Michael Byers (Canadian author)

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For other uses, see Michael Byers.

Michael Byers is a Canadian legal scholar and non-fiction author.

Academic background[edit]

Byers was educated at the University of Saskatchewan, where he received his BA with majors in English literature and political studies. He then studied at McGill University, achieving his LLB and BCL degrees. He completed his studies at Cambridge University, where he received his PhD. Before becoming a professor of political science at University of British Columbia in 2004, he was a research fellow from 1996-1999 at Oxford University and from 1999–2004, he taught law at Duke University, where he was a professor of law and the director of Canadian Studies.

Since 2007, he has held the Canada Research Chair in Global Politics and International Law at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver.[1]

2008 federal election[edit]

On July 2, 2008, Byers announced that he was seeking the New Democratic Party nomination for the federal riding of Vancouver Centre, a seat held by Liberal Party of Canada incumbent Hedy Fry since 1993, in the 40th Canadian federal election.[2] Byers had not previously sought elected office and the Liberal Party had tried to attract him as a candidate, with Stephane Dion inviting him for a beer in the spring of 2008.[3]

Byers received much attention because he was considered by many to be a "star" candidate for the NDP.[4]

During the campaign, he was sharply critical of the Harper government's supposed militarization of the Arctic; he also advocated a negotiation with the Taliban in Afghanistan. At a candidates' debate at the end of September 2008, Byers made the controversial statement that the Alberta tar sands needed to be shut down "to address the global climate crisis". The Liberal and Green candidates claimed that this position contradicted the official NDP platform, while Byers believes that it is covered by the already-passed legislation calling on Canada to reduce carbon-dioxide emissions by 80 per cent by 2050.[5]

Dr. Hedy Fry, the incumbent, won reelection with 19,423 votes (34.4% of the popular vote). Byers ran third, with 12,043 votes (21.3%).

Writing and advocacy[edit]

His books include War Law (Douglas & McIntyre, 2005), and Intent for a Nation: What is Canada For? (ISBN 978-1-55365-250-2, Douglas & McIntyre 2007) (playing against George Grant's Lament for a Nation). In 2009, he wrote Who Owns the Arctic? (ISBN 978-1553654995, Douglas & McIntyre 2009), which was shorted for the Donner Book Prize.

Byers is a regular commentator on CBC on programs such as The Current and The National, and writes for The Globe and Mail and other Canadian and international periodicals.

Some of his positions:

Liberal–NDP coalition[edit]

In November 2009, Byers suggested that the Liberal Party of Canada and the New Democratic Party (NDP) "should agree to not run candidates against each other in the next campaign" in electoral ridings in order to prevent the Conservative Party of Canada from forming another minority government.[6] However, critics pointed out that his reasoning is based on the assumption that Liberal voters who are denied the ability to vote for a liberal candidate would automatically vote for a NDP candidate, and that many might instead vote for the Conservatives (or simply not vote at all).[7]

Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II purchase[edit]

Byers has been a vocal opponent of the Harper government's proposed purchase of Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II fighter jets.

In July 2010, he wrote: "The F-35 is a stealth fighter designed to penetrate radar defences on the first day of a war. It's the sort of plane you would use to create 'shock and awe' in Baghdad or Tehran. Unless Canada is planning on being the sharp end of the American spear, we don't need stealth technology. The F-35 is designed for short takeoff and landing, with two of the three versions destined for aircraft carriers. Canada, of course, doesn't have aircraft carriers. And all that stealth technology and short takeoff and landing capacity comes at a cost. In addition to the price tag of about $135 million per plane, the F-35 has a relatively short range. This makes it an odd choice for a large, sparsely populated country."[8]

In June 2014, he returned to the subject, with a comparison between the 1960-era Lockheed CF-104 Starfighter and the F-35 Lightning. Both are designed to be ground support fighters, as opposed to air-superiority fighters. Fully 110 of the 239 CF-104 Starfighters crashed before they were replaced by the CF-18s; one quarter of Canadian Starfighter crashes were attributed to bird strikes for this single-engine aircraft. The F-35 Lightning is also single-engined, and also will be used in ground-support roles, where bird strikes are more common. The CF-104 Starfighter was incapable and unequipped for dogfighting. The F-35 Lightning has little room for dogfighting munitions, and is underdesigned for the role. A tactic for enemies will thus be to send air-superiority fighters to sweep the field of Canadian Lightnings and then to dominate the battlespace. Furthermore, the F-35 Lightning will be equipped with 24 million lines of computer code, making it vulnerable to EMP warfare.[9]

Arctic sovereignty[edit]

Byers has written extensively on issues of Arctic sovereignty.

