Jurisdictional Pluralism and Societal Federalism

AuthorKathy L. Brock/Geoffrey Hale
 
Jurisdictional Pluralism and
Societal Federalism
Federalism is a form of political organization used to manage geo-
graphic and societal diversity, whether in “bringing together or hold-
ing together” diverse groups. Most Canadian scholars of federalism
outside Quebec typically view federalism as a “state-centred” phe-
nomenon, ref‌lecting the relative autonomy of political elites from
those who ele ct them. However, geographic and economic diversity,
reinforced by electoral systems that base ele ctoral representation on
geographically based constituencies, also enable regionally diverse
societal factors to inf‌luence the workings of federalism.
Societal factors become most salient when geographically concen-
trated minorities organize politically to challenge dominant political,
economic, or cultural elites, whether locally based or “from away” — a
recurring phenomenon throughout Canadian history. Such challen-
ges take multiple forms, including the mobilization of regionally
based federal parties, new inter-regional political coalitions, or the
emergence of new provincial political parties. Successful political
and related societal movements shake up patterns of political com-
petition and champion new ways to interpret the public good.
Central Canadian politics since Confederation have often
hinged on relations between predominantly English-speaking and
French-speaking communities and the mediation of Canada’s lin-
guistic duality through its federal system. Until the Second World
War, it was Ontario rather than Quebec (or smaller provinces) that
championed provincial autonomy and self-government most fre-
quently and eectively in federal-provincial relations. But since the
s, Quebec’s political classes have shown the strongest commit-
ment to these principles.
Political and scholarly views of federalism in Quebec ref‌lect
deep societal dierences rooted in language, culture, legal (that is,
civil law) systems, and Quebec’s self-conscious status as the only
predominantly French-speaking society in North America. How-
ever, as Donald Smiley has noted, Canadian federalism is based on
cleavages (or divisions) “that extend beyond those between English
and French.” A majority of Canadians, including immigrants, typ-
ically view themselves as having “plural” identities. is growing
trend combines identif‌ication with and often pride in “Canada”
with provincial and regional communities, along with other com-
munities of heritage, sentiment, and interest.
A  Environics study shows that “about three in four” Can-
adians identify as citizens of b oth Canada and a province to varying
degrees, rather than as one or the other. (Of course, many Indigen-
ous peoples also self-identify as “First Nations,” “Metis, “Inuit,” or
with distinct communities within those wider identities.) Primarily
or exclusively Canadian identities (see Table .) are strongest in
Ontario, Manitoba, and two of three northern territories. Conversely,
majorities of both Quebecers (particularly French-speaking Qué-
bécois) and Newfoundlanders continue to identify primarily with
their province, ref‌lecting Will Kymlicka’s def‌inition of “national
minorities” as “historically-settled, territorially-concentrated, and
previously s elf-governing culture s whose territory has been incor-
porated into a larger state. Canadians in other provinces are more
likely to arm plural identities, whose intensity may vary with per-
ceptions of federal policies that either acknowledge or marginalize

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