Justin Trudeau has moved on - he's getting an honorary degree from Edinburgh University for being nice to Syrian refugees (like this one) - and his Scottish hosts are even less interested in Canada's sesquicentennial than Canadians turned out to be. Nevertheless, the complete stinkeroo Justin's Liberals made of the anniversary is fascinating, and revealing about the state of civilizational self-loathing that afflicts the west's political class. It is in that sense relevant beyond Canada - not just for the other settler nations of the Anglosphere, and the mother country itself, but for all kinds of other places - Sweden, for example - where the breezy assumption is that things that were once taken for granted can be dismantled and shuffled around without consequence as easily as modular furniture from Ikea.
Of the weekend's belly flop there can be no doubt. Christie Blatchford in The National Post:
Before the day dawned dreary and rainy, there were confident reports in virtually every major news outlet in the land that 500,000 people would descend on Parliament Hill.
About 25,000 made it onto the lawns, as many again stuck in lines that went nowhere, and if you imagine it was all because of the grisly weather, think again.
And even that 25,000 is a bit of a rounding-up by Blatch. It was apparently more like 21,000. By comparison, six years ago over 300,000 swarmed to Parliament Hill for Canada Day. To be sure, newlyweds William and Kate were present, which might be interpreted as a sign of shallow celeb fixation driving attendance. But, in fact, His Royal Highness made some rather sober remarks on Canadian military sacrifice, which were more serious and dignified than anything anyone said on Saturday. No, the reason the numbers were less than a tenth of those predicted was, says, Christie Blatchford, a conscious choice:
By now, with the Vimy Ridge 100th anniversary celebration not far in the rear-view mirror, Canadians know precisely what to expect on such occasions — paeans to equity, refrains praising the collective modern tolerance (but damning the oppression that went before and lingers on), rote odes to all that is indigenous — and thought better of it.
Better a few days at a cottage or camp, a swim in a still-cold lake, a beer on the dock with family and friends...
Indeed. Canadians had no trouble celebrating at home or among friends. What they checked out of was the official narrative. Colby Cosh argues:
Celebrating a 150th anniversary is inherently weird, but when I have pointed this out I have usually been offered the justification that Gen X-ers like me missed out on Expo 67 by accident of birth, and probably will not make it to see Hadrien Trudeau preside over CanadaFest 2067.
But that's why semi-centenaries aren't "inherently weird" - because we understand that, life expectancy being what it is, if you want a big national beano you can't wait every hundred years to party. The evolution of Dominion Day - and of Canada - can be seen in our once-every-five-decades bashes. The 1917 semi-centennial was a celebration of British North America; the 1967 centennial was a celebration of a new, confident nation looking to the future. The former was no more than an acknowledgment of our roots; the latter, to skeptics, was inching out on a very particular limb, at least as far as the nascent multicultural ethos was concerned. But it was optimistic, and accompanied by new flags, and a bigger deal than the Duke of Devonshire unveiling the foundation stone for the new parliament half-a-century earlier.
I chanced to be in Ottawa at the beginning of the year when the "Canada 150" banners went up on the streets. This was meant to be a bigger deal yet - and, even more so than in 1967, the total merging of Canada and Canadian identity with Liberal Party values. Instead, the Grits lost control of the plot, and wound up with a bunch of disgruntled "First Nations" activists rain-dancing on their parade. In my experience, one of the few things that anglo and franco Canadians agree on, sotto voce, is a general antipathy toward native claims upon their consciences - and, indeed, rightly conclude that maintaining them at public expense in pseudo-traditional communities is the principal cause of their present woes. Be that as it may, no amount of pandering will assuage those who accuse you of "genocide" or even "cultural genocide". How could it?
Nevertheless, the Governor General now insists on beginning every speech in the viceregal residence with "We are all gathering here today on the traditional territory of the Algonquin people." Not to be out-pandered, the Prime Minister's hyperpartisan advisor Gerald Butts enthusiastically Tweets out the reconquista hashtag of the teepee squatters: "#Reoccupation" - a risibly unconvincing bit of me-tooism from the Dauphin's chief courtier. What's the point, unless both Johnston and Butts are planning on buggering off out of Rideau Hall and 24 Sussex? The whinging natives rightly see these hollow gestures as empathy on the cheap ...and everybody else gets turned off, on the very reasonable suspicion that officialdom is colluding with the permanent grievance-monger class to blame everything on them.
