George Grant’s children – lament for Canadian lives
By Mark Wegierski
Thoughtful conservatives in Canada face a dilemma. Already in 1965, in his famous book, Lament for a Nation: The Defeat of Canadian Nationalism, Canadian traditionalist philosopher George Parkin Grant had pointed to the “impossibility of conservatism” in Canada. His writings have proved increasingly prophetic.
Nevertheless, there are some thoughtful conservatives left in Canada, who could be called “George Grant’s children.”
Their lives in Canada have been difficult – certainly at the psychological level – as they have been profoundly alienated from virtually every aspect of the current-day Canada, and virtually every aspect of the current-day Conservative Party of Canada.
The recent discoveries of unmarked graves at former Indian Residential Schools, can be seen as further undermining any notions of a decent, traditional Canada.
The ambition of the woke Left which is driving all these protests and cancelling, appears to be to move Canada to “Year Zero” – where literally nothing from the Canadian past is seen as worthwhile.
Now, the arch-liberal Justin Trudeau has been predicted to win a majority in the upcoming federal election, which would be yet another blow to a more traditional Canada. Another possible outcome, with a strong, left-wing New Democratic Party supporting a Liberal minority government, would hardly be better.
What is Canadian identity? There have been at least two, very different Canada's -- the one that existed before the 1960s, and the one that exists today. Traditional Canada was defined by its founding nations -- the English (British) and the French (the latter mostly centred in what became in 1867 the Province of Quebec). The two nations long pre-existed Canadian Confederation. The founding document of the Canadian State (then frequently called the Dominion of Canada) was the British North America (BNA) Act, which was approved by the British Parliament in London in 1867. The Aboriginal peoples were included insofar as they were traditionally considered to be under the special protection of the Crown.
An understanding of the deep extent to which the British Canadian identity was formerly held – and a less negative view about its past role in Canada – are probably beyond the ken of most people in today's “New Canada”, or “Canada Two” -- the post-1960s Canada whose main architects have been the Liberal Prime Ministers Lester B. Pearson (1963-1968), and Pierre Elliott Trudeau (1968-1984, except for nine months in 1979-1980). It could also be called the “Trudeaupia”.
Among the leading figures critical of current-day Canada are William D. Gairdner (who has brought out in 2010 a new edition of his ground-breaking book, The Trouble with Canada: A Citizen Speaks Out -- originally published in 1990), and the late Ken McDonald, whose best-known book is, probably, His Pride, Our Fall: Recovering from the Trudeau Revolution (1995).
Current-day Canada is officially defined as a multicultural society. A putative Canadian identity is said to be constituted out of the “mosaic” or “kaleidoscope” of various heterogeneous cultures.
The upholding of current-day multicultural and gender politics orthodoxy is policed by various quasi-judicial tribunals, including the so-called Human Rights Commissions, which can sharply punish speech deemed critical of various minorities and current-day political arrangements. Their operations have been pointedly described in Ezra Levant’s Shakedown: How Our Government is Undermining Democracy in the Name of Human Rights (2009).
There are also in Canada today varieties of separatism. One of these arises out of the French/English duality of what were very traditionally called the two founding peoples of Canada. The Quebecois sovereigntists mostly view the Canadian State with antipathy. Also emerging since the 1960s, radical Aboriginal separatism looks with deep disdain at Canada. The idea is since the land was all "stolen" anyway, the Canadian State has no inherent legitimacy.
There is also a tendency among such archetypically Canadian institutions as the taxpayer-funded CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation), to "read out" certain groups of people as "un-Canadian." The CBC views people who hold what are considered "reactionary" or "mean-spirited" social and cultural outlooks as simply not part of "the Canadian Way". The so-called cultural industries in Canada are also mostly government (i.e., taxpayer) subsidized, especially the so-called “CanLit” (Canadian literature). Unfortunately, many of these so-called “public” cultural institutions pride themselves on their total and pristine exclusion of anything smacking of traditionalism or conservatism.
There are, in fact, multifarious techniques today for rendering almost all of the traditional Canada to appear as utterly hideous to so-called “decent” human sensibilities.
Today, except for certain residues in political institutions, the British Canada has been all but annihilated. Nevertheless, it could be argued that Canada still remains in the penumbra of the WASPs, as many of them – whether in corporate or governmental structures -- have taken on the role of being one of the most "progressive", most politically-correct groups in Canada. Thereby, their elite enjoy lives of enormous material comfort and cushy sinecures, even as the New Canada conceptually vitiates all that their ancestors once held dear.
The alienation of thoughtful conservatives from current-day Canada is very deep and profound.
Mark Wegierski is a Toronto-based, Canadian writer and historical researcher, published in Alberta Report, Calgary Herald, Ottawa Citizen, and The Hill Times (Ottawa), among others. His article about Canada was reprinted in Annual Editions: World Politics, 1998-99 (Dushkin/McGraw-Hill, 1998).