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Royal Military College of Canada giving honorary doctorate of law to David Bercuson

Director of Centre for Military, Security and Strategic Studies shaped study of defence and military in Canada


University of Calgary's David Bercuson, director of the Centre for Military, Security and Strategic Studies (seen here in Afghanistan) will receive an honorary doctorate of law degree from the Royal Military College of Canada on May 19.

By Heath McCoy
May 12, 2016

A career milestone — that’s the regard David Bercuson, director of the University of Calgary’s Centre for Military, Security and Strategic Studies, holds for his latest achievement: an honorary doctorate of law degree from the Royal Military College of Canada (RMC). He will receive the degree on May 19 in Kingston, Ontario. 

It’s a striking declaration given the many elite honours bestowed upon professor Bercuson during the course of his 45-year academic career, including being elected to the Royal Society of Canada in 1988 and appointed an officer of the Order of Canada in 2003.

But for a man who has spent his career shaping and building the study of Canadian defence, foreign policy and military history, the illustriousness of the RMC honour cannot be denied.

“This is very special to me to be recognized by an institution which is so central to military life in Canada,” says Bercuson. “The Royal Military College of Canada really is the university of the Canadian Armed Forces. It sets the standard. It is the only federal university in the country. Its chancellor is the Minister of National Defense Harjit Sajjan. If you consider the many distinguished Canadian soldiers and diplomats who have graduated from RMC, it’s just amazing."

He adds, “It’s a who’s who of the Canadian defence and military community. So to have my name on that wall is pretty significant for me. I think anybody involved in defence policy or military history would be pretty pleased to be selected. I certainly am.”

Shaping defence policy and evolution of military education in Canada

Bercuson has played a pivotal and leading role in the evolution of military and defence education in Canada since the 1980s. In addition to being the director of the Centre for Military, Security and Strategic Studies since 1997, he has also served as special advisor to the Minister of National Defence on the future of the Canadian Forces and on the Advisory Council on National Security.

He has been heavily involved with the shaping of defence policy in Canada and he was a major voice in pushing for reforms in the Canadian military after the Somalia Affair in 1993.

The latter is the subject of an ongoing Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) project Bercuson is working on. He is also a planning to study the relationship between Canadian and British high command during the Second World War.

“It’s crucially important that an independent country finds a way to direct its own armed forces to achieve its own national objectives, even when it’s a small member of a larger coalition,” says Bercuson.

“And I think that’s something we did not learn in the Second World War. Even though we were an independent country, we acted like a colony. I think that’s something we still do today, in many ways.”