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This article presents the tone and the context of political and academic debates concerning the status of equality for ethnic and national minorities over the last twenty years, by examining the arguments presented by the three principle currents of thought which have pronounced on these debates : liberal, republican and communitarian. It provides an overview of the basis for the respective positions, as well as their approaches to the specific stakes of socioeconomic and political equality, of symbolic recognition, and of cultural differences amongst minorities. Employing examples from the Canadian situation, which shows the types of conflicts which arose on account of questions relating to the “rights” of ethnic and national minorities, this article also offers an overview of the counter-criticisms, as well as the weaknesses of cultural pluralism policies in dealing with the future in the context of the transformation of the Welfare state since the 1990s.

Denise Helly
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