Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Imagined Nation

from the archives of the Western Standard

Canada has become a phony country made up of diverse tribes who have no idea what they're doing together

David Warren - August 8, 2005

"Why do you think Canada is breaking up?" This perfectly straightforward question from a reader took me aback. What appears obvious to me, may not appear so to others; and vice versa.

The short answer is, because there is nothing left to hold it together. Anything that was particular about the country--not about regions but about the country as a whole--has been obviated by government legislation, or put quite purposely into disuse. We are no longer a Dominion; we have a Queen only on paper; our system of Crown-in-Parliament has been negated by the quasi-presidential rule of a succession of "federaste" prime ministers from Quebec. Our history is no longer taught in schools.

We are reduced to waving a Canadian flag--and that is itself an imposture. The current Canada is something that was invented from scratch, in Liberal party advertising agencies, and dates approximately from the invention of that flag, in 1964. But successive Liberal governments could think of nothing with which to replace the old symbols. Hence, a "new Canada," defined by a bunch of nothings.

Ask a Canadian who is waiting for a bus--or more likely for a CAT scan--what Canada means to him, and he will say something like "multiculturalism" or "tolerance" or "universal health care." These are nothings. There is nothing Canadian about any of them. Every postmodern country has all these things, and none of them are worth having.

But this is old news, dating back to Pearson. The late Pierre Trudeau made no secret of his contempt for Canada and Canadians as a national group, and instead put his faith in universal abstractions. We got what we deserved by repeatedly electing him.

Quebec has a linguistic identity. Alberta has a western identity--which by now appears to be shared with the B.C. Interior and much of Saskatchewan. (It is, in fact, what's left of the old English-Canadian identity.) Newfoundland has a Newfoundlandish identity. The Maritimes and Manitoba are resentful, mendicant districts; the North is a kind of environmental reservation; and Ontario exists by default.

I live in Ontario, and so far as I can make out, it is the ultimate zero. It eats, makes money and sleeps. It has no morals, no religion, no culture, no purpose beyond getting to work in the morning. No Ontarian can explain what he stands for, except with negatives. The only thing I see is a smug dislike for anything with a shape. Ontario hates the rest of the country, the West especially, for embodying positive qualities Ontario once had.

And it is Ontario that supports the Liberal party--together with the bought provinces, which live on Ontario's evaporating goodwill (plus money appropriated from the West). It will not vote Conservative for fear that the Conservatives have a "secret agenda," i.e., that they may harbour any opinions at all.

This is why Canada will break up. The Liberal party is absolutely despised by the great majority in Quebec and the West. Ontario will vote to keep it in power, in the full knowledge of the degree of its corruption, for the sake of "national unity." Yet that is the very thing to which another Liberal victory will give the coup de grace.

For Ontario does not even pretend the Liberals are not despised elsewhere. Ontario doesn't care. It doesn't think separatists are serious. It is not even sure the rest of the country exists. Well, it thinks Quebec exists, but that Quebec can be assuaged by saying, "We wuv you."

It is like a husband who doesn't know his wife hates him. Who will be utterly surprised when she sues for divorce.

European countries are still held together by common ethnicities. The United States is held together by a rich, common historical and constitutional heritage, inculcated in children from birth. Canada has become more like an African state, with diverse tribes, and no memory of what they are doing together. We, at least, were something once, but now that is gone. We have become a sleepwalk, a "gay marriage."