Conrad Black: Canada’s self-esteem problem

Some of us are trying to wave the maple leaf flag sensibly, but it is a lonely and rather thankless vocation.

The second-largest province, Quebec, with about 24 per cent of the total population, about a fifth of them English- rather than French-speaking, is proposing unilaterally to amend the Canadian Constitution , in order to restrain the use English within its borders. All the political parties, in Quebec and federally, apparently welcome this development. Unlike the response to previous egregious Quebec language laws, the implications of emasculating the chief language of the country in its second-largest province, to the point where French will be the sole official language in Quebec offices of the federal government and all workplaces of federally chartered corporations, have been shrugged off by the country, and only desultorily treated by what is surely the most tedious and unenterprising media of any advanced country in the world. In practice, of course, some English will be spoken in these places at least for a time, but bank tellers and managers and post office employees will not need to speak English to their English-speaking customers.

As has been much discussed, including in this column last week, Canada’s policy toward Aboriginal peoples has been substantially unsuccessful, both when it was a colony, French and British, and as a sovereign country. But no serious examination of the history of Canada’s Indigenous policy justifies the conclusion that the Canadian authorities or the public ever sought the disappearance of First Nations cultures, much less the extinction of the Native population itself. 

Yet we have been accused, and the chief founder of the country, Macdonald, has particularly been accused, of seeking the outright genocide of the Indigenous people through starvation, and the cultural genocide of the Natives by depriving a third of Indigenous children of contact with their families for several years and coercing them to speak English and French rather than their native languages. As I wrote last week, these charges are false but they were levelled at Canada by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, though the evidence adduced in the early volumes of the report do not justify those conclusions.

I was fired as a radio commentator for declaring that Canada is not a «systemically racist» country. I think we are a good country that is probably more receptive to immigration than any other country and has as little tendency to violence as any country. But the chief purpose of Canada in practice has not been to exploit its potential as the only transcontinental, bicultural, parliamentary Confederation in the history of the world. It was the triumph of Wilfrid Laurier to attract proportionately as many immigrants as the United States and preside over economic and demographic growth roughly parallel to the unprecedented rise of that immense country.

It was Mackenzie King’s greatest achievement to lead Canada through the Second World War without the terrible abrasions that almost broke up the country over conscription for overseas service in the First World War. And it was the great achievement of Pierre Trudeau to defeat the Quebec separatists, in part by guaranteeing the rights of members of both official language communities throughout the country, precisely what the present government of Quebec is attempting to exterminate . 

While we are somewhat complacently self-satisfied about being a more peaceable country, anti-Americanism has ceased to be a real motivation for Canadian nationalism and all we are left with is lobotomous idiocy like the letter of the 100 Canadian notables opposing the renovation of our venerable Air Force , and our absurd obsession with climate change. Canada is a rudderless country whose leader proclaims the dawn of the post-national era as China and a truncated Russia careen around the Eurasian landmass celebrating and exploiting this temporary American torpor.

As our eager submission to the insane COVID lockdown demonstrates, we have become a double-masked country with little sense of ourselves. The prime minister has ordered the flag to half-staff throughout the country indefinitely to consider our «problem.» This mawkish charade only illustrates that he is our problem.

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Source: Conrad Black | NP

Categories: NP

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