OpenCanada’s Best of 2015

The 25 pieces you read, shared and engaged with most this past year.  

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December 24, 2015
The skyline over Toronto, Canada. REUTERS/Mark Blinch

The interviews

In conversation with Stephen Lewis, the United Nations’ sharpest critic and greatest champion:  With his frank assessment of Ban Ki-moon and the UN, Stephen Lewis gave us one of the most refreshingly honest interviews we have ever published: “You cannot have a world in 2015 which is based on the world in ’45, it is just nuts.”

Economist Tyler Cowen on inequality, Canada and the state of global superpowers: Can Canada compete against other tech clusters in the world? Are we better off without world hegemons? How has the World Bank lost relevance? Tyler Cowen gave us his best during rapid-fire questioning while in Toronto earlier this year.

An extraordinary Malala: Director Davis Guggenheim screened his documentary about Malala Yousafzai at this year’s Toronto International Film Festival. He told us what it was like to spend 18 months with her family, and what makes her story resonate around the world: “Malala was an ordinary girl, she became more extraordinary by making [the choice to speak out], so if you see it that way you see that all of us can be extraordinary by the choices we make. To me, that’s a very powerful message.”

Economic growth — magic or model? Economist and author Dambisa Moyo tackles the causes of and solutions to global inequality. “We should reward, encourage and incentivize people to seek those solutions – to me this is really the essence of human progress,” she says.

Philanthropy in the twenty first century: Colombian-Canadian physician Alex Jadad tells us why he finds the word ‘development’ problematic, what it means to incorporate emotion into policy, and how others find his ideas get him into trouble. “This is dangerous. I am taking a risk here, saying this and being recorded. This is an act of love, even though I’m a hypocrite, as I’m part of the problem.”

Malala2
Malala Yousafzai attends the premiere of "He Named Me Malala" at the Ziegfeld Theater in Manhattan, New York, September 24, 2015. REUTERS/Andrew Kelly

The #longreads

A Movement Rises: Indigenous journalist and artist Angela Sterritt tells the stories of those who have kept the issue of missing and murdered indigenous women, girls and two-spirit people in the headlines for decades. “Their powerful actions help bring the light back to a dark tale, for at the heart of their stories, and at the heart of this larger national story, is love, and a willingness to fight for change and equality within Canada.”

When The Refugees Came: After Canada’s response to the current refugee crisis came under fire in September, we shared five key moments in Canada’s refugee history, as a reminder of what was and could still be possible with enough political will and civil society mobilization. 

Video Killed a Star Charity: The downfall of Invisible Children: Journalist Andrew Green visits northern Uganda to find out what kind of legacy U.S.-based NGO Invisible Children left behind after the infamous Kony 2012 video prompted questioning of the group’s work. “They are growing used to the disappearance of NGOs from the region, whose white 4x4s used to crowd Gulu’s roads,” he writes. 

End of an oilsands love affair:Could the oilsands’ moment have come and gone? And is there any way to reconcile the imperative for curbing global greenhouse gas emissions with continued development of Canada’s oilsands?” This is the story of both the future of Canada’s energy sector and a look at how the environmental movement has already changed it. By Jason Switzer and Dan Zilnik.

Who Knows What Evils Lurk in the Shadows: Ron Deibert explores one of Canada’s principal security and intelligence agencies, Communications Security Establishment, and how it factors into the controversial anti-terrorism Bill C-51. “What little we do know already raises some disturbing questions,” he writes.

Movement Rises
Illustration by Angela Sterritt

The questions that still need answers

10 facts about Canada’s arms deal: While the “facts speak for themselves” about Canada’s largest arms export contract with a government known to violate human rights, many questions remain about whether the deal will go through and why new government is seemingly avoiding the issue. By Cesar Jaramillo.

Why the UN must do away with unpaid internships: Or, as Omer Aziz asks, how does the UN, with its focus on inequality and justice, get away with it?

