Contesting Canadian Citizenship: Historical Readings – ADAMOSKI et al (CSS)

ADAMOSKI, Robert; CHUNN, Dorothy E.; MENZIES, Robert (eds). Contesting Canadian Citizenship: Historical Readings. Peterborough, ON: Broadview Press, 2002. 429p. Resenha de: MITCHELL, Tom. Canadian Social Studies, v.39, n.1, p., 2004.

Citizenship lies at the heart of the liberal state and forms of political modernity. Defined variously as a relational practice, a set of personal rights and obligations, or as a cultural idiom unique to particular societies, citizenship is to a greater or lesser degree always fluid, plastic, and internally contested (Brubaker, 1992, p. 13; on citizenship see also T. H. Marshall T. Bottomore, (1992). Its analysis offers an opening to modern approaches to power and social control, to forms of modern nations and nationalities; conceptually, idioms of citizenship are deeply implicated in most debates of public policy in the liberal state. And, as Contesting Canadian Citizenship discloses, such has been the case since the beginning of modern Canadian history.

The various and diverse chapters contained in Contesting Canadian Citizenship tell us about how modernist discourses of class, gender, race and discursive idioms of human pathology have shaped how Canadians have imagined each other. Such discourse furnished the theory upon which forms of unequal citizenship have been cast, institutional life has been ordered, and relations of power and vulnerability have been forged. For some citizenship promised power and opportunity, full citizenship within the liberal state; for others liberal discourse on citizenship led to non-citizenship, shame, subordination, incarceration, even sterilization.

The readings open with a nicely tailored introduction to the contemporary debate and varied usages of citizenship as a practical – and almost always contested – political and social idiom. Here the Canadian debate is effectively placed within the context of a broader international literature. Janine Brodie’s contribution to the introduction Three Stories of Canadian Citizenship focuses on three approaches to the development of citizenship in Canada: the legal, rights based and governance approaches. Under these headings Brodie moves from an account of the juridical nature of Canadian citizenship, to a discussion of the evolution of Canadian citizenship within a critical appraised account of T.H. Marshall’s seminal theorization of citizenship, to a historical survey of citizenship under the general rubric of governance.

Beyond the introduction, Contesting Canadian Citizenship has five sections. Constituting the Canadian Citizen contains essays by Veronica Strong-Boag on the debate around citizenship central to the Canadian Franchise Act of 1885. Gender, race, and class are illuminated as central features of the construction of citizenship within the Canadian liberal state. Ronald Rubin tackles citizenship in the evolving cultural politics of Quebec sovereignty, while Claude Denis provides a thoughtful and provocative account of the Hobson’s choice at the heart of the history of indigenous citizenship in Canada.

Under the heading Domesticity, Industry and Nationhood Sean Purdy relates a fascinating story of the implication of idioms of citizenship within debates over housing policy, while Jennifer Stephen considers industrial citizenship within the context of an account of employment, industrial relations and the creation of an efficient labour force during the era of crisis and reconstruction from 1916-1921. Deyse Baillargeon employs data from interviews with Francophone women in Montreal to provide a contextually specific glimpse into how women in Quebec, who possessed only a partial juridical citizenship, nevertheless made an important contribution to the maintenance of social stability during the Great Depression. Finally, Shirley Tillotson takes up the question of citizenship and leisure rights in mid-twentieth century Canada. In a nicely theorized account of the development of leisure rights sensitive to the implications of class, gender, race and rurality, Tillotson makes the argument that the imperatives of a moral economy of democratic citizenship in which the right to the prerequisites of health and culture led the liberal state to provide all Canadians not just the elite with access to leisure in the form of statutory and paid holidays and recreational programs.

Education has always been central to the Canadian debate on citizenship. This theme is treated at length under the heading Pedagogies of Belonging and Exclusion. Lorna R. McLean links the literature of class and masculinity with emerging forms of Canadian citizenship through an account of the adult education program of Frontier College. Katherine Arnup provides an illuminating account of the links between modernist discourses implicating motherhood with the manufacture of citizens. Here experts in child development typically, members of the medical profession cast a shaft of enlightenment on the benighted mothers especially those of non-Anglo-Canadian stock of future citizens of the country. Mary Louise Adams relates how the construction of citizenship was and remains implicated in the definition and policing of sexual identity and an orthodox sexuality. Bernice Moreau provides an account of the junction of race and citizenship in Nova Scotia. Here the shameful story of how Black Nova Scotians struggled to gain educational rights and civic equality against a state and civil society that denied them full citizenship is related.

Finally, four chapters address the theme of Boundaries of Citizenship. Here, Robert Adamoski relates the passage of children as wards of the state to productive citizenship. Adamoski argues that the philanthropic and child rescue movements that emerged in the late nineteenth century dealt with their charges within the class, gender and racial expectations of the time. Working class girls and boys would become solid working class citizens; only through assimilation could Aboriginal children enter the ranks of citizenship. Joan Sangster discusses the rescue of delinquents for the liberal state. In a chapter that considers developments from 1920-1965, Sangster provides illustrations and analysis of the changing and unchanging strategies used by the state and social experts to re-create model citizens. Dorothy E. Chunn deals with race, sex and citizenship through an examination how the criminal law in British Columbia was employed normatively to disseminate and sustain dominant conceptions of appropriate and inappropriate sexual and social relations. Her account illustrates how law worked to reinforce hierarchical social relations within the new settler society of British Columbia. Robert Menzies relates the story of mental hygiene and citizenship in British Columbia during the formative 1920s, an era in which the long shadow of eugenics discourse threatened dire consequences for those who for any number of reasons were deemed unworthy of citizenship. He develops a useful historical context for his account: relating how developments elsewhere from Ontario to Britain, Alberta to California shaped the course of the debate in British Columbia, and contributed to the shaping of social policy for some of Canada’s most vulnerable citizens.

This is a very useful publication. It brings together a diverse body of literature that speaks to the complex and evolving ideological core of the Canadian liberal state: citizenship and prose rendered with a minimum of jargon. Of course, each reader of this book will find some chapters more literate, interesting and useful than others. Such is to be expected in a volume containing seventeen chapters and almost as many authors.


Brubaker, R. (1992). Citizenship and Nationhood in France and Germany, London: Harvard University Press.

Marshall, T.H. Bottomore, T. (1992). Citizenship and Social Class. London: Pluto Press.

Tom Mitchell – Brandon University. Brandon, Manitoba.

Acessar publicação original