Discussant/Commentateur/Commentatrice : Linda White (University of Toronto)
The October Crisis at 50: Old Questions Under New Light: Spyridon Kotsovilis (University of Toronto Mississauga) Abstract: The 1970 October Crisis is considered one of the seminal episodes in modern Canadian political history, its effects reverberating for decades in the Canadian political scene. As the fiftieth anniversary approaches, this paper introduces new anecdotal evidence from interviews with some of its protagonists to explore a set of questions central to the October Crisis: ‘When, if ever, is violence justified by the state and non-state agents?’ and ‘How are disagreements over its justification to be resolved?’ These questions are also pertinent to the study of Liberalism and Nationalism, as they explore individual and collective rights vis-à-vis concepts of social justice and political obligation. The paper consists of five parts: Parts I and II briefly examine the concept of political violence, examines a list of its justification and offers a critique. Part III addresses the issues of justice and fairness in society, as guarantors of rights, obligations and safeguards of civility, as well as the nature of dissent. Given arising disagreement over conceptions of Justice, Part IV explores how and who is to decide when violence is an appropriate course of action-a discussion pointing to the concept of legitimacy. Finally, Part V applies these theoretical approaches to the case study of the October Crisis through the light shed by hitherto unpublished interviews of some of the crisis’ main actors--like Jacques Parizeau, Claude Ryan and Eric Kierans (upon agreement that they would become public posthumously)--conducted by the author two decades ago.
Seeing Like a Dominion: Reinterpreting the Construction of the Early Canadian State: Stewart Prest (Simon Fraser University) Abstract: Standard accounts of the emergence of federalism in Canada focus on two main causal factors: the prior existence of governance institutions and the importance of geographically distinct societal differences. This dichotomy fails to capture significant other aspects of the early modern Canadian political structure. I argue that Canada's confederation era governance is are best understood as a more general process of state building, one in which the emergent central government grappled with diverse forms of settlement, attempting to render each legible in a manner much like that described in James Scott’s Seeing Like a State.
For instance, Ziblatt argues that federal states emerge where strong infrastructural power exists within pre-existing subunits. However, in Canada's case, this process is conditioned by the perceptions of central government actors, who recognized infrastructural capacity in the east of the new dominion, but not in the west. Accordingly, the initial result was federal governance in the east, and unitary across the western territories after their purchase. However, in much of that territory there were in fact existing forms of infrastructural capacity, but not of a type the new Canadian state readily recognized. Subsequent attempts to render the territory more legible to the state prompted intense resistance. The outcomes of ensuing confrontations varied—the Red River rebellion was successful, while the Northwest rebellion was not. Seen in these terms, that quest for self-government forms part of a larger struggle prompted by the process of building the Canadian state, and both process and struggle continue to this day.