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Editorials and Rejoinders

 
 

Holding up a mirror to Canada

Fifteen years of inroads into solitudes

By Henry Milner 

This special 21st issue of Inroads commemorates 15 years of its existence. It all began when John Richards and I met with a few friends in Ottawa late in 1991. After much soul-searching, we decided to take the plunge and embark on a publishing venture. Both of us were academics who had dabbled in politics and felt strongly about the need for intellectuals to play a role in public life. In a decade of friendship and collaboration on publishing projects, we had discovered that though our lives had been lived far apart – John’s in Saskatoon, Edmonton and Vancouver, mine in Montreal, Quebec City and Ottawa – we shared a great deal. In the late sixties and seventies our idealism had taken us to the political left, John in the NDP and me in the Parti Québécois and local politics in Montreal.

By the beginning of the 1990s, we were taking our distance from our respective political families. In the eighties we had both been involved in private enterprises – a rare experience among our erstwhile comrades. And the political world was being transformed around us, as symbolized by the fall of the Berlin Wall. But there was also something Canadian in our parallel trajectories. We shared, for example, a discomfort with the Canadian left’s unthinking rejection of free trade and a goods and services tax, and, more importantly, a frustration over the absence of a forum to debate these questions. This reflected, as we wrote in 1992, “a seemingly unbridgeable gap between two cultures … the ‘social’ versus the ‘economic,’” 
– between “two solitudes”:

Through its own network of communications, each solitude reinforces its own presuppositions in what it reads and hears. As a rule, those on either side of the barrier cannot imagine, let alone explore, what they might have to learn from each other. The “debate” over the FTA and the GST revealed that our two cultures lack even a common language in which to argue. Over trade and taxation, two fundamental but nonetheless relatively technical policy areas over which reasonable compromise is the rule in other countries, the two sides talked (or rather shouted) past each other, leaving bitterness and resentment in their wake.

The word solitude, of course, also evoked the most famous of our solitudes, that between English Canada and Quebec. The word was chosen deliberately since we sought to make inroads into this solitude as well. We had both been disappointed with the recent failures of our respective political families to seek Quebec-Canada constitutional accommodation. The PQ had cast off the moderate Pierre-Marc Johnson in favour of hardliner Jacques Parizeau, while the federal NDP moved to the left, rejecting the moderate policies of Ed Broadbent and the more decentralist position of its western wing. It was only appropriate that our first issue focused on the state of the constitutional debate, but constitutional accommodation was only one dimension: for what proved to be the first time of many, we tackled the Quebec–English Canada mutual misperception over language, over culture, indeed over the very definition of the nation.

The original mandate of Inroads was clear: breaking down these two divisions into solitudes by establishing a forum where the needed left-right and Quebec-Canada dialogue could be pursued. This essay describes our 15 years of experience in carrying out and widening that mandate, in keeping with developments during this period. The story of Inroads, told here in a way that is at once chronological and thematic, is also a sketch of the intellectual history of Canada during an eventful decade and a half.

The remainder of this issue – apart from contributions by my colleagues John Richards, Bob Chodos and Harvey Schachter – consists of a sampling of the articles that have appeared in Inroads, most of them in abridged and annotated form. They were selected because they reflect the themes that have preoccupied us and because they best stand the test of time. Both in this selection and in my own survey (which overlap but do not coincide), it was possible to take note of only a few of the articles that deserved to be remembered, so we beg the forgiveness of readers whose favourites didn’t make the cut.

Stage 1: Constitutional dead ends and political correctness (1992–98)

Although we never gave up our ambition to publish more frequently, Inroads was an annual publication for the first 11 years of its existence. Our first issue came out in 1992 in the midst of an attempt to revive the constitutional debate after the failure of Meech Lake – which was to take the form of the Charlottetown Accord. The defeat of Charlottetown in October 1992 laid bare the gap between the intellectual solitudes. A majority of Quebecers rejected the accord believing that the “distinct society” clause had been qualified into meaninglessness and the powers transferred to Quebec City were window dressing. A majority in the rest of Canada also rejected it – but for entirely different reasons. Most felt that Quebec obtained too much. Instead of looking for compromise, all the actors seemed to place the worst possible interpretation on the accord’s ambiguities.

The efforts of contributors to the inaugural issue to look for paths toward accommodation fell on deaf ears: defeat of the Charlottetown Accord brought “constitutional fatigue,” with Canadians turning to other matters. Nevertheless, we persisted and were to return to the issue again and again in subsequent issues, albeit from different perspectives. The first time came in 1995, in anticipation of the upcoming Quebec referendum. Inroads asked a number of leading figures in the debate whether nationalism still made sense in Quebec (a political science professor named Stéphane Dion argued passionately that it did not). At the same time, it broadened the discussion. Contributors explored whether nationalism can take political forms other than independent statehood, with examples from Catalonia, Scotland, Wales and the former Czechoslovakia.

In the wake of the narrow No victory in the 1995 referendum, John and I followed up with a compromise constitutional proposal, central to which was the legitimacy of Quebec’s legislating to promote and protect the French language and culture. The proposal was sent to a number of leading figures in the constitutional debate including Allan Blakeney, Marcel Côté, Michael Walker, Gilles Paquet and Gordon Robertson for their responses. The proposal and the responses, published as a section in the 1996 issue, added up to a concise – yet comprehensive – portrayal of prospects for the Federation.

