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A response to Jamie Glazov

By Barton Wong
web posted June 18, 2001

Normally, whenever I read Jamie Glazov's column at FrontPage Magazine, you'll find me nodding my head in agreement right through the article. Mr. Glazov is an immigrant from the old USSR and his family are first-hand eyewitnesses of the horrors and hardships perpetuated by communism, socialism, and other leftist ideologies which always claim to work, "in the name of the people." As a motivated fighter against socialism "in his high-tech war room in Toronto" (a city where coincidentally I too am writing from), I respect his motives and his courage as one of the few columnists I know who is guaranteed to call a spade a spade every time it's needed. But his column of June 6th, "Finally, the End of Canada," crossed the line for me. His enthusiasm for capitalism and the American way and his battle against socialism in our country, which I still commend, appears to have blinded Mr. Glazov to the fact he is eagerly calling for the dissolution of an entire nation, my nation, and in the process, I am afraid he's offended myself and many Canadians like me. It is unfortunate that in Canada, nationalism is primarily associated with the Left and the socialist NDP, but Mr. Glazov, I ask you to look more deeply at the implications of what you wrote, and whether you realistically believe Canadians of both the Left and Right would stand for termination of your adopted homeland, merely for the sake of an ideological fight against socialism. I believe that we should help our fellow Canadians stand up for our country, not dissolve it just to spite the Left.

Pierre Berton

Of course, there are, as always, many things that would find my approval in Mr. Glazov's article. The supremacy of free trade, globalization, and international capitalism are goals we must strive for to ensure a more prosperous future for all, no matter what a bunch of trouble-making, bandanna-wearing college students and poseurs in Quebec City might say. Deregulation, privatization, and radical reform of our out-of-date socialized health care system are things that which I enthusiastically support as well. Dismantlement of the welfare state that's imposed on all Canadians, the end of power for snide cultural "elites" such as Pierre Berton and Margaret Atwood are all excellent goals in my opinion. As for liberating us Canadians from that parody of objective reporting, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, (how can you defend an organization which once devoted 20 out of 25 minutes worth of news time to government cutbacks for, where else, the CBC), though it does have a nice corporate headquarters and employs a fair amount of people here in Toronto, nevertheless, I'm still in full agreement with Mr.Glazov. In other words, this isn't going to be a disagreement on ideological lines, but a dispute between two Canadian citizens, one who is proud to part of this nation and Mr.Glazov, who certainly doesn't sound like he is.

First, looking more closely at the opinion poll he references to cite the inevitability of a Canada-US merger, while there are growing signs of a movement for closer ties with the United States, it is hardly as strong as Mr.Glazov purports it to be. I will note that while the number of Canadians who wish to join the United States has indeed grown over the last four years, it still stands at a mere 15 per cent, hardly an irreversible trend. And while the number of Canadians who want their country to be less like the United States has indeed dropped below 50 per cent to 42 per cent, that is still a very strong plurality, and as Jean Chrétien and Bill Clinton well know, you don't need a majority to get into power. I will also note that the most likely group to favour stronger American links are right-wing Canadian Alliance supporters (24 per cent), a party as Mr. Glazov would know from reading and watching the news that is now at the nadir of its fortunes and not apparently going up anytime soon. Other poll results suggest that Canadians still have a large stake in our country. A full 66 per cent of respondents said that our moribund currency, the loonie, was of "great concern" to them. Does that sound like a people ready to give up on the idea of Canada? As well, the very first sentence of Mr. Glazov's article ("Almost half of Canadians believe it is highly likely Canada will join the United States within ten years.") is false, as it appears he misread the last lines of the poll results. Forty-five per cent of Canadians believe that Canada will join the United States in a North American Union in the next 10 years, while only 17 per cent believe Canada would join the United States outright. The difference between the two concepts is enormous: it is the difference between say today's European Union, where the countries for now, still maintain a great deal of autonomy, and the pre-Blair United Kingdom and Mr. Glazov fudges the difference between the two. Anyway, the operative word in these poll results is "believe." Since when were historical trends ever connected with what ordinary people believed?

