft on communism and, at worst, a fellow traveller.

Richard Nixon, who had been a supporter of U.S. Senator Joseph McCarthy during the latter’s anti-communist crusade of the 1940s and ‘50s, looked on the flashy and long-haired Trudeau with suspicion. It didn’t help that Trudeau gave a speech in the early months of the Nixon administration, claiming the anti-ballistic missile system the United States was developing would threaten world peace.

Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau introduces President Richard Nixon to members of the welcoming line at Ottawa airport on the U.S. president’s 1972 trip to the Canadian capital. Photo credit CP PHOTO/Peter Bregg.

While generally not paying a lot of attention to Canadian-American relations, Nixon was angered when the Trudeau government introduced a motion in Parliament condemning the 1972 renewed bombing of North Vietnam. Nixon continued to have a personal dislike for Trudeau (whom he privately referred to as “that asshole”), but subsequent economic threats by the United States were worked out amicably.

After good relations during the Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter years, another strong anti-communist, Ronald Reagan, took office. Ever the gentleman, Reagan did not engage in public criticism of Trudeau.

Reagan opposed Canada’s NEP

This situation was helped by the fact that Reagan generally did not engage in the development of policy, which could lead to conflicts. However, he listened to those who did and this led to a confrontation over Canada’s National Energy Policy (NEP), introduced shortly before Reagan took office.

Designed to decrease the revenue of (largely American) oil firms and to subsidize exploration by Canadian firms, leading to the Canadianization of the oil industry, the NEP caused an immediate backlash from American firms, which began to withdraw exploration equipment from Canada.

Reagan showed little frustration in public, but confided his feelings to his diary. Combined with the Foreign Investment Review Agency, which screened major purchases of Canadian firms by foreign buyers, the NEP represented to the Reagan administration an anti-American shift in Canadian policy. Relations remained strained until Trudeau left office in 1984.

What distinguishes all of these hostile disagreements from the current one is the very public nature of the disagreement, and the public threat to punish Canada for its prime minister’s rebuke of the American president.

The question is, will this rift prove as transitory as previous ones or will it lead to a prolonged period of political or economic instability in Canadian-American relations?

Gender parity and queer awareness needed in mathematics

Written by Anthony Bonato, Ryerson University. Photo credit Twentieth Century Fox. Originally published in The Conversation.

Hidden Figures, the movie, showcased the importance of Black women in mathematics.

Equity, diversity and inclusion — EDI — is a trending concept these days. Many institutions now have policies, initiatives and even vice-presidents devoted to EDI — including my own institution, Ryerson University. There is much discussion about how EDI affects productivity and innovation.

Recently, EDI in mathematics was brought to the public discourse. Last month I sat on a panel for EDI in Mathematics at the Fields Institute for Research in Mathematical Sciences. Also, Ryerson Science and the Canadian Science Policy Centre recently released the report: Forging Paths to Enhanced Innovation which I highly recommend you read.

We, unfortunately, have an EDI crisis within mathematics. For example, the average Canadian mathematics department has on average fewer than one-fifth female professors. There are only a handful of gay, bisexual or lesbian mathematics professors in Canada that I know. My own department has only three women faculty out of 21 tenured or tenure-track professors: Our percentage of women math faculty members is only 14 per cent.

A visualization created by the 10 and 3 on mathematics departments in Canada’s universities (2015). Image credit

I’m a gay mathematician. I’ve faced challenges in my journey to full professor of mathematics and I talk about these challenges when I can. I am hoping to inspire others to do the same.

Up until now, I’ve found the silence on EDI in mathematics, especially on lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans issues, deafening. I had no role models or advocates as I progressed in my academic career. No one talked about EDI in mathematics departments and few professors or students were public about their identities. There are, however, a few vocal advocates for EDI right now, like Dean Imogen Coe at Ryerson. That makes me think we are on the right track.

The landscape in context

To better understand why there are so few LGBTQI2S voices in mathematics, I gathered together some statistics that might shed light. First, to make a broader point, I start with some shocking statistics related to gay youth.