There are other dimensions to Canada’s two solitudes. A key one – perhaps the key one – is language. As individuals, the editors have been deeply involved in public discussion of the language question, and this preoccupation has found its way into the journal. Its first expression came in 1994 with a translation of an important statement on language policy by a group of prominent Quebec intellectuals. Indeed, presenting and, if need be, translating important Quebec pronouncements was to become a specific aspect of Inroads’ mission.

The 1997 issue of Inroads featured La Presse financial writer Miville Tremblay’s account of Quebec Premier Lucien Bouchard’s intricate balancing act of satisfying foreign bondholders and domestic public opinion through a series of economic summits. In 1998, Inroads invited readers to get acquainted with Fernand Dumont and Léon Dion, two leading Quebec public intellectuals who had both died in the past year, with translated excerpts of their work. The selected passages explored the profound and complex link between the French language and the aspirations of Quebec people – a useful antidote to the unrelentingly negative attitude then being expressed toward Quebec in the English media, as portrayed by Gérald Leblanc, who covered English Canada for La Presse. Accompanying these pieces were several that explored the role of the anglophone minority in Quebec.

One aspect of the Charlottetown debate concerned the position of Aboriginals, a solitude that was to find its way into the mainstream of political discussion in Canada – and into Inroads. A majority of chiefs in the Assembly of First Nations concluded that Charlottetown did not go far enough in recognizing an Aboriginal right to self-government (though a majority of non-status Indians, Métis and Inuit supported the accord). In the 1993 issue we were reminded of these unresolved constitutional solitudes, and how they intersect, with Robin Philpot’s exploration of the sharply different portrayals of the Quebec-Aboriginal relationship inside and outside Quebec.

The main focus of that issue was the second set of solitudes, between those who define themselves as socially concerned “progressive” Canadians and those who identify with the enterprises that constitute the national economy. In introducing the issue we noted that the tension in Canada had “degenerated into the political equivalent of autism,” impeding Canada’s adaptation to changes in the world’s economic order. Our emphasis was on the need for collaboration on training Canada’s workforce for that order, and leading experts contributed.

Putting our money where our mouth was when it came to making inroads into solitudes, we initiated a practice – refined over the years – of asking key actors on different sides of an issue to set out their positions. In this case, we invited Jock Finlayson, Vice-President of the Business Council on National Issues, and Bob White, President of the Canadian Labour Congress, to comment. The issue again featured lessons for Canada from abroad. In an interview, Singapore’s Lee Kuan Yew told journalist Frank Koller that, in effect, Canadians have been spoiled by their natural resource wealth. A second lesson came in an account I provided of the “crisis deal” reached in Sweden between the Conservative-led government and the Social Democrats. Given my interests, readers were not surprised that the theme of learning from the practical actions of European social democratic governments would find its way into subsequent issues.

In the 1994 issue, we stayed with policy questions, but moved from the economic to the social. As we did so, another characteristic of the journal emerged. Breaking free of ideological straitjackets to ask the hard questions meant tackling head-on the political correctness that surrounded many of the issues that mattered. The most effective way to do this was to turn to critics from within, with the inside knowledge to strip away the rhetoric and assess the real effects of policies. The case in point in 1994 was Ontario’s employment equity policy. We invited the minister responsible, Elaine Ziemba, to set out the reasons for requiring employers to implement measures to ensure that women, members of racial minorities, Aboriginal people and people with disabilities be proportionately represented in the workplace.

Earnings data, she argued, demonstrated that employment equity cannot be left up to the market. But other data pointed in a different direction. One article examined hiring practices in Canadian universities, concluding that qualified male applicants have been at a distinct disadvantage in recent years. Another showed that Quebec was at the forefront of a new development: boys were more likely to drop out of school, and girls were now well ahead of boys from primary school right through university, including practically all the professional faculties. These developments had implications that those who set and wrote about social policy preferred to overlook. To put it bluntly, if boys are more likely to drop out when fathers are absent, what will happen, we asked, to the sons of these dropouts?

The 1996 and 1997 issues continued the focus on social and economic policy, with the first pursuing the discussion of education and training and the second taking up the question of social exclusion and poverty. In 1997 Tom Kent, who was a major architect of the social programs of Liberal governments of an earlier generation, called for a system of child care vouchers and fully financed comprehensive health services for children. Not to be outdone, Hugh Segal, policy adviser to more recent Conservative regimes (and now a senator), called for a radical break from the piecemeal programs of the past in the form of a guaranteed annual income.

The 1996 issue introduced a new feature: the Inroads roundtable. We invited key players from the recently defeated Ontario NDP government to discuss what was left after the party’s four and a half years in office. The 1997 roundtable featured five leading young voices on the left, including Mark Kingwell, Naomi Klein and Irshad Manji. In each case, as in subsequent issues, the discussion was animated and its liveliness was captured in the published version, edited by Arthur Milner.

The 1996 issue also broadened the scope of the magazine’s foreign coverage. Instead of looking only at developments that affect Canada, we now also began highlighting ones we thought Canadians should know about. A feature article from Moscow argued that

Russian democrats had no option but to support Boris Yeltsin despite all the disappointments. A year later, jurist William Schabas reported on Rwanda’s trial of people accused of leading that country’s genocide, a genocide that all but destroyed the legal system that the world expected to deal justly with the accused. (He would return to the scene in the 1999 issue.) In a different vein, Laurent Dobuzinskis reported on French intellectuals finally rallying to the cause of liberal democracy and, more grudgingly, to free markets – the first in a series of articles aiming to introduce readers to important intellectual themes in countries of particular interest to Canadians.

