While many Canadian students enjoyed sunshine, beer and camping trips over the summer, things turned upside down for Honduras students. What happened? Does this affect Canada? What's the situation like in Honduras?
These questions, and others regarding a variety of topics in the news, were piqued as students settled into the new school year.
Enter the University of Calgary's School of Public Policy, which aims not only to answer these questions, but create active solutions through education, analysis and discussion. One aspect of this is the free beer and pizza that draws students to the lectures held by the school throughout the school year.
Stephen Randall, a U of C history professor and Institute for U.S. policy research director, addressed the Honduras situation at last Thursday's public policy talk.
Randall described the 2001 Summit of the Americas, for which he was present, where the Inter-American Democratic Charter was proposed; the charter was accepted by the Organization of American States on Sept. 11, 2001.
The OAS agreed any participating government that transgressed the democratic principles within the charter should be suspended. This suspension, Randall said, is what essentially happened to Manuel Zelaya, the Honduran president.
Yet it is hard to determine what Zelaya's specific crime against the charter was, Randall continued. He wished to add a ballot to the elections that would allow the possibility to revise the Constitution, which is not unheard of in democratic countries, but the Honduras Supreme court, congress and military were opposed to this.
Zelaya was detained and exiled by the military June 28, and congress president Roberto Micheletti assumed the presidency.
Zelaya is currently being housed in the Brazilian Embassy. The situation has resulted in political unrest in Honduras between Zelaya's supporters and the military.
Randall postulated the coup does not entirely leave our country unaffected, even though Canada does no major trade with Honduras and interaction is mostly limited to humanitarian aid.
"As the de facto government clamps down on civil liberties, the rights and safety of Honduran citizens is compromised," he said. "Civil strife impacts forced migration; if the situation were to blow up there we'll be inundated with refugee claims.
"Narcotics and arms trafficking by South American gangs is a national security concern recognized by the RCMP, which would lead to more intense screenings for immigrants," he continued.
Still, Randall asserted Canada's foremost interest in Honduras mainly rests on the two pillars of Canadian foreign policy: peace and security.
"We have an interest in insuring that the democratic charter is enforced, we have an interest in the promotion of democracy in [the] Americas," he concluded.
The next School of Public Policy talk, scheduled for Oct. 14th, features executive director Jack Mintz and is titled "Is Alberta Losing It's Tax Advantage?" Admission is free for students, but requires registration.