If the fuss over Canada’s Meech Lake Accords has you confused, William Gairdner’s The Trouble With Canada is a fine place to turn to. The book is a solid personal jeremiad against the egalitarian evils taking root in Canada, and the spineless politicians who make it possible.
Gairdner fits the conflict over Quebec into this broader fabric of war against public order and decency. He gives thoughtful attention to subjects ranging from the follies of Canadian welfare policy to his government’s corruption of sport, always driving back to the perils behind the pursuit of equality. Globalist dreams by Ottawa’s apparatchiks also receive frequent fire as Gairdner indicts the political elites striving to submerge Canadian identity into an internationalist utopia.
Often in making his case the author cites familiar American names such as Gilder, Friedman, Murray, and Novak. This use of American writers may explain-his over-reliance on the phrase “democratic capitalism,” where the phrases “republican,” “federal,” and “market economy” would better describe the clear intent of his political and economic programs. He draws to better effect on Peter Brimelow’s important book on Canadian affairs, The Patriot Game, published in 1986. Yet Citizen Gairdner is strongest when he follows his own instincts and personal sources to shape a commonsensical response to Canada’s grievous problems.
His chapter “The Silent Destruction of English Canada” is exemplary. Here he tackles the knotty matters of multiculturalism, bilingualism, and immigration in a disarmingly practical way. Behind these three issues, he identifies a common goal: “to replace all natural cultures with the idealistic, artificial, bureaucratic culture of the State itself” Multiculturalism, he says, is a calculated political program to destroy the natural common denominators that held Canadians together for three centuries. Official bilingualism, meanwhile, has dismembered the common social fabric of the country, energized a “language police” to monitor and punish those who violate bilingual laws, and effectively made the Francophone minority the new governing elite.
Concerning immigration policy, Gairdner laments that massive changes in immigration law in 1967 occurred without democratic sanction, changes that he says are fundamentally altering the Canadian identity. He details the appalling abuses to which Canada’s “point system,” refugee program, and family reunification plan have been subjected. For example, he tells the tale of Harbhajan Singh Pandori, who emigrated to Canada in 1970, and over the next seventeen years brought in 70 family members under the “reunification” project. Not surprisingly. New Delhi, India, has become Canada’s largest immigration post, while consulates have been closed in Birmingham and Perth, and cut back in London.
The question, Gairdner says, “has nothing to do with admiring deserving immigrants” and “everything to do with the people’s fear of losing their connection with the familiar.” This is not “discrimination,” he says, but rather the natural desire to give preference to the known; in Canada’s case, to immigrants from the historic source countries of Great Britain, Ireland, the United States, Australia, and New Zealand. As he explains: “The human fears about continuity, similarity, and cultural comfort are the same for all peoples. For everyone affiliates backward, so to speak, with his own history and culture, not forward to an unknown, faceless, and confusing future.”
In short, Gairdner refuses to apologize for loving the land of his fathers. If more people are needed in Canada, he urges development of “a pro family, tax-relief-based, ‘made in Canada’ incentive to encourage young Canadians to have larger families.” If that fails, he calls “at least” for the government to show the good sense “to attract immigrants who are compatible with our core culture in every way possible, and if not, then at least willing to assimilate to it.”
On every issue he touches, Gairdner offers practical, levelheaded responses, ranging from the defunding of official state feminists to a compelling program of economic reform. He has particular affection for the Swiss system of governance, and proposes a devolution of power in Canada back to the provinces and greater use of referenda and initiatives to break the stranglehold of national politicians cast in the Trudeau- Mulroney mold. If it’s not already too late, Gairdner’s agenda could just salvage the faltering frame of the Canadian nation-state.
[The Trouble With Canada: A Citizen Speaks Out, by William D. Gairdner (Toronto: Stoddart Publishing Company) 448 pp., $29.95]