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Reviewed by:
  • Globalizing Confederation, Canada and the World in 1867 ed. by Jacqueline D. Krikorian, Marcel Martel, and Adrian Shubert
  • Geoffrey C. Kellow (bio)
Jacqueline D. Krikorian, Marcel Martel, and Adrian Shubert, eds. Globalizing Confederation, Canada and the World in 1867. University of Toronto Press. vii, 272. $24.95

It is difficult to discern a coherent rationale for combining the essays collected in Globalizing Confederation: Canada and the World in 1867. The collection's chapters lack any consensus on the meaning and significance, in the most basic sense, of either globalization or Confederation. Moreover, a substantial plurality of the essays reach the conclusion that, for the regions in discussion, Confederation simply did not matter. Franklin W. Knight's essay, "The Federation Idea in the British West Indies and Confederation," is emblematic of the problem, in his concluding paragraph he writes:

The idea of a Caribbean confederation manifested itself during three different periods in the past four hundred years. Each time the impetus derived from a combination of different international circumstances but at no time was the example of Canada an important model (emphasis added).

Even for those essays that assert a region's basic familiarity with the fact of Canadian Confederation, there seems to be little agreement on what the globalizing of Confederation means. A number of essays seem to simply conflate globalization with awareness, tenuously established by the presence of newspaper accounts. But, surely, globalization means more than this? Even the thinnest account of globalization must posit some sort of impact on the region in question. Where popular awareness is demonstrated, it remains to show meaningful globalization, such that the features unique to Canadian Confederation were engaged with in a manner that was politically or culturally significant.

Based on this understanding, only a few chapters in the collection succeed in demonstrating a globalized Confederation. In particular, Kenton Story's "The Delinquent Colony: The New Zealand Press and Canadian Confederation" and Timothy Stapleton's "'The Word Is Steeped in Blood and Violence': Canadian-Style Federation in Southern Africa" both discuss the influence of a distinctly Canadian conception of federalism on their respective regions. Unfortunately, they are exceptional; most of the chapters in this volume fail [End Page 119] to provide historical evidence of any global effect whatsoever or even a consistent account of what such an effect would entail.

The lack of a consistent conceptual framework is perhaps understandable with a term as broad and potentially elusive as globalization. This is not the case with Confederation, which the volume's title clearly frames as referring to the events of 1864–67. Of course, there are competing accounts of Canadian constitutional development, often shifting the debate back to 1763 and forward to 1982, but this collection addresses itself specifically to Confederation. As such, it is hard to justify the presence of a number of essays that address much later periods and consider not Confederation but, rather, the shape of the rapidly evolving post-1867 Canadian federation. Otherwise interesting essays such as Benno Gammel's "War Was: Hapsburg Perspectives on Canadian Federation" provide evidence of interest in Canadian federalism but acknowledge that this interest is related to the evolving practice of the Canadian government in the early twentieth century and can in no way be tied to the specifics of the British North America Act, 1867.

Even the chapter explicitly addressed to the reception of Confederation within the rapidly expanding boundaries of what eventually became the Dominion of Canada seems substantially out of step with the proposed theme of the collection: the exploration of Confederation from the perspective of those outside the 1867 boundaries. Gabrielle Slowey's "Confederation Comes at a Cost: Indigenous Peoples and the Ongoing Reality of Colonialism in Canada" is mainly dedicated to theorizing reconciliation and considering the question of Indigenous sovereignty within Canada today. An excellent account, which brings together important scholarship on the question, it is nonetheless primarily concerned with events and ideas, the Indian Act, the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, in particular, which are undeniably connected to, but distinct from, the period and substance of Confederation itself.

There are a number of interesting papers in...


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