The Dorchester Review

There’s much to like in this new academic journal.

By way of introducing themselves the editors say: “If the mandate of the Canadian Forum at its inception in 1920 was “to trace and value those developments of art and letters which are distinctively Canadian,” then the mandate of The Dorchester Review is very nearly the opposite. The nationalism that began with the 1920s centre-left has in some ways produced a narrowing effect on the country’s imagination squeezing out elements of tradition and culture inherent to Canadian experience that fail to conform to a stridently progressivist narrative.”

I enjoyed John Robson’s review of John Pepall’s Against Reform (University of Toronto Press, 2010). It’s entitled, “Don’t Mess with Parliament.”

I liked “Teaching History as Self-doubt.” The author is listed as “Rhetor.” Why do we teach history? “Rhetor” asks. Why and how? The objective is surely not merely to boost patriotism or inculcate ideas of citizenship. But shouldn’t it be something more than condemnation of past wrongs? The examples are drawn from British experience.

C.P. Champion offers a disappointing review of John Ralston Saul’s book, Louis-Hippolyte La Fontaine and Robert Baldwin for Penguin’s Extraordinary Canadian Series. Saul argues that the grant of responsible government in 1848 released the British North American colonies from the constraints of Empire. Saul is correct. The parliamentary principle we call “responsible government” characterizes an independent state. Champion says, and this is true, that “There were anti-imperialists in the 1840s but contrary to Saul et. al, they lived in England, not Canada.” But dear friend, when we talk about “responsible government,’ we are not describing sentiment or political opinion, or politics. We are describing constitutional law. A regime that acknowledges “responsible government,” may decide to cooperate with the government of a foreign country or with an imperial government, just as our present Parliament of Canada may decide to cooperate with NATO or the Government of the United States. But, as all understand, the decision rests with Canada. Canada is a sovereign state.

Each of the British North American colonies that adopted “responsible government” became a sovereign state.

To repeat: we walked away from Empire in 1848 without war. There’s nothing “left-wing or “right-wing” about this notion. It’s a fact of constitutional law.

I intend to go on reading The Dorchester Review. I’m subscribing!

2 Responses to “The Dorchester Review”

  1. 1 Craig Yirush August 28, 2011 at 9:41 pm


    If independence was achieved in 1848 or 1867 then why was J.W. Dafoe (and many others0 so concerned about our autonomy in the early 20th and so happy about the Statute of Westminster?

  2. 2 Anonymous December 31, 2011 at 3:30 pm

    Perhaps because Responsible Government is “independence”, whereas, the Statute of Westminster 1931 dealt with foreign policy, and of course, in 1949,the Supreme Court.

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