Issues

September 2015

Welcome to the September issue of the LRC. Here’s what’s in store this month.

Recent years have seen major strides in the legal recognition of Metis rights. But this does not mean that all issues related to Metis identity are resolved. As noted by our reviewer Candace Savage, agreeing on a definition of this identity is no easy task. In her look at three new books on Metis history, she shows how these disagreements over the meaning and significance of Metis history are unlikely to fade away any time soon.

This reevaluation of Metis history is part of wider trends in the study of Canadian history. How do these broad trends affect our reading of Canadian historians from the past? Reviewing a new biography of Donald Creighton, Christopher Dummitt observes, “He is remembered, when he is remembered at all … as a conservative historian who wrote the wrong kind of history.” Does that mean his work is now passé? Not at all, says Dummitt. We ignore such figures at our peril, if only because they help us see beyond the moral certainties of our own age.

Moral certainties were indubitably in evidence in 2007 when two of Quebec’s best known intellectuals, Gérard Bouchard and Charles Taylor, traveled the province at the behest of the government to sound out popular sentiment on the issue of reasonable accommodation. Drawing on that experience, Bouchard has produced a book exploring interculturalism, Quebec’s own distinct version of multicultural policy. Martin Patriquin reveals the extent to which interculturalism’s distinctive features, as well as the way it has informed debates over reasonable accommodation, have driven recent changes in Quebec’s political landscape.

The fact that Canadian medical insurance excludes pharmaceuticals stems from a complicated set of past policy decisions. The result is needless inefficiency and inequity. In her review of a book on pharmaceutical insurance, Danielle Martin identifies the obstacles that stand in the way of reform. “[B]ig change requires the ‘rare conditions’ of a strong idea, a strong government and an energized electorate with high expectations,” she concludes. “If change is going to happen, it needs to happen quickly.”

Has Canada become a tax haven? Michael Webb analyzes this intriguing thesis made in a new book by Quebec author Alain Denault. Webb painstakingly assesses Denault’s arguments. “While multinational companies have lots of scope to avoid Canadian corporate taxes,” Webb says, “the country is not becoming a tax haven—yet.” But he agrees with many of the technical solutions that Denault proposes – solutions that will, as Webb puts it, help “lift the shroud of secrecy that surrounds corporate taxation in Canada.”

Philosopher Leo Strauss arguably had a profound effect on conservative thinking in the United States. Some have discerned similar forms of influence in Canada, especially through members of the so-called Calgary School. In a review a book on Strauss’s political thought, Mark Sholdice argues that the conventional story of Straussian influence in both the United States and Canada is based on misconceptions concerning Strauss’s philosophical ideas, as well as an overly conspiratorial sense of how these ideas have been transmitted through generations of students.

How fragile are the pluralistic societies of today? More delicate than we might like to believe, says Triadafilos Triadafilopoulos in a review of Erna Paris’s The End of Day. Paris’s book takes the case of 15th-century Spain to illustrate how an atmosphere of toleration can all too quickly devolve into distrust and xenophobia. In applying these lessons to contemporary times, Triadafilopoulos observes: “Distrust of the other certainly persists.” Nonetheless, “today’s principal victims are non-citizens denied sanctuary by states’ jealously guarding their sovereignty.”

In addition, Debra Komar delves into the details of a scandalous murder in 1930s Ottawa; Shawn McCarthy chronicles the oversized life and ambition of George Soros; James Miller explores the possible meritocratic virtues of China’s political system; and Robin Roger and Gail Singer review new novels by Emma Hooper and Clifford Jackman. Our poetry pages feature the works of Lucas Crawford, Barry Butson and Michael Johnson.

In this month’s letters section there is a response to the review by Rose Ricciardelli in the June issue from photographer and author Geoffrey James.

All in all, a roster that I trust provides a full long autumn’s night worth of captivating reading.

Mark Lovewell

Interim Editor