On Canada Day, near St. Sauveur, Quebec, we were treated to torrential rain, hail, nearby tornado warnings, and continually flickering power. Not a day for fireworks. Just as well, since fireworks are the last thing one craves when one suffers, as many Canadians do, from highly contagious, patriotism-suppressive Post Nationalism Syndrome.
This scourge cannot yet be cured, since it was intentionally cultivated and released into the environment by the current government. Only herd immunity can end it. However, the symptoms of Post Nationalism Syndrome can be alleviated by certain traditional antivirals, like National Postism. Last Saturday’s NP featured several commentaries that buoyed my spirits, in particular Michael Higgins’s misery-loves-company column, “Stop shaming and start celebrating Canada.”
Higgins enumerates recent examples from a tiresome litany of complaints by our elites that “want to turn us into a nation of self-flagellating penitents.” The National Gallery of Canada insinuates that Canada’s iconic artists, the Group of Seven, are linked to white supremacy; a parliamentary motion endorses the residential school system as “genocide”; the attorney general actively considers legal sanctions against “denialism” — dissent from genocide as a proper descriptor (including me); and the erasure of Sir John A. Macdonald’s name from the eponymous Parkway.
In a nearby feature, the false claim that Macdonald was a guilty party in the alleged schools genocide was handily demolished by lawyer Greg Piasetzki, titled, “John A. Macdonald saved more indigenous lives than any other prime minister.” This evidence-based rejoinder to sticky defamatory myths about Macdonald is an excerpt from a new book of essays by 20 writers, The 1867 Project: Why Canada Should be Cherished—Not Cancelled, published by the Aristotle Foundation, and edited by its founder and president, Mark Milke.Piasetzki’s essay mirrors the 19 others in its forthright challenge of our culture’s reigning anti-western dogmas, which brand Canada as a failed nation. Every author encourages the pride in being Canadian that has not dared to speak its name since Justin Trudeau came to power. I highly recommend it. If enough Canadians read it, we might arrive at herd immunity to Post Nationalism Syndrome.
The topics range from academic theories like Critical Race Theory and post-modernism at the core of Canada’s “idea culture” to their reification in whiteness-shaming and charges of systemic racism. The fallout includes groundless cancellations of present-day academics who challenge politically correct narratives — the much-publicized persecution of Frances Widdowson by Calgary’s Mount Royal University is eloquently unpacked by author Bruce Gilley — in addition to retroactive cancellation of historical figures: Macdonald, Halifax’s founder Edward Cornwallis, educator Egerton Ryerson and judge Matthew Begbie, all of whom are rehabilitated in this volume.Acknowledgement of general immigrant success, supported by copious data in concluding essays by Milke and researcher Ven Venkatachalam, rebuts the lachrymose narrative of minority marginalization. “Presentism” and “revisionism”— defining features of the progressive mindset, which demonizes past influencers and policies deemed progressive in their era by applying today’s lofty medical, pedagogical and cultural standards to them — are taken to the woodshed.
From my description so far, a progressive might conclude The 1867 Project authors are all white Christian men of British provenance. On the contrary, the collection reflects, as Milke observes, “every human skin colour and a few different faiths (Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Hindy, or none).”What all the writers have in common, Milke writes, is the belief that “at the heart of our core identity as Canadians” is an “attachment to the “liberal ideas of equality of the individual and, ultimately, freedom for the individual and her chosen beliefs.”
Widening the historical lens beyond Canada provides much-needed context to the national self-loathing of our chattering classes. In her long, informative essay, retired teacher Marjorie Gann critiques an educational system that inculcates anti-western ideology promoting the false notion that imperialism and slavery are uniquely European phenomena. Students fail to learn that slavery has been a universal evil (and still is in certain regions), including in some Indigenous tribes. Sadly, they are also not taught that it was the abolition movement that was uniquely white, implemented for moral reasons and at a high cost.Personal stories resonate strongly with readers. Former Post columnist Jamil Jivani deprecates what he dubs “remix racism” on the left, whereby minority figures are only permitted a political, institutional or media voice if they toe the line on identity politics. Jivani lost prestigious media gigs because he refused to play the victim role assigned to him by his skin colour. He says he is not an outlier among Black Canadians: There is no “racial consensus,” Jivani writes, and the idea that there should be one is “both preposterous and demeaning.”
Immigrant Rima Azar’s describes the downward trajectory of her native Lebanon, a country whose religious sectarian governance fuelled disastrous civil war. She argues passionately against the “efforts by politicians and elites to play with the fire of identity politics, recklessly taking us in a direction that could backfire on us all.”Goa, India-based entrepreneur Gourav Jaswal is bemused by our preoccupation with allegedly systemic racism, absurdly trivial compared to the entrenched prejudices of his own country, where nobody of his ethnicity — Indian, but native to a different state — has a hope of being elected to Goa’s legislature. Massive positive feedback from diverse populations to his 2021 heterodox NP op ed on this theme led him to the astute insight that “Canada is a rare country where its majority seems to be constantly shushed.”
Wordage constraints preclude comment on all authors. Suffice to say, all 19 essays are brave little firecrackers of truth. Together they constitute a spirit-lifting burst of fireworks in a landscape made dreary by truth-repellent theory. All honour to the Aristotle Foundation.
This article was originally published in the National Post. It has been republished with the author’s permission.