The Other Quiet Revolution: National Identities in English Canada, 1945–71


277 pages
Contains Illustrations, Bibliography, Index
ISBN 0-7748-1088-2
DDC 971.004'11209045





Reviewed by Hugh Mellon

Hugh Mellon is an associate professor of political science at King’s
College, University of Western Ontario.


Those of times past might remember Dominion Day, a Red Ensign flag, and
school assemblies adorned by God Save the Queen. Those days have passed,
though, and the overt British character of Canadian life has
dramatically declined. The nature and rapidity of the passing leads
Igartua to see this as a counterpart to the better-known Québécois
Quiet Revolution of the 1960s. Readers interested in modern Canadian
history and in the contribution made by national symbols and public
debate to the evolution of political culture will find this an important
publication of an understudied topic.

In earlier times, many Canadians identified with the presumed glories
of their British heritage. Textbooks stressed such outlooks while
newspapers and politicians freely used ethnic categories. But by the
mid-1960s a major transformation had occurred. This practice was
replaced by modern notions of equality, acceptance of made-in-Canada
national symbols, and a developing sense that bilingualism and cultural
diversity would be the country’s future. The roots of the decline can
be seen through such postwar debates as the development of Canadian
citizenship legislation, the substitution of Canada Day for Dominion
Day, the questioning of British foreign policy over Suez, and the
selection of a distinctive Canadian flag.

This is a thoughtful book that assumes historical background on the
reader’s part. It offers a carefully developed argument about cultural
change and English-Canadian identity. Perhaps most fascinating is
Igartua’s account of the flag debate of the 1960s and the failure of
the reactionary conservatism of John Diefenbaker. While Diefenbaker and
company engaged in protracted parliamentary delay in the interest of
saving the Red Ensign, they increasingly appeared out of touch,
particularly with French Canadians, especially those from Quebec. People
came to accept the flag and the old British idea of Canada passed away.
In the ensuing years, the Bilingualism and Biculturalism Commission
contributed to helping Canadians reach a new sense of themselves.
Igartua offers us a sophisticated reflection on the nature of this
overall change in English-Canadian perspectives.


Igartua, José E., “The Other Quiet Revolution: National Identities in English Canada, 1945–71,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed June 24, 2024,