IMBERT, PATRICK, editor. Consensual Disagreement: Canada and the Americas. Ottawa: U Ottawa P, 2005. Pp. 102. ISBN 0-88927-277-8.
Patrick Imbert has provided a short monograph advancing the argument that Canada is grounded, and advantageously so, in an alterity-respecting "consensual disagreement" between its linguistic and cultural components. Further, Canada is better served than other countries by its national myths and identity politics. Gerard Bouchard discusses how Canada and Quebec relate to the Americas, while Daniel Castillo Durante considers the recognition of alterity in Canada's migrant writing.
Imbert's "Introduction" presents the key argument: Canada's French and English-speaking populations can handle the contradictions inherent in the globalization process because they celebrate Canada's alterities (its expressions of otherness and differentness) rather than denying or suppressing them. Durante maintains that Canadians must overcome the pervasive European imaginary's stereotype of Canada as winter, a "great emptiness" or a "Great North" of snowbound wilderness (87-88). This national myth is damaging because it seals Canada inside a "fixed trap" of a master narrative that cannot appreciate Canada's constantly changing reality (91-92). For Durante, Canada's complexity includes its "elastic space in permanent negotiation" that must reinvent itself each day (97). Durante regrets that many non-Canadians, and even Canadians such as Gilles Vigneault and Nancy Huston, define Canada through a wintry geographic prism. Such a misleading conception of Canada is tempting, given complexities that include many unique untranslatable voices. But it hinders our appreciation of Canada's constantly evolving multicultural diversity.
Although all three contributors frequently refer to "Canada," they appear to think mostly of Quebec. They argue that Canada, as a whole, and Quebec, as its own unique society, are well positioned to handle international trends like the globalizing economy. Quebec, which (they fail to mention) is protected from American cultural takeover by the French language unlike the rest of Canada, can "link to a continental americaness without leaning towards Americanization" (41). Imbert then praises Canada's "remarkable capacity to foster social programs" (health care, for example) in a free market economy under the North American Free Trade Agreement (41). Unfortunately, here as elsewhere, we detect the complacent, self-congratulatory tone common to recent Canadian writing. There is no acknowledgment that Canada's internal tensions or its government's increasing reliance on the market pose any problems for Canadians. …