Federalism as friendship, renegotiating sovereignty and the Canadian case

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Good, Kristin
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Questions as to whether Canadians can constitute themselves as a sovereign people and, more generally, whether a "solution" to the question of Canadian unity will be found are not new. There is a general feeling that Canadian constitutionalism is at a point of stalemate. This thesis is more positive in tone and is premised on the idea that we are asking the wrong questions. Transcending the current impasse requires that we question our most basic assumptions. The thesis therefore examines the most basic principle of political organization, the notion of sovereignty. Sovereignty, it is argued, is best conceived as a historically-specific, inherently social and dynamic institution that emerged with the constitutive idea that a single legitimate authority should exist on a continuous and contiguous territory. Social norms concerning the scope and nature of legitimate sovereign authority, although structured by its constitutive idea, nevertheless change across time through state practice. Changing state practice results in new norms that account for and "rebundle" the practical imperfections of the idea of "sovereignty" across time. Understanding Canada requires situating it historically in the "sovereign" conversation. The thesis deconstructs "Canada" similarly and uncovers its constitutive idea as well as how organic or "conservative" change occurs. (Abstract shortened by UMI.)