As Uncle Sam takes charge, no Canadian conservatives and few Liberals utter a peep of protest
by Kevin Michael Grace
WHEN William Gairdner is asked for his opinion on the future of Canada, he chuckles--and then apologizes. "Pardon the laughter," he says. William Christian laughs too. "A short story, is it?" he asks. These are serious men, scholars who have studied this country in depth and who love it deeply. So is this the way Canada ends? Not with a bang, not with a whimper, but with bitter amusement?
An EKOS opinion poll released last June revealed that 45% of Canadians "think it highly likely Canada will become part of a North American Union within 10 years." Yet there is practically no agitation for this union. Not from politicians, not from the media, not from the people. Only 15% said they "wanted to see Canada become more like the U.S.," while 42% said they "wanted Canada to be less like the U.S."
Last June, the Canadian sovereignty question was primarily economic. After September 11, it is increasingly political. Hugh Winsor of the Globe and Mail reported February 11 that members of the Canadian Senate Committee on National Security and Defence had been in Washington the previous week on a fact-finding tour. According to Mr. Winsor, "The senators intended to learn more about American plans for a new North American command structure for U.S. land, sea and air forces, and about American approaches to border issues. But they got more than they bargained for, including an unexpected meeting with U.S. Secretary of Defence Donald Rumsfeld. According to Senate committee chairman Colin Kenny, Mr. Rumsfeld confirmed that Commander-in-Chief North will be running by October 1, 'with or without us.'"
Just two weeks earlier, Jean Chretien had confirmed that Canada and the United States were negotiating a new joint defence command. Mr. Chretien said that Parliament would be informed if an agreement were reached. Now the Bush administration has made it known that not even the prime minister's consent, let alone Parliament's, is required. The Canadian public, and its elected representatives, did not react with outrage. That was reserved for the decision by an Olympic ice-skating judge to withhold a gold medal from a Canadian duo.
"The days of being a piecemeal ally of the United States are coming to an end," Mr. Winsor pronounced. If true, this is momentous. Canada may soon find itself standing with the U.S. against the rest of the world. In his January 30 State of the Union address, President George W. Bush committed the U.S. to a "war against terror [that] is only beginning." Mr. Bush's speech signifies that the modest approach favoured by Secretary of State Colin Powell has been defeated. The U.S. has served notice that it will not tolerate the existence of regimes it considers hostile and dangerous, beginning with the "axis of evil": Iran, Iraq and North Korea. Reaction from foreign capitals, including those of American allies, was unfavourable. (See "News on the Terrorism Front," page 18.) Domestic reaction was strongly favourable; neo-conservatives crowed that the "American empire" was at hand.
"How Canada stands on the axis of evil was the first question we received," Sen. Kenny reported. Canada's initial response was negative; both Mr. Chretien and Deputy Prime Minister John Manley rejected it. Whether Canada will be able to maintain this independence when faced with the wrath of a wounded giant with a stranglehold over the Canadian economy will be the test of whether Canadian sovereignty still exists.
Mr. Chretien's Liberals are divided. Mr. Manley ridicules Canadian nationalists even as he refuses to commit Canada against the axis of evil. Prime Minister Chretien suggests that Canadians concerned about the legal status of Afghanis captured by Canadian troops under U.S. military command are terrorist sympathizers. Liberal MP John Godfrey has said, "George Bush has declared that the war on terrorism is the cause of his generation. [In Canada], national sovereignty will be the cause of ours." Liberal MP Bonnie Brown complained that she is "very concerned about our participation in this so-called war...We've been bending over backwards and I'm not seeing any payoff."
Mr. Manley has said that "Half the time the Alliance party wants us to agree with the United States, even when they're wrong." Despite Mr. Manley's partisanship, there can be no doubt that the Official Opposition is not worried unduly about Canadian independence. Its reflexive pro-Americanism is reflected in recent statements by the two front-runners in the Alliance leadership race. Stockwell Day declared in a February 4 speech, "In the weeks and months to come, Canada must decide where we will stand in this next phase in the war on terrorism. Will we stand with the United States and Israel as allies against the axis of evil, or will we try to be neutral bystanders, groping for some kind of middle ground between good and evil which does not exist?" Mr. Day singled out MPs Godfrey and Brown for criticism. Stephen Harper, at the February 6 leadership debate, went even further, arguing that the Liberals "don't see any real difference between our enemies and our friends, between good and evil," and accusing them of believing that the "Americans are just as bad as the Taliban and Al Qa'eda."
