I used to call Canada ‘the land that time forgot.’ While the rest of the world lurched from crisis to crisis, Canada remained peaceful, humane, prosperous, progressive and famously polite, a sort of North American Scandinavia.
Polls showed that Canada, for all its blandness and low profile, was one of the world’s most respected nations. The ethos of Canada was to make nice to everyone, aid less fortunate nations, shine at the UN and make peace-keeping a national cause.
That was, of course, until the old political order broke down after a series of scandals in Quebec. The Conservatives, an insurgent party made up of farmers and other reactionaries from the western provinces (aka ‘Canadian Republicans), gained power as first a minority government, then majority.
For ten years, the rightwing Conservatives political leader from Alberta, Stephen Harper, held power in Ottawa. He rapidly turned once easy-going Canada into something resembling a dictatorship-light in which Parliament was reduced to a rubber stamp, the courts were often cowed, and parts of the media brought under Harper’s control. Nastiness replaced politeness.
The Harper government was effective at economic management, notably deficit control, but over reliant on income from oil. But foreign and social policies changed dramatically. Harper was reported to be a member of an obscure Christian fundamentalist church that appeared to be close to America’s Bible Belt religious fundamentalists. Unfortunately, Canada’s media never dared broach this subject.
If it had, Canadian voters might never have keep supporting the Conservative Party’s holy rollers who believe the earth will soon be destroyed, the Messiah will return, and non-born again believers will be roasted alive. Key to this destruction, known as End of Days, is re-creation of Biblical Israel.
Harper suddenly emerged as the most ardent champion of Israel’s far right Likud government. Israel’s Bibi Netanyahu and Harper became best friends. Under Harper, Canada, once a leader of human rights, told Palestinians they did not deserve a state and were ‘terrorists.’
For me, one of the most admirable features of Canada was its lack of the breast-beating patriotism and militarism that so defines the United States – to the dismay of even its closet friends abroad. Harper and his men sought to whip up nationalism and militarism in the public, focusing on “Islamic terrorism” and fear of Mideasterners.
A cabal of pro-Israel neoconservative academics in Alberta led the flag-waving charge in hope that Canada would one day join Israel in its military efforts. Harper had advocated sending Canadian troops to the 2003 Iraq War. He sent a large troops contingent to Afghanistan, where 158 Canadian soldiers died for nothing and C$18 billion were wasted so, as one senior official boasted, “Canada can stand tall at NATO meetings.”
Most lately, Harper sent a small number of F-18 fighter-bombers to join the make-believe war against ISIS in Iraq and Syria. Canada has little military power: it was simply Harper playing toy soldiers.
One of the first acts of the incoming prime minister, Justin Trudeau, was to order that Canadian fighters home, a move that met national approval and probably signaled the end to Canadian playing spear carrier to America’s atomic knights.
Canada’s mid-October election produced a near landslide for the opposition Liberal Party. Former Prime Minister Brian Mulroney told me months ago that Harper would be thrown out, but I didn’t fully believe him. Mulroney was right on target. Harper and his sabre-rattling against Russia, Iran, the Arabs, Muslims, and assorted manufactured “terrorists” were repudiated. Canadians were too smart to fall for Harper’s claims that their nation was about to be engulfed by “Islamic terrorism.”
“Free, free at last!” as Martin Luther King said. A pall of fear has been lifted. The media can return to its key role of questioning government even though the biggest-circulation newspapers, the National-Post/Sun chain is a house organ for the Conservatives. The Sun carried this writer’s column in Canada for 27 years until ordered to shut it down by the prime minister’s office after I wrote that Canada’s little war in Afghanistan was a total failure and waste of lives.
Instead of posturing over the Mideast and Ukraine (large number of Ukrainian-origin farmers and Jewish voters in Montreal and Toronto were a major base for Harper), Canada will hopefully return to its former policies of peacekeeping and working through the UN. Netanyahu will no longer be able to give Ottawa its marching orders.
Harper’s fear-mongering even extended to charitable groups trying to spare animals suffering and abuse. Most were restricted by threats of income tax audits and loss of charity licenses. Why? Because Harper kept courting the farm vote which hates animal-rights groups.
Harper has resigned and his party is for the moment leaderless. Justin Trudeau and his Liberals appear set on returning the happier days of his late father, Pierre.
As Trudeau the Younger just said, Canada is heading for “sunnier days.”
Welcome home Canada.
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