The Rights Revolution (Massey Lectures) Paperback – 28 Aug 2007
|New from||Used from|
- Choose from over 13,000 locations across the UK
- Prime members get unlimited deliveries at no additional cost
- Find your preferred location and add it to your address book
- Dispatch to this address when you check out
Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
Most helpful customer reviews on Amazon.com
Ignatieff’s book is an effort to define a conception of civic nationalism based on a theory of human rights. As such, it builds on past books like Blood and Belonging. Ignatieff discusses rights in a particularly Canadian context: his theory of human rights attempts to strike a multicultural balance between group rights and individual rights. Nevertheless, Ignatieff is philosophically a liberal, and in a conflict between the two types of rights, “we should allow individual rights to prevail” (19). Thus, if rights are sought in order to protect the identity of a minority group (e.g. Muslims and Aboriginals), these group rights must not infringe on the rights of its individual members. A “rights culture” accomplishes many things for Ignatieff: rights help articulate and moderate conflict; rights create trust (assuming that both sides respect the rights of the other); rights demand permanent self-questioning; rights help define common meta-values that allow differences to co-exist; right provide a counterbalance to a democratic majority; rights create reciprocities between mutual rights-bearing people; and they defend individual autonomy. Ignatieff therefore places a great deal onto the political centrality of rights, and the discussion of mutual entitlements that they will generate.
One of Ignatieff’s central arguments is that we must go beyond mere tolerance and move towards what he calls “recognition”, which is an “act of enlargement” (136). In such an act, differences should be “acknowledged and welcomed” (87). As long as the majority is also respected, Ignatieff believes that the long term prospect for minority individual rights in Canada is usually towards recognition. For example, in terms of gay rights, he believes their rights will soon be recognized [and were, not long after the publication of this book in 2000]. “Rights equality changes moral culture because groups demand recognition. As they do so, they force sexual majorities toward acceptance and approval… The process will take time and properly should do. But again, it seems hard to imagine that this respect will not follow eventually” (88-89).
There are many frustrating parts in the book. Ignatieff avoids one of the most important questions about rights: where do they come from? From at least Edmund Burke onward, the clash between “inalienable” and “communally derived” rights has been a central debate. But Ignatieff ignores their fundamental distinctions and simply answers that rights come from both sources: “We already possess our rights in two senses: either because our ancestors secured them or because they are inherent in the very idea of being human” (28). And that`s it. He never pursues the essential differences between the two, though he seems to favour “inherent” individual rights. Had he explored the other perspective in greater detail, he might have answered his own question of why liberal “rights talk” ignores social inequality, a collective problem not easily solved by an aggregation of rights-bearing individuals. And had he explored the communitarian view that rights are earned by reciprocation, and ought to be retracted when not advanced equitably, then perhaps he would have seen how individual rights may not be sufficient to create a foundation for a successful polity. By addressing what we are obligated to do for others, in order to help ourselves, Canadians might exhibit greater empathy for others and not simply demand respect for one`s own entitlements. This would certainly broaden the concept of citizenship, and command a greater respect for our country.
Ignatieff contradicts and equivocates to the point of distraction. He starts with the central Canadian perspective that the “essential distinctiveness of Canada itself lies in the fact that we are a tri-national community” (124-125). Then he concedes that “Canadians from [non tri-national] communities refuse to accept the very concept of Canada as a pact between founding races… This concept seems to accord no place to them.” But then concludes, very optimistically, “Most of them can accept that original inhabitants may have claims to territory and language that are withheld from newcomers” (130). The potential for multi-tiered citizenship is never acknowledged or explored. He also believes that the “criticism most often advanced against a civic nationalist vision of national community is that it is too thin. It bases national solidarity on rights equality, but neither rights nor equality make sufficiently deep claims on the loyalties and affections of people to bond them together over time…Clearly, rights are not enough” (126-127). But then he concludes, because of our lack of ethnic unity, “This is essentially why Canada has no choice but to gamble on rights, to found unity on civic nationalist principles” (129). Finally, he argues that the “precondition for order in a liberal society is an act of the imagination: not a moral consensus or shared values”. Then he concedes that “Imagination only carries us only so far…” (138), but flips back and argues that the “entire legitimacy of our institutions depends on our being attentive to difference while treating all as equal. This is the gamble, the unique act of the imagination on which our society rests” (139). By the end, it is difficult to say where Ignatieff actually stands on many key issues. Ignatieff seems skilled at identifying and analyzing problems, but not so skilled (or perhaps willing) to defend a particular solution or point of view. If this is how he acts as a politician, then “flip-flop“-itis seems to be a much more appropriate criticism by his opponents than his lack of residency.
So, Ignatieff’s book explores some significant issues, but it never provides the clarity and resolution that he thinks “rights talk” offers.
