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Jamie Glazov redux

By Barton Wong
web posted July 2, 2001

I don't usually write columns on the weekend, so I wasn't exactly in a rush to respond to Mr. Glazov's latest broadside against Canadian nationalism, I Have a Dream, but since all hell appears to have broken out on Front Page Magazine's letter page (in as much as hell can break out on a website), I feel it is now imperative to give Mr. Glazov and his article as prompt a response as possible. It really is an awkward position for me, as a Canadian conservative, to be siding with the likes of the Toronto Star, the CBC, the imbecilic Maude Barlow and her Council of Canadians, as well as the unreformed socialists at the NDP, but as they say, politics makes strange bedfellows...

I would like to begin not with Mr. Glazov here in Toronto, but with a man named Benjamin Kepple who hails out of Manchester, New Hampshire. Mr. Kepple sent me a thoughtful e-mail, which can be called a critique of my critique of Mr. Glazov's first column on this matter, Finally, The End of Canada and the issues he raises (which are also pertinent to Mr. Glazov's two articles), I feel I must deal with first before moving on directly to Mr. Glazov. Mr. Kepple writes:

I think you err in saying a right-wing Government - which would have its ideological roots in the West, not Ontario - would "show Quebecers that Canada could truly work." If I may say so, you are looking at the state of the country with a TO mindset, not an Alberta one. You underestimate Western Canada's dislike for Quebec and you overestimate Quebec's willingness to get all riled up about anything seen as a threat to its Distinct Society.

Remember, the conservatives you champion are the same conservatives who first made their career bashing Quebec (remember those ads with the Quebec politicians, their faces crossed out?). It's also the same group of people furious over Canada's mollycoddling Quebec and the Atlantic with billions in transfer payments and cultural subsidies every year. If conservatives do get into power, it would likely antagonize Quebec greatly from the get go - and things would likely deteriorate from there...Walk down that road far enough, and you'll eventually reach dissolution... That leaves Canada with two unpleasant options in future - move right and alienate Quebec, or stay with the left and alienate the West.

I believe Mr. Kepple errs in believing that any future right-wing Canadian government would necessarily be based or even have its ideological roots out West. In fact, the case of the two conservative parties in Canada today proves that no one party can form a federal government without cross-country support. Joe Clark's Tories are at this moment in history, reduced to being a Maritime rump with one or two seats west of the New Brunswick border. The great hope for the Canadian right and the West's aspirations, the Canadian Alliance is in the middle of political doldrums from which it might never recover. It has reached the zenith of its support and even with almost a complete monopoly of seats in Western Canada, the best the Alliance can do is to reach Official Opposition status. The party is practically non-existent east of Manitoba.

However, if there had not been vote-splitting between the two conservative parties in the last election, the Canadian right would have broken the Liberal stranglehold on Ontario and gained about 30 seats. And it must be noted as well, that the governing Liberals, despite being caricatured as being a party almost entirely based in Ontario and Quebec alone, are the only party in Parliament who have seats in every province. That one of the reasons they enjoy the spectacularly high support (for Canada, at least) of 50 per cent of the populous. They actually can claim to be a cross-country coalition. This might also seem like a specifically Toronto-centric point of view, but by reason of economic power and sheer number of seats alone, Canadian governments are still made and unmade in the provinces of Ontario and Quebec, not out in the conservative West.

I hate also to defend the much-despised Mulroney years, but it must never be forgotten that his nine-year term as Prime Minister (1984-1993) was not only the last time Canada had a remotely conservative government, his government was the most successful and long-lasting of Canadian conservative governments since Sir Robert Borden in the 1910s! And how did he do it? By building a broad cross-country coalition of socially-liberal "red" Tories, economic free-marketeers, and Quebec nationalists, a skill which is conspicuously lacking in either of today's Canadian conservative parties. And not only that, Mulroney nearly succeeded! This is where I disagree that in order to keep the West satisfied, you can't appease the Quebec nationalists. Does anyone remember the Meech Lake accord? That accord satisfied both almost all the other provincial governments, as well as the Quebec government, and gave the province the "distinct society" status it so desperately craved, and the accord would have been made constitutional, if it hadn't been for the stupid pig-headed obstinacy of two Liberals, Elijah Harper (who stopped the accord because of the relatively minor issue of native rights) and Newfoundland Premier Clyde Wells, both of whom will go down in history as being principally responsible for the constitutional troubles our country is in right now.

Mr. Kepple however ends his e-mail happily with this:

The danger here is not that Canada will break up and drift into the US, it's that Canada will smash like a china plate against a wall - with a number of small, politically fragile, newly independent states to our north with no cohesive political or economic strategy. After all, like you say, we probably wouldn't welcome union because our people are still so different politically. But having Canada - even an inefficient, socialist one - is better than having nothing at all!

A sentiment (unfortunately for Mr. Glazov), that most of the Canadians of who have responded to him appear to share.

Going back to Mr. Glazov's latest article, he notes that the responses he has mostly received seem to involve totalitarian solutions, which seem typical of the Left. I fully agree, but Mr. Glazov still overestimates the Left's power in this country. The socialist NDP control only two provincial governments (both of which are in the socially-conservative Prairies and thus, lean centrist), they were recently smashed to pieces in recently in British Columbia, hopefully never to return, and on the federal level, despite their pesky resistance to reality ("I'm still alive!" to quote Monty Python's Black Knight), they remain a national joke. Even the leftist CBC aired a satirical sketch which suggested that its millionaire leader, Alexa what's-her-name, be force-fed, "Loser Os," for god's sakes! And neither has our nation quite reached the totalitarian levels of an East Germany as Mr. Glazov sort of implies. We still don't censor conservatives and Mr. Glazov still can publish his opinions freely. The moment I hear of any repression of free speech by the Canadian government, Mr. Glazov can count me in to help him protest. Nevertheless, I still don't think that's ever going to happen. Nor is Canada is by no means back in the bad old, socialist-lite, Castro-loving days of Pierre Trudeau. Just ask Maude Barlow what she thinks of Jean Chretien, if you need any convincing.