The National Post, Canada's leading right-wing newspaper, sides with the Alliance. It called "Ms. Brown's quest for a 'payoff'...particularly offensive." It called Mr. Godfrey's statement "fatuous," explaining, "In the wake of the greatest terror attack in history, aimed at symbols of the West's freedom, industry and prosperity, Mr. Godfrey's reaction is to deny our common cause with the fight against Al Qa'eda and to pretend we have a higher purpose."
A patriot, let alone a nationalist, might argue that a nation's survival is its primary purpose, that it was the U.S.--not Canada--that was attacked on September 11, that a nation's foreign policy is supposed to "pay off" and that marching lockstep with the U.S. will leave Canada more--not less--vulnerable to terrorist attack. (Even Tony Blair's government has admitted the last proposition.) But it is arguable that patriotism, let alone nationalism, is in short supply on the Canadian Right. (Ironic, because it is the Right that has historically stood for the nation, against the claims of the internationalist Left.) A reliable source claims that a famous right-wing pundit, a star of the National Post, was heard to say, "The Post has a problem. It was started to save Canada, but Canada isn't worth saving."
The Post's founder, Conrad Black, thinks so little of this country that after selling his assets here, including the Post, he renounced his citizenship after losing a lawsuit to force Mr. Chretien to allow him to receive a British peerage. Mr. Black explained, "For a wide range of reasons, citizenship of Canada is not now for me competitive with that of the United Kingdom and the European Union." Even after this public renunciation of his native land, Mr. Black was cheered when he returned to this country last year to denounce it before the right-wing Fraser Institute. Which raises the question, "Does the Right hate Canada?"
One right-winger who does is Jamie Glazov. "Finally, the end of Canada" is the title of one of his pieces for the American Internet magazine FrontPage. Mr. Glazov exults (www.frontpagemag.com/columnists/glazov/glazov06-07-01.htm) that the EKOS poll confirms "Canada's destiny--being absorbed into the American empire--is much closer than we think. As a Canadian, I can hardly wait. I must admit: the supremacy of globalization and free trade fills me with an intoxicating sense of glee. After all, the victory of unrestrained international capitalism translates into market forces running unhindered in Canada, which, in turn, translates into a diminishment of Canadian 'sovereignty'--that absurd joke that has imposed socialized health care, federal funding of bilingualism and multiculturalism, and other intellectually-bankrupt policies, onto heavily-burdened Canadian taxpayers." In another FrontPage piece, Mr. Glazov scorns the idea "that Canada should be 'independent,' not for any logical or international, or even noble objective, but simply for the sake of independence in and of itself."
So why does Mr. Glazov hate Canada? In an interview, he claims his pieces are "provocations." "Obviously, I love Canada very much," he says. "It's been a home to me and my family." Mr. Glazov, whose father was a prominent Soviet dissident, came to this country as a refugee in 1975 at the age of nine. When it is suggested to him that his venom betrays ingratitude, he is taken aback. "Perhaps it seems that I fall into that boat," he says. "To come from a totally monstrous regime, which killed 100 million of its citizens, to Canada, a country whose God is anti-Americanism, was nightmarish," he says in justification. Mr. Glazov, who has just completed a PhD on Canadian foreign policy during the Khrushchev regime, is particularly incensed by Canadian "moral equivalence" in foreign policy. And like many on the Right, he regards the New Canada, caring and sharing, highly taxed and overregulated, ushered in by Pearson and Trudeau and enshrined in the Charter of Rights, as repugnant.
