Coll de Bertrés Photo credit: Ignacio Evangelista Current Research Projects

What walls and fences were to security in the twentieth century, flows are to security in the twenty-first century.  This requires a paradigm shift from the “castle” approach that saw the Westphalian state drawing a moat around its sovereign territory, to an approach that now seeks to govern and secure flows of people, goods and information.  But securing such flows by necessity starts at their place of origin, and so the very frontiers of sovereign-state frontiers are “pushed” outwards.

Meanwhile in some policy areas, such as climate change and the internet, borders per se are largely irrelevant to governing and controlling flows, and so securing them increasingly becomes a collective-action problem beyond the institutions of the nation-state.

This of course raises tactical, operational and strategic challenges. Tactically, inter-agency cooperation and interoperability become ever more important. Operationally, such cooperation has to be achieved across multiple jurisdictions. Yet when taking the long-view strategically, we can see that these efforts may actually encourage many of the flows that they are trying to counteract.

Three main areas of research thus will be integral to any investigation of the security aspects of globalization: a) mapping and analyzing transborder flows and processes of securitization and associated risks; b) governance and policy challenges that arise from coping with transborder flows; and c) operationally, how to optimize efficiency and effectiveness while in accordance with liberal democratic norms.

This latter point unearths a contradiction. The overriding objective of the security theme is to provide evidence to facilitate better border security within the limits and possibilities of constitutional democracy and the rule of law. But from a Hobbesian perspective, security is a state’s imperative vis-à-vis its citizens; while from a Lockean perspective, security is a service rendered by a state to its citizens that is constrained by limited intervention in their lives, and with the objective of advancing human flourishing in the form of self-actualization by realizing freedom, equality, and justice. 

Concretely in terms of research, investigators will explore a series of research topics with actionable conclusions.

Specific to the above contradictions, researchers want to explore the legitimizing of competing notions of security in democratic, capitalist societies, looking at in particular the special case of Quebec and its role in North American (trans)national security, as well as how prevailing notions of security in the province are informed by its distinct political culture and distribution of constitutional powers.

In a similar fashion and in cooperation with BIG’s Arctic region group, researchers want to explore the specificities of security and borders in Canada’s Arctic.

Along these lines, researchers also want to investigate the tensions between federalism, multi-level governance and intergovernmental relations, and how Canada’s constitutional division of powers and areas of overlapping jurisdiction may give rise to vertical and horizontal coordination issues and collective-action problems.

In the area of transborder illicit networks, researchers will collect original data covering a variety of Canada-US, Canada-international, US-international, and transborder networks and flows with no North American connections.  Systematic comparison will permit a disentangle internal and external drivers, identify policies that generate perverse incentives to encourage the development of such transborder networks, and inform policy-making, operations and tactics with respect to deterring illicit transborder networks.

There will also be a comparison of North American and EU border security policies over the past few decades, including pre-clearance and inter-agency frameworks. What have we learned and what are the lessons for Canada? How do Europeans manage security across borders? What are the possibilities and limits of information sharing and advanced information? What are the dimensions of information sharing below the national level? Is the increase in cocaine flows, for example, a result of thinner borders?

Relatedly, researchers are to map the landscape of joint inter-agency security entities with responsibility for the Canada-U.S. border, with the ultimate goal of answering the question: Is an organization analogous to the NORAD and the US, Canada and Mexico’s Permanent Joint Board on Defense possible for Canada-US security governance?

Investigators also hope to explore the nature of new technologies in this space. Social media for example make us borderless even as sovereign laws are still restricted to a territory. Meanwhile, we have seen the privatizing of a number of state functions with respect to security and borders, biometrics, identity and surveillance.

All of which prompts a variety of questions: What is the evolution and future of ID management? Why do we have passports? Where and why has the implementation of technology been successful or a failure? Have certain technologies proven a deterrent? And what are the ethics of using technology for these tasks as opposed to personnel?

Finally, researchers want to know how local cross-border communities have reacted to such developments and changes in national and border security regimes.

Dr. Christian Leuprecht at the Royal Military College of Canada leads the Security theme with colleagues Mark Salter (University of Ottawa) and Stéphane Roussel (École nationale d'Administration publique (ENAP). Collaborators on the security theme include David Morin (Université de Sherbrooke), Ben Muller (King's College, Western University), and Todd Hataley (RMCC/Queen's).