Mr. Glazov calls the Canadian Left, "primitive" as if this was a special characteristic of theirs. Well, primitive in ideology and primitive in method, the Left certainly are. These are the same people who tried, for no apparent rational reason, to storm the Ontario legislature last June and who ignited the anti-capitalist riots in Quebec City recently. At today's Gay and Lesbian Pride Parade here in Toronto (which I was covering for another webzine), the group known as the "Socialist Lesbians" were holding up black signs reading "Smash Capitalism!," just like it was the good, old day back in 1969 all over again. Surprisingly, I am glad to report they received zero applause from the crowd. As any intelligent conservative such as Mr. Glazov should know, the Left and its minions all around the world are "primitive" and unswerving in their ideological commitments. For them it's always either 1789, 1917, and/or 1969, and we're always on the verge of a worldwide socialist revolution, no matter what. This just isn't a special characteristic of the Canadian Left.

Mr. Glazov then moves on to note that Canada was created only because of anti-Americanism during the Revolutionary War and that without it, Canada would not exist. All this is historically accurate, and Canada indeed functions as a sort of "Anti-America" on the world stage, and this could account for some Canadians' pathological anti-Americanism and in our supposedly "dark and ugly elitism, rooted in denial, dishonesty and hypocrisy." But this is all old history. Why should our historical origins determine what our present-day attitudes be? It's simply irrational. That would be like the descendant of a slave owner deciding to adapt a racist temperament because his ancestors used to own slaves and therefore, had to have been racists. Plenty of countries had hostile relationships in the past yet are now present-day friends and allies.

Do the Poles not want to join NATO because they don't want to join an alliance with its old invader, Germany in it? Are the British irrationally hostile towards Americans today because they lost the Thirteen Colonies in 1786? Should the world be forced to hate Germany and its entire people for the rest of time because of actions done in a short 30-year period? Mr. Glazov's range of vision appears to be too narrow. The irrational and paranoid anti-Americanism which Mr. Glazov associates with all Canadians is in fact, principally associated with the Left and is certainly not shared by me or by many conservatives in this country (24 per cent of Canadian alliance supporters want closer American links) or by the more reasonable liberals for that matter. More and more people here are recognizing that a "Us vs. Them" attitude towards the United States is retrograde, unproductive, and ultimately does nothing to address the many areas of dispute between the two nations which is why they are turning away from the NDP, whose out-of-date policies are all those.

Mr. Glazov next contrasts the two nations' attitudes towards patriotic celebration as a sign of their health and psychology. Well, yes in fact, I do find the fact that Americans portray themselves as lone heroes without once mentioning their allies (Saving Private Ryan) or otherwise completely changing history to make themselves look better (The Patriot), or even taking credit for something they don't deserve to take credit for (U-571), a touch exasperating. And yes, sometimes I do think that Americans' in-your-face flag-waving can be loud, annoying, crude, boorish, and obnoxious, as do a lot of non-Americans. But I never forget that Americans actually have a lot to be loud, annoying, crude, boorish, and obnoxious about and really, if they insist on doing it in their own country on their own national holidays and not here, then what's the big deal? Canadians are a far more modest people (with a great deal to be modest about) and they just don't go for big nationalistic extravaganzas. But if you touch a nerve about their homeland, watch out. As the reaction to Mr. Glazov's first article proves, Canadian nationalism may be hidden but it is still alive and well, despite what Mr. Glazov might think of it.

Mr. Glazov's last point is that his first article would never have been published in any major Canadian publication and that anyone advocating such things as he did would be silenced and ostracized. He is only half-right on this point. There was a major editorial advocating an US-Canada union published in a major Canadian newspaper not so long ago. It was written by the media baron, Conrad Black, and it universally panned by both press and public. I suspect that it was only published in the first place, because Black had it written for the very newspaper he owned, the National Post. Well, after this humiliation, Black has now announced he is giving up his Canadian citizenship and moving to the United Kingdom, so perhaps Mr. Glazov does have a point about people with his sort of opinions being silenced and ostracized here in Canada. But nevertheless, he can still get them published on a widely-read website, so there is that consolation.

Finally, I must address Michael Sharpe's contention that "the 'Chinatowns' of San Francisco and Vancouver (are) meant to preserve, exemplify, and even magnify alien values so that we can enjoy a taste of exoticism without having to fully give them full membership in the society, even if they really wanted it and so that they can mingle with and marry their own kind and not have to fully submerse themselves in the dominant culture." Well, no, even if the "dominant culture" tried doing this to us, we wouldn't let them. Anyway, what's wrong with an ethically exotic neighbourhood where one can enjoy another culture and which draws in the tourist dollars as long as you can leave and socially advance yourself at any time you wish? Mr. Sharpe points to the fact that in graduate school, immigrant students could not speak English as well as he did. Well, they would, wouldn't they? And what's this about not being given full membership in society and being forced to mingle and mix with our "own kind"? I am unaware that Bob Jones University's dating laws have now been expanded to include most of Western society. And if anyone, and I mean anyone, tries to deny me or any other legal immigrant I know "full membership in the society," well, they've got another thing coming to them.

So yet again, I would like to conclude in the same way I concluded my last response to Jamie Glazov and his attitudes towards Canada. I believe it bears repeating. 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.

Other related articles: (open in a new window)

  • A response to Jamie Glazov by Barton Wong (June 18, 2001)
    A recent article by Jamie Glazov calling for the dissolution of Canada has Barton Wong steamed

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