America’s northern neighbor faces a severe constitutional crisis. Unprecedented levels of public support for sovereignty in the predominantly French-speaking province of Quebec could lead to the breakup of Canada. This crisis was precipitated by two Canadian provinces’ failure in 1990 to ratify the Meech Lake Accord, a package of revisions to Canada’s constitution that addressed Quebec’s grievances concerning its place within the Canadian federation.
The current predicament is not an isolated incident-it is part of a recurring pattern of constitutional crisis in Canada. The longer-term question is, can workable solutions be found to keep Canada intact, or is a sovereign Quebec inevitable sooner or later? This book, aimed at an international audience, examines the complex roots of Canada’s constitutional discontent, the options currently being considered, and possible futures for “northern North America.”
Kent Weaver begins with an analysis of the integration of Canadian social divisions and political institutions in managing political conflict, arguing that traditional institutional arrangement have been irreparably undermined by social change and that current incitations often exacerbate political divisions. Stephane Dion shows how two structural factors-Quebecers’ fears of disappearing within an overwhelmingly English-speaking North America and increased confidence that Quebec can stand on its own- have combined with short-term catalytic factors, notably a feeling of rejection over the collapse of the Meech Lake Accord, to shape the ebb and flow of nationalist sentiment in Quebec in recent years. Andrew Stark argues that notions of citizenship and the state, associated with important philosophical currents in English Canada, create severe problems for attempts to reach an accommodation with Quebec. Keith Banting examines scenarios for Canada’s future with and without a politically sovereign Quebec and the implications of these scenarios for the United States.