The Chair Holder

Marcel Martel
Professor, Chair and Holder of the Avie Bennett Historica Canada Chair in Canadian History
CV  | Publications

Research Agenda

Two major themes have dominated my research agenda. The first theme is the transformation of French Canadian identity since 1867. The focus of my first monograph, Le deuil d’un pays imaginé, was the institutional relationship between francophone minority groups in English Canada and Quebec society. That research offered a new understanding of French Canada, the origins of a Quebec-based nationalism and the effect the Quiet Revolution had on institutional networks to strengthen solidarity among French Canadians across Canada.

With Yves Frenette and Jean Morency, I continued my research on French Canadian identity by focusing on French-speaking immigrants and their correspondence. We analyzed how immigrants were agent of transformation of their identity.

I recently began a new project that deals with the transformation of French Canadian identity as it took place alongside changes affecting English Canadian identity. With Joel Belliveau, we are analyzing how Francophones celebrated their belonging to Canada during national holidays such as Canada Day. Supported by a SSHRC Insight Grant, the intended outcome of this project is a co-authored monograph.          

The other central theme of my research is state and public policy. While studying the transformation of French Canada, I became interested in public policy as developed by the federal and Quebec states and aimed at francophone minority groups. I began to research the role that individuals, lobby groups, bureaucrats, politicians and state institutions played in the development of public policies. These are broad questions that I have explored by choosing specific issues such as drug policy, the evolution of language policy since 1500, the regulation of behaviour labelled as vice since 1500 and now mental health.

In these studies, I demonstrate that social actors, despite their unequal access to human and financial resources, have been instrumental in shaping public policies. My monograph Not This Time states that marijuana use in the 1960s was a divisive issue. Concerned parents, physicians and law enforcement officers defined it as a major societal threat requiring stringent actions against drug users. My co-authored book, Langue et Politique au Canada et Québec, looks at the role of individuals and organizations in setting the language agenda and call for state action, the ongoing debate over the quality of spoken French that reflect value judgments based on class interests, and how the courts have shaped the public debate over the extent of language rights. My forthcoming monograph Canada the Good demonstrates that individuals have forced the hands of politicians in regulating public drinking, prostitution, drug and tobacco use. Repression has guided how the state has dealt with these issues, but resources allocated to enforcement have varied considerably.