CAIRNS, Alan




Author Tags: First Nations, Politics

"Public policy is best served by vigorous debate." -- Alan C. Cairns

A member of the Department of Political Science at the University of British Columbia from 1960 to 1995, Alan Cairns has also held the Walter S. Owen Visiting Professorship in the UBC Faculty of Law and taught in the Political Science department at the University of Waterloo. He has published Disruptions: Constitutional Struggles From The Charter To Meech Lake (1991) and Citizens Plus: Aboriginal Peoples and the Canadian State (2000), originating from a series of lectures. In essence, Cairns 'stakes out the middle ground' by examining the policies and techniques of colonialism and imperialism, analyzing recent government initiatives and carefully considering the ramifications of the "nation-to-nation" paradigm that evolved from the legal wranglings and rhetoric of the 1990s. Cairns resurrects the term Citizens Plus from the Hawthorn Report of 1966, in which he participated, to espouse the benefits of a vaguely defined middle position for Aboriginals, somewhere between the orthodoxy of Aboriginal self-determinism as a form of anti-Canadianism and the assimilationist attitudes of those he has identified as the bulwark of a counter-orthodoxy fronted by Alberta's Tom Flanagan, the Canadian Alliance (and its predecessor, the Reform Party), Preston Manning, the National Post, the late Mel Smith, The Fraser Institute and Gordon Gibson. "That counter-orthodoxy is not new," Cairns writes.

Cairns considers the position of the Canadian Alliance and The Fraser Institute to be "the conventional wisdom, the status quo opinion of policy elites from Confederation up to and including the 1969 White Paper." In contrast, Cairns has long favoured preferential policies for Aboriginals, in keeping with the "plus" component of the Hawthorn Report, due to their "priority of presence, and the fact that the majority had built a flourishing, wealthy society on the dispossession of Aboriginal, especially Indian, peoples.... In effect, historically, Indians had been citizens minus. The plus view is obviously controversial. It shares with the term 'distinct society' the misfortune of challenging the idea of a uniform, universal citizenship."

Cairns is also the subject of Insiders and Outsiders: Alan Cairns and the Reshaping of Canadian Citizenship (2004), edited by Gerald Kernerman and Philip Resnick. As a tribute to one of Canada's most influential social scientists, the critiques include assessments of Cairn's esteemed role as a public intellectual, his interpretation of Canada’s electoral system, his views on federalism and Canadian unity, and his sober approach to Aboriginal/non-Aboriginal relations.

BOOKS:

Disruptions: Constitutional Struggles From The Charter To Meech Lake (McClelland & Stewart, 1991).

Citizens Plus: Aboriginal Peoples and the Canadian State (UBC Press, 2000).

ALSO:

Kernerman, Gerald & Philip Resnick (editors). Insiders and Outsiders: Alan Cairns and the Reshaping of Canadian Citizenship (UBC Press, 2004).

[BCBW 2004] "First Nations" "Politics" "Law"