Oh Canada.

This article from the Australian press highlights the embarrassing silence on the part of Canadians in responding to the increasingly nasty and autocratic government we have in place.

There was a time when I proudly travelled with a Canadian flag on my luggage. I was always happy to point out to those who confused my profoundly Canadian accent with an American one that no, my family came from Moose Creek, Ontario, as Canadian a place name as one could find.

In fact, the Blairs come from a little town so small and so typical that its local convenience store carried everything from boxed Barbie dolls to framed Norval Morrisseau prints. The World War II vet who owned it could frame your art, sell you a handful of nails if you needed them, or find you  a box of Kraft dinner. Claude, as he was known to the francophones, was Clod to the English: like much of Canada itself, Moose Creek was split right down the middle between English and French.

My  father, now in his nineties, volunteered to fight in World War II, even though he didn’t have to (he was the son of a farmer and exempt from the draft) because he felt he owed it to this country. He flew missions for each one of his brothers who declined to enlist and he came from a big family.

Claude too signed up, and that was something that bridged the gap between what we often described as the two solitudes. My dad never thought much of the ‘Frenchies,’ as he called them, but he thought a lot of Claude because of that, and the two men were friends all their lives.

These days the two solitudes aren’t francophone and anglophone : they’re Liberal and Conservative, and the Conservative government (whoops — that should be the ‘Harper’ government, according to the official directive) has decided that all things liberal should be ground into the dirt.

My government is now a government of thugs and frat boys, but they hold power, and power attracts those who confuse brutishness with strength.

Michael Ignatieff, an international scholar and recognized expert in human rights, a man with eleven honorary degrees, in other words, an exemplary Canadian, has been vilified by over 6,000 attack ads issued by the Conservatives on his character, his integrity, even his education. Canadians were inundated with 6,000 ads before there even was an election campaign.

Imagine — a country that once prided itself on having a Prime Minister as sophisticated as Pierre Elliott Trudeau is now encouraged — no, make that brainwashed — into seeing a prodigal son as some kind of turncoat because he found a place on the international stage. He made all of us proud of his accomplishments because he was Canadian and because of his success, he is being attacked and accused of not being Canadian enough.

I’d call that typically Canadian, except this time it’s viciously Canadian, and that’s not the Canada I grew up in, it’s not the Canada my father fought for, and it’s not the Canada I want my daughter to live in.

Oh, my Canada.

When I was a teenager, I met the great Tommy Douglas. He and Elmer Mackay, father of our current defence minister, Peter Mackay, were good friends. They used to invite me up to Parliament Hill for tea when I was in town, and I kept in touch with them for years. Tommy was the leader of the NDP, the socialist party. Elmer was a Conservative.

In those days, I didn’t see any difference between the two friends. They held political values that were somewhat different but their humanity was the same. They liked to laugh, and they were smart, and I always enjoyed hanging around Tommy’s office knowing that Elmer was likely to stick his head in.

I can’t imagine a Conservative politician these days having that kind of friendship with the member of a different party: Elmer Mackay’s party has been taken over by the hyper-partisanship of small minds and even smaller ambitions.

Power has become the route to achieving more power — without a moment’s thought given as to what to do with it except to use it to crush one’s opponents. The exercise of achieving that power has been enough, already, to diminish each of us, individually and collectively. The ‘Harper’ government has made this country less than what it was, and now wants more.

Oh, my, Canada. Yes, evil flourishes when good men do nothing. I think of those good men, Elmer and Tommy, and shake my head.

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5 Responses to Oh Canada.

  1. Peggy, I wouldn’t want to confront you when you get your dander up. I think we should set you on Stephen Harper. Strong piece, so well said, so readable, and so right. Sharing it wherever I can.


    • Peggy Blair says:

      I’m guessing that’s a compliment :-). But yes, those most recent attack ads got me steamed. I walked right over to Scott Bradley’s campaign office and told them I wanted a lawn sign. The largest one they had on offer.


  2. Including a Twitter link to your site!


  3. Margie says:

    The Federal Liberal party has been in power for just over 83 years, the Conservative Party for just over 60 years. Since traditionally the Liberals have had the most support in the East, and the Conservatives in the West, perhaps it is best for the country that neither party remain in power a substantially longer time than the other. That way the country doesn’t end up looking like a dictatorship.
    Being a proud Canadian has nothing to do with politics, just as it has nothing to do with religion, race, etc. Being a Canadian transcends all the pettiness of who said what and who is in power, yes?


    • Peggy Blair says:

      It should. But the country is being incrementally changed in ways that I’m profoundly uncomfortable with (the number of chairs of independent commissions who have been fired for doing their job frightens me, and having a special interest group on judicial selection committees has always been a concern). When we rise up against abuses of power, I’m sure I’ll feel like a proud Canadian again.


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