The Exemplary Foundation Laid by Canada’s Founders Is at Risk

September 1, 2020 Updated: September 1, 2020

Commentary

The factions who spent their summer days participating in revolutionary cosplay have provided us with yet another spectacle. On Aug. 29, activists in Montreal descended on the statue of Canada’s founding father, Sir John A. Macdonald, unbolted it, and tore it down. Exhilarated, one activist demonstrated a decorum and intellect clearly superior to that of our first prime minister by proceeding to make a vulgar gesture toward the statue’s head after it had fallen off. The act, shown on a video posted on social media, served as the perfect illustration of a deracinated civic culture in our society.

The anti-racism craze has thrust us into a so-called “Year Zero” moment, in which moral narcissists energized by the dream of eradicating any and all bigoted aspects of society attempt to build a new, unblemished society based on wokeness. Dismantling monuments is a symbolic imperative for regime change, and it has become the cause du jour for many in our universities.

Continual debate about our history is necessary in order to maintain a healthy polity, but this is not what those who say we should “reassess” it mean. To adequately engage with our history, we require an understanding of the context that shapes events and actors and a resistance to the temptation to apply our own sensibilities to the conditions of different times. Anti-racist zealots make nonsense of this, framing our history as an unending series of racist atrocities in order to advance their own moral narcissism and convince young people to join in the delegitimization and erasure of everything that came before them.

Epoch Times Photo
The statue of Sir John A. MacDonald lies headless on the grass after it was torn down following a demonstration in Montreal on Aug. 29, 2020. (Graham Hughes/The Canadian Press)

What has come out of the anti-racist protests this summer provide a glimpse into how much more this ideological approach will dominate academic life in the fall. In a report on anti-racism at Western University, members of the Anti-Racism Working Group recommend that to address the plague of racism at Western, the university should increase the number of “courses and programs focused on the study or scholarship of racialized groups.”

“Greater emphasis should be placed on hiring academics who study race-related subject areas and are able to provide more opportunities for students to study race and decolonization,” it says, as if this a new and revolutionary idea when it’s just a re-affirmation and expansion of their influence on campus.

At the expense of what exactly would such “new” courses and programs be introduced? To say that Western suffers from a dearth of concern about the issues of race and decolonization is simply delusional. For instance, I did my graduate degree at Western’s history department and I can attest that a vast amount of people were nothing less than obsessed with the issue. Current offerings boast a survey course titled “Canada’s Past: A Critical History from the Origins to the Present,” part of which seeks to explore “the diverse ways that gender, class, and race shaped the lives of everyday Canadians.” Aside from an upper-level course on Canadian leadership, it is likely there’ll be few opportunities this year for students to gain the crucial knowledge that would help them understand their inheritance and the Canadian system of government and its development.

Students at many institutions today learn all the ways their society is fundamentally racist and oppressive before they can fully grasp the foundational things. The debates that led to Confederation, the founders’ philosophy, or the functions of Parliament are now treated as useless trivia in comparison. Or at worst, knowledge that is only efficient insofar as it works to uphold a system rooted in whiteness.

The head professor of the specialized program I was in made race and gender the core of the entire program which was supposed to be an in-depth study of American history, culture, and politics. The approach, like so many others, was to make seminars a political exercise instead of an intellectual one, with the purpose of ensuring everyone’s conformity to a worldview rather than stimulating any meaningful discussion one would think those at the graduate level should be engaging in.

In a class on a topic as complex as reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples, any intervention seeking to spark a thoughtful debate of ideas on how to address the issue within the constitutional framework provoked a scoffing response from the class. But a graduate student launching into a vacuous, self-flagellating repentance for being a “settler” in a country founded on genocide would generate applause for its valuable contribution to a seminar. Nuanced debate and analysis be damned.

The result of such a culture is an assault on the civic literacy of emerging generations. Not only will these students lack an accurate understanding of history, they will also be deprived of the analytical tools that would help them participate in civic life—something that could help address the issues with which they are so preoccupied.

Canada’s founders laid a great foundation for a way of life rooted in aspiration and integrity, and a political system sustained by rigorous debate and a commitment to the democratic process. Canadians should feel obligated to defend it against encroaching woke religionists and find ways to transmit it to the young, who for too long have been force-fed a warped view of it.

Shane Miller is a political writer based in London, Ontario. Follow him at @Miller_Shane94.

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