This post is part of the LRC’s 25 year anniversary project. We are asking our readers for the most influential Canadian books published in the last quarter century. For more information, click here.
An ongoing challenge in a country like Canada is coming to terms with the very different ways in which its citizens think of themselves. This is true of two groups in particular: Francophone Québécois and First Nations.
Charles Taylor has a world-wide reputation as a leading contemporary philosopher. He has written major works on Hegel, on the sources of modern identity, and on the relationship between religion and secularism. He has also contributed enormously to our understanding of the need for recognition, especially when it comes to the relations between majority and minority nationalities.
Reconciling the Solitudes speaks to this concern. In it he highlights the rather different ways in which minority nationalities think of their identities when compared to majority ones. For most Francophone Québécois and First Nations people, their primary identity is as Québécois or First Nations; it is through the lens of that identity that they can also think of themselves as Canadians. This is not the case for the much larger English-speaking population of Canada, whose identity as Canadians—regional identities apart—is a primary one.
Taylor coins the term “deep diversity” to describe the type of relationship that needs to exist between English-speaking Canadians, Francophone Québécois, and members of Aboriginal communities. This is still very much a work in progress but Reconciling the Solitudes helps to lay the epistemological foundations for the multinational type of federation that Canada, for certain purposes, will always be. To quote the conclusion to Taylor`s collection: “We are too fluent in the language of universal principles and exclusion, and can only stammer the speech of deep diversity.”
Philip Resnick is a Professor of Political Science at the University of British Columbia. He is also a poet with his most recent collection entitled, Footsteps of the Past (2015).