Veering back towards the post which led to this series, a post where I said we need a pan-Canadian narrative, and that “what we need to do is to propagate, in our classrooms, in the media, our own narrative which explains to all Canadians what is (and what is not) acceptable conduct in our civil society. We need to affirm that our enlightened, secular, Anglo-Saxon, liberal democratic values are the “gold standard” for all Canadians and all residents of Canada regardless of race, colour or creed. We have to make it clear that all those who seek safety in Canada, who want to make new lives or or just seek temporary refuge, must adapt to our norms and mores; they must leave old customs and old loyalties and old hatreds behind … or they must leave,” we must go beyond a Conservative canon. The national narrative must be one that makes sense to almost everyone under that bell curve, we’re going to need a “buy in” …
… say from 70±% of us: some of the left of centre, a lot of of the centre left and most of the the centre that leans both left and right, most of the centre right and some of the right of centre, too. That narrative has to be:
First: demonstrably true ~ well grounded in history; and
Second: comprehensible ~ easy for children and teen-agers to grasp and understand.
It is my belief that a narrative that will satisfy the first criterion will not be acceptable to many on the political left nor to the so-called Laurentian Elites, each of which groups has too much invested in n a consensus position that many of them consider essential for Canadian national unity.
I refer, of course, to the whole multi-culturalism myth which, in Canada, rests of a very shaky foundation of deux nations. It was Lord Durham who, in his (1839) Report on the Affairs of British North America, explained that Canada consisted of “two nations warring in the bosom of a single state.” Durham was, in my opinion, correct in both his assessment of the problem and his preferred solution: the assimilation of the French Canadians through a union of Upper and Lower Canada. But the practicalities of politics in 1867 meant that we became a bi-national state, and in 1867, given Quebec’s population and economic power, that made some sense … it wasn’t right, Durham was right, but it was what was practical and achievable that summer. But deux nations and French language rights were the price of confederation and they became, after 1885, a festering sore and, eventually, a real threat to the very existence of Canada. The impact of accepting deux nations as a founding principle was that, by about 1960, when Jean Lesage replaced the clearly unacceptable, even fascist French Canadian Nationalism of Premier Duplesis and Abbé Groulx with the much less offensive slogan of “maîtres chez nous” and the nationalization of Quebec’s hydro-electric industry ushered in the “Quebec model” or Quebec Inc,” that Canada had no choice but to accept the idea of multiculturalism as its own founding principle. By the early 1960s, when the Royal Commission on Bilingualism and Biculturalism (also known as the Bi and Bi Commission or the Laurendeau-Dunton Commission) reported Canadian accepted the notion of and even the need for bilingualism but the country was, pretty clearly, unable to accept the notion on bi-culturalism: not because it didn’t want to honour French Canadian culture but because the construct seemed to require that all non-French Canadians be, arbitrarily, grouped into one, homogeneous, Anglias, mass … that was, demonstrably, untrue and bi-culturalism could not happen. But there was seething unrest in Quebec, it had been there since the late 1880s, the flames were fanned, again, by conscription crises in 1917 and 1944, and bilingualism was not thought to be enough to satisfy Quebec’s desire to be “maîtres chez nous” so the national government adopted a model of Bilingualism and Multiculturalism. But it was never a clearly defined policy. In the 1970s Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau and his Culture and Communications Minister, Gerard Pelletier, were intent on establishing the “French Fact” all across Canada (bi-culturalism in everything but name) and in making “fiscal federalism” (essentially bribing Quebec) work. They were too busy to notice that Canada was changing: Quebec was failing, economically, and, arguably, socially, too. Immigration was booming and new, skilled, educated, entrepreneurial immigrants were streaming into Vancouver, Calgary, Saskatoon, Winnipeg, Toronto and even Saint John and Halifax, but not into Montreal or Quebec City … in fact Quebec was losing its educated, entrepreneurial elites as successively more nationalistic provincial governments made it harder and harder to be a Canadian in Quebec.
Official bilingualism morphed into a huge, wasteful project that seems to be based on the (wholly false) notion that French speaking Canadians need special priviliges; the evidence is that Canadians whose mother tongue is French can and do succeed, in Canada and in the wider world, just like Canadians whose mother tongue is Hindi, Italian, Mandarin, Ukrainian or even English do … the notion that we need to coddle French Canadians in some second rate civil service ghettoes because they cannot, quite, make it on their own is, or should be, offensive. The notion of the the “French Fact” failed, too, as simple demographic data shows. But an ill-conceived, official, Liberal notion of multiculturalism survived and it requires Canadians to tolerate almost everything in the name of “inclusiveness.” It requires us to accept that no culture is inferior to any other and, as I mentioned (quoting Rex Murphy) a couple of days ago, that’s one of those cases where “there is a “great space between correct opinion in the higher altitudes,” where our own Laurentian Elites pontificate, “and [the] lived experience in the valley,” where you and I and our friends and neighbours of many different races and creeds try to live together and get along.” We, mere mortals, “down in the valley” know that cultures differ, and we know that culture matters, and we know that some cultures are qualitatively “better” than others which means, de facto, that some cultures are inferior. Race doesn’t matter, religion doesn’t matter … but culture matters and people can, and regularly do, pick and choose how to adapt some of their customs and some of their beliefs to take the best advantage of the prevailing culture in the most civil(ized) societies. In fact my on experience, from down “in the valley” is that most immigrants do, very quickly, recognize the advantages of the superior culture in which they decided, positively (in most cases ~ refugees, perhaps, not so much), that they wished to make their lives and they adapt … putting aside old, even cherished ideas and adopting new ones that help them and their children and grandchildren to succeed. Down “in the valley,” of course, success often means getting along and “getting along” often means adapting. We, “in the valley” should tolerate some of the old customs while newcomers decide, for themselves, how to adapt but we must remember that tolerate ≠ accept.
Some months ago I quoted (and commented upon) Bundeskanzlerin Angela Merkel who said:
“Those fleeing from war and persecution will find protection with us,” she says. Ditto for those coming to Canada, I say.
“Those who found refuge and protection with us must obey our laws, values and traditions,” Ms Merkel adds. Ditto for those coming to Canada, I add.
“And in order to understand us they must learn the German language,” she goes on to say. Ditto, yet again, from me, except substitute English or French for German.
Then she gets interesting and thought provoking when she says, “All this, dear friends, is integration. It is the exact opposite of multiculturalism.”
And then she speaks a vitally important and absolutely fundamental truth: “It remains true that multiculturalism leads to parallel societies and multiculturalism, therefore, remains a lie.”
If multiculturalism is a “lie,” and I agree that it is, and if “integration” (assimilation as Lord Durham suggested (see above)) is the correct answer, as I agree, again, that it is, then what is the honest and understandable “model” into which we want newcomers to integrate? It is not, and it cannot be, I suggest, the Trudeau/Pelletier/Chrétien/Trudeau bilingualism and multiculturalism “narrative;” so what is it?
More to follow …