The Canadian federation has evolved, and it continues to change in a number of important ways. This needs to be better understood and appreciated. By almost every meaningful measure, we are not the same country we were a few decades ago. Our economy is more open to the world and draws its strengths from different regions and sectors. Our people are older, more diverse and more urban. Our provinces have different relationships with Ottawa and with each other.

Yet many of our fundamental challenges remain the same. We continue to struggle to balance the differing aspirations of our regions; fundamental issues concerning our Indigenous peoples remain unresolved; and one of the founding partners of Confederation, Quebec, has yet to sign on to important parts of our basic law. The 150th anniversary of Confederation in 2017 provides an opportunity to re-imagine our approach to addressing pan-Canadian issues such as these.

In addition to encouraging research and public discussion on key elements of Canadian federalism — institutions, intergovernmental relations and fiscal arrangements — this research program will devote particular attention to Indigenous issues and perspectives. It will also examine how key elements of community – living together with others from different backgrounds, sharing, and adaptation – have been and will remain central to the country’s development. The following parameters guide the program:

The federalism-public policy nexus: Research will explore the impact of federal and intergovernmental institutions, processes and dynamics on public policy decisions and Canadians’ quality of life. Taking stock and looking forward: While there is value in reviewing the developments of the past decade, there will also be a strong focus on the future. Multidisciplinary approach: The program will include academics and researchers from a range of disciplines and from different approaches within disciplines. Inclusiveness: The inclusion of younger researchers and Indigenous researchers, in particular, will be important.

Canada’s Changing Federal Community is engaging Canadians from multiple regions and backgrounds in conversations about the achievements of the Canadian federal system and the challenges that lie ahead.