April 2017

Message from the President - Constance Backhouse

The Health of Nations - John A. Hall, McGill University

Erasmus Prize 2017 awarded to Michèle Lamont FRSC

Quel sera le rôle du Canada dans le monde en émergence ? - Alain-G. Gagnon, Université du Québec à Montréal


Message from the President - Constance Backhouse

Constance BackhouseAs the winter recedes and thoughts turn to spring, we would like to bring all of the Fellows of our Academy up to date on a number of matters that will be of interest to our social science community.

1.Selection Process for New Fellows

I want to thank the members of our Academy who have volunteered so much time and energy to complete this year’s evaluation process.  Nominating committees from the English and French Divisions have undertaken the challenging job of finding Fellows who will agree to evaluate the nominations that arrived on 1 December 2016.  Selection committees from the English and French Divisions have then put untold hours into evaluating the impressive files that represent the research accomplishments of the best of our community.  

Our thanks go out to the following individuals:

  •  Nominating Committee for the English Division:  (Chair) John Myles, Constance Backhouse, Frances Henry, Fikret Berkes, Donald Savoie.  
  • Nominating Committee for the French Division: (Chair) Linda Cardinal, Simon Langlois, Marie McAndrew, Réjean Pelletier, Gilles Pronovost. 
  • Selection Committee for the English Division: (Chair) Frances Henry, (Secretary) Richard Devlin, Joy Parr, Paul Beaudry, Robert Stebbins, Keith Banting, Rosalie Tung, Audrey Kobayashi, Carole Peterson.
  • Selection Committee for the French Division: (Chair) Fernand Harvey, (Secretary) Joseph Yvon Theriault, Francine Saillant, Lucie Lamarche, Thomas Lemieux, Suzanne Rivard, Gerard Boismenu.

2.Request for More Positions for New Fellows

The number of nominations for New Fellows in the Academy of Social Science has increased year by year.  Our applications have grown from 79 in 2010, to 121 in 2015.  Yet the number of new Fellows that we can elect has been held steady at 13 members in the English Division, 5 in the French.  Consequently, our success rate has gone from 19% in 2010 to 14.8% in 2015 (12.4% in the English Division that year).  This has not gone unnoticed by individual nominators and institutions that nominate.  We are receiving a barrage of complaints that some years certain disciplines are entirely unrepresented, and that exceptional candidates are being turned down. 

Consequently, under the able leadership of our former Academy President Simon Langlois, we have been requesting allocation of additional spots for new Fellows for some years now.  

As you can imagine, the relative balance between the positions allocated to the various Academies and Divisions is something that has a controversial history.  Efforts to achieve a fair proportionality have engaged many RSC Councils over the years, and it seems that this will remain a continuing challenge.  

At last year’s annual meeting in Kingston, the RSC Council voted to allocate 3 more slots to Academy II on a one-year interim basis.  The longer-range plan will have the numbers issue canvassed thoroughly across Divisions and Academies as our Strategic Plan is reviewed.  The plan is to fashion a new Strategic Plan to commence at the end of this calendar year.

We will continue to advocate for more slots on an ongoing  basis, to allow us to recognize the scholarly contributions of social scientists in coming years.

3.Proposal for a new Award

One of the central functions of the Royal Society is to administer a series of awards and prizes that have been established over the years to recognize outstanding scholarly achievements.  The members of the Academy of Social Sciences have been concerned for some time that our Academy is not well represented in terms of the number of awards and prizes.  

Our RSC Honorary Treasurer, Jean-Marie Toulouse, has proposed to work towards the creation of a new medal to recognize excellence in “Governance” to be accessible to Fellows within the Academy of Social Sciences.  This will require the stipulation of terms and conditions for the new award, along with the amassing of the requisite funding.  Jacques Lévesque, who chairs the Awards and Recognition Committee, has agreed to work with Treasurer Toulouse to develop the terms and procedure for this new award.

4.Plans for the 2017 Annual General Meeting in Winnipeg, 23-26 November.

Our next RSC Annual General Meeting will take place in Winnipeg on 23-26 November 2017.  We invite all of our Fellows to consider joining us for this enriching interdisciplinary event, which allows for exciting new connections to be established between members of the Royal Society.


The Health of Nations - John A. Hall, McGill University

No country knows more about nationalism that Ireland. Accordingly the thoughts of its intellectuals on this matter should not be ignored. George Bernard Shaw’s sparkling preface to John Bull’s Other Island makes this claim:

John A. HallA healthy nation is as unconscious of its nationality as a healthy man of his bones…But if you break a nation’s nationality it will think of nothing else but getting it set again. It will listen to no reformer, to no philosopher, to no preacher, until the demand of the Nationalist is granted.

