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Confederation and National Duality

Published on June 7, 2016

University of Alberta - Campus Saint-Jean

27 – 29 April 2017

Campus Saint-Jean, University of Alberta


Organizing Committee

Serge DUPUIS, Université Laval

Valérie LAPOINTE-GAGNON, Campus Saint-Jean, University of Alberta Rémi LÉGER, Simon Fraser University

Alex TREMBLAY LAMARCHE, Université Laval/Université libre de Bruxelles


Scientific Committee

Linda CARDINAL, University of Ottawa

Claude COUTURE, Campus Saint-Jean, University of Alberta Nathalie KERMOAL, University of Alberta

Martin PÂQUET, Université Laval

Joseph Yvon THÉRIAULT, Université du Québec à Montréal

La patrie, pour nous, c’est le Canada tout entier, c’est-à-dire une fédération de races distinctes et de provinces autonomes. La nation que nous voulons voir se développer, c’est la nation canadienne, composée des Canadiens français et des Canadiens anglais, c’est-à-dire de deux éléments séparés par la langue et la religion, et par les dispositions légales nécessaires à la conservation de leurs traditions respectives, mais unies dans un attachement de confraternité, dans un commun attachement à la patrie commune Henri BOURASSA,1923.

The 150th anniversary of Confederation presents a timely opportunity to explore the legacy, the meaning, the successes and challenges of our political system. In this context, Canada’s relationship to national duality, a philosophy largely developed by French Canadian intellectuals portraying Canada as a “pact between two founding peoples”, warrants serious consideration.

This notion has evolved and been debated throughout the years. It has had many concrete manifestations through the gradual recognition of the French language in political institutions, French-language education across the provinces and territories, and the expansion of language training in the public service. Debates surrounding the establishment of Canadian Confederation also represented an expression of national duality. The creation of the Province of Québec ensured the recognition of French Canadians as a people in the Laurentian Valley, even if this recognition was criticized in the ensuing decades in light of the centralizing tendencies of Canadian federalism. The creation of the Province of Manitoba, which was initially bilingual, fuelled high hopes for French Canadians, but these hopes would rapidly vanish. Confederation has on the whole remained inadequate for French-speaking Canadians, especially those residing in provinces and territories outside the Belle province. We could therefore view national duality as a common theme running through Canadian history: it emerged following Conquest, reached its high points during the 19th and 20th century, and it endures in a weaker version in contemporary politics.

This symposium will aim to take stock of the notion of duality in both intellectual debates and institutional representations. It seeks the participation of historians, political scientists, sociologists, jurists, and all those who study Canada and its relationship to duality. What have been the highlights of the formal recognition of “two founding peoples”? What opposition has duality met in the history of the Canadian federation? Which role(s) has it played in the construction of Canadian identity? How has duality been approached by majorities (Québécois and English Canadians) and minorities (Franco-Ontarians, Anglo-Quebecers, Acadians, First Nations, etc.)? Outside of Québec and Francophone minority communities, did Canadians adhere to the notion of duality? What can be said about cultural hybridity and those who belong to both dominant cultures? What role have women and gender played in the construction of duality? Which relationship(s) do First Nations have to this conception of Canada? What obstacles has duality met through British imperialism, North American continentalism, multiculturalism, Indigenous and Québécois nationalism, etc.? In a diverse country, in which many Francophones now tend to imagine duality through the Québec-Canada paradigm or linguistic mercantilism, what is left of duality in the 21st century?

We welcome researchers interested in these questions to submit a proposal that includes a title, a 200-300 word abstract, and a brief biographical note (institutional affiliation, area of expertise, main publications, and contact details). Proposals must be submitted by e-mail (in a Word or PDF attachment) to by June 30th 2016. Papers in French and English are welcome.

As many presenters could have to travel important distances to participate, organizers will request funding from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council and other funding agencies, and if successful will reimburse travel and lodging. Presenters will also be invited to submit an article to a special issue or an edited volume.

We look forward to reading your proposals, The Organizing Committee


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