The outcome of the 1997 federal election starkly highlighted the tendency of our electoral system to regionalize political party representation in Parliament. Hence, reforming Canada’s electoral system was the main theme of the 1998 issue of Inroads. The articles anticipated a question that was soon to take an important place in public deliberation – and to which Inroads would return. Moreover, in exploring the electoral reform question, Inroads was able to again play to its strengths: bringing to bear the knowledge of Canadian specialists along with foreign experts such as Kent Weaver of the Brookings Institution and Peter Aimer of the University of Auckland.

Stage 2: New realities, new consensus (1999–2002)

With seven issues behind us, it was time to assess what Inroads had achieved and how it could best go forward. The content had evolved and, overall, lived up to – indeed exceeded – expectations. But the form had not evolved in tandem. A new professionalism in layout and design was the priority and it was attained with the addition to our team of Vancouver’s Nadene Rehnby. The improvement in design and layout is immediately apparent from just a glance at the 1999 issue.

The changed design followed what turned out to be an important step taken a year earlier. On a number of occasions, we received thoughtful responses from readers that found their way into print. In publishing one such response in 1997 we noted that “in a journal that is (until further notice) published only once a year, a response takes some time to find its way into print.” It was becoming clear that this was too long to foster the discussion we sought and that a solution lay in some form of electronic exchange. We began with our website. Not only was it to provide information about subscriptions and the like, but it would now also welcome responses to anything published in the journal. We promised, for our part, to respond to any reasonable comment or suggestion, and – further – “if there is enough interest, to post letters and responses on the Web site, to allow readers to discuss issues among themselves.”

And that is what happened – exceeding our most optimistic expectations. The new forum took shape as the Inroads listserv. With the assistance of Bob Burge it was hosted on the Queen’s University server, and former Kingston Whig-Standard editor Harvey Schachter agreed to act as moderator. The 1998 issue of Inroads was able to report: “From the moment the Calgary Accord was announced last fall, the just-established Inroads-L discussion group reverberated with debate as to the value or futility of the venture. With a little pride, we take credit for bringing together people of widely varying political philosophies, and linking individuals from within and without Quebec.”

Harvey surveys the experience of the listserv in a separate article. Harvey has also served as unofficial media watcher for Inroads, with important articles in on the evolution and role of newspapers in Canada. And because of his efforts, magazine readers were able to get a regular taste of the passionate discussions on the listserv through his “best of the listserv” selections which appeared in most of the subsequent issues.

The 1999 issue covered extensive territory geographically and intellectually. Charles Castonguay challenged Statistics Canada’s optimism over the fate of francophones outside Quebec, while Linda Cardinal argued that Ottawa’s version of official bilingualism pitted francophones inside and outside Quebec against one another. And assembled in Calgary, a panel of articulate Albertans dissected the contemporary state of their province. In British Columbia, Gordon Gibson tackled the controversial Nisga’a Treaty, while Philip Resnick analyzed the outbreak of political correctness in the province’s universities. Axel van den Berg reported on research comparing attitudes among workers and union leaders in Sweden and Canada. In a letter from Britain, Eric Shaw wrote why he preferred his Labour Party to be “old” rather than “new.” There would be more from these two countries in 2000: Stephen Driver analyzed Labour’s moves to devolve power from Whitehall, and Anders Mellbourn dissected Sweden`s ambivalence toward the European Union.

The main theme of the 2000 issue was the nature of the Chrétien regime, with contributions from three distinguished observers of Canadian public affairs, Donald Savoie, Reg Whitaker and Tom Kent. The issue also let readers outside Quebec in on a series of debates animating Quebecers. Most memorable was Claude Ryan’s exchange with senior bureaucrat André Burelle on the Social Union. Another impassioned debate centred on the role of religion in schools. Daniel Weinstock, co-author of the Proulx Report, which advocated secularizing schools, and a leading critic of the report, Gary Caldwell, offered opposing views. Another debate highlighted two leading public intellectuals’ conflicting interpretations of Quebec and Canadian nationalism. Gérard Bouchard, whose brother Lucien was Premier of Quebec, was pitted against John Ralston Saul, whose wife, Adrienne Clarkson, had recently become Governor General of Canada.

By this time we were paying more attention to books as a means of introducing readers to current discussions in Quebec – and generating a clash of opinions. John Richards critically reviewed Time to Say Goodbye, in which former high-profile Quebec Liberal Reed Scowen argued that Canada should “divest” itself of Quebec. Scowen replied with a defence of his position. Four Inroaders commented on Emergency Exit, a book by Jean-François Lisée, Lucien Bouchard’s former senior adviser, which called on sovereigntists to define an acceptable future for themselves within the Canadian federation. The issue also featured Pierre Joncas’s telling of the story of Cité libre, the famous journal founded in 1950 by Pierre Trudeau and Gérard Pelletier and reborn in 1991 with Trudeau’s blessing; the new Cité libre became the voice of virulent opposition to all forms of Quebec nationalism.

A major theme of the 2001 issue was the intersection of politics and religion. We had raised the question the previous year in the debate on school secularization, and it had come up in the 2000 federal election campaign in Canadians’ reaction to Opposition Leader Stockwell Day’s public expression of religious faith. In separate articles, Claude Ryan, whose distinguished career has been inspired by his strong religious faith; Bob Chodos, former editor of the Jesuit magazine Compass; and eminent theologian Gregory Baum, each in his own way, pondered the dilemmas. On the political side, there was real doubt being expressed as to whether there could be a viable alternative to the Liberals. Inroads invited a number of current and former political actors, including Norman Spector and MP Scott Reid, to address the question.

