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Canadian Political, Social and Historical (Re)visions in 20th and 21st Century

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Edited By Marcin Gabryś, Magdalena Marczuk-Karbownik and Magdalena Paluszkiewicz-Misiaczek

Canada trying to bring together Indigenous peoples, "two solitudes" of the French and the British, as well as a variety of poly-ethnic immigrants has mastered search for consensus and compromise as the best response to national, regional, political and ethnic tensions. This book examines how the evolution of various ideas, schemes, projects, proposals and objectives influenced the Canadian political and social present. It analyses how far Canada was able to realize its initial visions and to what extent it was forced to rework and reform them. It takes into account both the ideas which have actually been implemented and the ones which never progressed beyond the conceptual sphere, yet are important from historical perspective.

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Constitutional Memories in Canada: Devising the Revision in the Peril of Disunion: (Jeremy Elmerich)

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Jeremy Elmerich

Constitutional Memories in Canada: Devising the Revision in the Peril of Disunion

Abstract: Born out of a compact or a merger of its two colonizing peoples, Canada has remained a divided country. From its constitutional foundation by the British North America Act 1867, to the present day, through the great upheavals to which Canada has been subjected, this chapter analyses the respective constitutional representations that Canadians and Quebecers have developed. Bringing out conflicting patterns of misunderstanding, the narration of these parallel constitutional and identity trajectories leads to a turning point in 1995, when Canada’s unity itself was at stake.

Keywords: memory, constitution, nationalism, Trudeau, Quebec, federalism, referendum

Introduction

Conceptualized by Émile Durkheim’s disciple Maurice Halbwachs,1 collective memory plays an active role in national imaginaries as identified by Benedict Anderson.2 It consists as well in a “present-past”, as in a particular representation of history. This does not mean that memory is pure invention – as it is made of both selection and forgetting.3 Conversely, collective memory constitutes a construction of history into a particular collective reality. In this text, I intend to return to the founding of the Canadian Confederation, to pick up the thread of two divergent interpretations of that moment. Indeed, two different narrative paths4 have emerged between the people of English and of French descent. ←145 | 146→They have led to different imagined journeys within the Confederation, and sometimes to misunderstandings, frictions and confrontations between them,...

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