Fall 2022 - POL 422 D100

Canadian International Security Relations (4)

Class Number: 5889

Delivery Method: In Person


  • Course Times + Location:

    Th 2:30 PM – 5:20 PM
    AQ 5007, Burnaby

  • Prerequisites:

    Eight upper division units in political science or permission of the department.



The course traces the evolution of Canadian thinking on national international security issues through an examination of pre-World War II isolationism, elite attitudes during the Cold War, the formative period of NATO, as well as Canadian involvement in the Korean and Indochina conflicts. More recent policies concerning ALCM testings, NORAD, and nuclear non-proliferation will also be explored in detail.


Subtitle:  Grey Zone Warfare and Security in the Age of Disruptive Technologies

Course Description

This course introduces students to disruptive technologies that present political and security grand challenges to Canada and allied nations (e.g., social media weaponization, artificial intelligence, cybersecurity) and the impacts that those technologies have on international security and Canadian strategy.

The rapidly deteriorating global security architecture finds great powers like Russia and China, smaller states like Iran and North Korea, and non-state actors such as terrorists employ hybrid or asymmetric warfare tactics that range from cyber-attacks to propaganda and subversion, eco­nomic blackmail, sponsorship of proxy forces and military expansionism. Such powers are relying on ambiguity, strategic surprise and deception to accomplish their objectives.

In this course we will examine how disruptive technologies from the digital realm are used with analog tactics to wage non-conventional wars. Some of the questions we will look at include: how has social media galvanized new tools of mass influence, and how has a fragmented and polarized media landscape enabled their spread? How propaganda and disinformation campaigns became central to autocratic regimes and how social media has facilitated their expansion and impact? How is Artificial Intelligence used to help in the persecution of minorities and political opponents? How is AI altering the balance of power between global actors and among alliances? How key technical innovations have transformed international security? How international security developments have led to innovation? What are the current and future threats to cyberspace? How do states take advantage of/abuse people-to-people links (e.g., religion, ethnicity, students/researchers) to gain military superiority.

During the first part of the class (10 weeks), students are introduced to these technologies and tactics, and learn how they impact Canada/allied national security and what tools Canada/allies have to deal with these challenges. This will occur through a series of (a) lectures, (b) guest lectures from subject matter experts from across SFU other Canadian universities, national laboratories and other federal agencies, and (c) reading assignments.

For the last 3-4-weeks, the course is set-up as a simulation. The aim of this part of the class is for students to develop novel responses/strategies to dealing with challenges from disruptive technologies. Students are introduced to a potential threat facing Canada and/or allied states and tasked to devise a strategy for how the Canadian government should respond to this threat. Students will be broken into groups and potentially be assigned an advisor (preferably subject matter experts that have served as guest lecturers) who will coach each team. At the end of the wargame, teams will present and defend their updated strategy to a panel of subject matter experts and receive feedback.



  • Mid-term Exam 20%
  • Final Exam 30%
  • Simulation 30%
  • Discussion 20%



Textbook (TBD). Various book chapters and policy papers will be uploaded to Canvas.

Department Undergraduate Notes:

The Department of Political Science strictly enforces a policy on plagiarism.

Registrar Notes:


SFU’s Academic Integrity website http://www.sfu.ca/students/academicintegrity.html is filled with information on what is meant by academic dishonesty, where you can find resources to help with your studies and the consequences of cheating. Check out the site for more information and videos that help explain the issues in plain English.

Each student is responsible for his or her conduct as it affects the university community. Academic dishonesty, in whatever form, is ultimately destructive of the values of the university. Furthermore, it is unfair and discouraging to the majority of students who pursue their studies honestly. Scholarly integrity is required of all members of the university. http://www.sfu.ca/policies/gazette/student/s10-01.html