Charter versus Federalism

Charter versus Federalism: The Dilemmas of Constitutional Reform

Copyright Date: 1992
Pages: 160
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  • Book Info
    Charter versus Federalism
    Book Description:

    Responding to the increasing diversity of the Canadian population -- and to an increasing sensitivity to historical diversities -- the 1982 Constitution Act amended the British North America Act and introduced the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, giving new powers to heterogeneous groups within the Canadian polity. These changes disturbed the equilibrium of an older, federalist Canada whose constitutional concerns were limited to the relative powers of federal and provincial governments and to French-English ethnic/linguistic questions. Cairns underlines the significance of international influences on the development of Canada's constitution, in particular the adoption of the Charter, and examines the constitution's role in shaping Canadians' civic identities and community conceptions. He argues that the constitution is a powerful mobilizing instrument that shapes the people subject to its authority. Canada is now populated by what Cairns calls "Charter Canadians," who see themselves as rights-bearers and tend to look to the federal government as the effective focus of political community. During the Meech Lake affair, the demands of Charter Canadians and politicized aboriginal peoples clashed with Quebec's constitutional aspirations as well as older élite accommodation politics.

    eISBN: 978-0-7735-6327-8
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Foreword
    (pp. vii-viii)
    Douglas Brown

    Professor Alan Cairns originally presented the first three of these essays while he was the Kenneth R. MacGregor Visiting Lecturer at Queen’s University in February 1987. He revised the text of the lectures and added a fourth essay in order to comment more fully on the developments in constitutional reform which arose after the now famous meeting of Canada’s first ministers at Meech Lake in April 1987.

    The essays consider the role of the constitution in Canadian society, focusing on how the Charter of Rights and Freedoms introduced in 1982 has transformed the political agenda and the nature of political...

  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-2)
    Alan C. Cairns
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 3-10)

    The unity of the following chapters, aside from being contained within the same covers and written by a single author, resides in a particular perspective on the constitution and its relation to Canadian society.¹ The constitution that is portrayed in the following pages, and even more so the Charter, are not the lawyers’ constitution and the lawyers’ Charter. My interest is more in the social role of the constitution, how it shapes society as it responds to the changing nature of the social and other divisions of a modern people, and the converse, the consequences for the constitution of its...

  6. CHAPTER ONE International Influences on the Charter
    (pp. 11-32)

    We do not suffer from an absence of interpretations of how the Constitution Act, 1982, came into being. Bourgeois and Marxist scholars, insiders and outsiders, axe-grinders and axe-sharpeners, aboriginals, feminists, and others — categories with overlapping membership — show no signs of fatigue as they swell the introspective literature. While much of the analysis that explores and interprets the great events Canadians have lived through — our “blooding” as a nation, our coming of age — is impressive, we lack those dispassionate, exhaustive accounts that only the passing of time might allow.

    We are still too close to the tumultuous events of the last...

  7. CHAPTER TWO Constitutional Refashioning of Community
    (pp. 33-61)

    In a recent article, Charles Tilly observed that “the ends of wars make accessible to analysis relationships that are normally extremely hard to distinguish amidst the peace time play of interests and institutions: relationships among states, between citizens and states, among different segments of the same state.”¹ The same can be said about a major constitutional crisis. It highlights relationships and patterns otherwise less visible.

    The title of this chapter may appear vaguely disturbing, with its suggestion of deliberate manipulation of our identities in the service of some higher end. On reflection, however, it is evident that the making and...

  8. CHAPTER THREE The Charter and the Constitution Act, 1982
    (pp. 62-95)

    The meaning of major constitutional change, such as the Constitution Act of 1982, is determined not exclusively by its contents but also by the interaction of the latter with a complex intellectual and political process that involves many actors and that goes on for decades. Such a change, it must also be remembered, is a supplement to an ongoing constitutional order with its own intellectual histories and embedded practices. To some extent, therefore, the new addition must be thought of as a graft that may not take, especially if it departs considerably from long-established constitutional assumptions.

    In practical terms, the...

  9. CHAPTER FOUR The Lessons of Meech Lake
    (pp. 96-126)

    The lessons of a phenomenon such as Meech Lake will vary from one participant to another, by whether the outcome is seen as a success or a failure, by the time of judgment, and by whether the drawer of lessons is an involved actor or a more detached, perhaps scholarly observer. Thus to write of the lessons of Meech Lake does not imply that they will emerge automatically from a scientific research process that would unerringly lead all seekers to the same interpretation; nor is it to suggest that those in charge of our constitutional affairs would necessarily agree with...

  10. Notes
    (pp. 127-145)
  11. Index
    (pp. 146-150)