It began in 1867 ……..(Part 3)
A critical look at Canada’s past, and how social, political and cultural changes
have shaped the outlook of country as well people
by Jayant Gala
What began in 1867, and what Canada went through in its proceeding as well preceding years, is remarkable tale of courage and determination showing strong unifying will not only to survive but to set an extraordinary example to prove most differences could be overcome through adhering to the principles of law and order. Though it was extremely challenging for the first conservative government and its decision to hang metis leader in 1885 remains controversial and casts the shadow of doubts.
It was one of the most politically divisive decisions tested the initial years of Prime Minister John A Macdonald if Canada was fair in dealing with Louis Riel, whose territorial views created many questions leading to, some believe, act of treason. He was the French speaking leader of minority group, and is considered the first French martyr since Confederation. That fact itself would be used by some to launch a nasty but inspiring movement for some in Quebec.
Looking back and analysing such action, one should try to understand in the context of long term impact on the regional, national and international conflicts. They may have helped grasp larger implications the world has been facing, and perhaps influenced Canadian attitudes even though governments change from Liberal to Conservative, or vice versa, every interval of four or five years.
National leaders and events leave significant but different impression on people in general. So do some revolutionary personalities. Louis Riel is considered one of them. He is viewed by some as a saviour, and by some as a traitor. Riel nevertheless became the voice of the Métis people in Canadian history. But to his credit, he was largely responsible for the entrance of the province of Manitoba into Confederation.
Let me relate this historic event to politics in Quebec. I arrived at the Dorval airport from Nairobi, Kenya in 1968. I was able to have glimpse of extraordinary exposition that had captured the world attention at the Canada’s centennial celebration held previous year. Expo 67, the “Universal and International Exhibition,” I read about, had put a warm welcoming mat to the exciting crowd. It was a special experience that related the real sense of Canada’s uniqueness.
The other important event had taken place in political arena the same year. I sensed a strong feeling of appreciation for the man who had just won the election for the Liberal Party of Canada and that was distinctly seen as an emergence of new era in politics in many part of Canada. This was perceived as an important historic event for the change. Pierre Trudeau become the Prime Minister and magically became an idol for many young people and their adoration turned into appreciative slogan dubbed as “Trudeau-mania”.
Many believe his strong political, cultural and linguistic viewpoints on uniting Canada equally disliked by the Quebec separatist group. During the 60s, a national liberation movement sprang up in Quebec, calling for an independent province. One of its means of action was using terrorism to achieve their goal. That was the beginning of a new resistant movement that sowed seeds of deep discontent and animosity.
It created major national crisis, and after four decade of negotiations often involving threats of outright separation from Canada, the movement did not seem to have perturbed majority Canadians. Some members of FLQ used subversive means including kidnaping of a British diplomat and murdering a prominent member of the Quebec cabinet. Terror techniques using bombs at targeted locations became a calculated message sending outlets to instil fears.
This eventually reached to the point of no return. Quebec population was divided, basically on linguistic and territorial line. Fear of losing country gripped the politician of all parties. Prime Minister Chretien and his liberal party couldn’t contained their frustration and disbelief that reflected in utter inability to convince majority French speaking population of the long term benefits of staying in Canada and perils of uncertainty going alone.
Conferences were organized under Mulroney and Chretien governments. Discussion groups were formed. But Quebec under Rene Levesque, remained uncommitted. Only solution to decide through referendum was held but failed. The outcome left lingering bitterness that still remains a stumbling block to the national unity. Later, the new political entity under the name of Parti Quebecois won the provincial elections, but the idea of separating from Canada didn’t completely appeal to some of its grass root supporters.
In his earlier encounter with the same problem, Pierre Trudeau knew in his heart that unity can’t be forced, but could be fought with reasons. War Measures Act he used is one of the examples of how far he could go when asked by a reporter, his reply ‘just watch me’ tells his determination. Trudeau was brutally criticised. Many believed that was his finest hour to show that to save Canada he might use military option.
But he was a firm believer of democratic process. One of his speeches he expressed his feelings this way: There is no God made law that says a country will hold together. But he sincerely tried to convince that territorial division is not a lasting or amiable solution. There’s beauty in this country, there’s the tradition of history of culture. At any cost we must try to preserve it. At present the young Justine Trudeau doesn’t seem to be caring about tradition or culture.
People perhaps did not understand why he would go for War Measures Act. They also had failed to figure out why his affinity towards Cuba’s Fidel Castro remained so strong. He was a unifier as well divider. That’s what many see in his son, Justine, the same kind of attitude reflected in policies he is undertaking. His father was adored in his initial first years, and despised later as a mediocre leader. Justine Trudeau also won by appealing young naïve crowd whose political maturity doesn’t go beyond blind admiration of good look. History has shown only bold, savvy and articulated leaders leave lasting imprint of their deeds.
Not properly thought out plans, proposals, projects or programs eventually are taken advantage of by none other than groups the government sincerely want to help. Grand intentions often remain on paper if they are meant to simply please fantasies of ideologue and obsessive leaders. It is believed Pierre Trudeau fell for it and adopted so-called ideals borrowed and touted so highly of multiculturalism, without any consideration of composition of culturally diverse population that eventually try to impose their view of politics. Many liberal minded progressive in Europe allowed this untested policies. And look where it has taken the entire EU world!
The most important pillars of multi-cultural society–integration and assimilation—are nowhere to be seen. Europe is flooded with ideologically infested people of different culture and religion. And that is clearly leading to major conflicts. Some are simply startle to see disintegration of civil society. Over here many see the political correctness is blindly followed by the leadership of present liberal party inviting the same problem the EU is painfully going through.
Not so distant history has shown that all cultures are not equal. Natural instinct of civilized world is to lean towards accommodation. But it’s a two way street. Allowing letting go our own traditions for shake of showing generosity yields no major societal benefits. Somehow, majority progressive crowd fail to recognize this obvious truth without taking into account its far reaching ramification.
Canada has changed many ways, particularly political philosophy-wise. In his book, FIFTEEN MEN (Canada’s Prime Ministers—from Macdonald to Trudeau), Gordon Donaldson predicted two distinct problems Canada would face: American dominance and rivalry between French and English. But if he was to write in context of today’s problematic events, he would include apparent divisiveness of two ideologies that has put people of the West, and to some extent the world, into two distinct camps.
For last few years media has been tilting on one side. Most American and Canadian left wing media has succeeded in convincing young and vulnerable to oppose anything reasonable coming from the conservative side. When things don’t work as presumed and anticipated, the left has tendency to blame others and its bias is openly expressed. Just critically analyse the reporting in all liberal media after the 9/11 attacks! The Canadian state media was the first to organize a discussion crowd sympathetic to left wing and extremely critical of American foreign policy in the Middle East.
And the unending blame game began. Canada would be either undermined by such attitudes propagated by the left wing media and their followers, or there would be premature end of her grandeur.
March 24, 2017