Afterword: Solidarity as the Boldness of Modesty

“Afterword: Solidarity as the Boldness of Modesty” in S. Choudhry, J.-F. Gaudreault-Desbiens & L. Sossin, eds., Dilemmas of Solidarity: Rethinking Redistribution in the Canadian Federation (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2006) (with J.-F. Gaudreault-DesBiens & L. Sossin) 206-216.

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The Constitution Act, 1867 is a conservative, if not uninspiring, document. It shies away from grand declarations about who Canadians were, or were to be. The framers were showing the boldness of modesty, rooted in a prescience about the possibilities, but also the limits, of a federation that overlaps with a truly federal society. Such modesty was mandated because the evolution of the Canadian federation would inevitably be evaluated from very different, and often, conflicting perspectives—various conceptions of community, democracy, and functionality. The Constitution Act, 1867 inevitably calls for an incessant balancing of these perspectives in both the political and juridical realms. Contemporary debates about fiscal federalism and redistribution continue to raise more or less the same questions. But if the questions have not changed much, the manner and circumstances in which they are posed have changed dramatically.