Jeffrey Cormier. The Canadianization Movement: Emergence, Survival, and Success. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2004. ix + 234 pp. $65.00 (cloth), ISBN 978-0-8020-8815-4.
Reviewed by Andrew Nurse (Centre for Canadian Studies, Mount Allison University)
Published on H-Canada (April, 2005)
Jeffrey Cormier's The Canadianization Movement: Emergence, Survival, and Success is both a history of a particular Canadian nationalist movement and a case study into the dynamics of social movements. It is also one of a series of texts examining the growth, character, and ideology of Canadian nationalism. Cormier's book differs from most others in this series in a key respect: his focus lies in exploring the dynamics of a semi-institutionalized nationalist social movement, instead of questioning or defending the integrity of the Canadian nation-state or Canadian culture. This case study approach allows Cormier to develop a detailed examination of the personalities, objectives, and work of one particular group of nationalists. In the process, he adds to a wider understanding of nationalism in Canada. According to Cormier, the Canadianization movement first emerged in the late 1960s. Its primary concern lay with the hiring practices of Canadian post-secondary institutions because, Canadianizers argued, existing practices systematically discriminated against Canadians. As a result Canadians were reduced to minority status among faculty at Canadian universities. This impoverished Canadian post-secondary education because foreign (primarily American) scholars knew little about Canada and taught using American examples and literature. Canadianizers saw this not simply as the unfair treatment of Canadians but as a threat to national culture. In the longer run, Canadianizers sought not only to increase the number of Canadians teaching at Canadian institutions, but to Canadianize the curriculum and to promote domestic social science and the growth of a Canadian intelligentsia. With the 1981 revisions to post-secondary hiring practices, the key aim of the Canadianizers was accomplished with the creation of a pro-Canadian hiring policy.
In this review, my aim is to engage Cormier's text. I will begin by recounting his narrative and its animating theory and method, paying particular attention to his case-study approach to the analysis of Canadian nationalizing movements. In my view, this approach has appreciable strengths that merit wider attention. However, I will also argue that Cormier's theory and narrative are weakened by his failure to directly address ethno-linguistic divisions within Canada and social class as key factors structuring the trajectory of Canadianization. More attention to these issues, combined with an heuristic framework that takes ethnic and class dynamics into consideration, would have strengthened this text.
As a history, The Canadianization Movement is divided into three parts: emergence, survival, and success. Each part is organized around a series of heuristic issues drawn from contemporary social movements theory. Cormier relies on no single theoretical perspective but instead integrates the work of different theorists. He argues against a structuralist interpretation of social protest and in favor of an approach exploring how particular issues are "framed" to promote "a sense of injustice" and extend "critical communities" supportive of particular policy objectives (pp. 8-13). For Cormier, intellectuals play a key role in social movements because they frame issues, establish communication and activist networks, and mobilize resources in support of specific objectives (pp. 13-14, 191). Put differently, social movements develop as a result of considered human agency.
Canadianization is a case in point. According to Cormier, the Canadianization movement developed from the activism of Robin Mathews and James Steele, both, at the time, working at Carleton University. Cormier's narrative constructs Mathews and Steele as the tragic heroes of Canadianization's early history. They brought remarkable strengths to the movement, including: charismatic leadership, a talent for media-savvy public relations campaigns, and an expanding network of personal and professional acquaintances through whom they could gather information and keep issues in the public eye. Mathews and Steele were clearly helped by the climate of their times. The rising economic nationalism of the 1960s (manifest in the work of Walter Gordon), Canadian distrust of American foreign policy, and the increasing importance placed on education combined to make the idea of Canadianization a "hot issue" on university campuses and with the media. Mathews and Steele's great success was to connect Canadianization to wider concerns about nationalism, public education, and sovereignty.
