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Interpreting Quebec’s Exile Within the Federation

Selected Political Essays


Guy Laforest

This book combines the approaches of political theory and of intellectual history to provide a lucid account of Québec’s contemporary situation within the Canadian federation.
Guy Laforest considers that the province of Québec, and its inhabitants, are exiled within Canada. They are not fully integrated, politically and constitutionally, nor are they leaving the federation, for now and for the foreseeable future. They are in between these two predicaments. Laforest provides insights into the current workings of the Canadian federation, and some of its key figures of the past fifty years, such as Pierre Elliott Trudeau, René Lévesque, Stephen Harper and Claude Ryan.
The book also offers thought-provoking studies of thinkers and intellectuals such as James Tully, Michel Seymour and André Burelle. Laforest revisits some key historical documents and events, such as the Durham Report and the 1867 and 1982 constitutional documents. He offers political and constitutional proposals that could contribute to help Québec moving beyond the current predicament of internal exile.
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Chapter 1: The Internal Exile of Québecers in the Canada of the Charter


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The Internal Exile of Québecers in the Canada of the Charter

I begin this chapter on a personal note. More than thirty years ago, when the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms came into effect, I was living in Montréal and studying at McGill University. Among my professors were two great intellectuals who were also great idealists, Charles Taylor and James Tully.1 I learned much from them, and, over time, they became friends. Other professors influenced me perhaps less directly though just as meaningfully, namely Blema Steinberg, Daniel Latouche, James Mallory, and Harold Waller. Their approach was tinged with realism, which perfectly supplemented Taylor and Tully’s approach. In philosophy, the realist approach is that of liberalism without illusions as expounded by Judith Shklar, Raymond Aron, Isaiah Berlin, and Karl Popper. In politics, according to these authors, one must first and foremost avoid the worst and must understand that cruelty, fear, terror, and violence can crush a person and attack his or her dignity and privacy. In this respect, I share the judgment of Irvin Studin, who wrote that Canada is a tremendous success on the scale of humanity. As a country, it is among the most “peaceful, just and civilized” (Studin 2006, 184). A country where, to add my own voice, the strong as well as the weak can sleep soundly in a decent, comfortable, and humane social environment without fear of the worst. All of this counts, therefore, as...

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