Has Canada ever appeared so divided in so many ways? While the historic Quebec-English dichotomy has been quiet in recent years, and the Alberta-Ottawa rift is a product of bad economic policy in the short term, other conflicts have cropped up owing to serious social deficiencies, if we are to believe news reports.
Identity politics pits females against males, blacks against whites, and indigenous people against “settlers.” It also puts at odds gay/transgender and straight people, people with disabilities and those without, immigrants and native-born Canadians, climate alarmists and those accepting the unstoppable natural changes in the sun’s energy and impacts, to name a few. Just seeing them on the page like this reveals what nonsense all this is.
The gripes of a few do not equate to conflict of the many. Many people of colour, for instance, have white friends; most men get along well with most women.
“If we are to believe news reports” is the key phrase above. Coming largely from our national broadcasters and daily newspapers, which tend to feed on the complaints of the malcontent, their reports tell us ad nauseam that Canada is systemically racist, misogynistic, and shamelessly polluting.
I beg to differ.
This is a country of mostly good people, peace in the streets, and a promising future—a country far more united than we are led to believe by those who like to exaggerate. How lucky we are to live among largely tolerant and fair-minded citizens operating some of the cleanest industries in the world, including those in Alberta (with a new $1 billion program to clean up orphaned and inactive oil and gas wells).
Identity politics is the politics of narcissism and ingratitude. Each of us is a Canadian first; that is our identity.
Every year the United Nations ranks Canada among the top 10 or 11 happiest countries in the world, yet the notion persists that Canada is unjust and could be so much better for minority groups. Really? This type of crooked thinking betrays an ignorance of both history and human nature. In truth, each of us writes his or her own story, not groups.
Canada is strong at its core despite the spurious divisions of identity politics and the carnival in Ottawa, and I base this assertion on four premises.
The first is that social and political tensions have always existed, and we have always overcome them. Long before European contact in North America, tribal wars were fought between peoples for land and food. Yet they also met in peace to negotiate and compromise, and one of those sacred places was Turtle Mountain in what is now Manitoba and North Dakota at the heart of this continent. Amateur historian James Ritchie of Boissevain, Man., has documented how early indigenous groups met on Turtle Mountain to establish agreements to reduce the incidence of war and to promote peace.
The coming of Europeans created its own tensions and wars. The Europeans were divided amongst themselves as competing visions of human development clashed in a War of Independence, creating the United States and a large exodus of people, the Loyalists, to Canada in the 1780s.
Divisions existed in the late 1830s and the 1840s (“two nations warring in the bosom of a single state”), the 1860s (over Confederation), the First World War (military conscription, largely an English-French divide), the 1960s (whether Canada should have its own flag or continue with the British Union Jack, and over a national medicare program or continued private health-care services), and the 1980s (a free trade agreement with the United States). Even within families, conflict is normal, and we often emerge bruised but better.
Secondly, peace and goodwill abound in our neighbourhoods. We have order on our streets and neighbours sharing friendships, garden produce, and goodwill. The crime rate is in decline, police statistics tell us. Mixed ethnic neighbourhoods are increasingly the norm, as are our interracial friendships and marriages. Accommodations for those with disabilities have never been more elaborate or extensive.
Thirdly, in terms of the age-old tension between tradition and innovation, tradition is holding its own. Tradition is the sum of those proven values, institutions, and practices that have stood the test of time as being desirable. Parliament remains at our political core. And when we speak of freedom, which sits at the heart of Canadian life, we know that it has produced a system of good governance and the best economic engine of any yet tried or envisioned. We know that liberty is in harmony with that inner human need to grow, to explore, to selfishly promote one’s well-being.
Yet—and here’s the beauty of it, which many critics overlook—liberty also promotes the welfare of the whole by providing others with jobs, purpose, income, challenge, and the possibility, often achieved, of growing the network by branching off and creating new economic endeavours. That is the fact of free enterprise and also its glory. Beneficial impact on society as a whole far outweighs any deleterious effects of private enterprise, which of course do accrue, since nothing of human origin is perfect. All is flawed because we are flawed, but each of us has within us that spark of grace that promises so much. This is the tragedy of abortion—divine potential dashed.
Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels thought they had the upper hand on capitalism until totalitarianism came into the execution of their theories. And since tyranny, as history has repeatedly shown, produces misery, poverty, and hopelessness, communism will forever remain a false hope, a dead end. It is without spirit, and therefore clashes with a deep need in humanity.
This brings me to the fourth premise to support my claim that Canada is better off, and more united, than some believe. A majority of Canadians, 51 percent, have either a committed view toward God and attend services regularly or are “privately faithful,” according to a poll by the Angus Reid Institute in partnership with Faith in Canada 150.
Another 30 percent, bringing the total to 81 percent, Angus Reid called “the spiritually uncertain.” These people “continue to believe that there’s a God but they’re uncertain about the role of God.”
These are hopeful statistics. If there is one ostensibly weak link in the fabric that is Canadian society, it is the spiritual strand, with churches seeing declining support. Aldous Huxley (1894–1963) wrote about this in his brilliant book “Ends and Means: An Inquiry into the Nature of Ideals.” God, or some other focus of spirituality, is so important, Huxley said, that when it is lacking people tend to substitute others for it, such as religious fervour for fascist leaders like Hitler or Mussolini in Huxley’s day, or a fanaticism against climate change (or racism) in our own.
Even in the Middle East there is good news, as Arab states recognize Israel and open normal diplomatic and economic relations, thanks to U.S. President Donald Trump.
So stay positive. Canada and the world will survive these difficult times. There are negative forces at work but also positive ones. As the British tend to do, we shall muddle through.
Brad Bird is a columnist and author living in British Columbia.
Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.