A national celebration of collective guilt is a hard act to pull off. An historical anniversary on which it's unsafe to mention any history doesn't leave a lot else. I tried to follow along, really I did. At one point on Saturday there was a fulsome introduction in both official languages, all about multiple Grammy awards, for Shania Twain. And I assumed she was going to launch into "Man, I Feel Like A Cisgender Woman" or some such. Instead, having been introduced at length, she herself introduced a video of two young girls - one anglophone from out west, the other a francophone from Vaudreuil, of Arabic background, in a wheelchair. They were talking about space. Then Shania brought them out on stage, and then Justin came on and introduced the man and woman who had been "chosen" as Canada's next astronauts. So then they came out and stood around for a bit.
I assume Canada's astronauts are "chosen" from a very limited pool of high-skill individuals, so I don't quite get why it's necessary to pass it off as some kind of Canada Day lottery. Nor do I understand the presence of the two girls, who were said to be "budding astronauts". But then the two actual astronauts are also "budding astronauts", are they not? In the sense, that is, that neither has yet been into space. Do the two girls make the two putative astronauts any more compelling? Does Shania's introduction make a video of two artfully selected young Canadians any more interesting? Does a bilingual introduction about Grammy awards make Shania introducing two girls anything more than an introduction for the introducer who'll be introducing the next introduction for the introducers of the introduction after that? And what's up with all the space stuff anyway? In space no one can hear the First Nations activists screaming about your genocide? Or is it a preview of Canada's tricentennial, when the aliens of Planet Zongo will be complaining that we stole their land, too?
Half-a-century ago, the Liberal Party of Justin's dad offered us a rather wearisome nationalist boosterism. Now it's boosterism without the nationalism, which is even more wearisome. I would dearly have loved someone to walk out on stage and say, "This is all total bollocks, isn't it?" But the nearest we got was Charles and Camilla involuntarily giggling through the Inuit throat-singing in Nunavut. And that probably wasn't a smart move, which the activists are sure to demand that pound of blubber over. Next Canada Day the Prime Minister will be announcing the first throat-singer in space.
Those who remember that golden year of 1967 are well aware that the wilder claims of Pearsonian Canada proved a gorgeous shimmering illusion. Even so, the horrible tinny hollowness of Saturday is a shocking reminder of how feelgood multiculturalism has curdled into feelbad anti-culturalism. My old comrade Andrew Coyne:
The orgy of self-loathing by which Canadians are marking this 150th anniversary of no one knows what reached its climax this week with the timely arrival of a flotilla of thinkpieces reassuring us that this is all healthy and normal.
It is Perfectly All Right that a country should be entirely unable, on the anniversary of its founding as a state, to think of a single reason to celebrate it. It is Perfectly All Right, likewise, that it should be so devoid of fellow-feeling amongst its citizens that its government does not dare mention the reason for the generic celebrations it has ordered up, for fear of alienating one section of the population or another.
My fear is that this year's flopperoo will make the Government entirely relaxed about alienating Canadians. This Canada Day was chock full of aspiring astronauts, comedy throat-singers, disabled children, cultural genocide-accusers, third-rate pop singers, but just a wee bit short of Canadians. And yet, if you can pull off a Canada Day without Canadians, why not do it again? For Justin Trudeau, the man who hailed Canada as "the first post-national state", what could be more natural than the first post-national national holiday?
What the Prime Minister calls our new post-national identity is doubtless inspiring to some: It may well have inspired Rehab Dughmosh to join Isis. Meanwhile, Canada Day in British Columbia witnessed the world's first baby to be registered as "sex: unknown". Man, I feel like a woman - or vice-versa! When he/she/ze gets a Canadian passport, it can likewise be marked as "nationality: unknown". In other sesquicentennial news, the all-Canadian jihadist pin-up Omar Khadr will be getting $10 million of taxpayers' money: That's one happy Canada Day for one lucky Canuck! I wonder why Shania didn't announce that from the stage, with Justin and the GG holding up either end of one of those oversized cardboard cheques...
~Programming note: Today, Wednesday, Mark will be on the air north and south of the border - first with Toronto radio legend John Oakley live on AM640 at 5pm Eastern, and later with the great Tucker Carlson on Fox News coast to coast at 8pm Eastern/5pm Pacific. We hope you'll tune in.
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