Wed: Canada’s effect on US immigration; plus, BC’s radical new drug policy

Some events from a fellow Canadian organization here in the Bay Area.

Canadian Studies Announcements

In This Issue:

Upcoming Events

  • “Historical Connections Between Canada and American Immigration Policy”
  • “Come from Away: Newfoundland and Labrador’s Food Security Dilemma”

News from Canada

  • British Columbia begins three-year drug decriminalization pilot
  • Former Fulbright Fellow Laverne Jacobs is first Canadian on UN disability rights committee

External Events

  • “Roots, Routes, and Reckonings: On Blackness and Belonging in North America”


If you require an accommodation to fully participate in an event, please let us know at least 10 days in advance.

Historical Connections Between Canada and American Immigration Policy

Wed., Feb. 1 | 12:30 pm PT | 223 Moses | RSVP

Canadian Studies faculty affiliate Hidetaka Hirota will explore historical connections between Canada and American immigration policy in the long nineteenth century. Based on his earlier and current works, Professor Hirota will discuss three aspects of this history: Canada as a destination of deportation from the United States; Canadians as targets of restrictive immigration policy; and Canada as a potential ally of the United States in migration control. In doing so, he will illuminate the experiences of Irish migrants in the mid-nineteenth century, Canadian migrants in the late nineteenth century, and Japanese migrants in the early twentieth century. These migrant groups’ experiences demonstrate that Canada remained an important part of the history of American immigration policy.

About the Speaker

Hidetaka Hirota is a social and legal historian of the United States specializing in immigration, and an associate professor of history at UC Berkeley. He is particularly interested in the history of American nativism and immigration control. His first book, Expelling the Poor: Atlantic Seaboard States and the Nineteenth-Century Origins of American Immigration Policy, shows how an influx of impoverished Irish immigrants to the United States in the early 19th century led nativists to develop policies for deporting destitute foreigners to Europe and Canada, and laid the groundwork for later federal legislation. His current projects include an examination of long-running tensions between nativism and a demand for migrant labor in the United States, as well as an exploration of the Japanese immigrant experience before 1924.

“Come from Away”: Newfoundland and Labrador’s Food Security Dilemma

Wed., Feb. 15 | 12:30 pm PT | 223 Moses | RSVP

This presentation illuminates past and current complexities of Newfoundland and Labrador’s unique food system. Following confederation with Canada in 1949, the province’s once- abundant fisheries fed North America to the point of over exploitation, creating both cultural and food system disruption. Currently, most food is imported into the province and transported by ferry, including produce from California’s Central Valley. Though hunting is prevalent in rural communities, high priced, pre-packaged, and processed food, rather than fish, are the dietary mainstay. Recent efforts to expand agricultural production within the province would improve local control over the food system. This would ostensibly be more expensive than most imported foods, given the province’s short growing season and relatively small, diffusely located population. Yet financially supporting such endeavors might be justifiable to facilitate a basic human right to access and produce food.

Note: The speaker will also share Newfoundland and Labrador artwork and handicrafts at the in-person presentation.

About the Speaker

Dr. Catherine Keske is a professor of management of complex systems in the School of Engineering at UC Merced. She is an agricultural economist and social scientist who studies sustainable food, energy, and waste systems. Prior to joining UC Merced in 2017, she was associate professor of environmental studies (economics) in the School of Science and the Environment at Memorial University of Newfoundland. Her research on food security and Newfoundland and Labrador includes an edited book, Food Futures: Growing a Sustainable Food System for Newfoundland and Labrador, and “Economic feasibility of biochar and agriculture coproduction from Canadian black spruce forest” published in Food and Energy Security.


British Columbia Begins Three-Year Drug Decriminalization Pilot

For several years, British Columbia has been an epicenter of the opioid crisis sweeping North America. Now, the provincial government is adopting a radical – and controversial – new approach to solve this crisis. In effect, it’s making the drugs legal.

Under a law passed last summer, British Columbia has been given a three-year exemption from Federal drug legislation. Beginning tomorrow, all legal penalties have been eliminated for adults who possess small amounts of four key narcotics: cocaine, methamphetamines, MDMA, and opioids like heroin and fentanyl. Police will no longer confiscate drugs from users, instead providing them with information about treatment services. Sales of these drugs will remain illegal, as will possession of large quantities

This dramatic shift in policy comes as BC struggles with some of the highest rates of opioid-related deaths in Canada. The province has nearly as many drug-related deaths as Ontario, despite having only one-third the population; 1,600 people died in the first nine months of 2022 alone. The provincial government has struggled unsuccessfully to halt the rapid rise of drug use, and accompanying increase in overdoses and deaths.

