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Indian Journal of Federal Studies
(Vol.XIII, No.1, 2012)

ISSN No. 0976-8408

Canadian Federalism: An Account 

- Alain-G. Gagnon


Two federal traditions have developed side by side in Canada: the first is territorial and mononational, while to second is based on a plurinational understanding of the politeia. The dominant culture, combined with waves of immigration favouring English Canadians, has had a decisive impact on the evolution of Canadian federalism. The Quebecois have defended the institutions of parliamentary democracy at the provincial level. Parliamentary supremacy seems like a compelling vehicle for getting the voice of their national community heard and to be a key political instrument making it possible to advance their societal plan in the framework of negotiations with Ottawa, while at the same time making the Quebec Assemblee nationale the forum, for example, for democratic deliberation. It is important to point out the efforts by the central government and the SupremeCourt (when it is asked) to pursue a standardisation mission in the name of universal rights. This pursuit is an obstacle to establishing truly federal practices since federalism "necessarily results in different legal regims and some fragmentation of the system of rights." As a matter of fact, Canada gives the impression of being a decentralised federation, but that does not reveal the hidden face of the institutional structure inherited from the British Empire's Golden Age. The paper critically argues that over the years Canadian Supreme Court has played crucial role in creating a central state with a unitary appearance that clashes with its plural nature. 

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