It is only fair to say that realizing the importance of this passage came as the result of empirical research with John Campbell on the ways in which Denmark, Ireland and Switzerland managed to deal with the financial crisis. The vulnerability faced by these nation-states matters a great deal in our account (soon to appear from Princeton University Press as The Paradox of Vulnerability: States, Nationalism and the Financial Crisis), but concentration here is on some findings from two of these countries that demonstrate the force of Shaw’s comment.

Denmark once had a large empire, but became a small nation-state as the result of continual defeats in war. The loss of Schleswig and Holstein in 1864 left an ethnically homogenous Danish population ill-at-ease with its leaders, and terrified of its geopolitical and economic vulnerability. Sustained nation-building came largely from below, especially in the form of folk high schools and co-operatives. The need to stand together led to the introduction of proportional representation, and thereby to consensual politics. The `people’s home’ constructed in the postwar world created a negotiated economy; high levels of human capital ensured prosperity. National identity was taken-for-granted: flexibility and co-operation allowed the country to swim the larger world.

Nothing lasts forever, and there is now `something rotten’ in the state of Denmark. The Danish People’s Party is the largest in the polity, seeking above all a type of national socialism—that is, continued high levels of welfare for Danes with very tight restrictions on benefits for immigrants, whose number it seeks to drastically curtail. The emergence of the national question, based now on fear more than on a separate nation within or indeed on a particularly large number of immigrants, is starting to affect the political economy. More money goes to the elderly, who support the People’s Party, less to the educational system that has hitherto provided the human capital on which the country has recently depended. The nation is broken.

The Irish case is very different, and still more interesting. The nationalist struggle that led to independence was followed by civil war between those prepared to accept a divided island and those who rejected the Treaty involved. Nonetheless, democracy was created, becoming real in 1937 when the side that had lost the civil war formed the government. But the nation remained divided: the two parties were those of the civil war, with Fianna Fail gaining hegemony despite proportional representation because it was able to play the national card against its rival. Such dominance led to clientelism and patronage. Even more importantly, it was possible to indulge De Valera’s vision of the new nation-state populated by people satisfied with frugal comfort living in cozy homesteads among joyous fields and villages—“the life that God desires men should live.” This was a backward looking dream for the nation: rural, Catholic and with state policies designed to revive the Irish language. This approach was only possible because there was no sense that Britain would reconquer the island: the absence of vulnerability allowed, as would never have been the case in Denmark, Ireland to remain poor for so long. But everything changed after 1945. Increasing vulnerability led to nationalist division being largely put to one side. Ireland escaped from the shadow of Britain by joining the European Union, and it created a political economy based both on corporatism and on direct foreign investment—taxed, as we now know, at very low rates. The fact that national divisions were no longer so central, that nationalism had lost consciousness, lay behind the fabulous years of the 1990s, the triumph of the Celtic Tiger.

Of course, the financial crisis was very severe, created in part by clientelist practices and handled badly due to the lack of institutional capacity of what is after all a very new state. Nonetheless, the most recent evidence points to a remarkable recovery. The burden of austerity was born with great resilience, allowing the country to become something of a poster boy for Angela Merkel. Then Irish spin offs from the multinationals seem genuinely innovative and dynamic. Further, it may yet be the case that Brexit favors Ireland: the country is English-speaking, and probably poised both to received investments from China and India as well as part of the banking industry from Ireland. But the crucial point concerns nationalism. Ireland does not have a right wing populist party. It may be that the long history of emigration is a cultural factor that explains tolerance towards immigrants. But the key point here is simply that the national question has not re-emerged; the health of the nation resides in its identity still being taken-for-granted.

Nationalism had a bad press in 1945, and the same is true today. But nationalism is Janus-faced. This great force can be positive, a source of commitment, determination and energy. That is the point being made here, together with the Shavian insistence that its real healthiness consists in it being forgotten and unspoken. The young Indian political scientist Prerna Singh has recently made similar points in her remarkable How Solidarity Works for Welfare: Subnationalism and Social Development in India (Cambridge University Press, 2015). It can and must be clearly stated nonetheless that cultural solidarity need not be based on a single ethnicity. Switzerland exists, so too does Canada. Bur plurinational states too work best when they too have a shared sense of identity that is taken-for-granted. Cartesian clarity is often no virtue at all.


Erasmus Prize 2017 awarded to Michèle Lamont FRSC

Michèle LamontThe Praemium Erasmianum Foundation has awarded the 2017 Erasmus Prize to the Canadian cultural sociologist Michèle Lamont (1957). She is Professor of Sociology at Harvard University, Professor of African and African American Studies and Robert I. Goldman Professor of European Studies. She receives the prize for her devoted contribution to social science research into the relationship between knowledge, power and diversity. Michèle has been elected fellow of the Royal Society of Canada in 2015.

