What Canada's History Teaches Us About the Feasibility of the One-State Paradigm
Nearly 200 years ago, England's Lord Durham believing he could end the violence between French and British subjects living in Upper and Lower Canada by creating a single state for the two nations. Uniting the two peoples, wrote in his report, would end the "mortal hatred" between them. "Durhanism" was never implemented. Instead, the two colonies were joined in a confederation, with separate legislatures.
In an op-ed for the New Yorker, I respond to Ian Lustick's much-discussed "Two State Illusion" op-ed in the New York Times, I refer to Canada's history of trying to balance French and English national aspirations as an illustration of the pitfalls of bi-nationalism.
The trouble is, Durham’s plan was less a plan than an expression of exasperation. It proved utterly unworkable, and was quickly forgotten. The “warring nations,” which continued to be at odds, and might always be, did not forge modern Canada that way. Instead, by 1867, a new generation of leaders, John A. Macdonald in English-speaking Canada and George-Étienne Cartier representing the French population, found the formula for the only possible civilized solution: a Canadian confederation, which was careful to leave to the provinces all the powers that Quebec, in particular, needed to preserve French-language education, religious liberty, and civil law. In effect, Canada, at its inception, was two states for two nations, with French Quebec flanked by a combination of English-speaking Ontario and Maritime provinces, sharing what might be shared and exercising sovereignty where necessary. If it looks like one peaceful country now, it got there because of leaders negotiating as if there were two.