On December 28, 2011, the Toronto Star published an article by Byers entitled "Russia pulling ahead in the Arctic".[10] In that article he pointed out that Canada and Russia have taken identical positions as to whether they exercise sovereignty over the Northwest Passage and Northeast Passage. Byers states that Russian officials had quoted from a previously secret US diplomatic cable, that had quoted Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper's opinion that Arctic Sovereignty disputes would not lead to war.

Also on December 28, 2011, Al Jazeera published an article by Byers entitled "The dragon looks north", about China's recent exploration efforts in the Arctic.[11] He suggested China didn't need to challenge the sovereignty of the nations with offshore claims in the Arctic, because the development of those resources would require Chinese cooperation to develop – Chinese capital and Chinese markets.

In 2007 Byers was critical of the Harper government's change of plans for building new naval icebreakers.[12] The previous year the Harper government had announced plans to build three icebreakers capable of transiting ice condition eight. In 2007 the Harper government revised the plan to build 6-8 dual use vessels, which would only be capable of transiting ice condition five.

Byers agreed with a report prepared for the Canadian Senate that Canadian Coast Guard vessels patrolling the Arctic should be armed, stating, the "quiet authority of a deck-mounted gun" is not a provocation.[13]


  1. ^ Douglas & McIntyre
  2. ^ Ubyssey, July 2, 2008
  3. ^ http://www.canada.com/vancouversun/columnists/story.html?id=20f4952e-0178-4f24-b5df-e6e85f15d45f
  4. ^ http://www.thehilltimes.ca/page/view/.2008.july.7.byers
  5. ^ Lai, Tim. Shut down the oilsands, NDP candidate urges. Canwest News Service. September 25, 2008. Accessed on: September 29, 2008.
  6. ^ Liberals and New Democrats together could unseat Harper by Michael Byers, Toronto Star, November 2, 2009.
  7. ^ Gerry Nicholls: New Democrats for less democracy by Gerry Nicholls, National Post, November 2, 2009.
  8. ^ Byers, Michael. "$16 billion for the wrong planes." The Toronto Star. 18 July 2010.
  9. ^ G+M: "Will the F-35 be another ‘Widow Maker’ for Canadian pilots?" 12 Jun 2014
  10. ^ Michael Byers (2011-12-28). "Russia pulling ahead in the Arctic". Toronto Star. Retrieved 2012-01-10.  mirror
  11. ^ Michael Byers (2011-12-28). "The dragon looks north: China grows hungry for Arctic resources and shipping routes as northern ice melts". Al Jazeera. Retrieved 2012-01-10.  mirror
  12. ^ "Harper to bolster Canada's territorial claims during Arctic visit". Ottawa Citizen. 2007-08-07. Retrieved 2012-01-10. Michael Byers, Canada Research Chair in global politics and international law at the University of British Columbia, has advocated purchasing two heavy icebreakers and putting more money into mapping Canada's northern continental shelf in support of future territorial claims.  mirror
  13. ^ Randy Boswell (2010-10-21). "Tories to consider arming Arctic-bound coast guard ships". Nunatsiaq News. Retrieved 2010-10-23. And Michael Byers, a University of British Columbia expert on international law, said the "quiet authority of a deck-mounted gun" is a reasonable show of force in the Arctic, and does not constitute a provocation to foreign countries or "preparing for war with the Russians." All coast guard icebreakers, he said, should be "multi-purpose vessels" that not only perform navigational assistance, conduct scientific research and provide search-and-rescue services, but also bring both the symbolic and practical might of a "light machine gun" to the job of enforcing Canada’s sovereignty in the Arctic. He added that sending two ships worth millions of dollars to deal with an Arctic security breach — an unarmed coast guard icebreaker, for example, and an armed Canadian Forces vessel — defies logic given the vastness of the Canadian Arctic and the evident efficiency of sending a single, armed vessel with a full range of capabilities.  line feed character in |quote= at position 276 (help) mirror

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