Lamont has devoted her academic career to investigating how cultural conditions shape inequality and social exclusion, and how stigmatized groups find ways to preserve their dignity and self-worth. Her scholarly interests centre on how class and ethnicity determine the way people view reality, and on how the wellbeing of minorities influences the wellbeing of the wider society. Through ground-breaking international comparative research, she shows that disadvantaged groups can achieve new forms of self-esteem and respect. 

In searching for success formulas, she examines the cultural factors and institutional structures that can create more resilient societies. Moreover, she shows that diversity often leads to more vigorous and productive relationships in both society and the academic world. Lamont also turns her critical gaze inwards, analysing the ideas about worth and quality that underpin the formation of judgement within the social sciences. Her research into the underlying patterns within this discussion is of particular importance at a time when the authority of scholars and their claim to truth is increasingly challenged. 

With her interdisciplinary approach, critical stance and international outlook, Lamont shows herself to be a champion of diversity in research and society. As such, she embodies the Erasmian values that the Foundation cherishes and upholds. 


Michèle Lamont was born in Toronto and grew up in Québec. After studying in Ottawa and Paris, she began her academic career at the universities of Stanford and Princeton in the United States, before moving to Harvard University in 2003. Lamont has written dozens of books and articles on such subjects as: culture, social inequality and exclusion; racism and ethnicity; institutions and science. In her most recent book, ‘Getting Respect’ (2016), she describes how various stigmatized groups respond to the daily experience of discrimination. Her previous book, ‘How Professors Think’ (2009) examines how the academic world determines what valuable knowledge is. 

An internationally influential sociologist, Lamont has played a leading role in connecting European and American areas of research within the social sciences. In 2002 she co-founded the Successful Societies Program at the CIFAR. In 2016 she was awarded an Honorary Doctorate by the University of Amsterdam. She is actually president of the American Sociological Association.

In her role as President of the American Sociological Association, Michèle Lamont invites all the Canadian sociologists to attend the upcoming meetings of the ASA to be held in Montréal on August 12-15, 2017. The theme is "Culture, Inequalities, and Social Inclusion across the Globe.” The preliminary program can be found here.  http://www.asanet.org/annual-meeting/preliminary-program.

Quel sera le rôle du Canada dans le monde en émergence ? - Alain-G. Gagnon, Université du Québec à Montréal

Lors d’une allocution remarquée prononcée à Londres le 26 novembre 2016, le premier ministre Justin Trudeau a pris fait et cause pour l’inclusion et la diversité. Il a aussi parlé de deux catégories de citoyens au Canada : il y a « ceux qui souhaitent que nous formions un bloc restreint Alain Gagnonet que nous construisions des murs et les autres qui nous rappellent que nous sommes précisément qui nous sommes en raison de notre ouverture, de notre diversité et de notre capacité d’inclusion. » Cet appel à l’inclusion demeure une condition sine qua non à l’avènement d’une société pancanadienne stable.

Un vent de changement

Mais de quoi demain sera-t-il fait ? Le jeune premier ministre a promis beaucoup pendant la campagne électorale de l’automne 2015 : réhabilitation de l’image du Canada sur la scène internationale, l’assainissement des pratiques démocratiques grâce entre autres à l’instauration d’une réforme électorale, le respect du service public, l’amélioration des conditions de vie des autochtones et la lumière sur les cas des femmes autochtones disparues ainsi que l’adoption d’une politique environnementale respectant les normes internationales les plus élevées.

Justin Trudeau est arrivé au pouvoir en novembre 2015 un peu comme son père l’avait fait en 1968, à la faveur d’un vent de changement. Fort de son charisme, de sa jeunesse et d’un programme axé sur les jeunes familles et la classe moyenne, l’environnement et la transparence, il a réussi à faire élire un gouvernement majoritaire. Et surtout, à intéresser les 18-24 ans et les 25-34 ans : leur taux de participation a augmenté respectivement de 18 % et de 12% par rapport à l’élection fédérale de 2011.

Mais, au-delà des promesses de Justin Trudeau d’un meilleur avenir pour les Canadiens, de sa politique « positive » et de sa manière de jouer le jeu de la « peopolisation », on est en droit de se demander – près de deux ans après son élection -  s’il y a de la substance politique sous le vernis de la communication.

La réhabilitation de l’image du Canada

La réputation pacificatrice du Canada acquise durant les années 1960 à 1990 avait été mise à mal par le gouvernement conservateur de Stephen Harper (2006-2015). Le pays avait délaissé les missions de paix des Nations unies et cherché à s’imposer aux côtés des Américains et des Britanniques en tant que gendarme dans les conflits internationaux (Afghanistan, Libye). Pour Justin Trudeau, redorer le blason du Canada passe par la reconquête d’un siège au Conseil de sécurité de l’ONU en 2020. La décision d’accueillir au Canada 30 000 réfugiés syriens confirme la volonté du gouvernement de miser sur l’aide humanitaire – tout comme le Canada l’avait fait à la fin des années 1970 début des années 1980, pendant le mandat du premier ministre Joe Clark, alors que le pays accueillait près de 60 000 réfugiés en provenance du Vietnam, du Cambodge et du Laos.

