Requiem for a Nation

AP Photo/Susan Walsh

It may seem hard to believe that America’s neighbor to the north is now a full-fledged, up-and-running police state. Heavily-armed police are arresting and, in some cases, roughing up, severely beating, and trampling with horses members of the truckers’ Freedom Convoy in Ottawa as well as bystanders. The country has gone off the rails.

Justin Trudeau’s ineffable Justice Minister David Lametti is on record threatening those who hold the wrong political views that they are liable to have their bank accounts seized. “If you are a member of a pro-Trump movement who is donating hundreds of thousands of dollars, and millions of dollars to this kind of thing,” he said, “then you ought to be worried.” The assumption that Trump has something to do with Canadian trucker donations seems particularly unhinged.

Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland, who sits on the board of Klaus Schwab’s World Economic Forum—an obvious conflict of interest—has moved to freeze the bank accounts and other financial instruments of the “protesters” and private citizens who have donated to the trucker fund. Hacked documents revealed the names of these offenders, some of whom have been “interviewed” by news media like the CBC and The Washington Post. Others have been doxed and menaced.

No less distressing, a substantial majority of the Canadian public have approved of the government’s jackbooted and manifestly illegal handling of the situation, taken in by the prime minister’s bought-and-paid-for media’s slanted and mendacious coverage. They are, to adapt a phrase from Daniel Goldhagen, Canada’s willing executioners, a compliant and unthinking populace presiding over the extinction of a once-democratic country. It couldn’t get any worse—though it probably will, with the assistance of the people’s sodden parliamentary representatives and a morally bankrupt media fifth column.

Lots of people are not happy. I have received a number of emails from correspondents claiming that the Convoy Event was Justin Trudeau’s Reichstag moment. I would be loath to say anything so demeaning of the leader of my country, but Elon Musk had no compunction addressing the prime minister in a now-deleted, mordantly funny tweet couched in the voice of der Füehrer: “Stop comparing me to Justin Trudeau.” Fast food for thought.

Closer to the truth, perhaps, is that we now seem to be living in what Ernst Fraenkel in his The Dual State: A Contribution to the Theory of Dictatorship, a study of the totalitarian nature of Nazi Germany, called the “prerogative state.” This is a fascist polity based on the arbitrary seizure of power, party solidarity, and violent police measures that at the same time maintain the fiction of the “normative state,” that is, the fable of legitimate, administrative, and juridical government. The “prerogative state” disguised as a “normative state” is our current home.

For there is little doubt that Canada, like Australia and New Zealand, has gone rogue. The U.S. had Obama and now Biden, two leaders who have no love for the Constitution and traditions of the nation. But the U.S. still has Donald Trump and Ron DeSantis and a reviving Republican Party. Canada, for its part, has Justin Trudeau and Chrystia Freeland, but no one of the national influence and serious political power of Trump and DeSantis. Nor does it enjoy an ethically credible opposition, with the exception of Maxime Bernier’s PPC, a party with no representation in parliament.

One recalls George Grant’s Lament for a Nation, published in 1965, which foresaw the demise of Canada as a genuinely sovereign country predicated on liberal traditions and constitutional provenance. Grant, however, was lamenting a post-Diefenbaker Canada that had abandoned faith in God and its conservative heritage in the face of the technological revolution and the cowboy ethos of the United States. He was right on the first count but partly wrong on the second, given that the vitality and entrepreneurial spirit of the U.S. is—or was—the resentful envy of the world and that the real Constitutional America has nothing in common with the America of Obama, Biden and the Democrat Left. Were Grant alive today, it’s a safe bet the lament would have become an elegy.

Canada, of course, is not exempt from episodes of social and political turbulence. The rebellions of 1837-38; the North-West Rebellion of 1885 and the dispatching of 500 soldiers to Batoche, Saskatchewan, leading to the execution of Métis leader Louis Riel in 1885; and the “October Crisis” of 1970 when Pierre Trudeau invoked the War Measures Act are significant moments in our civic history. But the Convoy Event of 2022 seems unique for a number of reasons: there was no “insurrection”; the trucker protest was completely peaceful and justified in a time of needless COVID repression, abrogation of Charter freedoms and customary civil liberties, plus an unending series of draconian, job-killing government mandates; the completely incommensurable level of officially-sanctioned violence; the retroactive financial reprisals enacted by the authorities against an innocent donor group of law-abiding citizens; and the vengeful behavior of a failed and despotic prime minister who has desecrated the station of his office and willfully blurred the distinction between political dissent and terrorist activities.

What is now happening in Canada is an old story in contemporary garb. One is put in mind of Aristotle’s survey of imperfect states in Books IV, V, and VI of his Politics, states whose “perversions” elevate them “above law.” The essence of the state, he argued, consists in a “community of purpose and common agreement,” even if only selectively attainable, rather than the mobilization of force. Democracies are prone to disruptions and upheavals “owing to the dishonesty of their demagogues” who are adept at “setting the common people” against those whom they scorn, disfavor, or deplore. The result is tyranny, flowing from the “very extensive powers entrusted to the magistrates,” powers “gained from the confidence of the people” whom they have managed to cajole or deceive. Sounds familiar.

Perhaps one day the country may recover democratic governance. Perhaps one day the Charter of Rights and Freedoms will once again become an honored and effective document, though at present it is nothing but an irrelevant scrap of parchment. But perhaps “perhaps” no longer cuts it. Canada has been transformed into a federal caricature and gives every indication of remaining so for the indefinite future. Its leaders are unaccountable and depraved and the majority of the population, to quote Aristotle, “are not capable of sufficient rational appreciation of political ends.” The demagogues in power have won the day and most of the electorate approves.

Some goodbyes are painful, this one especially so. For the national anthem has become a lugubrious requiem.

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