Dalhousie Law Journal


One country, Canada's nationhood, political marriage


One Country or Two is an excellent book on the most critical subject faced by Canadians. It discusses Canada's nationhood and the issues of its survival as a political marriage of two peoples and two cultures. Ten main essays are edited by R. M. Burns, introduced by Principal John Deutsch, and provided with a reflective postscript by one of the essayists, Richard Simeon, who reviews some features of Quebec society in the light of the October crisis of 1970. All contributors are English-speaking Canadians and all except three are on the faculty of Queen's University. The essays are not uniform in pattern, present no common thesis, and do not pretend to cover every segment of the subject. They are distinct and individual explorations of certain important facets of French-English relations and the consequences for Confederation of contemporary French-Canadian nationlism especially in its most radical form. All the authors believe in one country, and in their several ways present a liberal-minded case for it. In the opening essay Professor W. R. Lederman shows how the basic Canadian traditions of parliamentary government and federalism were fashioned by the joint efforts of French Canadians and English Canadians, and how from the outset they were adapted to the need of combining the two peoples within one state. Dean R. L. Watts follows with a wide-ranging analysis of the factors contributing to either the disintegration or strength of modern federations and the relevance of this to Canada. He finds that the forces of disruption usually arise from distinct differences in language, race, culture, social structure, and regional wealth. Such divisive influences are specially strong whenever one or more of them coincide with geographic regions. The supreme requisite of federal statecraft is the capacity to diminish tensions and depolarize conflicts between the regional groups and governments and the national authority. This acute study offers no general panacea for federal health and security, except the One Country or Two? 371 necessity for a spirit of compromise. Each federation according to its temper and circumstances must find its own institutional contrivances for achieving an equilibrium between the centre and the periphery, between the national and local units of government. Dean Watts passes one sombre verdict: "When we look at the conditions and processes which have contributed to the disintegration of other federations, the closeness with which the situation in Canada parallels them is chilling."