But how representative is Mr. Glazov? When Forbes senior editor Peter Brimelow (www.vdare.com) is asked whether the Right hates Canada, he replies, "I think they hate the Trudeauvian state. It would be hard to exaggerate just how much damage Trudeau did to Canada." But have Canadian right-wingers succumbed to the temptation to conflate hatred of the government with hatred of the homeland? "I'd have to think about that," he says. Mr. Brimelow, a native of Britain, wrote The Patriot Game: National Dreams and Political Realities, a landmark study of Canadian nationalism, before leaving Canada and settling permanently in the United States. He argues that the implosion of Canada's British connection left the Canadian Right "dispossessed."
William Christian, professor of political science at the University of Guelph, agrees. Canadian conservatives, and especially the Conservative party, "were, up to 1960, largely pro-British and not at all pro-American; if anything, they were largely anti-American in orientation. This goes back to John A. Macdonald and a determination not be American, rooted in the decision of people like my ancestors who fled America in 1784 because they didn't like the American Revolution." The Canadian Right's shift to pro-Americanism was coincident, he says, with the rise of the American New Right and the 1964 presidential campaign of Barry Goldwater.
Prof. Christian once received a reply to a fan letter to Goldwater and also attended a National Review summer school as a young man. But his intellectual outlook was transformed by the 1965 Canadian publication of George Grant's Lament for a Nation, so much so that he became Grant's first biographer. Grant believed that Canadian conservatism had died because it was not truly conservative at all, but rather a rival liberalism based on materialism and a concomitant attachment to the claims of capitalism. According to Prof. Christian, "The old conservatism was more given to natural law and community and emphasis on the British ideas of tradition and order rather than individualism." Grant argued that with the death of the old conservatism, "Canada was finished as an independent country because there was nothing that distinguished it from the United States."
Prof. Christian laughed when he was asked about the future of Canada because "I'm much more pessimistic after the World Trade Center bombings than I've ever been. The process of assimilating the two countries is accelerating far more rapidly than I ever thought possible: in the military, in the customs union, in economics, dollarization. When Chretien led the other four leaders to the WTC site, I thought it was almost a political abasement. And never has the Canadian media been so servile."
William Gairdner, the author of The Trouble With Canada and The War Against the Family, laughed when asked about Canada's future, for much the same reasons as Prof. Christian. Does he think the Right hates Canada? "That's a pretty strong word," he replies. "But I sometimes feel a sense of hopelessness, especially after 15 years of feverish book writing in which you try everything you can possibly think of that you hope would do some good somehow, but everything persists. I'm tempted to ask, 'What's the use?' I'm 61 now, and I've got a lovely family and a nice piece of property. Why not mind my own business and have a good life?"
Like Prof. Christian, Mr. Gairdner argues that the Canadian Right is not conservative. "It is now outrè to suggest there is such a thing as the 'good life,' that a common vision of it is even possible and that civil society and all its institutions should be conscious of that. Autonomous individualism has replaced conservatism." In any event, "Canadians no longer care about no longer knowing their own history, so you could say the Right [in abandoning sovereignty] is only reflecting the popular lack of concern."
Karl Siegler, the publisher of B.C.'s Talonbooks imprint, argues that Canada's disappearing sovereignty is not the fault of the Right. Rather, it is "the fault of the liberals, and I mean that in every sense of the word, and both small and large 'L.'" The Canadian Alliance, he contends, is just as liberal as the Liberals. "My notion of a conservative is someone who understands the importance of the past, of our heritage, someone who tries to take those things built by the people that came before him, institutions that were built with a great deal of care and love and often with much sacrifice. He respects those things and tries to continue them. Liberals are flexible, 'forward-looking' and 'progressive.' They are historical positivists. They believe in inevitability, like the 'inevitability' of Canada merging with the United States."
Mr. Siegler declares, "I am a nationalist because I'm proud of my country, which is a unique society, not just in Quebec but in English Canada too." He concludes, "The only thing that can be done to save Canada as an independent entity is for a party to adopt sovereignty as its primary purpose." Perhaps surprisingly, given Brian Mulroney's legacy, he concludes, "I've always thought the Conservatives are, theoretically at least, best placed to be that party."