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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 Laforest revisits some key historical documents and events, such as the Durham Report and the 1867 and 1982 constitutional documents.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 9: The Canadian State and the Political Freedom of Québec: The Ideas of James Tully and Michel Seymour

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The Canadian State and the Political Freedom of Québec

The Ideas of James Tully and Michel Seymour

Philosophical and political debates concerning the nature of the Canadian state, Québec’s right to self-determination, and the legality and legitimacy of a secessionist approach have lost much of their intensity in Québec and Canada generally over the last decade. All across Canada, constitutional issues have been relegated to a very secondary role in political life, partly owing to the extreme rigidity of the amending formula.1 In this chapter, I consider the works of philosophers James Tully and Michel Seymour on the topic of Québec’s political freedom within the Canadian state, being fully aware that I am engaging in hermeneutic work in political thought belonging to the history of ideas. I cannot imagine how my reflections could have any political influence in the country where I live in the short or medium term. However, it seems that, as Scotland prepared to hold a referendum on September 18, 2014, and while Catalonia attempted to convince the Spanish government to let it organize a consultation process on its future in early November 2014, interpreting Tully and Seymour’s thoughts on the Canadian-Québec situation could shed instructive light in contexts where there is institutional blockage and strong political tension.

Tully is a leading political philosopher in contemporary English- speaking Canada. A similar remark can be made about Seymour in French-speaking Qu...

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