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Democracy Workshop

Photograph of the Supreme Court building under construction, Ottawa, August 11, 1939


Supreme Court building under construction, Ottawa, August 11, 1939

This section explores Canada's past and present political themes as they relate to LAC's collections. Content is developed by guest contributors invited to share their expertise. The Democracy workshop invites visitors to participate in a public dialogue on past and present political issues, ideas and events, with subject experts and other visitors.

John A. Macdonald: An Undemocratic Democrat

By Richard Gwyn

Beyond much argument, John A. Macdonald was the least democratic of all of Canada's leaders. Read more

You'll Never Die, John A.!

By Thomas S. Axworthy

First-time leaders of new nations matter. Just think of the difference it has made to their respective countries having Nelson Mandela as President of South Africa, while neighbouring Zimbabwe has had to endure Robert Mugabe. Among Canada's manifold blessings, one of the most significant (and least appreciated) is that Sir John A. Macdonald was our first Prime Minister. Read more

Democracy in Canada

by Katherine Fierlbeck, Dalhousie University

What is democracy, and what, if anything, is distinctive about Canadian democracy? Modern democracy has evolved too far to be explained in terms of an engaged rule by the citizenry; few voters are convinced that their individual actions are particularly important except in a symbolic sense. Read more

Aboriginal Treaties

By J.R. Miller, University of Saskatchewan

Treaties between Aboriginal peoples and the Crown are important building blocks of modern Canada. They legitimize the presence of non-Aboriginal newcomers through agreements to share territory. They encourage social cohesion by facilitating relations between Natives and newcomers. And since they gained constitutional protection under the constitution adopted in 1982, treaties become part of the country's foundational documents. Read more