Cormier illustrates this point by looking at the ways in which Mathews, in particular, constructed Canadianization as a social issue. By itself, Canadianization might have had little purchase. As Cormier explains, by the late 1960s, Mathews and Steele had become concerned with the percentage of post-secondary appointments held by non-Canadians. During the 1960s expansion of post-secondary education, the percentage of Canadians on faculty in a large number of Canadian university departments declined to the point where they were in the minority. Established search practices vested power in department heads and contributed to this process as they made new appointments from their professional networks at American graduate schools. According to Mathews and Steele this trend, unless arrested, would accelerate and Canadians would lose control of their universities. To extend the "frame" of this potentially limited issue, Mathews and Steele tied their concern over post-secondary hiring to cultural autonomy. For them, American control of Canadian universities meant the demise of Canada as a subject of advanced study as students were taught using information drawn from foreign (American) sources. On this wider scale, the issue was not hiring but the vitality of Canadian intellectual life and social science (pp. 29-31).
What makes Mathews and Steele tragic heroes is the fact that they were unable to transform effective public advocacy into a program for social change, because they could not create an institutional structure to translate advocacy into policy. The same passion that made Mathews an effective public speaker made it difficult for him to develop institutional ties to other nationalist groups. And he was unwilling or unable to devote the time and energy needed to establish an institutionally organized movement. In this situation, Cormier argues that Canadianization survived through a "bureaucratic insurgency" within the Canadian Sociology and Anthropology Association (CSAA). Here, younger scholars were able to capture the organization and turn it into the type of institutionalized structure that eluded Mathews and Steele. Through the CSAA, Canadianizers were able to pressure academic departments to change hiring policies and course content. They were able to promote the scholarly study of Canada and, eventually, the new citizenship requirements for post-secondary appointment under which Canadian universities, more or less, continue to operate today.
As both a history and a case study into the sociology of social movements, The Canadianization Movement is a concise, informative, and accessible text. The key merit of this text, it seems to me, is that it moves the discussion of nationalism in Canada away from general studies seeking to capture some particular essence of the Canadian experience and toward a more detailed engagement with specific nationalist movements. Such case studies help to "fill in" the meanings and implications of Canadian nationalism, its contested character, and interactions with the state and different publics. Without doubt, it is useful to debate whether or not there is, for instance, a Canadian idea of civil rights. It is equally important to look at how specific movements constructed their ideal of Canada and the factors that led to the success or failure of their particular ideal of nation. This case study approach ties analyses of nationalism more directly to Canadians' lived experiences. One possible future agenda for studies into Canadian nationalism would be to complement Cormier's text by exploring the dynamics and histories of the range of other nationalist and citizens actions movements that have developed in Canada since the late 1960s. I suspect such studies will show how complex, unstable, and contested the ideal of Canada has been.
If this case study approach is adopted, however, Cormier's heuristic strategy will need to be modified. Here, several issues are important. First, The Canadianization Movement is an institutional history, but effective institutional histories need to grapple directly with the ideological dynamics of the past. After all, institutions exist to translate ideology into reality. In this regard, I found his discussion of Canadianizers' interaction with other nationalist movements interesting but not always informative. The early Canadianizers found it difficult to work with nationalist organizations, such as the Committee for an Independent Canada (CIC) and the Canadian Liberation Movement. Along with the Canadianizers, these movements positioned themselves somewhere on the left of the political spectrum; all were concerned with what they viewed as the "Americanization" of Canada. Within the span of less than two years (between 1970 and 1972), Mathews had fallen out with both of these other movements. According to Cormier, Mathews felt the Canadian left, in general, and the CIC, in particular, had "sold out to Trudeau's Liberals, and was therefore no longer 'tough' on the issue of Canadian sovereignty" (p. 33). Cormier's treatment of this issue is too brief. He confines himself to explaining the divergence between left nationalists as the product of ideological and personal disagreements but says little else. I would like to know more about the actual tenor of these ideological disagreements because it is not clear to me that "selling out" to the Trudeauvian ideal of "civic nationalism" illustrates a soft approach to state and cultural sovereignty. There is much to debate about the politics and legacy of the Trudeau administrations, but his liberal conception of a civic Canadian polity continues to find articulate proponents. Why would a Canadianizer like Mathews see an engagement with Trudeauvian liberalism as "selling out?" Did the CIC really "sell out" or did its members frame their conception of Canadian nationalism differently than Mathews? Cormier does not address these questions because he is interested in other matters, but I wonder if this is not a significant oversight. Nationalizing movements do not simply attempt to build a nation. Instead, they work to realize particular visions of nation (liberal, conservative, ethnic, civic, etc.). Effective studies of nationalism should draw out different visions of nation in order to highlight the complex and different ways in which Canada has been imagined. Institutional histories can then build on this edifice to show the praxis of a particular vision of nation.
