UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

The quest for national unity : Ottawa's constitutional strategy in the Trudeau era Mikloska, John A.


The rise of Quebecois nationalism in the 1960s and regionalism in the 1970s presented a considerable threat to the Canadian state. A variety of political, institutional, economic and socio-cultural factors have contributed to these phenomena. One of the primary preoccupations of the federal government in recent decades has been the resolution of the national unity problem. During the tenure of Pierre Trudeau as prime minister, Ottawa developed an intriguing and multi-faceted constitutional strategy to deal with the challenges facing Canadian federalism. This thesis has divided that strategy into three major parts: the reform of federal institutions in an intrastate direction; the policies of bilingualism and multiculturalism; and the entrenchment of a constitutional Bill of Rights. These initiatives may be breifly described as a restructuring of institutions and state—society relations designed to strengthen the national government and community at the expense of their provincial counterparts. The federal plan was an attempt to build a pan-Canadian identity which transcended regional identities, to limit the legislative capacities of provincial governments, and to increase the salience of non-territorial cleavages. The national unity strategy of the Trudeau government can be viewed as part of a historical pattern of federal initiatives designed to prevent the provincialization of the country. However, by emphasizing Canada's linguistic duality and cultural diversity and by shifting the focus onto individual rights and the symbolic aspects of social organization, Trudeau's formula diverged somewhat from previous nation-building ventures.

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