Roger W. Gale Symposium

About the Series

The Roger W. Gale Symposium in Philosophy, Politics and Economics is a regular event focusing on a current issue overlapping with the multiple disciplines within our department. The symposium brings various parts of the academy and the public into fruitful dialogue with a wide range of experts.

Past Events

What: The war in Ukraine, the authoritarianism which motivated it, and its implications for the future of democracy and peace in the world.
Who: Norman Naimark (historian, Stanford University), Barbara Falk (political scientist, Royal Military College of Canada), Adam Jones (political scientist, UBC), Marco Sassoli, (international human rights lawyer, Geneva University), Stephen Turner (philosopher, USF), Serhy Yekelchyk (Ukraine area studies – University of Victoria) and Seva Gunitsky (Associate professor of political science at the University of Toronto).
When: March 1-2, 2023


The 2022 Roger Gale Symposium convened on another urgent topic of our times: the war in Ukraine, the authoritarianism which motivated it, and its implications for the future of democracy and peace in the world.

Since February 2022, Russia’s aggression in Ukraine has created a new and shocking global reality: the potential that the regional conflict between Ukraine and Russia could escalate into a wider war, perhaps including attacks with nuclear weapons. To keep the conflict from spiralling out of control and support Ukraine in its struggle, the Western world has made rapid and consequential decisions involving national states and international-military actors.

How should we assess the responses of liberal democracies to the invasion of Ukraine? What roles have key international organizations, such as the United Nations, NATO, and the EU, played in the unfolding crisis?

How do these events challenge assumptions about international politics after the Cold War, particularly when dealing with authoritarian regimes and dictatorships? What are the political and economic implications as the boundaries of the old international order are redrawn?

The Department of Economics, Philosophy and Political Science brought together a roster of distinguished speakers to address these questions and to provide a wider historical context for current events.

The event was organized in thematic panels hosted on campus at UBCO, UNC 200, on topics such as the following:

  • Perspectives on the invasion of Ukraine: lessons from wider regional history
  • Navigating political systems and expectations about foreign policy
  • Responses to the invasion of Ukraine

The event also featured Professor Naimark’s keynote address.

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What: Should we limit individual freedoms to stabilize the climate? Can we stabilize the climate without such restrictions?
Who: Diverse expert panel discuss if individual choice should be restricted to preserve the climate.

There is no reasonable doubt that the collectivity of individual human decisions has substantially changed the global climate, and on its current trajectory, the rate of change is accelerating. The impacts of this change are being seen around the world as wildfires, heat waves, torrential rains and powerful storms. The more heat-trapping gasses are added to the atmosphere, the further the climate will change and the greater the risk that the climate system tips into a new and substantially different state. A state that will seriously disrupt all ecological systems – within which human systems are embedded – on the planet.

Each of us has a range of choices available that have differing impacts on other people and the global environment. 

The goal of this symposium was to explore if individual choices should be constrained for some so that the global climate system can be stabilized.

Guest speakers included:

  • Michael Ignatieff, Professor in the History Department at Central European University, former politician. 
  • Andrew Weaver, Professor in the School of Earth and Ocean Sciences at the University of Victoria.

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The Misinformation Age

What: Is there a vaccine for the infodemic?
Who: Diverse expert panel on how we can combat misinformation while preserving free speech

Sometimes it seems as though the world is spiralling out of control as unreflective thinking, mistrust, fake news, and conspiracy theories wreak havoc. In the last year, the impact of misinformation reached epic proportions during the pandemic and the American election. Authoritarian regimes engaged in information warfare with ever more sophisticated tools and greater reach. Meanwhile, social media platforms came under fire by many for not doing enough to counter misinformation, and by others for undermining free expression with a heavy-handed overreaction.

To stave off the negative impacts of misinformation, we first need to understand it. The good news is that researchers from across the disciplines have begun to make real progress. The goal of this symposium was to bring together eight leading voices from this effort to help us understand and counter the threat.

Guest speakers included:

  • Timothy Caulfield, Canada Research Chair in Health Law and Policy, a Professor in the Faculty of Law and the School of Public Health, and Research Director of the Health Law Institute at the University of Alberta.
  • Renée DiResta, Research Manager at the Stanford Internet Observatory, a Staff Associate at the Columbia University Data Science Institute, and is a Founding Advisor to the Center for Humane Technology.
  • Dan Gillmor, co-founder of the News Co/Lab at Arizona State University’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication.
  • Heidi Tworek (PhD Harvard University), associate professor of international history and public policy at the University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada.

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Future of Work

What: Humans, machines and the future of work
Who: Experts in public policy, higher education and international business
When: November 2, 2018

Technological progress is significantly changing the world of work. A new wave of disruption is impacting traditional jobs, industries and business models. Canadians are increasingly employed in non-traditional industries, working flexible hours and using technology to change the way they work.

The goal of this symposium was to explore what influence the continuing march of technology, automation and artificial intelligence (AI) will have on where we work and how we work, and where we fit in an automated world.

Guest speakers included:

  • Paulina Cameron, author of bestselling Canada 150 Women
  • Taylor Owen, professor of digital media and global affairs at UBC’s Vancouver campus
  • Sunil Johal, policy director at the University of Toronto’s Mowat Centre
  • Alexandra Matesscu, ethnographer and researcher at the Data and Society Research Institute

What: Symposium on Nuclear North Korea: Implications for Canada and the Region
Who: Canada’s former ambassadors to Korea and China, and several experts on the region
When: March 12, 2018

On the margins of the international community for decades, North Korea has been pursuing and ramping up a nuclear program and has made direct threats toward the United States. The most recent threat came in November when the country claimed to have successfully tested a new type of international ballistic missile that could reach North America, a claim that US-based experts confirm is supported by their data.

Heightened rhetoric from Leader Kim Jong-un and US President Donald Trump have made frequent headlines around the world, leaving many people concerned about what appears to be an increasing threat, and unsure what is hype and what is reality.

The daylong symposium brought together six experts to discuss the nature of the threat, the historical context, the competing geopolitical interests in the region and what role Canada should play.

Speakers at this event included: Sven Jurschewsky, former Senior Counselor, Canadian Foreign Service in China; David Chatterson, Canada’s Ambassador to Korea (2011-2014); Gunn Kim, Consul General of the Republic of Korea; Scott Snyder, Council on Foreign Relations, Washington, D.C.; Jenny Town, US-Korea Institute, Johns Hopkins University; and Donald Baker, Professor of Korean History, UBC Vancouver.

The discussion examined how people can better assess what they see in the media on international politics and diplomacy.

The day included three sessions:

  • Historical context: How did we get to where we are today? Analyzing previous negotiations and engagement with the regime and their outcomes.
  • Geopolitical interests and responses: What are the core interests of the main players in the region and the international community and how are they pursuing those interests?
  • What should we learn from this situation? What are the implications for Canada?


This symposium series is made possible through the generous support of Roger W. Gale.

Roger W. Gale Biography

Roger Gale

Now living in West Kelowna, Roger holds a PhD in Political Science from the University of California, Berkeley, as well as degrees from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor and the School of International Service, American University. Roger has had a diverse career, ranging from teaching at the university level to strategic consulting with global electric power companies. Roger remains active on the boards of two equity funds in the US and he continues his interest in post-secondary education.