Quebec Studies

Book Reviews

Quebec Studies (2007), 44, (1), 103–114.


103 Book Reviews History, Culture, and Politics WALLOT, JEAN-PIERRE. Le débat qui n'a pas eu Heu: La Commission Pépin-Robarts, quelques vingt ans après. (Collection Amérique Fran­ çaise) Ottawa: PU d'Ottawa, 2002. Pp.148. ISBN 2-7603-0550-3. Le débat qui n'a pas eu lieu examines an important episode in Canadian his­ tory — the deliberations of the Pépin-Robarts Task Force on Canadian Unity (TFCU) and the rejection of its conclusions by the Trudeau govern­ ment. TFCU was created by Trudeau in 1977 in response to a number of challenges to Canadian unity, including the 1971 rejection by Québec of the Victoria Charter, Western alienation produced by the federal government's response to the 1973 oil crisis, concerns over the place of the First Nations within Canada, and the 1976 election of René Lévesque's sovereigntist Parti Québécois to the majority in Quebec's Assemblée Nationale. TFCU produced three volumes: A Time to Speak/Un temps pour parler reported on the various opinions of pressure groups, experts, and common citizens; Coming to Terms/Deßnir pour choisir examined the language of identity and the various definitions of regions and nations within Canada; and A Future Together/Se retrouver provided TFCU's analysis and recommendations. TFCU's pro­ posals contradicted Trudeau's version of nation-building and were rejected without much debate. Several ideas presented in the report continued to haunt Canadian politics through the patriation of the Constitution and sub­ sequent attempts at revision such as the failed Meech Lake Accord and Charlottetown Accord. This book is the product of a conference devoted to examining TFCU's findings in light of the subsequent trials, tribulations, and successes of Canadian constitutional politics. Under the direction of Jean-Pierre Wallot, the conference gathered an impressive array of scholars and practitioners to examine various facets of the issue, including Quebec's place in Canada, language, regionalism, identity, economics, minorities, and other symptoms of "le mal canadien" (13). André Burelle discusses the prophetic vision of the report, empha­ sizing the difficulty of accommodating Canadian regionalism, linguistic du­ ality, and the place of the First Nations within a common constitutional framework given the rapid changes in the social fabric. Fernand Harvey focuses on Québec and on Canadian Francophones. He notes that the report was generally well received in Québec, but its opposition to Trudeau's constitutional vision doomed it to the dustbins or fireplaces of history. Linda Cardinal and Marie-Ève Hudon focus on the generally neg­ ative reactions of Francophones outside Québec. They note, among other things, that many Francophones were already sold on the Trudeau vision of Canada and that Acadians in particular were disturbed that the TFCU ignored their specificity. Bernard Bonin examines the influence of the economy on Canadian identity and regionalism. He notes especially that

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