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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 Laforest revisits some key historical documents and events, such as the Durham Report and the 1867 and 1982 constitutional documents.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 5: What Canadian Federalism Means in Québec


← 66 | 67 → CHAPTER 5

What Canadian Federalism Means in Québec

As a teacher, in my instructions to students as they prepare their term papers, I often remind them that they should never abdicate their judgment to the authority of one single source. In the worst of circumstances, it is much better to articulate one’s own ideas and convictions than to surrender to a single book or article. In the same spirit, I would urge readers not to rely solely on my pronouncements about the meaning of federalism in Québec. In truth, this chapter’s title should include a question mark, and its content will illustrate, I hope, the richness and diversity of current Québecois thinking on the subject. There are many ways as well to approach the topic at hand. I have chosen a path that reflects my academic identity as a political theorist and an intellectual historian, keenly interested in the relationship between philosophy and constitutional law in Canada, hidden in a political science department. As a reader of Gadamer and as a former student of Charles Taylor, I start with some interpretive or hermeneutical precautions. Beyond the undeniable relevance of current reflections about the theory of federalism in its most general aspects, the real question of this chapter deals with the contemporary meaning of Canadian federalism in Québec.

Constitutional experts, ever attuned to the country’s mood, are all too aware that, after decades of wide-ranging discussions and reform projects...

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