"(Quebec) entered the federation on the strict understanding that its distinguishing features would receive special protection in the new federal government of Canada."
However, what seems to always be overlooked when the special constitutional arrangements made for Quebec are brought up is that, equally importantly, there were special arrangements for its minority population. Part of the "deal" that is Confederation is that if the newly created provincial legislature of Quebec was to ever violate the rights and freedoms of individuals or the minority community of Quebec that the central government(i.e., federal government in Ottawa) would step in and protect the minority by virtue of its veto power.
This veto power is found in numerous constitutional provisions: disallowance, reservation, the remedial educational powers of sections 93(3) and (4) of the BNA Act, the declarative power, all modes of taxation. In addition, other provisions of the BNA Act were included to protect minority electoral ridings -- both provicially and federally -- from encroachment by the majority.
The simple truth is that these powers were never, ever used by the central government to protect the minority non-francophone population of Quebec when human rights-violating and minority rights-violating legislation -- starting with Bill 22 and then continuing with Bill 101 and other legislation through the years -- was passed by the Quebec National Assembly.
Nor were these powers ever used to protect francophone minorities in other provinces.
So, yes,by all means let us celebrate the special status accorded Quebec within the Canadian constitutional arrangement which Mr. Ignatieff is so proud of. But in the same breath let us not also forget the promise that is part and parcel of that special arrangement, one that has been broken time and time again by the federal government.
2) Mr. Ignatieffwrites:
"Quebec's Charter of Rights--and its language laws--balance the rights of the majority, with equal rights for linguistic and other minorities."
They do no such thing.
Firstly, the "balance" between the "rights" of the majority -- as expressed through its National Assembly in Quebec City -- and the "equal rights for linguistic and other minorities" was the one struck in the "deal" of Confederation mentioned in point #1...not through a Charter of Rights that contains a "notwithstanding" clause (yes, Quebec's charter has one, too!).
There is no harm in having charters of rights; indeed, the more the merrier. But they have to work! And neither the Quebec nor the Canadian charters do.
3)Mr. Ignatieff writes:
"To recognize Quebec--and Aboriginal peoples--as nations within the fabric of Canada is not to make some new concession. It is simply to acknowledge a fact."
I am always amused when aboriginal people are invoked in comparison with Quebecers or as a justification for recognizing Quebec as a "nation within...Canada".
Firstly, Mr. Ignatieff's statement above is factually at odds with what he and the members of his party and the rest of Parliament recognized in that infamous resolution that they passed. The resolution recognized the "people" of Quebec as forming a nation within Canada, not the entity of the province of Quebec as forming a nation with Canada, as he writes as quoted above.
Here is the wording of the resolution:
"That this House recognizes that the Québécois form a nation within a united Canada."
A provincial entity and a people within that entity are two separate and different considerations.
What Mr. Ignatieff again fails to acknowledge is the existence of another "people" in Quebec: Canadian people.
Specifically, I refer to what can arguably be referred to as the most loyal Canadian people in Quebec: the anglophone and ethnic peoples who, first and foremost, recognize themselves as Canadians, not Quebecers...a people who, on two occasions, "saved" Canada by voting "no" in independence referendums by tallies of 99% (that's the conclusion of demographic experts, not myself). Without this loyal vote of the non-francophones, the "yes" side would have won in both 1980 and 1995.
Note that the reward that the non-francophones received for their loyalty to Canada was to be spat upon by Canada.
More importantly, the invocation of aboriginal peoples in this equation must necessarily bring up the special constitutional and legal arrangements for aboriginals, such as Canada's Indian Act.
The Indian Act is a race law. And, again, this is not me making this observation but the Supreme Court of Canada and a bevy of legal and academic scolars. Two separate and distinct sets of human rights are created by virtue of the Indian Act and inequality results from this race law.
But the coupling with Quebec is appropriate because the hate law/race law Bill 101 does the same thing: divide Quebecers into two separate and distinct civil rights categories.
This is created as a result of Bill 101's language of education provisions, working in conjunction with the horrible section 23 of Canada's so-called Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
If you want to know why these two laws are anathema to freedom and equality, please refer to the following:
In conclusion: Mr. Ignatieff's wide-eyed love of an allegedly harmonious and tolerant Canada is one that ignores and snubs its nose at those values most cherished in free and democratic societies: equality; protection from the tyranny of the majority; freedom of speech, to name but a few. It is time for leadership in Canada to stop spewing the same pap that we are continually fed...propaganda that blindly ignores Quebec's blatant violation of human rights (aided, abetted, and enabled by the Parliament of Canada) because it is so eager to maintain Quebec within Canada.
Canada is a wonderful concept. But there are other concepts that are more important and more wonderful...and should take priority over Canadian unity. One of those concepts is individual rights.
It is high time that individual rights take precedence over Canadian unity rather than the other way around.
Look for similar items by category