Monday, January 09, 2023

David E. Smith 1936-2023 RIP. Peter Seixas 1947-2022 RIP

David Smith, longtime political scientist at the University of Saskatchewan and student of constitutional and parliamentary history, died early in 2023.   

I confess I was not much convinced by much of what David Smith wrote on Canadian parliamentary system. In the Literary Review of Canada, I wrote an, um, sceptical review of his book The People's House of Commons, in which he argues that our parliamentary system can only function if we all accept our subordination to the crown. I wrote:  

He declares that “sovereignty in Canada rests in the crown and not the people,” that “the heart of the constitution … is monarchy,” that we live under a “monarchical constitution that makes no provision for the people” and that “there is no base for popular constituent power.”

I said fairly bluntly why I did not agree, and that prompted him to write an dismissive reply that ran as a letter to the editor (still available at the article link above).

But sometime later we were both at a conference, and he made a point of seeking me out. We sat in the hotel lobby and discussed constitutional and parliamentary questions at some length -- without either of us ever raising the elephant in the room. It was very friendly and stimulating, and I enjoyed his company. Clearly neither of us was the kind of crank our published exchange might have suggested. 

The Smith obit was accompanied in the newspaper I saw by a recent obituary of Peter Seixas (1947-2022) who died in October. Professor Seixas was an authority on historical thinking and historical consciousness at the University of British Columbia, and directed a large and much praised pan-Canadian Historical Thinking Project.  


Follow @CmedMoore