According to Egale, a LGBTQI2S advocacy non-profit, about one-third of LGBTQI2S teens have attempted suicide, compared to seven per cent of youth in the general population. About half of LGBTQI2S teens have considered suicide, and 19 per cent of trans youth had attempted suicide in the previous year. Almost 70 per cent of trans youth reported verbal harassment over their gender identity, and about half of LGBTQI2S teens were harassed over their sexual orientation. One in five LGBTQI2S adolescents were physically assaulted.

Out of 195 countries in the world, homosexuality is criminalized in 72 of them. That’s 38 per cent. Same-sex marriage is a good indicator of a positive environment for LGBTQI2S folks, but only 23 countries (that’s seven per cent) have legalized same-sex marriage. We are all waiting to see the results of the Australian same-sex marriage referendum this week.

One of my undergraduate professors said that mathematics is a byproduct of luxury in a society. People will not do mathematics if they are struggling with other more basic issues like personal safety or acceptance.

It’s tough to encourage youth to study calculus when they are getting beat up for being who they really are. When your government criminalizes your identity, it makes it that much harder to think about number theory.

There are no surveys that I am aware of specifically regarding LGBTQI2S folk in mathematics. None, and it’s 2017. There is only one relevant survey: Queer in STEM, which was a U.S. national survey, published last year in the Journal of Homosexuality and written about last year in Wired magazine.

The survey had 1,400 responses to a 58-page questionnaire and we may glean some interesting things from it. A majority of participants (57 per cent) were out to their colleagues, which is slightly higher than the U.S. workforce at 47 per cent. That’s positive news.

Also, when there was better gender parity in an academic department, participants reported a higher degree of openness. So better EDI in your STEM workplace makes LGBTQI2S folks more open. When there was a higher degree of openness, participants reported a safer and more welcoming environment.

Changing the culture

There are a number of measures we can take to support EDI.

We need an articulated strategy to achieve gender parity in mathematics departments in the not-so-distant future. To do this, we need to pay special attention to academic hiring, which has a lasting impact on departments owing to the long-term nature of tenure. The process — the way in which we do this outreach and hiring – is incredibly important, as are the outcomes for greater diversity.

Photo credit Shutterstock.

There must be greater attention to EDI in senior roles such as mathematics department chairs. I did a stint as department chair and encourage my colleagues, especially my women colleagues, to do the same. We also need to see greater diversity in all levels of university administration and in the leadership in professional societies.

There should greater emphasis on EDI in endowed research chairs. Given the poor track record of universities nominating women for Canada Research Chairs, the Government of Canada introduced new measures for greater EDI in these positions. I hope one day there will be endowed chairs in mathematics specifically aimed at LGBTQI2S people. An Alan Turing Chair has a nice ring to it. The same holds for student scholarships both within and outside the university.

We need to work to make sure our LGBTQI2S know they are not alone. They need to know they are just as capable of progressing successfully in mathematics as their heterosexual or cisgendered counterparts.

Mathematics is a difficult subject regardless the context you are working in and we need as many minds as possible to advance the subject. A proof of the Riemann hypothesis is possibly sitting in some transgendered teens brain as I write this. What an incredible tragedy if that proof never comes to fruition.

There are a small set of groups devoted to queers in STEM. Spectra is one group I know of supporting LGBTQI2S folk in mathematics. Other organizations focus more broadly in STEM, such as LGBT STEM, National Organization of Gay and Lesbian Scientists and Technical Professionals and Out in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics.

Implementing the ideas described in the recent Forging Paths report by Ryerson Science and the Canadian Science Policy Centre, such as changing perceptions and challenging stereotypes within STEM-based professions, would send us in a positive direction.

We have a long way to go, but I am convinced that with collective effort, EDI in mathematics is achievable. We can no longer hide behind claims that mathematics is genderless, racially neutral and independent of LGBTQI2S issues. Mathematics is studied by people, and its application affects people.

Mathematicians need to embrace our diversity as a strength, not as a burden or weakness.

Diversity gives new perspectives and challenges the status quo. Isn’t that what mathematicians actually do for a living? We can and we must do this.