The truckers’ siege of Ottawa is spawning speculation that Canada is becoming polarized like the United States; that there’s a class war in the Great White North.
American hard-righters love having Canada, with its do-gooder reputation, as a culture war companion. Fuel for their age of rage.
They target Canada’s ruling class as they do their own. “Stop talking about Russia,” talk-show host Candace Owens advised her fellow Americans while touting the truckers. “Send American troops to Canada to deal with the tyrannical reign of Justin Trudeau Castro.” The way they go on, you’d think all of Canada, not just a sliver, had risen in revolt.
Given the nature and length of the Ottawa occupation it was unsurprising Fox and the like-minded would pick up on it. And there’s some truth in the notion of there being a rise in divisive forces in Canada and an escalation of discontent.
But before getting too carried away, they ought to consider some points of demarcation, the throng of contrasts.
Let’s start with 10.
1. The incendiary hard right in the U.S. is a mammoth muscle-flexing presence, a dominant force in the Donald Trump wing of the Republican Party. While Canada hosts a large number of Trump supporters, the number of zealots and extremists are but a smattering by comparison.
2. Divisive attack-dog media led by Fox News commands a huge following in the U.S. The disinformation, with notable contributions from the left, is corrosive. Such confrontational media are far less visible in Canada. A Fox facsimile, Sun TV, never got off the ground.
3. The political centre is hollowed out in America. Party allegiances on the flanks have become ironclad. On major issues, the differences are night-and-day. Not even on the question of Russian aggression in Ukraine can the parties join hands. In Canada, as was apparent in the last election, party deviations are not so gaping and consensus is more readily attainable.
4. Racial tensions roil and bitterly divide the Great Republic. White nationalism is an acidic force. Canada, more multiculturally inclined, has pockets of such division, but in the main its comfort level with diversity stands in bold contrast.
5. Ideological polarization even threatens to undermine the American electoral system. Election counts are disbelieved. Voting rights are challenged. While the Canadian system is significantly flawed – popular vote winners are sometimes election losers – it is stable by comparison.
6. Immigration is a powder-keg issue in the U.S., especially on the southern border. Canada, by contrast, now takes in more than 300,000 immigrants a year without controversy.
7. Social issues such as abortion and LGBTQ rights, as well as what is taught in schools, are much greater sources of conflict in America.
8. Containing the coronavirus has led to heated divisions between red and blue states. In Canada, there’s a reasonable degree of co-operation among the parties in combatting it.
9. Gun rights eternally divide the American population. While they’ve stirred some emotional debates north of the border, they’re nowhere near the source of division and violence as in America.
10. Yet another source of polarization is the makeup of the U.S. Supreme Court. Appointments to it descend into nation-rivening spectacles. In Canada, politicization of the top court is not even an issue.
It’s a long list, but we shouldn’t get carried away from the other side. The tides of anger in Canada, particularly on the Prairies, are hardly a middling matter. Looking good by comparison with contemporary America is hardly a great feat.
Anti-elite passions in Canada have been stirred by the truckers‘ convoy. Forces of division are now better financed and more substantively supported at home and, notably, from the U.S. As the virus fades, so too will vaccine mandates. Freedoms on that count will be restored, but the animosity toward Justin Trudeau, despite his government having fared better than the U.S. and Britain in handling the pandemic, won’t go away.
The Prime Minister is increasingly polarizing. He can’t seem to say anything without touching off a furor. His wealth, his looks, his style and his leftism grate. His invocation of the Emergencies Act has Conservatives, once the law-and-order party, climbing the walls.
There may be a silent majority behind Mr. Trudeau, but it’s the right-side warriors who have used the megaphones. They are getting riled here almost to the extent they are in the U.S. Their vitriol distorts the Canadian condition, likening it to American cleavages and disunion, which is nonsensical.
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