George Parkin Grant as Educator
by Mark Wegierski
Conservatives in Canada face a dilemma. In 1965, in his famous book Lament for a Nation: The Defeat of Canadian Nationalism, Canadian traditionalist philosopher George Parkin Grant 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, not least from the current-day Conservative Party of Canada.
Conservative leader Erin O’Toole failed to win the federal election of September 20, 2021. The Liberals were able to win a minority government (a plurality of seats) in the House of Commons, which will probably be supported by the New Democratic Party (NDP) which is even further left. A Liberal-NDP coalition would be yet another blow to traditional Canada. The ambition of the woke Left is evidently to move Canada to “Year Zero” – where literally nothing from the Canadian past is regarded as worthwhile.
What were the reasons for the Conservative failure in the federal election of September 20, 2021? In the author’s opinion, the attempted “move to the centre” to try to win over blue-collar, as well as suburban and urban voters, especially in Ontario, Quebec, and B.C., was a good idea. However, it was hobbled by the policy delineated in the plan (the detailed Conservative electoral platform) to rescind the Liberal anti-assault rifle Order-in-Council, which the Liberals were able to zero in on with a laser-like intensity. It was also weakened by Erin O’Toole’s refusal to come on board with vaccine mandates – which also became a huge target for the Liberal campaign. These two matters were wedge-issues which generated huge support for the Liberals. If the Conservative Party was going to “move to the centre” these two matters should have been appropriately addressed.
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). 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).
Two of the leading critics of current-day Canada are William D. Gairdner, who in 2010 brought out 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. Since 1988, after the Canadian Supreme Court struck down some residual restrictions, Canada has no laws whatsoever regulating abortion. Same-sex marriage has been deeply entrenched since the federal Parliament approved it in 2005 — responding to two decisions of lower courts in 2003 that were never appealed by the federal government. 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 severely punish speech deemed critical of various minorities and current-day political arrangements. Their operations have been tellingly described in Ezra Levant’s Shakedown: How Our Government is Undermining Democracy in the Name of Human Rights (2009).
Abortion rights and same-sex marriage are an indelible part of the Canadian political landscape today. Nevertheless, the author believes that it is possible to promote pro-family policies (especially through the tax-system) that can win broad acceptance in Canadian society. For example, the tax-penalty on households with one main breadwinner in the marriage should be ended. No matter how many rights and benefits a given society offers, it may still be considered a failing society, if it fails in the most essential task of reproducing itself – both in the purely physical as well as cultural sense. The government must therefore substantially increase the incentives for married couples to have or adopt children, through a variety of tax-policies.
There are also varieties of separatism in Canada today. The Quebecois sovereigntists view the Canadian State with antipathy. Emerging since the 1960s, radical Aboriginal separatism also looks with deep disdain at Canada. The idea is that since the land was all “stolen”, the Canadian State has no inherent legitimacy. Canada is now subject to massive cultural fracturing, under the pressures of the American pop-culture, the extremes of multiculturalism, and of excessive Aboriginal claims. Ironically, the greatest champions of Canadian culture today are also usually mavens of “political correctness.” The core Canadian identity is in danger of disappearing, “the centre cannot hold”, only the so-called fringes are powerful today. The goal of conservatives should be to re-orient cultural funding to give more voice to core Canadian identity, and core Canadian culture and history.
There is 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 “CanLit” (Canadian literature). Many of these supposedly “public” cultural institutions pride themselves on their total rejection of anything smacking of traditionalism or conservatism.
Except for certain residues in political institutions, British Canada has been all but annihilated. Nevertheless, paradoxically 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 amongst the most “progressive”, politically-correct groups in Canada. They enjoy lives of enormous material comfort and cushy sinecures, even as the New Canada conceptually vitiates all that their ancestors once held dear.
Sociologist Mark Wegierski is a Toronto-based writer and researcher