The trouble with Canada’s approach on maternal health: Will Trudeau’s government continue Harper’s maternal health programs? And, how can these programs promote deeper changes toward gender equality that would improve the quality of life for the many women and girls they are trying to assist?  By Valerie Percival.

What’s left out of the ‘gender in the workplace’ debate: the race factor: Women face a variety of challenges in the workplace, but, as Ijeoma Oluo asks, can we add racial barriers to the conversation? Part of our Politics of Inequality series.

The six dangers of overreacting to terrorism:Politically, overplaying the terrorist threat carries little cost… and yet, overreacting can actually make things worse,” writes Benoit Gomis. Have recent responses to terrorism considered the consequences?

Harper LAVs
Canada's Prime Minister Stephen Harper walks past a Light Armoured Vehicles 6.0 during a photo opportunity at General Dynamics Land Systems in London, Ontario, May 2, 2014. REUTERS/Aaron Harris

The helpful explainers

Why Islamic State actually stinks at social media: Max Abrahms questions the idea that ISIS’ online propaganda actually helps the group. Instead, perhaps, without it, there wouldn’t be such a momentum to stop them. Part of our series, Understanding ISIS: Myths and Realities.

Canada’s IR scholars: Who they are and where they think you should go to school: A question clearly on many readers’ minds — Where in Canada is it best to study international relations? Steve Saideman dished out the results of a recent survey.

10 reasons to love Global Affairs Canada: Shortly after Justin Trudeau became prime minister in October and named his new cabinet in early November, his government announced another change that came as a surprise — the Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development would now be called Global Affairs Canada. We pulled together a few responses, and the reaction has continued to roll-in since.

Five things to know about Canada’s new Foreign Minister, Stéphane Dion: Likewise, the choice of Stéphane Dion for FM also caught many off-guard, with his name not at the top of likely choices. Naturally, we wanted to get to know the seasoned politician better.

Seven foreign policy wishes for Canada’s new government: Even before Trudeau was elected on Oct. 19, many were asking for a change in foreign policy no matter who would be the next PM. We asked seven Canadian diplomats to give us their top wish. From better North American relations to the unmuzzling of the diplomatic corps, this still serves as a checklist going forward. 

Dion
Canada's Foreign Minister Stephane Dion speaks during Question Period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Canada, December 10, 2015. REUTERS/Chris Wattie

The multimedia moments

Assessing Canada’s Global Engagement Gap: This detailed report from Robert Greenhill and Megan McQuillan compared Canada to its international peers in terms of spending on military and development programming. They found that Canada “meets the statistical definition of an international free rider.” Explore their findings with the many accompanying infographics.

Video: Elizabeth May on climate inequality: Not long before COP21 in Paris, Green Party leader Elizabeth May passionately explained to an audience in Vancouver why the summit was so important and what changes are needed. “The negotiations… are really [the] last chance to have a treaty that avoids levels of climate crises that are so severe that I don’t know how we can look our children in the face.” Part of our Politics of Inequality series.

Iraq and wars: The risks of reporting from the field:  CBC's Saša Petricic, Maclean’s Michael Petrou and photojournalist Louie Palu joined us for an online panel discussion, assessing the media coverage of Operation Impact, the Canadian military’s campaign in Iraq. Is the media being shut out? Is the war too dangerous to cover? Or are outlets simply not able to send journalists into the field? Overall, we shared a view on the importance of covering war.

The Ethics of Mining and Development:  Diplomat Bob Fowler, UNICEF’s Meg French and international law expert Josh Scheinert took part in another online panel discussion, this time on the ethics and efficiency of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) in the mining sector. Are recent initiatives an indication of private sector and government commitment to responsible extraction projects? Or, is CSR increasingly a buzzword used for company branding?

Video: The Great Divide — Joseph Stiglitz on inequality:The experiment was lower taxes [and] strip away regulations, and it was supposed to increase the incentives, free up the economy, the economy would grow… We’ve now had a third of a century of this experiment, and it has failed.Nobel Laureate Joseph Stiglitz gives his take as the final lecturer of the Liu Institute for Global Issues’ series on inequality.