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Interpreting Quebec’s Exile Within the Federation

Selected Political Essays

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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 Laforest revisits some key historical documents and events, such as the Durham Report and the 1867 and 1982 constitutional documents.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 6: Lord Durham, French Canada, and Québec: Remembering the Past, Debating the Future

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Lord Durham, French Canada, and Québec

Remembering the Past, Debating the Future

It remains immensely worthwhile in our times to read Lord Durham’s Report, for social scientists as well as for anyone who has a general or scholarly interest in politics, philosophy, and history. Its edifying power is first aimed towards a global public, reflecting in vexing circumstances upon the appropriate remembrance of a troubled past and seeking ways of delineating the moral and political consequences flowing from specific ways to interpret historical facts and events. We deal here with the contours of a perennial philosophical debate, attempting to make sense of the relationship between history, memory, and politics. To show why the Durham Report is as indispensable as ever for political theorists of all stripes, I will slightly reformulate a question that is a recurrent theme in Janet Ajzenstat’s introduction to the 2006 edition of Lord Durham’s Report. Can the universalistic pull of liberal modernity be reconciled with the preservation of particular identities and cultures? In the past twenty years, this question has been a central issue in the Republic of Letters. It is no mere coincidence that Canadians have played leading roles in such a debate (Beiner and Norman 2001). For quite obviously to the readers who have journeyed through this book, the pedagogical value of the Durham Report is nowhere more important than in Canada and Québec.

In 1963, when the Report was...

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