More delicate than even religion and politics was the main topic of the 2001 issue: relations between Aboriginals and other Canadians, the most morally complex problem facing the country. Following on the discussion of the Nisga’a Treaty in the previous issue, we seized the opportunity presented by the publication of major books on Aboriginal policy by Alan Cairns and Tom Flanagan, both prominent political scientists. The lively and passionate yet civil exchange between them showed that even on questions surrounding this issue a genuine clash of opinion uncensored by political correctness was possible. An equally rare expression of the tension in Native-white relations appeared in the issue’s roundtable, composed of four young people who were adopted by white families in Montreal, and who reflected bitterly, but not without empathy, on their experience. The issue was rounded out by JoAnn Episkenew’s account of how the themes and literary styles adopted by Aboriginal writers reflected their views on public policy; a review of Deanna Christensen’s life story of 19th-century Saskatchewan Cree chief Ahtahkakoop; and Frances Abele’s exposition on the treatment of indigenous peoples in Australia, Denmark (Greenland), New Zealand and Norway.

Clearly Inroads had taken on another solitude, that between Natives and whites. The follow-up was not take long in coming, when an exceptional manuscript found its way to us. The author was Jean Allard, a former Manitoba MLA who had lived with Indian politics for four decades, and his central, highly contentious proposal was that treaty money should go to individuals rather than the bands, which would have to finance their activities through taxation. We decided it was sufficiently important to publish a major excerpt in 2002.

The 2002 issue added another theme to the list of Inroads staples, the life and politics of cities, with articles that took readers from Toronto, Montreal, Ottawa, and Vancouver to Brussels, Helsinki, Calcutta and Dhaka. Several of the pieces dealt with the complex question of linguistic regimes in multicultural communities. Moreover, the piece on Vancouver introduced a new format, the photo essay – a format repeated in the Winter/Spring 2003 issue where Rose Murphy’s photographs capture the changes brought by electric power to rural Bangladesh. And in the Summer/Fall 2003 issue, there is an exceptional set of photos from Haiti by Julie Oliver.

Another visual aspect signals the evolution of the journal in this intermediate stage. Despite our best efforts to keep down the number of pages (and the costs they entailed), the issues of 1999 through 2002 are not only more professional in design and layout but also fatter. The growing number of pages of high-quality work reflected Inroads’ success in staking out its place in the evolution of Canadian public debate.

Stage 3: Five years as a semi-annual (2003–7)

The 1999, 2000, 2001 and 2002 issues of Inroads were effectively double issues. The journal had arrived at the point we had set out to attain: when it came to content, we were now in a position to publish two good issues every year. But coming out twice yearly entailed a greater commitment of both money and effort. After some soul-searching we agreed to go ahead. The deciding factor was veteran editor and journalist Bob Chodos’s coming on board as managing editor. As he wrote in his introduction to the first “Winter/Spring” (2003) issue of Inroads, annual publications occupy “a grey area in the publishing world, not quite a book but not really a magazine either … Successful magazines have an elusive quality called ‘presence,’ and the increase in frequency should enhance our presence.”

As might have been expected, the pace changed considerably: it had taken us ten years, from 1992 to 2001, to publish our first ten issues; it would take only five to publish our next ten. To meet the needs of a semi-annual publication the editorial board was expanded. Joining Chodos, Arthur Milner, John and me were policy analyst Finn Poschmann and political scientists Linda Cardinal, Philip Resnick and Reg Whitaker, with Reg taking special responsibility for the journal’s book review section. As we shall see, the book review section continued to expand, adding greater diversity to the contents. For example, the two 2003 issues reviewed Jeffrey Simpson’s The Friendly Dictatorship, Marie McAndrew’s study of immigration and diversity in Quebec schools, the Canadian Election Study’s analysis of the 2000 election and a biography of Preston Manning, as well as books on early Canadian political thought, Canadian tax policy and Australian Aboriginal history. The Summer/Fall 2003 issue also included a review essay contrasting the approaches in two prominent books on economic development, by Joe Stiglitz and William Easterly.

From an editorial point of view, publishing every six months made Inroads a more effective forum for discussion of Canadian policy issues, able to comment on events in a more timely fashion. The release of reports by the Kirby Senate Committee and the Romanow Royal Commission in late 2002 helped put health care at the top of the Canadian political agenda. We were able to make it the main theme of our Winter/Spring 2003 issue, with notable articles by Raisa Deber on health care delivery options and John Richards on Aboriginal health. Two other articles in Winter/Spring 2003 provided insight into emerging – and disturbing – trends. With newspaper circulation declining, Harvey Schachter highlighted some often overlooked factors that influence news judgement and media play. And political scientist Paul Howe offered statistics comparing current generations with those in the 1950s to help understand the sharp decline in voting among younger generations of Canadians.

In keeping with our penchant for roasting sacred cows, Gareth Morley, who was to become a regular contributor, took on Noam Chomsky. And, naturally enough, in keeping with our policy of encouraging debate, Rae Murphy replied, accusing Morley of being ahistorical. A controversy generated by the previous issue also found its way into Winter/Spring 2003, as retired Indian Affairs official Bob Connelly responded to Jean Allard’s “Big Bear’s Treaty.”

An added plus of going semi-annual was more space for dispatches from far-off corners of the world on developments relevant to Canadians. In Winter/Spring 2003, Helen Irving took stock of the Australian republican movement’s referendum defeat despite widespread popular support for abolition of the monarchy. The Summer/Fall 2003 issue featured complementary in-depth essays, accompanied by photos, on the Dominican Republic by Inroads business manager Frances Boylston and on Haiti by journalist Don Cayo. These two fascinating countries are condemned by geography to share a common destiny, and Canada, through tourism and development aid, continues to play a significant role in both of them. In his editorial, John Richards drew lessons from these analyses to offer some unsolicited advice to CIDA.

