Academic journal article British Journal of Canadian Studies

Compassionate Canadians: Civic Leaders Discuss Human Rights

Academic journal article British Journal of Canadian Studies

Compassionate Canadians: Civic Leaders Discuss Human Rights

Article excerpt

Rhonda E. Howard-Hassmann, Compassionate Canadians: Civic Leaders Discuss Human Rights (Toronto: University of Toronto, 2003), xii + 322pp. Cloth. $55.00. ISBN 0-8020-3664-3.

Political philosophy is often taught as the great ideas of celebrated thinkers dwelling on fundamental questions. While enlightening, this approach is vulnerable to the criticism that great thinkers are not necessarily representative of how the mass of people understand politics. Compassionate Canadians gives voice to committed citizens from Hamilton and examines how they work through the practice of rights. The result is engaging as we see how they approach aspects of human rights and the associated debates.

Over 1996 and 1997, Howard-Hassman worked with seventy-eight people described as 'civic leaders'. The aim was to understand how active participants in local life work perceive complicated matters involving rights like hate crimes, gay rights, Aboriginal rights, and multiculturalism policy. Each chapter sets out a range of contested issues and the thinking of the Hamiltonians. Themes are developed and the author attempts to clarify prevailing thought patterns. Overall, the portrait that emerges is that of a thoughtful and sensitive collection of individuals with empathy for the plight of others. Howard-Hassmann offers the adjective 'compassionate' and a sympathetic portrait. …

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