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Constitutional Odyssey: Can Canadians Become a Sovereign People?, Third Edition [Paperback]

Peter H. Russell

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Book Description

Sept. 13 2004

Constitutional Odyssey is an account of the politics of making and changing Canada's constitution from Confederation to the present day. Peter H. Russell frames his analysis around two contrasting constitutional philosophies – Edmund Burke's conception of the constitution as a set of laws and practices incrementally adapting to changing needs and societal differences, and John Locke's ideal of a Constitution as a single document expressing the will of a sovereign people as to how they are to be governed.

The first and second editions of Constitutional Odyssey, published in 1992 and 1993 respectively, received wide-ranging praise for their ability to inform the public debate. This third edition continues in that tradition. Russell adds a new preface, and a new chapter on constitutional politics since the defeat of the Charlottetown Accord in 1993. He also looks at the 1995 Quebec Referendum and its fallout, the federal Clarity Act, Quebec's Self-Determination Act, the Agreement on Internal Trade, the Social Union Framework Agreement and the Council of the Federation, progress in Aboriginal self-determination such as Nunavut and the Nisga'a Agreement, and the movement to reduce the democratic deficit in parliamentary government.

Comprehensive and eminently readable, Constitutional Odyssey is as important as ever.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 360 pages
  • Publisher: University of Toronto Press, Scholarly Publishing Division; 3 edition (Sept. 13 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0802037771
  • ISBN-13: 978-0802037770
  • Product Dimensions: 23 x 16 x 3 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 544 g
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #46,301 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description


'Of the horde of known, constitutional experts none has shown more clarity and range than Peter Russell ... He popularizes intricacies. He writes for all.' --Douglas Fisher


'In a truly timely and timely true monograph, Peter Russell reminds us what constitution-building should be about ... A book that seeks a large audience and deserves an even larger one.'

(Allan C. Hutchinson)

'Of the horde of known, constitutional experts none has shown more clarity and range than Peter Russell ... He popularizes intricacies. He writes for all.'

(Douglas Fisher)

Inside This Book (Learn More)
First Sentence
Perhaps the most haunting lines in Canada's history were written in 1858: 'It will be observed that the basis of Confederation now proposed differs from that of the United States in several important particulars. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index
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5.0 out of 5 stars An interesting trip through Canadian constitutional history. Dec 22 2004
By R. Price - Published on
Peter Russell presents a wonderful account of the Canadian peoples' constitutional journey from confederation in 1867 through the modern constitutional struggles over redefining the Canadian nation. Russell begins with the basic dichotomy between Burkean evolutionary change and Lockean revolutionary change. The bulk of Canadian history has been defined by a slow evolutionary development. But, beginning in the 1960s, many Canadians began to agitate for a more Lockean series of changes that aimed at fundamentally altering the Canadian constitution: the most successful of which being the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. While it is clear that Russell opposed many of these changes, he writes in an objective manner that lays out the arguments and negotiations that backed the Charter, Meech Lake, and Charlottetown. Upon finishing this book one comes away with some understanding of the constitutional fatigue that Canadians were experiencing after decades of nearly constant constitutional debates.

My own interests in comparative constitutional development were well rewarded by Russell's book. Canada purposefully sought to create a highly centralized system to avoid the problems that came about as a result of the decentralized system of the U.S. Yet, ironically, the final result has been that the U.S. has become a highly centralized system while Canada is decentralized. Additionally, the process of independence by stages is also fascinating. Canada was still under the constitutional umbrella of the British Empire until 1980 when Canada was finally given the power to amend and control its constitution directly. Finally, Canada's constitutional system melds in an interesting manner the values of Westminster parliamentary system with the American values of federalism, judicial review, and individual rights. If you're interested in American constitutionalism, this book helps to illuminate how other states have learned from and adapted our constitutional ideas and built upon them to match their political needs.

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