Indeed, editorials accompanying the articles and offering unsolicited advice (or inconvenient truths, to use a popular term these days) were becoming another trademark of the journal. My editorial in Winter/Spring 2003 linked two of my favourite themes. Unsolicited advice on this occasion was for the NDP, which I urged to place proportional representation at the centre of its political strategy if it wished to follow the path of social democratic parties in continental Europe – as it should. Changing the leader, as the NDP was again about to do, would not make a dent in its futile effort to unseat the Liberals in our two-party system.

The main section of Summer/Fall 2003 was entitled Left and Right, bringing the focus directly back to Inroads’ original objective of breaking down the solitudes by establishing a forum where the needed Left-Right dialogue could be pursued. The introduction promised that “in the pages that follow, writers from the Left and Right are invited not to confront each other but to listen to each other.” Reg Whitaker coordinated the Left articles, while Rainer Knopff of the University of Calgary coordinated those from the Right. The highlight of the section pitted Stephen Clarkson’s critique of NAFTA against Hugh Segal’s passionate defence of North American integration. Yet, as only fitting for Inroads, there were some surprises. Kenneth Boessenkool, in his “conservative template” for welfare reform, left little room for workfare. Don Wells offered a ringing defence of trade unions from the Left – but acknowledged the need for them to change. And Helen Raham, in suggesting that Alberta’s experiment with charter schools be taken further, used as her model social democratic Sweden’s system of publicly funded independent schools.

In keeping with our mandate of reporting on new development in Quebec politics, the issue included a translation of Éric Bédard’s analysis in the influential new Quebec journal Argument of the rise of Mario Dumont’s Action Démocratique du Québec. The article was accompanied by two contrasting positions from regular Inroads contributors. Gary Caldwell argued that the emergence of the ADQ had provided an alternative vision to the “Quebec model,” although that vision had been tempered by political expediency. Jean-François Lisée countered with a defence of the Quebec model against the ADQ.

As the editors pondered the themes of the coming issues, international developments were impinging on us as rarely before. In the summer and fall of 2003 debate was raging over the U.S. invasion of Iraq. Here was an issue over which a genuine meeting of minds, which begins from the clash of opinion, was more than needed. With this goal in mind, Inroads published a carefully argued case for the war and Canada’s participation in it by Larry Pratt and Leon Craig, and an equally well-argued case against by Gareth Morley, in the Winter/Spring 2004 issue. But our coverage didn’t stop there. Journalist Antoine Robitaille surveyed the particularly strong opposition to the war in Quebec, while Dave Tucker of the University of Melbourne explored Australian reaction to the Howard government’s decision to enter the war. To complement the discussion, three articles looked at the political and intellectual developments underlying changing attitudes toward the United States in Canada and abroad. Taken together, the contents of this issue manifested what Inroads – and only Inroads – can contribute to Canadian public debate.

The same proved true of Summer/Fall 2004, which focused on Europe in the context of the seething conflict between Western values and radical Islam. From the Netherlands Paul Lucardie provided an account of the spectacular rise of Pim Fortuyn’s populist movement – and its collapse after Fortuyn was murdered. (The murder had a tragic sequel, and in Summer/Fall 2005, Lucardie followed up with his assessment of the fallout from the assassination of journalist and filmmaker Theo van Gogh by an Islamic militant.) The theme section of Summer/Fall 2004 linked Europe’s difficulties in integrating large numbers of immigrants from the nearby Islamic world to two other challenges. Could its governments sustain generous social programs in the face of new economic and demographic challenges? And could the European Union remain harmonious as it expanded to 25 members? These crises were dealt with in an article by French sociologist Riva Kastoryano examining the controversial law banning the Islamic veil and other religious symbols (to which three knowledgeable Canadians responded), in Swedish economist Richard Murray’s explanation of why his country’s renowned welfare state needed to make some radical adjustments, and in two assessments of the new institutions established with Britain’s devolution of power to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, and their relationship to the EU.

Other articles had a European connection as well. Hans Bergstrom, newly retired as editor of Sweden’s largest newspaper, reported from Florida, a pivotal state in the U.S. election campaign; Alexander Freund reflected on how memory has shaped German immigrants’ experiences in North America; and contributors to the Inroads listserv differed in their assessments of the varying approaches to cultural diversity in Canada, the United States and Europe.

Coming out semi-annually left room for more coverage of domestic political issues. In Winter/Spring 2004, the editors assessed the heritage of Jean Chrétien, while Janice MacKinnon, who had been NDP Finance Minister in Saskatchewan, offered advice to the new Prime Minister, Paul Martin. In Summer/Fall 2004 Steve Patten reviewed three books on the intense ambition and corporate-friendly Liberalism that had brought Martin to power, and in Winter/Spring 2005 several pieces addressed the implications of the June 2004 federal election. The dismal turnout in that election was taken up in an article by two Quebec activists who reflected on using elections in the schools to encourage young people to vote, and in a debate between two editors over whether it was time to change to a system of proportional representation. The possibility of democratic reform also entered a debate between two western Canadian policy analysts over whether the new political landscape was more favourable to decentralization.