Second, I also wonder about the political implications of non-partisan activism. Once Mathews had abandoned collaboration with other left nationalist groups, and indeed even before this, Canadianizers were willing to work with different political parties to advance their agenda. At various times, the federal Progressive Conservatives, Liberals, and NDP, as well as the provincial NDP and Liberals in Ontario, were willing to support the Canadianizers' agenda. The aim of non-partisan politics was to politicize issues but not tie them to a particular party, or even a particular conceptualization of Canada as articulated through a political party. The effect, as Cormier intimates, was to turn Canadianizers into a pressure group that sought to accomplish specific policy objectives but which did not really engage the wider dynamics of Canadian public policy. I imagine this type of non-partisan political activism is common in the history of pressure groups, but how effective is it and what are the end results? It seems to me that this type of non-partisan activism could limit pressure groups' agendas to institutional tinkering and draw them away from a broader--and potentially more radical--politics of social and political change. This type of non-partisan politics could, in fact, do a disservice to its own agenda by turning nationalism into a minor process of institutional reform.
I do not think these are petty issues because they suggest a different way of telling this story. Instead of reading Canadianization as a success, the issues I raise present a more complicated picture in which Canadianization emerges as a complex historical development that may have sacrificed its more radical edge to accomplish discrete and pragmatic objectives. For example, according to Cormier, one aim of Canadianization was to help construct a distinctly Canadian social science. I am not convinced that this happened. Canadian social sciences may explore particular Canadian issues, but their methodological base, it seems to me, has developed as part of a wider international scholarly dialogue. Another aim was to promote Canadian cultural autonomy. Canadianization undoubtedly had an effect--I personally find it difficult to tell--but it is not clear to me how Canadianization promoted autonomy beyond the university. In other words, Canadianization marked a victory within the university but the nature of the relationship between the academy and culture is another matter that is not so easily characterized.
Third, there are significant analytic omissions that need to be noted. Two key lacunae in Cormier's text are his failure to provide sustained discussion of language and ethnicity and social class. The Canadianization movement ultimately affected hiring policies across the country because the federal government holds responsibility for citizenship. In this regard, francophone Quebecois(es) as well as English-speaking Canadians were affected by the 1981 federal requirements to promote a pro-Canadian hiring policy in post-secondary institutions. Quebecois(es), however, are almost completely absent from the story Cormier tells. The key figures in Cormier's story are all English-speaking Canadians. As a matter of history, I would like to know how French-speaking scholars in Quebec and other provinces, as well as francophone media and students, responded to this movement. From what Cormier says, I suspect that French-speaking Canadians were less interested in and less passionate about this issue than their anglophone counterparts. If this is true, the story that is being told in this text could be different from the story Cormier intends to relate, in that we do not so much have a Canadianization movement, as we have an English-Canadian movement with potentially few connections to francophone colleagues. If true, a division between francophone and anglophone scholars, media, and students, with regard to Canadianization, could have had a real effect on its ultimate course. For example, such a division might have affected how "Canadian Studies" and the content of Canadian courses were defined.