Cette même réputation du Canada était aussi à refaire au chapitre du changement climatique et de la protection de l’environnement. Alors que le pays était sorti du Protocole de Kyoto en 2011, il s’est engagé en décembre 2015 lors de la COP21 à réduire d’ici à 2030 de 30% ses émissions de gaz à effet de serre par rapport à 2005. Mais les développements en cours et la situation difficile de l’économie albertaine, province « capitale » de l’exploitation des sables bitumineux, suggèrent qu’il sera difficile d’atteindre ces cibles à moins d’une chute inattendue de la demande mondiale pour ce type d’énergie. Or, à la fin novembre 2016, le gouvernement libéral de Justin Trudeau donnait son aval à la modernisation de deux importants oléoducs acheminant respectivement le pétrole de l’Alberta vers la Côté ouest et vers les États-Unis. Cela fera en sorte, qu’à terme, la capacité exportatrice du Canada passera à tout près de un million de barils de pétrole par jour, faisant du pays le 6e producteur mondial.

La question autochtone

Ce changement de cap aura potentiellement pour effet de rapprocher les électeurs de l’Alberta du Parti libéral de Justin Trudeau mais contribuera certainement à faire dérailler la nouvelle politique de la main tendue que Trudeau offrait aux nations autochtones marginalisées et dont les terres sont empruntées pour le transport du pétrole. 

La question autochtone demeure toujours un enjeu de taille pour qui veut présenter le Canada comme une terre qui profite équitablement à tous. Améliorer les pénibles conditions de vie des communautés autochtones – lesquelles constituent 4,3 % (1,5 million) de la population, à la fois dans les réserves et dans les centres urbains, demeure un défi de taille. À ce chapitre, le Tribunal canadien des droits de la personne reconnaissait, en janvier 2016, que les programmes sociaux à destination des enfants autochtones étaient carrément sous-financés. Il a d’ailleurs intimé le gouvernement fédéral de « cesser cette pratique discriminatoire et prendre des mesures afin de corriger et de prévenir la situation. » (1)  De même la situation des femmes autochtones doit faire l’objet d’une commission d’enquête afin d’élucider des milliers de disparitions et d’assassinats.

Tensions entre provinces

À ces défis s’ajoutent celui des tensions entre les provinces plus riches et les provinces moins bien nanties en ressources naturelles, infrastructures et ressources humaines. 

Conjuguer un développement économique destructeur de l’environnement et la lutte contre le changement climatique constitue le talon d’Achille de l’administration libérale à Ottawa. Sur le plan international, le gouvernement devra  répondre aux attentes de ses partenaires en contribuant plus généreusement aux opérations humanitaires et en réactivant des programmes de maintien de la paix, rompant ainsi avec la politique belliciste de la précédente administration Harper.

Demeure une inconnue : comment Justin Trudeau et Donald Trump parviendront-ils à s’entendre alors que seuls les enjeux économiques semblent les forcer à trouver des avenues de collaboration.

Du stade multiculturel au stade multinational

Enfin, et pour clore, comment le gouvernement Trudeau parviendra-t-il à donner de la profondeur à la diversité canadienne? Se limitera-t-il à faire advenir une diversité ethnoculturelle superficielle sous la forme connue du multiculturalisme ou parviendra-t-il à approfondir le projet d’un Canada multinational tel qu’imaginé et projeté par les peuples autochtones, le Québec, l’Acadie et de plus en plus de Canadiens inspirés par les travaux des juristes, politologues, des philosophes et des sociologues Eugénie Brouillet, Kenneth McRoberts, Simon Langlois, Guy Laforest, Michel Seymour, Charles Taylor et James Tully. Le moment semble plus propice que jamais au Canada pour construire une communauté politique multinationale fondée sur la confiance réciproque, sur l’estime des autres et sur la dignité. Cela contribuerait à doter le pays d’une diversité plus substantielle et davantage en symbiose avec les fondements mêmes de la fédération canadienne. Cette atteinte d’un nouvel équilibre entre les visions du pays serait une belle façon de marquer le 150e anniversaire de l’instauration de la fédération canadienne.

(1) « Les enfants autochtones discriminés par le gouvernement fédéral », Radio-Canada, 26 janvier 2016, accessible sur http://ici.radio-canada.ca/nouvelles/national/2016/01/26/001-tribunal-droits-discrimination-autochtones.shtml