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The Quebec Question for the Next Generation 

Fresh thinking on an old question for a new century

The results of the 2011 general federal election – which featured the collapse of the Bloc Québécois, the rise of the NDP in Quebec, and the advent of a Conservative majority government with scant representation in Quebec and strong roots in the economically ascendant West – would in themselves be reason enough to examine the state and future of Quebec in the Canadian federation. However, if one sees these results as embedded in a larger national intellectual and policy-political context in which, two decades after the death of the Charlottetown Accord, an entire generation of political leaders and scholars outside of Quebec has developed without any sustained immersion in – or indeed instinct for – questions relating to the Constitution specifically and, arguably, Quebec in general, then the basis for renewed, new-century reflection on the “Quebec Question” acquires a far greater degree of relevance.

In Quebec – even leaving aside the watershed moment of the 1995 referendum – these same 20 years have, for many Francophone Québécois, seen the emergence and intensification of a collective imaginary that abstracts from Canada and the collective project. The consequence of this divergent imaginary is less the threat of a near-term national unity crisis than paralysis in the federal-provincial relations between Ottawa and Quebec, as well as general self-deterrence among leaders and thinkers about bold, new-century projects that will move the country forward in a fast-changing, ever complex world. An arguably facile assumption that Quebec will usually not be part of large-scale or ambitious pan-Canadian policy initiatives has set in among political and policy leaders in Ottawa and a number of provincial capitals. The degree to which such thinking is self-fulfilling is difficult to gauge.

Who's speaking?

Information on speakers can be found here.

With separatism far from dead (although many outside of Quebec may think it is) and a new Quebec provincial election scheduled for 2011-2012, the time is ripe for bringing together eminent thinkers and key players on Quebec and Canada-Quebec relations, as well as – by way of bridging the generations – emerging stars and future players on these matters to frame the “Quebec Question” for this early new century.


Les résultats de la récente élection générale au Canada sont à eux seuls des raisons suffisantes de se pencher sur l’avenir du Québec au sein de la fédération.  Ces élections ont été marquées par la chute du Bloc québécois, la percée du NPD au Québec et la consolidation d’un gouvernement conservateur fort de ses appuis dans les provinces ascendantes de l’Ouest. Ces résultats, peut-on suggérer, prennent leur source d’un vaste mouvement intellectuel et politique ayant conduit à la montée d’une nouvelle génération de leaders politiques et d’intellectuels à l’extérieur du Québec. Une génération ayant grandi sans être exposé aux enjeux relevant de la Constitution en particulier et, de façon plus générale aux questions sous-tendant la place du Québec au sein du Canada.

Au Québec, les vingt dernières années ont, pour plusieurs Québécois francophones, de plus été ponctuées par l’émergence d’une vision du monde faisant souvent abstraction de la fédération ou de l’avènement d’un projet commun canadien. Ces imaginaires différenciés, sans représenter à court terme une menace pour l’unité canadienne, pourraient mener à un appauvrissement des relations fédérales-provinciales, voire même agir comme élément dissuasif pour les chefs de file désireux de se lancer dans des projets porteurs et novateurs favorisant la cohabitation. En outre, à Ottawa de même que dans plusieurs capitales provinciales, la classe politique prend de plus en plus pour acquis le refus du Québec de s’engager en vue d’ambitieux projets politiques à l’échelle pan-canadienne, si bien qu’il est difficile de juger jusqu’à quel point cette façon de penser ne deviendra pas une prophétie qui s’auto-réalisera.

Avec une mouvance souverainiste qui est loin de s’être évaporée (bien que plusieurs commentateurs suggèrent que cela soit devenu inévitable) et une élection provinciale prévue au Québec au cours des prochains mois, il est aujourd’hui plus que jamais pertinent d’inviter d’éminents chercheurs et acteurs politiques intéressés par les relations Québec-Canada de même que des membres d’une nouvelle génération — qui se passionne pour les questions de notre temps — à explorer la question du Québec en identifiant des lieux de convergence et de solidarité. C’est à l’aune de ces constats que l’idée de relancer la conversation canadienne prend aujourd’hui tout son sens.