The lack of attention to class in this study is confusing because historians have been interpreting an analogous movement in Quebec--the development of what Michael Beheils called Quebec neo-nationalism--precisely in class terms. Cormier does not seem to have used this historiography nor engaged one of its substantive conclusions: that Quebec neo-nationalism was driven by a powerful class dynamic. As Marc Renaud noted some time ago, Quebec's Quiet Revolution was driven by nationalist and class dynamics in which a "new" technocratic middle class looked to make space for itself within Quebec society. In the process, it introduced new conceptions of what it meant to be a French-speaking Canadian and a new understanding of the role of the state in Quebec; it also reorganized the Quebec political spectrum and public discourse. The Canadianizers of whom Cormier speaks appear very similar to the "new" middle class who engineered Quebec's Quiet Revolution. They were specialized and highly trained individuals who lived (or, wanted to live) middle-class lives in Canada. The Canadianization movement may have been about cultural sovereignty, course content, and the intellectual de-colonization of Canada but, it seems to me, it was also about employment. In this sense, there was a material interest in the background of the Canadianization movement that needs to be considered.
To address these issues, it would have been interesting to see Cormier engage other bodies of theory. In particular, I would have been interested to see how the heuristic mobilization of Gramsci's conception of hegemony might have altered the story Cormier tells. The Canadianization Movement provides precisely the type of detailed case study that allows one to examine the ways in which cultural, economic, and social policy are negotiated. For instance, it shows us the ways in which the leaders of different social movements interacted with the state, what they sought to accomplish, and how they achieved particular aims. It also shows us why the state was willing to make concessions to the Canadianizers at specific moments. It could show us how the process of political interaction produced policy objectives that can be less than radical in terms of the way they challenge--or do not challenge--the dynamics of a specific social formation. The heuristic mobilization of hegemony as concept would change the story Cormier tells in important ways. I think more attention to social class could show how specific class factions mobilize nationalism in defence of their material interests. Or, how the nation is read through specific class-based subject positions. It can show us how certain intellectuals claim the authority to speak on behalf of a nation (Canada) when a large part of the population is ignoring what they say or is preoccupied with other matters. And, I think it can show us the limits to progressive reform that is not also informed by a broader vision of social transformation.
The Canadianization Movement is a text that should be read. Its author should be congratulated for producing an interesting, informative, and detailed case study that opens the door to further research into the history of contemporary Canadian nationalism. The measure of a good text, I would argue, is that it prompts dialogue and I suspect this text will prompt its share of discussion. The next step in this field of research is to accept Cormier's case study approach, but modify his heuristic framework, and extend the scope to other nationalist movements of the same era.
. For treatments of this literature, see Ian McKay, "After Canada: On Amnesia and Apocalypse in the Contemporary Crisis," Acadiensis 28, no. 1 (1998): pp. 76-91; and "The Liberal Order Framework: A Prospectus for a Reconnaissance of Canadian History," Canadian Historical Review 81, no. 4 (2000): pp. 617-645. Also see Robert Wright, "Historical Underdosing: Pop Demography and the Crisis in Canadian History," Canadian Historical Review 81, no. 4 (2000): pp. 646-667.
. See Michael Ignatieff, The Rights Revolution (Toronto: Anansi, 2000).
. See Ignatieff; and Will Kymlicka, Finding Our Way: Rethinking Ethnocultural Relations in Canada (Toronto: Oxford University Press, 1998).
. Michael Behiels, Prelude to Quebec's Quiet Revolution: Liberalism versus Neo-Nationalism, 1945-1960 (Kingston and Montreal: McGill-Queen's University Press, 1985).
. Marc Renaud, "Quebec's New Middle Class in Search of Social Hegemony: Causes and Political Consequences," in Quebec since 1945: Selected Readings, ed. M. Behiels (Toronto: Copp Clark, 1987).
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Andrew Nurse. Review of Cormier, Jeffrey, The Canadianization Movement: Emergence, Survival, and Success.
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