Proponents of the experiment say that past enforcement tactics haven’t worked. Government data show a nearly 200% increase in emergency overdose calls between 2012 and 2022, including a 75% increase since a provincial emergency was declared in 2016. Much of this can be attributed to the rising use of fentanyl, which has all but replaced heroin for many users and is exponentially more dangerous.

The new policy is being pitched as a radical rethinking of past deterrence-based approaches. Founded on “harm reduction” principles, it aims to limit the damage done by problematic drug use rather than attempting to force users to quit. Primarily, it seeks to reframe drug use as a personal health issue, rather than a criminal one. Proponents argue that eliminating the secrecy and stigma around drug use will save lives, prevent overdoses, and make users more likely to seek treatment for addiction.

Supporters point to Portugal as a successful model implementation of these principles. Since decriminalizing drug use in 2000, the country has seen a significant decrease in deaths and HIV transmission, while nevertheless maintaining low drug consumption rates by European standards. The harm reduction model has also been implemented in some parts of the US, most notably the state of Oregon, where voters passed a decriminalization measure similar to BC’s in 2020.

Nevertheless, the new law is not without controversy, even among supporters of decriminalization. A major point of concern remains a lack of effective treatment for users. BC’s government has poured millions into mental health and addiction treatment services. However, unlike Portugal and Oregon, which use citations, fines, and other administrative penalties to try and channel drug users into treatment, BC’s law does not include a similar mechanism. And even with these incentives, getting users into treatment remains difficult. A recent government audit in Oregon gave poor marks to its decriminalization regime. It found that only 1% of those cited for drug use sought treatment for addiction, while overdose rates and deaths soared (an increase that supporters blame on the Pandemic). Without treatment incentives, opponents say the change in policy is unlikely to have a significant public health effect.

Still, supporters say it’s too early to judge the effectiveness of the policy, and urge patience until the trial concludes in 2026. The experiment is being closely watched by other parts of Canada as a model for future policy changes. Canada has long been known for a progressive drug policy; it was one of the first countries to legalize medical marijuana, and remains one of only seven countries globally with legal recreational cannabis. It remains to be seen whether this new initiative will mark the vanguard of a new revolution in substance use treatment.

Image: Homeless man and police in Vancouver. Source:

Former Fulbright Fellow Laverne Jacobs is First Canadian on UN Disability Rights Committee

Dr. Laverne Jacobs, a University of Windsor Law professor, has made history as the first Canadian to join the United Nations’ Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Elected last summer, Professor Jacobs will serve a four-year term ending in

Professor Jacobs, an authority on human rights and disability law in Canada and the United States, was a visiting Fulbright Research Chair in Canadian Studies at Berkeley in 2014. She has since become a regular presence at Berkeley, including as a speaker at the Canadian Studies Colloquium and as a guest lecturer at Berkeley Law.

An alumna of McGill University, Professor Jacobs gave an interview with the McGill alumni magazine where she discussed her philosophy of law, and her conviction that “disability” should be viewed as part of the diversity of human experience. She highlighted the importance of designing policy with inclusivity in mind, pointing out how many barriers faced by disabled individuals can be invisible to their able-bodied counterparts.

Canadian Studies extends our warmest congratulations to Professor Jacobs for this great honour.


Roots, Routes, and Reckonings: On Blackness and Belonging in North America

Wednesday, Feb. 1 | 10:00 am PT | Online | RSVP

Western Washington University’s Center for Canadian-American Studies invites you to join their second “Why Canada Matters” talk, featuring Dr. Debra Thompson. Through an intimate exploration of the roots of Black identities in North America and the routes taken by those who have crisscrossed the world’s longest undefended border in search of freedom and belonging, this lecture combines memoir and analysis to highlight the tensions and contradictions that anchor our understandings of race.

Dr. Thompson is an associate professor of political science and Canada Research Chair in Racial Inequality in Democratic Societies at McGill University. She is a leading scholar of the comparative politics of race, with research interests that focus on the relationships among race, the state, and inequality in Canada and other democratic societies. She previously spoke at the Berkeley Canadian Studies Colloquium in 2020.

This talk is co-sponsored by WWU’s College of Humanities and Social Sciences and Department of History, and delivered in partnership with the WWU Alumni Association.

Canadian Studies Program
213 Moses Hall #2308
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Canadian Studies Program | Univ. of California, Berkeley213 Moses Hall #2308Berkeley, CA 94720

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