Location details

The University of Toronto’s Faculty Club is located at 41 Willcocks Street in Toronto Ontario.

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About the organizers

Alain Gagnon

Dr. Alain-G. Gagnon is Professor of political science at the Université du Québec à Montréal (UQAM) where he was granted the Canada Research Chair in Québec and Canadian Studies in 2003. From 1982 to 2003, he taught at the universities of Queen’s, Carleton and McGill. A member of the Royal Society of Canada, he is the founding director of the Centre de recherche interdisciplinaire sur la diversité (CRIDAQ) and the director of the Groupe de recherche sur les sociétés plurinationales (GRSP). He is the author of The Case for Multinational Federalism (Routledge, 2010), L’âge des incertitudes: essais sur le fédéralisme et la diversité nationale (Presses de l’Université Laval, 2011). He has co-edited with James Bickerton Canadian Politics (University of Toronto Press, going into its sixth edition) and, with Michael Burgess, Federal Democracies (Routledge 2011). He is the editor of Quebec: State and Society (2003) as well as Contemporary Canadian Federalism (2009) both released by the University of Toronto Press. A.G. Gagnon’s work has been translated in over 15 languages. He received the 2007 Josep Maria Vilaseca Award (Institut d’Estudis Autonomics, Generalitat de Catalunya), Marcel-Vincent Merit Award (2007), the Société québécoise de science politique 2008 Excellence Award as well as the 2010 Santander Award for Excellence in Research (Universidad Carlos III, Madrid) and the 2010-2013 Trudeau Award.

Irvin Studin

Ivrin StudinIrvin Studin is Assistant Professor and Program Director in the School of Public Policy and Governance, University of Toronto. His research, teaching and advisory interests include strategy, foreign policy, national security, constitutional law, federalism, governance, identity and sport policy, with recent writings focussing on the relationship between the constitutional structures of states and their capacity to exert strategic power in international affairs. The first ever recruit in the Government of Canada’s Recruitment of Policy Leaders programme, Studin worked for a number of years in the Privy Council Office in Ottawa, as well as in the Australian Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet in Canberra. He co-authored Canada’s 2004 National Security Policy, and principal-authored Australia’s 2006 national counter-terrorism policy. Studin holds graduate degrees from the London School of Economics, the University of Oxford (where he studied on a Rhodes Scholarship) and a Ph.D. from Osgoode Hall Law School (where he was a Trudeau Scholar and earned the Governor-General’s Gold Medal). His undergraduate degree is from the Schulich School of Business, York University. Studin is the founding editor-in-chief and publisher of Global Brief magazine. He is also the editor of What is a Canadian? Forty-Three Thought-Provoking Responses (McClelland & Stewart, 2006).

Carolyn Tuohy

Carolyn TuohyCarolyn Hughes Tuohy is Professor Emeritus of Political Science and Senior Fellow at the School of Public Policy and Governance. Her research and teaching focuses on comparative public policy, with an emphasis on social policy. Professor Tuohy has served in senior academic leadership roles at the University, as Deputy Provost, Vice-President of Policy Development and Associate Provost, and Vice-President of Government and Institutional Relations. She is the author of Accidental Logics: the Dynamics of Policy Change in the United States, Britain and Canada (Oxford University Press, 1999) and Policy and Politics in Canada: Institutionalized Ambivalence (Temple University Press 1992) as well as other books, edited books, journal articles and book chapters in the areas of health and social policy, professional regulation, and comparative approaches in public policy. She is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada, former Vice-Chair of the Board of Trustees of the Canadian Health Services Research Foundation, and a member of the Boards of Directors of the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences and the Institute for Work and Health. Professor Tuohy received her B.A. from the University of Toronto and her M.A. and Ph.D. degrees from Yale University.