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Constitutional Odyssey: Can Canadians Become a Sovereign People?, Third Edition Paperback – Sep 13 2004


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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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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
An interesting trip through Canadian constitutional history. Dec 22 2004
By R. Price - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
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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