Federalism and the New World Order

By Stephen J. Randall; Roger Gibbins | Go to book overview

The Future of Federalism:
Lessons from Canada and Québec

Alain-G. Gagnon

Guy Laforest

In the past few years, the world has witnessed the dissolution of three imporant federations—Czechoslovakia, the Soviet Union, and Yugoslavia—and the current Russian federation is also under threat from various centrifugal forces. Does federalism have a future beyond bipolarity in the globalized world of late modernity? The tensions created by globalization and the re‐ urgence of nationalism do not necessarily push in the direction of fragentation. In federal regimes of the past and even of today, numerous leaders, as if their eyes had suddenly been opened by the ghosts of Plato and Hobbes, have been obsessed with unity and have attempted to create—whatever the cost—a sense of national allegiance to the federation as a whole. Their goal was to transform federations and complex societies into nations, to create, for instance, a Yugoslav identity to rival and ultimately to supersede the Bosnian, Croatian, and Slovenian identities. The failure of many such endeavours should encourage the abandonment of such a strategy. To shed some light on this dilemma and to provide some suggestions for a more prudent path for federal undertakings, this paper examines the case of Canada and Québec. 1.

The current situation in Canada is one that denies federal qualities while it cultivates similarities. This shift is viewed by some as a way to provide the ingredients necessary to reunite the country following the unfortunate patriation of the British North America Act without Québec's consent in 1982, the undisputed failure of the Meech Lake process (1987-90), and, in 1992, the defeat of the poorly conceived Charlottetown accord. It seems that while Québec was busy discussing its constitutional future and assessing its aspirations as a national community, a process best represented by the Bé‐

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1.
For a comparative account of such federal endeavours, see Burgess and Gagnon (1993).

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