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Consolidated democracies and the past: transitional justice in Spain and Canada

[journal article]

Dunbar, Ian

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Abstract The majority of scholarly consideration on the principles of transitional justice has focused upon how emerging democracies should deal with former regimes immediately following violent conflict. However, consolidated democracies have also begun to turn to transitional justice mechanisms in order to address historical legacies of violence and repression. This article examines Spain and Canada, two countries dealing with seemingly disparate issues: the legacy of the Civil War and Franco’s repressive regime, and the abuses of the Indian Residential Schools system, respectively. However, both nations have been forced to respond to similar questions regarding the merits of revisiting a painful past well after democratic consolidation. The article first discusses the proliferation of transitional justice principles into consolidated democracies, and considers the argument that such processes may destabilize and divide society, particularly by exacerbating federalist divisions. It concludes that despite the unique challenges of employing transitional justice so long after a transition, the Spanish and Canadian cases reveal the inevitability of confronting the past in response to charges of hypocrisy and illegitimacy. Consolidated democracies, embedded with principles of public contention and debate, are well-suited to respond to these challenges while maintaining political and societal cohesion.
Keywords Spain; Canada; democracy; democratization; civil society; truth; conflict management; transition; constitutional state; violence; repression; coming to terms with the past; justice; human rights; minority rights
Classification Law; Peace and Conflict Research, International Conflicts, Security Policy
Free Keywords historical legacies and transitional justice mechanisms
Document language English
Publication Year 2011
Page/Pages p. 15-28
Journal Federal Governance, 8 (2011) 2
Issue topic Federalism, reconciliation, and power-sharing in post-conflict societies
ISSN 1923-6158
Status Published Version; peer reviewed
Licence Basic Digital Peer Publishing Licence