Following up on the urban issues raised in 2002, the Summer/Fall 2004 and Winter/Spring 2005 issues ran what proved to be a two-part analysis of the municipal demerger controversy in Montreal. Contributions to the Winter/Spring 2005 issue also marked the passing of Eric Kierans and Claude Ryan. But primary attention remained far from home. On the initiative of Arthur Milner, who has long been outspoken on the question, the Winter/Spring 2005 issue tackled the daunting Israel/Palestine controversy. On no issue is it harder to ask people with opposing views to engage in respectful dialogue. But if not Inroads, who then? As Bob Chodos stated in the introduction, “As managing editor of Inroads, I can, and indeed must, be dispassionate and fair-minded about the points of view expressed in the section. But the pain that I feel in reading about the events and developments reported on here is Jewish pain. Many Canadians – Jews, Christians, Muslims and others – share both my sense of connection to events in Israel/Palestine and my distress at the course those events have taken.”

The issue began with different perspectives on the failure of the Oslo peace process, followed by contributions throwing light on Christian “premillennial dispensationalists” whose pro-Israel stance significantly influences U.S. policy, and on Europe’s role in the various peace efforts. More personal contributions were offered by Nada Sefian and Leila Mouammar, two Palestinian activists in Montreal, about Arab-Jewish dialogue groups, the Palestinian right of return, suicide bombing and more, while two Jewish activists in British Columbia, Howard Stein and Noemi Gal-Or, took issue with efforts to bar pro-Israeli views from Canadian campuses. A photo essay accompanying the articles bears silent witness to the relative invisibility of the Arabs and their language in Israel. The issue was especially strong on using books to further the discussion, from the failure of the Oslo peace process to a biography of Ariel Sharon to the controversial publications of historian Benny Morris to books on the relations between the West and the Islamic world. Even wider issues were raised in reviews of Michael Ignatieff’s Empire Lite and, in Summer/Fall 2005, of Jared Diamond’s Collapse.

In a rare “scoop” for Inroads, the Summer/Fall 2005 issue ran a powerful cover story. (Our previous “scoop,” in 1994, consisted of a series of strongly worded memos sent to Liberal strategists by Gaile McGregor during the 1993 federal election campaign, advice the Grits never acknowledged but, at least to some extent, followed.) This time, Daphne Bramham exposed a Mormon sect (some call it a cult) in a remote part of British Columbia that practises polygamy – and perhaps also sexual exploitation and human trafficking – in apparent contravention of Canadian law.

Inroads was to take up the wider question of the role of law in Canadian society in Winter/Spring 2006. Meanwhile, the Summer/Fall 2005 issue concentrated on another question that we had largely neglected since former Quebec premier Pierre-Marc Johnson described “the state of the earth on the eve of the Rio Earth Summit” back in 1992. In approaching the environment, we first asked what Inroads could contribute. A debate over Kyoto would have been the most natural thing; it had long been simmering on the listserv (and found its way into the best of the listserv selection in Summer/Fall 2003). But that debate left the distinct impression that Kyoto was an agreement whose critics could see only its flaws, flaws invisible to its defenders. A more useful contribution would be to bring greater clarity to this highly charged discussion. Hence we asked Finnish environmental economist Jan-Otto Andersson to explain in lay terms how application of the increasingly central concept of an “ecological footprint” brings the environmental dimension to the forefront of choices from the daily life of individuals to the trade policies of nations. We then put together a series of questions that Canadians needed to have answered about global warming and related challenges and put them to perhaps the Canadian best qualified to respond, environmental scientist François Bregha.

For the third contribution we shifted to the political side of the question. Whom should concerned Canadians support to express – and get action – on green issues? Gord Perks, a longtime environmental activist (later elected to Toronto City Council), argued that the Green Party of Canada, despite its name, did not deserve the support of environmentalists since it was too willing to rely on the market for solutions. Naturally, Green Party of Canada leader Jim Harris disputed this contention (in Winter/Spring 2006), and Perks responded. And in Summer/Fall 2006 Chris Adams followed up with an analysis of long-term trends in Canadian public opinion to address the question of why the environment failed to play much of a role in the January 2006 election campaign – an analysis especially pertinent today with a conspicuously green Stéphane Dion leading the Liberals. In the same issue, Jan Narveson, a longtime skeptic about global warming, critically reviewed Tim Flannery’s highly touted new book calling for action on climate change.

Sharp disagreement was not absent from the other main theme of the Summer/Fall 2005 issue, which brought back into focus concerns left on the back burner in recent issues. The notion of “asymmetrical federalism” had reemerged in a September 2004 side deal on health care between Ottawa and Quebec which explicitly invoked the concept. The strong passions elicited by this seemingly abstract concept emerge in an exchange of letters between Liberal Senator Serge Joyal and Quebec’s Minister of Canadian Intergovernmental Affairs, Benoît Pelletier. The exchange was accompanied by several more academic assessments which looked at comparable arrangements in Australia, Spain and elsewhere.

On the international development front, the Summer/Fall 2005 issue returned to matters raised two years earlier, in particular the effectiveness of the aid Canada and other Western countries provide to the developing world. Writing from Bangladesh and Cambodia respectively, Owen Lippert and Dominic Cardy drew portraits – complemented in the case of Bangladesh by a selection of evocative photographs – of how corruption undermines efforts toward development.

By this time, developments in film and television were a focus of increasing attention, as first evidenced in a review of Denys Arcand’s The Barbarian Invasions in Winter/Spring 2004. In Summer/Fall 2005, distinguished Scandinavian film commentator Bengt Forslund surveyed the current state of Swedish film, scouring the horizon for new Ingmar Bergmans. And in an interview in Winter/Spring 2006, Quebec film producer Roger Frappier revealed how Quebec films have captured their home market. The Summer/Fall 2006 issue drew a bead on television for the first time as Ariane Blackman lamented the CBC’s cancellation of playwright George F. Walker innovative legal drama series This is Wonderland.

