Perhaps you've seen the old white house that stands alone behind the Performing Arts Center. Perhaps you've wondered what was housed there or why its placard reads “The Canada House.”

“Is that like an on-campus consulate?” you may have asked yourself.

This building, with its homey interior, holds—you guessed it—the Canadian-American Studies Department, a little known facet of the plethora of academic study here at Western. The house has been salvaged and recycled from the old days when Western Washington University first purchased that land for the school, said Chuck Hart, program manger for Canadian-American studies department.

With approximately 20 majors in their program this may be the smallest on Western's campus, (excluding the individually designed degrees from Fairhaven) but Hart said that the major is growing. The size of the major does provide some big benefits.

“The nice thing about Canadian-American studies is it's small enough for us to give some individual attention,” Hart said. The couch filled Canada House's walls are lined with student-made informational posters, which definitely give it the feel of a Fairhaven College type of intimacy.

The major is an interdisciplinary area of study in which students take core Canadian and Canadian-American studies classes as well as their choice of classes in English, art history, economics, anthropology, or political science, among others. The program provides a choice of a focus in French or a Canadian-related area of your choice.

Hart said that many of the students also focus on geography, economics or political science. Two recent graduates are currently working for the Mayor of Portland and the Olympia State Legislature, Hart said.

“It's useful for students to know the inner workings of the relationship between the U.S. and Canada,” Hart said. “Many other disciplines don't provide that type of knowledge.

Starting on April 13 and continuing until this Thursday is Western's third Canada Week, an event that also occurs at Portland State and Boise State, Hart said. The purpose of this week is not only to raise awareness of the Canadian-American Studies Department but also to raise awareness of the importance of our relationship with Canada, as it is the Northwest's closest neighbor and largest trading partner, Hart said.

The week was kicked off by the final dance performance by Montreal Danse, a French-Canadian contemporary dance troupe. They performed in the Western Gallery in combination with the displayed photography of Dianne Kornberg.

The week also includes a Canadian film festival, a lecture series and performances by the Canadian bands The Handsome Firs and Tegan and Sara. The Handsome Firs are a Quebec band, Hart said, while Tegan and Sara hail from Calgary.

Tegan and Sara were just nominated for a Juno award (the equivalent of an American Grammy Award) for their latest album “The Con” which came out last July, Associated Student Productions Pop Music co-coordinator Victor Cuellar said. Tickets are selling fast and are almost sold out, he said. Handsome Firs singer Dan Boeckner also sings and plays guitar in the band Wolf Parade, Cuellar said.

On April 17 Canada Week, in conjunction with the Association for Canadian Studies in the United States (ACSUS) grant, will bring the award winning poet Marilyn Dumont to Bellingham. Dumont's poetry addresses her Metis heritage, said Nancy Pagh Western Creative Writing Lecturer and writer of the ACSUS grant.

“Metis identity was forged as European fur traders and First Nations women created a hybrid community,” Pagh said.

Often Dumont speaks about coming of age as a Metis woman as well as the ramifications of being forced into a boarding school where she and other Metis children were not allowed to speak their native language, Pagh said.

“I like her work because I find it brave and intimate,” Pagh said. “It has really important political ramifications without being didactic or preachy.”

Dumont will be speaking at Lairmont Manor off Chuckanut in Fairhaven at 7 p.m. Refreshments and wine will be provided by the Canadian Consulate, Pagh said.

For more information and a fulll schedule of events visit the Canadian-American Studies Web site at http://www.wwu.edu/canam/ and click on “upcoming events.”