Cancel Culture Comes to Canada’s Commons

September 21, 2020 Updated: September 22, 2020


Shortly after the late summer conclusion of the Conservative Party leadership contest, a particularly egregious illustration of post-modern cancel culture crept into the halls of Canada’s Parliament.

On Aug. 25, a member of Parliament posted a statement, on House of Commons letterhead, urging newly elected Opposition Leader Erin O’Toole to eject Derek Sloan, a duly elected MP, from his caucus. The MP’s accusations of “racism, misogyny, and bigotry” made against a fellow member were subsequently posted on Twitter and became the subject of several news stories in the mainstream media.

Charges Against the Accused

The MP’s accusing statement alleging racism pointed to comments made by Sloan regarding advice offered by Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam on the pandemic and China’s handling of the crisis.

Sloan disapproved of what he thought was Tam’s inability to distinguish between disinformation coming from the Chinese Communist Party via the World Health Organization and clear evidence indicating that Beijing had knowingly allowed the COVID-19 virus to spread beyond China’s borders.

For example, Tam was against shutting down travel from active hot spots as the pandemic was worsening, saying since Canada is a signatory to international health organizations it’d be “called to account if we do anything different” than following the World Health Organization’s advice, which was urging against any travel or trade bans on China. She also said “the astoundingly rapid way” that China handled the outbreak “was very helpful.” This is while a study from the University of Southampton in March said if China had responded to the outbreak three weeks earlier than it did, COVID-19 cases could have been reduced by 95 percent.

Taiwan also accuses WHO of ignoring its assertions as early as Dec. 31 about the possibility of human-to-human transmission of the virus. This culminated in a confrontation between the self-ruled island and WHO’s director general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus in April, with Beijing coming to the defence of Tedros.

In a video calling for Tam to step down, Sloan asked acerbically: “Does she work for Canada or China?” But he later emphatically asserted that: “My criticism has nothing to do with her race or gender, it has to do with decisions that she made.”

For his accusers, the sharp disagreement between this particular MP and a Hong Kong-born Canadian public servant could only mean one thing—the man must be racist. It was tacitly implied that disagreement with a Canadian woman of Asian origin demonstrated bigotry toward all Asians and a misogynistic disrespect for women. Presumably, anyone who is suspicious of the Chinese regime’s narrative on the outbreak of the pandemic might find themselves included in one or both of these heinous categories.

Sloan’s Position

The charges of “misogyny and bigotry” also appeared to be related to Sloan’s tough-minded fidelity to a traditional Christian worldview. As the press was eager to report, he is a practising Seventh Day Adventist, and in the minds of our “wokest” opinion leaders, questions of right and wrong are judged to be particularly obvious when one is dealing with a straight, white, male, church-going, anti-communist without a single “intersectional” factor that can be brought forward in his defence.

First, Sloan’s accusers were furious about his reference to the oft-cited contention that abortion and slave regimes are similar in their unwillingness to recognize the inherent rights and dignity of either the unborn child or the captive slave. Both, he contended, reduce individual lives to a sub-human status. This may be a troubling argument for pro-choice activists, but on logical grounds it is not without some merit. Not every pro-life Canadian is a misogynist.

Second, Sloan was said to be a proponent of what was referred to as the “abhorrent practice” of “conversion therapy.” His presumed overall view on this subject was extrapolated from the context of a parliamentary debate on Bill C-8 which proposes to criminalize several forms of explorative counselling that parents of minor children might seek in the course of their child’s sexual development. Sloan contends that the legislation would favour premature medical interventions which could amount to writing “child abuse” into Canadian law.

He also said he supports all Canadians but feels he would be doing people a disservice to allow children with gender dysphoria to be limited to the option of proceeding with life-changing surgeries at an early age. He then went on to outline his position on these issues, including a proposal to ban “gender-affirming surgeries”—what he called “sex change operations”—for youth under the age of 18, and allow for counselling sanctioned by a minor child’s parents.

According to Bardish Chagger, Liberal minister of diversity and inclusion and youth, Bill C-8 was tabled to combat “the destructive practice of conversion therapy,” but for Sloan it represents a draconian intervention of the state into the private affairs of the family and the parent-child relationship. Some readers will recall that former prime minister Pierre Trudeau reminded Canadians that the state has no business in the bedrooms of the nation. Sloan is contending that the state also has no business in the family homes of the nation.

His position has been roundly condemned by “progressives” on both sides of the aisle. A former Conservative leadership candidate and Harper-era cabinet minister described Sloan’s position as “reprehensible.” “Forcing a child into ‘conversion therapy’ is child abuse and it absolutely must be banned,” he tweeted.

Sloan’s occasional sardonic tone sometimes gets in the way of his best arguments, but he is not the only one in the country with concerns about Bill C-8. In a public statement on the issue the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada said the following:

“Coercive or involuntary efforts to change sexual orientation or gender identity have no place in our communities. However, we have serious concerns with the legislation as worded. The EFC is seeking assurances that religious instruction, parental guidance and supportive services for individuals wishing to order their sexual lives in accordance with their religious conscience, faith identity and personal convictions will not be captured.”

To many Canadians, outside the secular bubble that protects our progressive Laurentian consensus, the EFC’s position may not sound as “reprehensible” as some might imagine. Does anyone really believe that Canadians who are troubled by the hyper-sexualization of impressionable children and the potential criminalization of parental intervention in their kids’ lives are all anti-gay bigots?

Cancel Culture in the House of Commons?

There are many reasons why progressives have led the way in damning Sloan as racist, bigoted, and homophobic. Yet, being “woke” is as much a religious phenomenon as being a Seventh Day Adventist. In the course of our present public discourse—or lack thereof—the weight of sin becomes oppressive and people on both sides are inclined to look for scapegoats. Those who may have been censored in the past often go on to censor others when the power to do so falls into their hands.

The sin of racism has become a powerful explanation for feelings of guilt. Vilifying “white privilege,” especially the presumed privilege of straight white Christian males, allows the secular majority to offload its guilt by accusing others, or making ritual promises to “do better.” The charge of “homophobia” is uniquely effective in shutting down debate and opposition to the conventional wisdom.

These kinds of charges act as powerful cancelling devices and become important weapons in the hands of the progressive establishment. Today the state appears to be more ready than ever to wield political power over what would once have been considered intimate family matters.

To presume motive and charge a person with racism, misogyny, and bigotry is to seek their disqualification from any role in society. Is this really the kind of cancel culture that Canadians want to prevail in our House of Commons? We are likely to find out as the second session of Canada’s 43rd Parliament reconvenes this week.

William Brooks is a writer and educator based in Montreal. He currently serves as editor of The Civil Conversation” for Canadas Civitas Society and is an Epoch Times contributor.

Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.