A December 2004 report to the Ontario government by former NDP cabinet minister Marion Boyd raised eyebrows around the world. It recommended the limited use of religious (including Islamic) tribunals in family law arbitration. Given our continuing concern over the relationship between Western values and political Islam, Inroads naturally got into the picture. In Winter/Spring 2006, Boyd outlined her position in light of the heated reaction to her report. From Quebec, MNA Fatima Houda-Pepin explained the reasons for her motion opposing Islamic tribunals, passed unanimously by the National Assembly. To respond, we invited representatives of the Muslim Canadian Congress and the Canadian Islamic Congress, two organizations that have been on opposite sides of this question.

The tribunals raised wider questions of the place of law in society, and these were addressed in the main theme section of the Winter/Spring 2006 issue. We had not looked at the impact of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms on the role of the courts since 1994 when McGill Law Dean Yves-Marie Morissette warned of the dangers of posing political claims for redistribution in terms of the language of rights and entitlements. The Winter/Spring 2006 theme section began with an annotated list of key Charter cases that have cemented the power of the Supreme Court of Canada, followed by a wide-ranging interview with Allan Blakeney, who as Premier of Saskatchewan had helped craft the deal that brought the Charter into being. The constitution may be a “living tree,”he asserted, but that doesn’t make it right “for the courts to decide that they don’t like the tree we planted, dig it up and transplant another species.” In contrast, Patrick Monahan, Dean of Osgoode Hall Law School in Toronto, told Inroads that the Court was only doing its duty of defending minorities. Gareth Morley, who conducted the Blakeney interview, returned to the charge in Winter/Spring 2007, bestowing poor grades on the Supreme Court’s new doctrine of “unwritten constitutional principles,” which amounts to what he termed “Canada’s third constitution.”

The main theme of the Summer/Fall 2006 issue concerned policies affecting youth, from child care to high school dropouts to schools serving culturally diverse populations. Reflecting Inroads’ breadth of reporting, the articles took us from Ontario and Quebec to eastern Africa – where a group of Canadian journalists reported on the stark choices facing HIV-positive mothers who want to breastfeed their children and on the pros and cons of paying for schooling. Published as it was a few months after the federal election that brought the Conservatives to power – an eventuality that our analysts had deemed remote in 2001 – the issue brought Canadian politics back to centre stage. Richard Nimijean attributed Paul Martin’s defeat largely to his failure to sustain Jean Chrétien’s success at identifying the Liberal Party with “Brand Canada.” And the cover story was an insider’s account by Tom Flanagan, one of Stephen Harper’s key advisers past and present, of how Harper had made the necessary journey away from previously held positions in order to win, and what we could expect from him in office.

In its continuing efforts to bring Quebec political debate to English-speaking Canada, we followed up on a development reported on in Winter/Spring 2006: the publication of For a Clear-Eyed Vision of Quebec, a manifesto signed by former premier Lucien Bouchard and 11 other prominent Quebecers, which gave rise to intense discussion. In an effort to do justice to that debate, the Summer/Fall 2006 issue featured large exceprts from a countermanifesto from the left. And we invited two of the “clear-eyed” signatories, former PQ cabinet minister Joseph Facal and La Presse editorial page editor André Pratte, to comment. Remarkably, both the left-of-centre sovereigntist and right-of-centre federalist expressed a similar need to publicly take their distance from the too often unquestioned assumptions of the “Quebec model.”

This brings us to the most recent issue, Winter/Spring 2007. A glance at the table of contents illustrates just how Inroads has come of age. International reality is brought to bear on Canada in a new vein, with Paul Delany looking at Norway’s experience in managing its oil windfall and what Alberta could learn from it. The main theme section seamlessly merges three ongoing concerns: Canadian politics, international development and the question of Islam and the West (a major preoccupation of the listserv and most recently featured in the journal in the form of the listserv debate in Summer/Fall 2006 on the publication in a Danish newspaper of cartoons of the prophet Muhammad). Four informed observers’ contrasting viewpoints on the war in Afghanistan are followed by articles about nearby Nepal accompanied by a fascinating set of colour photos – a new achievement for Inroads – providing a rare view of this impenetrable but highly volatile mountain state. There are also several drawings – another innovation – from Garnotte, Le Devoir’s cartoonist and one of Quebec’s hidden treasures. The political dimension reemerges in a contribution from the researchers of the Canadian Election Study which investigates the possible effect of foreign policy on the Tories’ electoral prospects.

Another old theme returns in as well, with articles proposing specific democratic reforms to the voting systems of Ontario and Quebec, two provinces considering such changes. And publication of the issue in November 2006 coincided with eyes being turned again on the Liberals as they prepared to replace Paul Martin as leader. Who else but Reg Whitaker, who had already written definitively about the Chrétien Liberals in 2000, to explore the prospects of Canada’s “natural governing party”?

Looking backward

For obvious reasons we hesitate to proclaim mission accomplished. But we can say that in the world of Canadian letters and public policy discussion, Inroads has found its niche. If that position is not satisfactorily manifested in the magazine’s circulation, it is reflected in many other ways, explored in John Richards’s accompanying essay. Our niche is situated at the intersection of serious journalism and policy research. In 1999, Laurent Dobuzinskis wrote about policy institutes’ rising to prominence to fill a void he described as follows: driven by deadlines, journalists treat policy too superficially; academics treat policy problems with jargon-filled analyses that rarely escape from the deeply carved ruts of their respective disciplines; politicians and interest group leaders, even the most thoughtful, are tied to the leash of the “party line”; and government research agencies often suffer constipation, combining academic formalism with political constraints.

