Imagining Canada’s Future/Imaginer l’avenir du Canada

Imagining Canada’s Future/Imaginer l’avenir du Canada

Friday, June 3, 2016

What effects will the quest for energy and natural resources have on our society and our position on the world stage?

Quels effets la quête de ressources naturelles et d’énergie aura-t-elle sur la société canadienne et la place qu’occupe le Canada à l’échelle mondiale?

National forum organized by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada in partnership with the Humanities and Social Sciences Federation of Canada.

Forum national organisé par le Conseil de recherches en sciences humaines du Canada en partenariat avec la Fédération des sciences humaines du Canada

Concluding remarks /Quelques réflexions pour conclure”

Guy Laforest, MSRC
Président-élu, Fédération des sciences humaines du Canada
Professeur au département de science politique de l’Université Laval

The SSHRC-supported scholars who were tasked, through their knowledge synthesis grants, to answer the questions listed above, provided a rich variety of answers. After having listened to today’s speeches and panels, I offer the following key points in summary:

1-There is a need for normative principles. In the current Canadian historical and political contexts, the following principles stood out during the day: we need to share the land consensually, respectfully, and responsibly, in light of long-standing Aboriginal hospitality in Canada and throughout the Americas for many centuries.

Référence normative sur cette question, un livre du philosophe espagnol, Daniel Innerarity, L’éthique de l’hospitalité.

2-In attempts to foster dialogue, and in the context of substantial asymmetries of power, we should nevertheless resist strict dichotomizations, putting monolithic or essentialized Indigeneity or Aboriginality on one side, the West, the Crown, or Canada, on the other. A fruitful dialogue can only occur if each partner recognizes the internal diversity, the internal pluralism of the other.

3-On climate change, on the various sources of energy in the land, and on all environmental issues, we, as citizens, should demand sustained collaboration on the part of our governments at all levels: federal, provincial, territorial, municipal and Aboriginal.  These simply cannot, and should not, ignore the presence of the others.

4-We need facts. On these issues, SSHRC’s Knowledge Synthesis Grants demonstrate that organized research brings key information, societal enlightenment, and prepares the ground for good public policies. I offer two examples, from the sessions I attended: Paule Halley (Law, Laval) showed that there were 14 distinct and poorly connected forestry legal regimes in Canada, in addition to the Aboriginal legal regimes. Bonnie Campbell and her colleagues (Law and Political Science at UQAM), showed that with regards to the mining industry, the situation was characterized by the selective absence of the state, whether in its federal, provincial or territorial dimension. This leads, in the context of strong asymmetries of power, to many decisions that are detrimental to the interests of local communities and Aboriginal peoples throughout the land.

5-We need modesty. There is a long way to go. As the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, Beverley McLachlin, said in her Big Thinking lecture at Congress in Calgary on Monday, May 30, 2016, Canada’s journey towards reconciliation and recognition is far from being finished. It will require the reinforcement of a culture of inclusion that will first start from individual citizens, move to communities, associations and civil society, and further reach governmental institutions, at all levels, in parliaments, executive agencies and courts.

In one of the Political Theory of Political Philosophy sections of the program of the Canadian Political Association here at Congress, Afsoun Afsahi, a graduate student from UBC, using both normative theory and quantitative methods, explored the preconditions for successful deliberation. These include an often neglected willingness to deliberate on the part of all players. For her part, Friderike Spang, a graduate student from Western University, also working in the field of deliberative democracy, explored the various dimensions leading ultimately to fair compromise. Her theoretical reflections are connected to the tremendous vitality of this dimension in contemporary German politics, particularly at the level of federal political parties, known as “Kompromissfähigkeit”, or capacity and willingness to compromise. Much of this will be needed in Canada in the next few years, and we should pay greater attention to what the Germans are doing in this regard.

Le CRSHC et la Fédération font des choses extraordinaires ensemble, tout au long de l’année, et en particulier durant le congrès annuel. Cela inclut : des forums comme celui d’aujourd’hui sur l’énergie et les ressources naturelles, la série de conférences Voir Grand--sur la colline parlementaire à Ottawa, lors du congrès et partout au pays, le Programme d’aide à l’édition savante, généreusement financé par le CRSHC, (lequel appuie plus d’une centaine de livres par année depuis quelque 75 ans), sans oublier les Prix du Canada qui récompensent les meilleurs livres, et le formidable concours « J’ai une histoire à raconter », lequel donne la parole à quelque 25 étudiantes et étudiants parmi les meilleurs qui obtiennent l’appui du CRSHC. Partenaires dans le passé et le présent, les deux organismes le seront aussi dans la durée.  À court terme, cela prendra la forme de l’opérationnalisation des nouveaux plans stratégiques du CRSHC et de la Fédération, couvrant la période 2016-2020.

Le CRSHC et la Fédération travailleront donc ensemble sur la route inachevée de la réconciliation avec les peuples autochtones du Canada. Appuyant les réflexions de la Juge-en-Chef de la Cour suprême du Canada Beverley McLachlin, le philosophe québécois de l’Université McGill, Charles Taylor, rappelle souvent que dans ce voyage de la réconciliation et de la reconnaissance, il faut trouver une formule honorable pour toutes les couches de la diversité profonde du Canada, pour refléter les dimensions bilingue, fédérale, multiculturelle et plurinationale de notre communauté.