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Canadian Forces College professor’s book on United Nations Security Council makes shortlist for prestigious writing award

Canadian Forces College (CFC) professor makes shortlist for the 20th annual Shaughnessy Cohen Prize for Political Writing for his book Canada on the United Nations Security Council: A Small Power on a Large Stage.

Adam Chapnick, professor/deputy director, education CFC said with excitement, “I was shocked and absolutely flattered, particularly when I saw who else had been nominated. It is rare to be mentioned in the same sentence as a former Supreme Court justice, for example.”

The Shaughnessy Cohen Prize for Political Writing is a Canadian literary award, presented by the Writers’ Trust of Canada to the best nonfiction book on Canadian political and social issues.

“When I realized that most of that history had never been captured in a book, (there are summaries of some of the more recent terms, but there was very little on most of the earlier ones, and even less about the elections), and that there was ample research available in the archives and through interviews to tell the story, I decided to give it a try,” Adam Chapnick

Chapnick’s book examines the history of Canada’s involvement as a member, and as a prospective member, of the UN Security Council. He covers all six Canadian terms on the council (1948-49, 58-59, 67-68, 77-78, 89-90, 99-00) and all nine elections in which Canada sought a council seat (1945-6, 1947, 1957, 1966, 1976, 1988, 1998, 2010, 2020).

In the run-up to the 2010 election, Chapnick became curious about Canada’s history on the council. He says this inspired him to write his book.

“When I realized that most of that history had never been captured in a book, (there are summaries of some of the more recent terms, but there was very little on most of the earlier ones, and even less about the elections), and that there was ample research available in the archives and through interviews to tell the story, I decided to give it a try,” he explained further.

Being nominated for the Shaunessy Cohen Prize brought attention to Chapnick’s book, in the Globe and Mail, in the Hill Times, via Twitter, etc., in ways he could never have anticipated otherwise.

“It allowed me to reach a much broader audience than books published by academics typically reach, and allowed me to add my voice to popular discussions of an issue of contemporary and historical significance in Canadian foreign policy,” he commented.

There were a number of surprises for Chapnick in his book research. The first surprise being, until the 1970s, Canadian governments pursued a seat on the council mainly out of a sense of duty.

“We didn’t actually want to serve; rather, we did so to demonstrate our support for the UN as an institution. The thinking was that if we didn’t take our turn, we would be sending a message of non-confidence in the UN to the rest of the international community. Among those least interested in us serving in the 1940s through the 1960s was Lester Pearson (first as a public servant, and then as prime minister). I also underestimated the Mulroney government’s commitment to the UN. It was quite impressive,” Chapnick informed.

Chapnick is a professor in the Department Defence Studies. Defence Studies is located in Toronto at the CFC. He teaches in two graduate programs that include members of the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) and international officers between the ranks of Major/LCdr and Col/Capt(n), as well as executive-level public servants. He started at the CFC in 2006.

The nomination for this award made him feel like the effort he put into making his prose accessible to a broader public was well worth it. This nomination seems to suggest that he has been taking his own words seriously.

“I have argued throughout my academic career that those of us who teach at the university level have a duty to make our scholarship accessible to audiences beyond just our colleagues and our students,” he commented.

Chapnick is a professor in the Department Defence Studies. Defence Studies is located in Toronto at the CFC. He teaches in two graduate programs that include members of the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) and international officers between the ranks of Major/LCdr and Col/Capt(n), as well as executive-level public servants. He started at the CFC in 2006.

Established in honour of the outspoken and popular MP from Windsor, Ontario, the Shaughnessy Cohen Prize for Political Writing is awarded annually for an exceptional book of literary nonfiction that captures a political subject of relevance to Canadian readers and has the potential to shape or influence thinking on contemporary Canadian political life.

Sponsored by CN, the prize of $25,000 is awarded annually at the Politics and the Pen gala in Ottawa.

Criteria and qualifications for nominees can be found here.

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Julia Lennips

Julia is a journalist who is an avid reader and an artist. She is living in North Bay, ON pursing her passion for reporting.

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