But policy institutes primarily address policymakers, and the style and content of their publications reflect this. Inroads too tries to fill this void, but as a magazine. We write for the public – a public that has a wide array of choices when it is looking to be informed. In addressing an informed public, we have, over time, managed to develop the editorial capacity to ensure that though the content is well researched, the writing remains lively and free of jargon. Our list of contributors is made up of academics able to write beyond the constraints of their disciplines, policy analysts who can make their case to the public at large, former mandarins and political leaders in a position to reflect profoundly and candidly on their experiences, and journalists freed from time and space constraints. The result has been in-depth, thoughtful contributions from a varied, talented roster of writers. The result was summed up in the words of a distinguished Canadian who, as well as anyone, reflects the overlapping constituencies of our readers and contributors. John Meisel, Professor Emeritus at Queen’s University, wrote that “Inroads is very appealing because of its liveliness and the diverse provenance of its authors. It unfailingly produces unexpected shafts of light.”

Looking forward

A key factor in Inroads’ achievement has been financial independence. Outside of a few publishers’ announcements, Inroads has not run advertisements. And with the exception of a small business grant for magazine publishers from the Canada Magazine Fund, which allocates money on criteria that explicitly exclude editorial content, we receive no government funding. The only external constraints over what appears on the pages of Inroads are thus the libel laws. As a result, we have been able to fully live up to our editorial commitment to publish the best work irrespective of the ideological orientation of its authors and to take on the most contentious issues free of political correctness.

But financial independence has a price, and Inroads’ survival has depended on the financial contributions of editors and supporters. While circulation has increased, it has not kept pace with costs. So what are the prospects for Inroads being around for the next 15 years? Will we be able to report on further progress in a special issue commemorating the publication of Inroads 50?

Journals like Inroads are needed more than ever. Every day, it seems, we hear of another organization founded, or another government or foundation initiative, to promote citizen engagement, dialogue and deliberation. In its allocation of research funds, the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada is stressing that pure research is not enough. Applicants must show that they will communicate their results beyond the narrow confines of their discipline, and that their topic is relevant to important policy issues such as the new economy, health care or literacy. Increasingly we receive proposals from scholars to publish their academic papers in popularized form.

Meanwhile, scholarly journals are being pushed in the opposite direction. More and more are “going electronic.” (This past January, it was announced that a new peer-reviewed, open-access electronic political science journal would be published by the British Columbia, Western Canada and Atlantic Provinces political science associations.) In some cases the print versions have entirely disappeared, while others are no longer in libraries. Typically, scholarly articles reporting on academic research are electronically downloaded into computers at institutions subscribing to full-text indexes. Why subscribe to or even publish print versions of scholarly journals when their contents are seldom read between the covers?

With the costs of these indexing services severely squeezing the budgets for periodical subscriptions at academic institutions, it’s not hard to see where this process leads. But where will that leave Inroads? Will librarians assume that a subscription to Inroads can be replaced by an indexing service that makes electronic versions of its articles available? This would be unfortunate indeed since, in contrast to academic journals, Inroads is not published to be read in the context of specific narrowly focused research interests. Instead, its intent is to allow those who read it in the library periodicals section – along with those who receive it in their homes or pick it up at the newsstand – to learn something new and perhaps surprising or get a different perspective on an area of wide concern. While, unlike many academic journals, we do not gouge libraries in our subscription costs, we do depend on the revenues those subscriptions bring in. Hence, at one level, the future of Inroads is tied to the mission libraries give themselves as they adapt to the new information environment.

At a deeper level, the future is tied to the changing habits of readers, changes that are already profoundly affecting the newspaper and magazine industry as a whole. There is no doubt that the new electronic means of written communication have made it possible for us – separated by thousands of miles – to produce this journal. On the other hand, they make it possible for potential readers to bypass published magazines and newspapers altogether. With effort and ingenuity they can, at little financial cost, find material on the Web that will satisfy the need for information and analysis supplied by a magazine like Inroads (though it must be said that the cost will probably rise; it was, after all, not too long ago that Toronto Globe and Mail and New York Times columnists’ efforts were free on the Web). In a sense, every reader of this journal can, and to some extent already does, become editor of their own electronic journal.

But we cannot leave it to the electronic world of information to do the job. That world is structured in such a way as to make it natural for people to seek out that which narrowly interests them and reinforces their preconceptions – even if they agree that democratic decision-making requires forums for discussion of a range of issues from different ideological perspectives. This is where a journal like Inroads comes in. It can and does provide an overview and synthesis of relevant analysis and opinion that reflect the breadth of the editors’ networks and experience – as well as their professional judgement – in a form that can be read and returned to at leisure, discussed around a table, and placed neatly on a bookshelf. Victor Navasky, former editor and publisher of The Nation, has reflected on this aspect of the journal of opinion, as Bob Chodos notes in his accompanying piece.

Our wager is that readers will continue to appreciate articles on subjects they themselves could not or would not seek out. As we have seen, much effort has gone into assembling, editing and translating articles reflecting public discussion in Quebec. Few Inroads readers can or will do this on their own, but we presume they – you – appreciate our doing it for you. The same applies to pieces on democratic reform, Aboriginal issues, Canada and the world, and the other topics we cover. We remain persuaded that there is need and room – indeed greater need than ever in a world dominated by electronic information – for what a publication like Inroads can bring. If we got this far, who knows, we may be on to something.

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About the Author

Henry Milner
Henry Milner is co-publisher of Inroads and a political scientist at the Université de Montréal.




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