I'm sure if you had taken a survey in, say, early 1988, a huge majority of Westerners would have thought the Cold War would last another 10 years and we all know what did happen. It is what our elected officials do, not what ordinary people believe, that will determine Canada's future course, and at the present moment there are no electable politicians in this country who favour closer American ties. I would suggest to Mr. Glazov that the real reason for the poll results is not that there is an increasingly powerful movement in Canada for union with the United States, but because of conservative frustration (hence the stronger support among Alliance members) at our present, impregnable center-left Liberal government and the fact that there was a recently elected conservative government in the United States. Ask Alliance supporters whether they'd want to join Gore or Clinton's America as opposed to Bush's America, and I'd expect support for union would drop like a stone. Once the Liberals are kicked out of office, as they inevitably will be, conservatives in this country will stop being so frustrated and set out to reform, not to abolish Canada.

As far as Mr.Glazov's personal dislike of the province of Quebec is concerned, the majority of English Canadians still do not share it and after two referendums, a majority of Quebecers (albeit a bare majority), still want to give Canada another chance. And really, we Canadians don't have any real choice. Quebec, by virtue of its geography alone, has a stranglehold on Canada. If Quebec goes independent, than Canada will be truly a moribund nation, split right down the middle, between the richer Western and Central provinces and the poorer Atlantic provinces and split nations, as the example of West and East Pakistan shows, aren't destined to live long, healthy lives. This can still all be fixed, not by union with the United States and the tossing of Quebec to the wind, but by the election of a right-wing government however, who can show Quebecers that Canada truly can work. Perhaps Mr.Glazov should work towards that, instead of calling for closer American links.

Next, looking at the points that Mr.Glazov makes against the very idea of Canada itself, he makes some rather broad generalized attacks. He calls our policies of official bilingualism and multiculturalism "intellectually bankrupt policies." I have a rather selfish reason for defending official bilingualism, as someone who went all the way and took three more years of French than required, I hate to be told that I was wasting my time. But all bilingualism simply involves is making sure all government services can be obtained in both official languages, English and French, and that (here in Ontario, at least), schoolchildren have at least five years of French-language teaching. As for multiculturalism, this is simply the Canadian government's policy of having a "salad bowl" rather than a "melting pot" society and its encouraging recent immigrants to take pride in and celebrate their heritage. Neither of these policies are hardly the great burden on taxpayers as Mr.Glazov portrays them as. Multiculturalism doesn't involve the "ghettoizing" of immigrants, but rather it stresses a policy of integration as opposed to assimilation. As an immigrant to Canada, Mr.Glazov himself proves that official multiculturalism does not prevent immigrants' full integration into Canadian society. As a child of an immigrant myself, I can also personally attest to that.

As far as Canadians' snobbish dislike and even hatred of Americans is concerned, I agree it really is irritating at times, but it's really a minor irritant at most. The Canadian education system indoctrinates us all in anti-Americanism, but Americans should be a big enough people to take whatever criticism that goes along with being the most powerful country in the world. Europeans are equally vitriolic in their anti-Americanism, yet they never seem to hesitate to ask for American help either. In reality, anti-Americanism in this country is really nothing more than a compensation for Canadians' creeping insecurity about their place in the world and a nagging suspicion that we depend on Americans for mostly everything in this country, which is quite true. Anyway, it's no big deal and it's certainly not a valid argument to call for the abolishment of the entire nation.

Oh yes, one final point. If Canada were to join the United States, expect the Democratic Party to be in charge of the joint combined country for at least a generation afterwards. The Canadian media has done such a good job of demonizing the Republican Party, most Canadians would en masse vote against them if given half the chance. I do not think a permanent majority voting Democratic in the United States was what Mr.Glazov or any conservative in North America had in mind as the final result of this little mind experiment of his.

Therefore, in the end, I ask Mr.Glazov not to so enthusiastically give up on Canada. I know Mr.Glazov sometimes feels that he is a lone voice in a socialist wilderness, but there are still lots of others like me, who feel that there something terribly wrong with what is happening in this country, yet are still proud to call themselves Canadian. Together we can join forces and reform this country for the better, not call for its ultimate destruction. Mr. Glazov, your adopted homeland gave you and your family shelter when it needed it and for that at least, its certainly still worth the effort.

Barton Wong is a regular commentator at the Houston Review and is studying Literary Studies and Philosophy at the University of Toronto in Canada.

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