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Lettre à un Ami Canadien
Comments (1)

If I am writing to you and speaking frankly, it is because I think you are worth the effort. You will doubtless not like what I have to say. That, however, is not a reason for curtailing dialogue. Our original debate was over political populism and multi-culturalism. To the extent that both can be perceived at work in Europe and elsewhere, our discussion of the Canadian example is instructive.

First, on Quebec, I find your views stark and disturbing. It is an amazing twist of fate that you can promote ROC (rest of Canada) prejudicial views and positions even better than the traditional Canadian elites that you serve and whose hegemony rules in the land of the forked tongue. The essential Anglo-Saxon fanaticism about ensuring the absolute and abstract quality of individual rights (this is the basic theoretical underpinning of Canadian multi-culturalism) to the detriment of any social and political project explains not only the ROC distaste for French Quebec and its efforts to guarantee the use of the French language on its territory, it also explains the ROC resentment at being unable itself to assert any coherent national identity while embracing multiculturalism as a way to paper over the shattered national fabric. 

Is it possible that multi-cultural extremism is meant to dissimulate real divisions in a country of regions and untold different languages, ethnicities and cultures? Multi-culturalism has become the latest ideological tool to cobble together a northern union decimated by poor and weak leadership, an economy in debt and in desperate need of innovation under the jougof American sanctions (tariffs) and suffering from an endemic lack of productivity. The latest trilateral trade deal between Canada, USA and Mexico illustrates a defeatist elite only seeking a safe harbour from US President Donald Trump’s wrath. Where is the feisty combative spirit of ex-PM Jean Chrétien, who refused steadfastly to support the American attack on Iraq in 2003? 

Rights, including human rights and the right to self-determination, are always exercised in a specific context. To treat them as abstract entities the way multicultural extremists do is as noxious as not having any rights at all. John Stuart Mill’s proviso about respecting other ‘regarding liberty’ should be kept in mind. Hegel’s analysis of the French Revolution is also instructive since it demonstrates how abstract rights can lead to political aberrations. Abstract and absolute conceptions of human rights lead to multicultural dogmatism and this is why your criticism of political populism rings hollow.

Regarding the definition of Canadian extremist multiculturalism, I can only enumerate a number of empirical observations that point to some form of definition. They should be enough to give cause for prudence and caution when defining populism as pugilism.

Political and ideological dogmatism are used by multiculturalists to repress those who dare to question the multi-cultural ideology. These pundits are classified as right-wing and harmful to domestic and international harmony. I do not like Maxime Bernier, leader of the new Populist Party, or Conservative Ontario Premier Doug Ford and their simplistic ideas any more than you do but Bernier does have a couple of cogent points. Remember that Canada like other 'model' multi-cultural Western powers were only too happy to watch hundreds of thousands of Arabs die in Syria. Some say it was a racist war and cobbling together a Syrian refugee programme without any policy on Syria is reflective of the cynicism and inhumanity of the West. Canada, in addition to other nations, deserves to bear responsibility for the unrelenting carnage in the Middle East. In this regard, the Arab populist uprising of 2010 to challenge authoritarian dictatorship across Arabia appears as a lesser evil.

Bernier’s point that by segregating ethnic groups and pitting them against each other and the state, if necessary, illustrates Trudeau's brand of multiculturalism, which reflects a Tammany Hall style politics, picking off each group with contracts and money to secure votes. Multiculturalism is then a strategic form of pandering for votes and political influence (torpil in Turkish). Trudeau's disastrous India trip in 2018 was a prime example of this strategy albeit clumsy in its affirmation.

For the ROC, multi-cultural extremism has become a form of dandyism - peering into the mirror and wishing for a promised land of opportunity that does not exist. It is a dandyism built on resentment (cf., George Grant's 'Lament for a Nation'). The Maritimes are an economic basket case. Alberta is awash in filthy bitumen unfit for any safe transportation inside or outside Canada. Prairie provinces still use coal to generate power and rely on highly uncertain foreign markets like China. In Ontario where the departure of General Motors has added to a declining manufacturing sector riddled with US tariffs and a new unfair NAFTA 2, French minority rights are trampled by a new Conservative government dedicated to eradicate measures to stem climate change. British Columbia has nothing in common with the ROC as it attempts to protect its pristine nature against an increasingly bellicose federal government determined to sink climate change by seeking tidewater access for Alberta bitumen.

Canadian multiculturalism is also based on resentment of Trump's America and the extortion that Canadians have been made to endure while negotiating the recent trade pact. The objective of negotiating a trade deal was to stay off the Mexican radar and avoid the worst. Yet, the Canadians did not avoid the worst. US tariffs on steel and aluminium are still in place as are the unfair taxes on softwood lumber. Once proud of the Chrétien refusal to back America's attack on Iraq in 2003 despite dire warnings of trade suspension, our present Liberal Party friends have illustrated the weakness and moral lassitude that only Canadian multiculturalism can explain away in defeat. The recent decision of General Motors to leave Canada coming on the heels of the signing of the new trade deal renders the Quebec dairy concessions made by Global Affairs negotiators to be absurd and futile. Quebec was sacrificed at the altar of a crumbling Ontario manufacturing sector. The logic of defeat and resignation is compelling.

The victory of François Legault on October 1st marks a turning point in Québec. The nationalists are back in power and the Bloc Québécois will soon have a new and challenging leader in Yves- Francois Blanchet. Québec knows where it is going. It might not be sovereignty right away but there will be no oil pipeline crossing its territory and a re-invigorated Bloc Québécois with the environment as its major priority may turn out to be more of a challenge than first thought in the upcoming federal election of 2019. Québec has its economic problems but one wonders amidst the economic downturn sparked by tariffs, dairy concessions, softwood lumber, steel and aluminum tariffs whether sovereignty would be a better choice. The ROC, buttressed by the multicultural myth, is adrift. The climate change policy disaster, the Afghan detainee scandal stands as a rebuke to international humanitarian law, the hypocritical refusal to implement electoral reform, the disdain of French-Canadian rights in all provinces and a broken Aboriginal policy - are we somehow supposed to think that multi-culturalism can paper over all of this incompetence and drift?

Dr. Bruce Mabley is the director of the Mackenzie-Papineau Group think tank based in Montreal devoted to analysis of international politics. Dr Mabley is a former Canadian diplomat and academic who has written a number of analytical and academic texts. In 2016, Macleans magazine featured a story about Dr. Mabley related to the war in Syria and referred to him as 'Canada's Rogue Diplomat'. In 2002, he was decorated by the French Republic as Chevalier des Palmes académiques.

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