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Treason and patriotism in Canada and the current-day world (Part Five)
By Mark Wegierski
In terms of any potentially emerging civil conflict in the Canadian context (which in Canada, would likely be Canada vs. Quebec), the stance of the Canadian armed forces, as is the case in any such situation in any country, would be very important. Until the election of the Conservative government in 2006, Canada's stance towards its military was one where it most manifestly diverged from traditional notions of patriotism. The funding of the military had been punitively cut over the last four decades, to the point where defence spending had reached little more than 5% of the annual federal government budget. The point had virtually been reached where the Canadian armed forces were "a joke", yet they were still being continually assailed and devalourized in the mass media, academic, and government circles. At that unfortunate time, considering that probably over half of the combat-worthy land forces were French-Canadian, very many of them might have been tempted to cross over to the Quebec cause, where they might have thought they had better chances of receiving widespread social respect, decent pay, and up-to-date equipment. Furthermore, most of the rest of the military were English-speaking Canadians of British descent. Liberal Canada had been waging a long war against British traditions in Canada, proclaiming itself a multicultural society, and aggressively devalourizing straight white males. Would they have wanted to lift a finger to defend this new Canada which had continually repudiated and assailed them? So Harper’s revitalizing and re-valourizing of the Canadian military should be seen as one of the most important achievements of his government.
As the major global superpower, the U.S. perforce treats its military much better. Yet there, one could see some obvious problems in the 1990s. To many U.S. soldiers and officers, Clinton had very little moral authority as Commander-in-Chief, because of his obvious draft-dodging record. This was not helped by his evident penchant to send U.S. troops on U.N. missions that many Americans perceived as having little to do with real U.S. interests. There was an interesting case where a U.S. soldier refused orders to deploy to the Balkans, claiming that U.S. troops were being put under foreign command and deployed overseas without Congressional approval -- a manifest violation of the Constitution. He was quickly thrown out of the military.
George W. Bush gained considerable support when he talked during his campaign of a more “humble” foreign policy. Unfortunately -- in the aftermath of ‘9/11’ -- his Administration was directed onto a course of war against Iraq. This was clearly a misdeployment of American strength, that some critics have called a “Sicilian Expedition”. Also, the intervention in Afghanistan – however necessary in the aftermath of ‘9/11’ -- was built up into a multi-year (or possibly multi-decade) “nation building” undertaking, rather than a quick punitive strike.
In his 2003 hatchet-piece in the “new” National Review, David Frum pointedly accused a disparate group of conservative and libertarian figures critical of unlimited foreign interventions by the U.S., as “unpatriotic”.
It could be argued that Canada is a society which, before the 1960s, was largely more conservative and tradition-minded than the United States, but which, in the aftermath of the 1960s, has become far more liberal and progressive-minded (except for some residues of civility and politeness which should properly be credited to Canadian social conservatism).
It is important to ask how Canadian nationhood was traditionally defined. This is a question which many persons in Canada today are unwilling or unable to ask. Indeed, Canadian identity is today seen as a kind of conundrum or puzzle.
Up until the 1960s, Canada was conceived in far different ways than it is today. At the most basic level, Canada was conceived of as a British country. This was a combination of both the British political traditions (Monarchy, Parliament, the British Common Law), and the fact that, for the last two hundred or so years, persons from the British Isles had formed the majority of the population. The obvious exception to Canada's Britishness was the province of Quebec, with its large, French-speaking, Roman Catholic population. As Lord Durham had presciently warned in 1840 (although his proposed, fanatically anti-French solution of complete assimilation turned out to be unworkable) this has led to a situation of "two nations warring in the bosom of a single state." As a kind of response to the prevalent, dynamic, English-speaking culture, French Quebec had largely turned inward, centered on its Roman Catholicism and a largely rural existence. However, in the twentieth century, nascent Québécois nationalism expressed itself mainly in support of the Liberal Party, rather than what were characterized as the "Tory Orangemen" of the Conservative Party.
Once thought as solid as the rock of Gibraltar, the British Imperial concept has melted away like snow during a spring heat-wave. It has turned out that this notional system was more-or-less coterminous with the reign of Queen Victoria, and quickly dissipated thereafter. For Canada, the decline of the British Empire, the British Imperial idea, and increasingly now, even of the stature and place of the British Monarchy in England itself, has exacerbated the onset of a permanent identity crisis for English Canada.
Furthermore, the support the federal Liberal Party commonly received from Quebec after the federal election of 1896 (since the end of the nineteenth century) has ultimately allowed the Liberal Party to undertake a thoroughgoing reconstruction of Canada, in opposition to "the British connection." Beginning in 1965 with the repudiation of the Red Ensign (Canada's traditional flag, on which the Union Jack figured prominently), the Liberal Party was able to take Canada through a series of radical restructurings, culminating in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms in 1982. The submission of all Parliamentary legislation to judicial review based on an absolutized written rights document is largely alien to British constitutional principles. The result is the undermining of the cornerstone of the British (and Canadian) system – the Sovereignty of Parliament. Indeed, the influence of the Charter – driven by an activist judiciary and legal apparatus which political scientist Ted Morton has called “the Court Party” -- has unleashed a massive tide of multifarious social and cultural change in Canada that has yet to abate.
The question for an English-speaking Canadian traditionalist invariably becomes -- to which Canada is he or she expected to hold allegiance? Interestingly enough, the current Canadian Citizenship Oath refers only to allegiance to the Monarchy. Unfortunately, this is increasingly seen as a “dark relic” of the past, and will probably soon be replaced with an oath which will most likely call for allegiance to the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and to "Canada's diversity." An English-speaking Canadian traditionalist, although a person who sees him or herself as the most ardent Canadian patriot, would have difficulty holding such an allegiance in good conscience. And, indeed, Canadian left-liberals would label persons ambivalent about the very latest aspects and interpretations of the Charter -- those who refused to accept this newly-imposed Canadian identity -- as "un-Canadian."
Mark Wegierski is a Canadian writer and historical researcher.