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To say that social cohesion was embodied in a sense of social citizenship that distinguished the quality of Canadian life and community and contributed to a distinct Canadian identity, does not mean that it eradicated inequality, injustice and unrest.
Disenchantment with representation on the one hand, and regional polarization on the other, was most strongly expressed by the sudden demise of both the Progressive Conservative and New Democratic Parties, and the appearance on the federal scene of the western-based Reform Party, to the right of the Liberals, and the more social democratic Bloc Quebecois, Both of these new federal parties ran for the first time in 1993, with equally strong showings, signalling that long-standing regional cleavages in Canada might grow to be as serious a threat to social cohesion as the Quebec sovereignty movement.
Throughout the rest of Europe, as in Canada, these turbulent times have given rise to an obsession with social cohesion (Saint-Martin, 1999).
The identification of social cohesion as "an ongoing policy issue was made in 1996 by the department of Heritage Canada.
After consultation with policy researchers outside government, a PRI working document first defined social cohesion as "the ongoing process of developing a community of shared values, shared challenges and equal opportunity within Canada, based on a sense of trust, hope and reciprocity among all Canadians." This was a definition to come under considerable strain over the next few years, with the accumulation of independent (though federally-funded) research on the topic.
As research on Social Cohesion evolved, it became apparent that the related concepts of inclusion, exclusion, social capital and differentiation, are central debates in public policy and should be examined from a sociological point of view.
Inclusion, exclusion, work, education, poverty, social inequality and so on are not only at the heart of social cohesion, as the above citation acknowledges, but they are also the traditional objects of social policy, and central issues for social citizenship.
Social cohesion produces variable social outcomes, which in turn affect social cohesion.