Canada’s Founding Debates

A country that forgets its own history has lost its rudder. When William Gairdner wanted to learn what Canada’s Founders thought about things like democracy, he discovered, to his dismay and astonishment, that although almost a century and a half old, no one had ever bothered to collect Canada’s founding debates in a book. So he raised the money, hired the scholars, and did it himself. Canada’s Founding Debates is already a classic, and anyone pretending to legal, historical, or political expertise on the topic of Canada must be certain to have this important book on their shelf. This is a special “150th Anniversary Edition,” published by the University of Toronto Press.


“If you need to be reminded that constitutions, institutions and the ideas they embody are passionately debated because they shape the way a political community lives, then you should thank [Janet Ajzenstat, Paul Romney, Ian Gentles and William D. Gairdner] for the immense labour they put into the magnificent project that produced Canada’s Founding Debates.” Professor Alan Cairns, Canadian Journal of Political Science, December 2001

“For a collection of old political speeches, Canada’s Founding Debates is a pretty wonderful book. It’s handsomely designed, with interesting illustrations and intriguing marginal notes scattered throughout … it’s divided into themes that demonstrate the founders of Canada really were engaging the great classic issues of how a people should govern themselves.” Christopher Moore, historian, and author of 1867: How The Fathers Made a Deal

“I just love this type of book. It is so desperately needed, and it is such a tragedy that we Canadians don’t know enough about our own history to be truly inspired by it … this is a very important contribution to our nation’s literature and everyone connected with it is to be sincerely congratulated.” Letter from Preston Manning, M.P., Leader of the Opposition, December, 1999

“I have just read your magnificent compilation of Confederation debates with great interest … the selection of speakers is balanced, and the editorial remarks are incisive and knowledgeable. The Index will, I hope, make [the] book a standard reference source on Confederation for all good reference libraries.” Letter to Co-editor Janet Ajenstat, from Michael J. Graham, Director, Public Service Division, Library of Parliament

“The editors are to be commended for producing such a splendid book.” Review in The National Post, by Professor Barry Cooper, May 13, 2000.

Canada’s Founding Debates .. clearly aspires to do for Canadians what The Federalist Papers has done for Americans: provide a definitive explication of the ideas that inspired the creation of a nation … this is simply one of the most beautiful books to come from a Canadian publisher in years.” Review in The National Post by David Frum, December 1999.