home
literature · synopses   
themes literature agenda archive anthology calendar links profile

Luan-Vu N. Tran
Human Rights and Federalism
A Comparative Study on Freedom, Democracy and Cultural Diversity

The Hague – Boston – London 2000



español  



The Hague – Boston – London:
Martinus Nijhoff Publishers, 2000.
(International Studies in Human Rights 64)
316 pages
ISBN 90-411-1492-0


Martinus Nijhoff Publishers:
external linkWebsite


»... the normative-organizational, moral and symbolic force of the Constitution, and especially the Charter, depend on a democratic legitimization process that basically requires that authorities entrusted with interpreting and enforcing constitutional rights pay attention to Canada's social, cultural and linguistic diversity and accommodate the differences ...«

Luan-Vu N. Tran
(294)

  Luan-Vu N. Tran is a Vietnamese scholar who was born in Switzerland, educated in the United States and settled in Canada. He approaches human rights and federalism, with particular focus on Canada, from a perspective that is both personal and objective. Belonging to three different cultures and their widely disparate languages, his point of view is especially unique and clearly shows the problems that can arise when interpreting and applying human rights to multiethnic countries.
  Primarily Tran criticises classical liberalism, which considers freedom in a negative sense, that is, freedom is the lack of state impositions and restrictions. He shows us that such impositions are necessary, as it is impossible for people to suitably achieve prosperity and happiness without appropriate involvement by the government. Perceiving freedom as the absence of state restriction, however, does not meet the requirements which appear to be mandatory for some essential human rights. And thus, the intervention by the State is therefore required for some basic aspects related to individuals.
  Canadian academics, jurists and politicians have refrained from fully acknowledging the social, economic and cultural rights achieved by their citizens, for fear of imposing a heavy burden on the State by such acknowledgment. They make a categorical division between the "public" domain of the State and the "private" domain of the individual. Similarly, they have embraced and implemented the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms of 1982. They state that cultural differences among the provinces and their desire for autonomy do not properly fit the universal and egalitarian essence found in the Charter; therefore both national unification and legislative power are threatened.
  In opposition to that perspective, one of the main purposes of this book, according to Tran, is »to suggest ways to bring two allegedly antithetical ideas – the perceived need to preserve provincial autonomy and cultural pluralism and our commitment to human rights and equality – together into a practical symbiosis« (X). One possible way to achieve this aim, he argues, is to acknowledge the cultural and sociological grounds for legal discourse. By admitting that the law and constitution of a country are of a cultural origin, we understand that they must be legitimized within a context of diversified social and cultural dialogue. As regards the Constitution of Canada and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, Tran states that »the normative-organizational, moral and symbolic force of the Constitution, and especially the Charter, depend on a democratic legitimization process that basically requires that authorities entrusted with interpreting and enforcing constitutional rights pay attention to Canada's social, cultural and linguistic diversity and accommodate the differences ... the Charter supplies the substantive and institutional conditions for a dialogical process, in the course of which the participants can develop a collective understanding of themselves and of the world they live in« (294-295).
Though Tran fails to reach a definitive conclusion, nor does he propose a final solution to the legal and political problems of applying human rights in a multiethnic nation, this book is a serious and exhaustive research of the complexity of federalism and human rights, and it is worthy of attention by specialists in this subject.

Ruling Barragán Yañez, Panama City



themes literature agenda archive anthology calendar links profile

home  |  search  |  sitemap  |  newsletter  |  interphil  |  imprint  |  donations