Is Quebec Nationalism Just? Perspectives from Anglophone Canada


225 pages
Contains Bibliography, Index
ISBN 0-7735-1341-8
DDC 971.4'04




Edited by Joseph H. Carens
Reviewed by Penny E. Bryden

Penny E. Bryden teaches history at Mount Allison University in New


In the wake of the 1995 Quebec referendum, one cannot help but feel
somewhat exhausted by the ongoing, yet still inconclusive, process of
constitutional renewal. The frayed nerves resulting from the failed
Meech Lake Accord, the failed Charlottetown Agreement, and now the
slimmest of victories for the anti-separatist forces in Quebec have all
too often found expression in short-tempered arguments in favor of
Quebec’s departure, if for no other reason than to put an end to the
debate. Few authors, especially in English Canada, have asked pertinent
questions about the legitimacy of Quebec’s goals and
aspirations—few, that is, until the appearance of this collection of

Is Quebec Nationalism Just? is a sober and thoughtful evaluation of the
philosophy underlying Quebec nationalism. Contemporary political theory
provides the framework within which the authors examine the existence of
liberal values in the Quebec nationalist platform and policy. The
collection is a successful attempt “to contribute to philosophical
discussions within liberal theory by confronting abstract, theoretical
concerns with the concrete problems and issues of the case in Quebec.”
Individual articles judge Quebec’s treatment of immigrants and
refugees by liberal standards (Carens and Adelman); examine Quebec’s
steadfast and fundamentally liberal commitment to provincial autonomy
and its changing sense of the effectiveness of procedural constitutional
reform (Vipond and Ajzenstat); question the relevance of
English-Canadian emphasis on “shared values” (Norman); and identify
the moral justification for, and political complexities of, secession
(Adelman and Whitaker).

Following different paths, the authors reach the unanimous conclusion
that Quebec nationalism is not inherently anti-liberal and is, in fact,
a manifestation, not always politically sound, of a deep and
longstanding commitment to liberal values. The authors are all
self-acknowledged federalists, but in asking serious questions about the
nature of Quebec nationalism, they have done what few others have
managed: they have “deepen[ed] the character of the debate over


“Is Quebec Nationalism Just? Perspectives from Anglophone Canada,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed July 16, 2024,