Is Canada a Tyranny? Aristotle on Justin Trudeau

(Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press via AP)

The word “tyranny,” originally τυραννία (tyrannia) in the Greek, seems to have become part of the current lexicon. The term derives from τύραννος (tyrannos), which translates as “lord, master, sovereign” but eventually acquired more sinister connotations in the classical period of Greek history under the cruel and oppressive rule of various demagogues like, among others, Polycrates of Samos and, more famously, the grasping Dionysius of Syracuse.


In the present historical moment in most Western nations, tyrants or wannabe tyrants have begun to proliferate — in France, Holland, Australia, New Zealand, the European Union as a whole, the United States, and my own country, Canada. Especially Canada, where Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, “an effete pseudo-intellectual,” as Matt Taibbi describes him, seems to have become the poster boy for the resurgence of the modern tyrant.

To get a better sense of how tyrants operate to impose and maintain their rule, one would do well to return to the source of the subject in Book 5, Chapter 11 of Aristotle’s perennial study, The Politics, where the philosopher examines the careers and consequences of notable specimens of the breed. Aristotle lays it down that there are essentially three methods of enforcing a tyrannical regime upon a people.

  1. “Citizens should be of poor or abject dispositions, for such men never propose to aspire against anyone.” To keep the people poor, “It is necessary to multiply taxes, as at Syracuse, where Dionysius in the space of five years collected all the private property of his subjects into his own coffers.”
  1. “The second is, that they should have no confidence in each other; for while they have not this, the tyrant is safe enough from destruction. The tyrant must endeavor by every means possible to divide the people from one another… For which reason, they are always at enmity with those of merit.” (Emphasis mine.) “For he who supports his dignity, and is a friend to freedom, encroaches upon the superiority and the despotism of the tyrant: such men, therefore, they naturally hate, as destructive to their government.” And such men must be suppressed. Here Aristotle channels his mentor Plato, who wrote in Book 8 of The Republic that a prime means of enforcing tyrannical rule is “by the customary unjust accusations to bring a citizen into court,” whose foregone conclusion is exile or hemlock.
  1. “The third is, that they shall be totally without the means to do anything, for without power for citizens to act a tyranny can never be destroyed.” Subjects must be deprived of all means for significant action—motive, finance, weaponry.

The tyrant should also deploy spies or “listeners” among the population, “to know what everyone who is under their power does or says.” He should also “appear to pay a great attention to what belongs to the public,” such as major works and projects, ostensibly for the benefit of the people. Reputation is more important than substance.

Aristotle posits certain advantages that accrue to tyranny; in times of war, for example, monocratic discipline and a single commander-in-chief are favorable to victory. No less important, a tyranny allows for quickness in making political decisions rather than having to endure the slow pace of consultation with advisors and committees. (In this regard, we recall Justin Trudeau’s infatuation with Communist China. “There is a level of admiration I actually have for China,” he declared, “because their basic dictatorship is allowing them to actually turn their economy around on a dime.”) Of course, Aristotle recognizes that if the tyrant is devoid of intelligence and a foe to all moral principle, the result may be catastrophic, in the literal sense of the word: kata (down) and tropos (turn). The polis or colony will suffer an inevitable downturn and find itself enslaved by the enemy, or as the case may be, mired in destitution.


In Canada, it has become a commonplace observation, almost a meme, that under Justin Trudeau the country has devolved into a tyranny, with Trudeau being compared on blogs, commentaries, and books to Ceauşescu or Castro or any Chinese dictator. The question is whether such observations, criticisms, or assumptions are merely assorted forms of hyperbole, loose expressions of disapproval, contempt, or fear for the future, or whether there is some truth to them. Reference to the Aristotelian recipe for the rule of tyrants may clarify the issue. The parallels are startling.

  1. To keep the people poor. Trudeau’s escalating carbon levies, along with the rise in income-and-capital gains taxes, combined with runaway inflation and astronomical debt, have served to render the majority population comparatively insolvent and increasingly dispirited. The strategy appears to be working.
  1. Dividing the people from one another. The sense of division and enmity among the citizenry became particularly apparent during the COVID regime when Trudeau, masking as the people’s consul, ignited the flame of distrust, resentment, and hatred of the vaccinated against the unvaccinated. Those who resisted, to use Aristotle’s words, “the superiority and despotism of the tyrant,” that is, men and women “of merit,” were ostracised and subjected to the iron fist of a corrupted judicial hegemon and its “customary unjust accusations.”

This is currently happening to Freedom Convoy organizers Tamara Lich and Chris Barber. As David Krayden remarks, this trial makes Canada look not just like a third-world dictatorship where political opponents…are routinely put on trial,” but is “just another seminal marker on the road to authoritarian government that the Trudeau government has chosen to take over the past eight years.” Political opponents may not be “vaporized,” as in Orwell’s 1984, but they are routinely “cancelled, blacklisted, and subsumed by the state.” The government’s heavy hand is naturally supported by the plethora of fetid leftwing media sites, lying fact-checkers, and suborned news agencies — Aristotle’s “flatterers” — and by the intellectually lazy, uninquisitive and impressionable masses easily swayed by the tyrant’s rhetoric.


Related: Is Justin Trudeau the Worst Prime Minister in History?

  1. There is no Second Amendment in Canada. Gun ownership is compassed round by a bristling fence of laws and regulations, making self-defence a near impossibility of those deprived “of the means to do anything.” Moreover, bank accounts are frozen, information is tightly censored, and plans for digital surveillance are afoot. Such measures aim to perpetuate power by silencing dissent and destroying opposition. Meanwhile, the Ruler asserts his concern for the welfare of the people even as he drives them into penury, insecurity, unemployment, and hopelessness.

It thus follows that, according to the classic taxonomy, the attributes and techniques that the philosopher assigns to the tyrant, Justin Trudeau may be regarded as a contemporary Dionysius of Syracuse, and Canada may fairly be described as a modern tyranny. Aristotle would have had no trouble finding a place for Justin in his pantheon of ruthless, power-hungry, and disreputable autocrats — and neither should we.



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