It's been suggested that I do some live blogging from the 2006 CILSC, taking place today at the Osgoode Professional Developement Centre at Yonge and Dundas.
This morning we had breakfast (and free coffee...we are, after all, law students) while listening to the morning keynote speaker, Tom Quiggan. He is a security and defense consultant and a specialist on Al Qaeda and the Global Jihadi movement. It was a very interesting and engaging talk, and Mr. Quiggan offered some concrete domestic solutions (or, at least, steps in the right direction) which is a nice change from the generally highly abstract world of international law and politics in academia.
From 10-11:45 there were two panels: one on the enforcement of international trade treaties, and another (the one I attended) on the protection of Indiginous intellectual property rights. I found the panel fascinating. It dealt mostly with the essential disconnect between Western ideas of "property" and IP in particular, even with the concept of knowledge itself as a commodity, and the quite different Aboriginal perspective of knowledge as a process which confers more responsibilities than rights. One of the speakers, Peter Cole, told us that Aboriginals are underrepresented in the staff at York by a factor of 16, and furthermore that the overwhelming balance (98%, I believe) of funding for Aboriginal Issues and Aboriginal studies goes to white/non-Aboriginal academics, scientists, linguists et cetera.
Is this a concern? Well, obviously. And the statistics he cited are shocking. Nevertheless, I found myself thinking (as I have in the past) of the paradox between on the one hand encouraging and facilitating the participation in and direction of Aboriginal studies by Aboriginals themselves on the one hand, and on the other hand the risk of ghetto-izing the field. As a non-Aboriginal, should I avoid becoming an expert in Aboriginal studies or issues because it is an encroachment on the self-determination of Aboriginals themselves? And how far do these divisions go...Can an Inuit study Metis issues? Can a person raised in Toronto, with Aboriginal heritage, fairly study or ever claim to be an expert or specialists in the lives of Aboriginals raised on reserves?
A constant tension exists between preventing exclusionism and nurturing understanding, empathy, and an extent of integration, without allowing it to devolve into commodification and assimilation.