Whether it’s his socks, his propensity for taking selfies or his willingness to apologize for historical wrongdoing, there are a lot of things about Justin Trudeau that annoy Canadian conservatives. But the one that makes them genuinely angry is his faith in Canada’s “post-national” identity that exchanges things like historical monuments and reverence for long-dead prime ministers with a commitment to diversity and a set of shared values. And now, with an increasingly heated debate over Canada’s immigration policy and a spike in anti-Jewish and anti-Muslim acts serving as cover, those conservative pundits and politicians are going to take their best shot at it.

“Under Trudeau’s post-national vision of Canada,” a recent National Post editorial said, “the common ground shared between Canadians is just that: the land we all live on, enclosed within the same border.” This is a deliberate (and disingenuous) misrepresentation of the prime minister’s approach to our national identity, but they were just getting warmed up. “An immigration policy guided by blind faith in “diversity” and “shared values” — two phrases used extensively by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau — hasn’t helped maintain a peaceful, pluralistic society,” they conclude.

As evidence, they point to the outbreak of anti-Semitic protests and violence since the Oct. 7 attack by Hamas gunmen on Israel that deserves our universal and unqualified condemnation. Alas, the attacks are hardly unique to Canada. In the United States, a country that prides itself on its full-throated patriotism and unapologetic worship of its own historical greatness, there has been a similar spike in anti-Semitic acts. According to the U.S.-based Anti-Defamation League (ADL), there were 2,031 anti-Semitic incidents between Oct. 7 and Dec. 7, 2023 — the highest number in any two-month period since the ADL started tracking such incidents in 1979. France, another country whose culture is defined by its muscular and unapologetic patriotism, has seen a huge spike in anti-Semitism, resulting in 486 arrests.

That context is ignored by the National Post editorial board. Instead, like a lot of conservatives, the National Post seems determined to exact revenge on Trudeau for his willingness to let people like Sir John A. Macdonald and his contemporaries meet with a more honest historical reckoning. “The message sent to our one-million newcomers per year is that Canada is an unimportant, historically unremarkable country driven by a vicious desire to abuse, discriminate against and extinguish Indigenous and other non-European cultures,” they write. “If some aren’t interested in embracing traditional Canadian values, who can blame them? There’s little to be proud of, according to Trudeau’s historical revisionism.”

Other columnists have also bemoaned what they see as a lack of patriotism in Canada today. “Where do you think patriotism has gone in Canadian politics?” the Globe and Mail’s John Ibbitson asked rhetorically during an interview with David Herle on The Herle Burly podcast. “I don’t hear it anymore.”

He should listen a little more closely. It might not sound the same as it used to, but it’s still there — and being expressed in a growing multitude of languages. And for all the talk about the decline of national pride and attempts to correlate it with Trudeau’s post-national vision for the country, the numbers don’t bear it out. A Leger poll from last summer found 81 per cent of people were very or somewhat proud to be Canadian, a figure that rose to 97 per cent among those who identified as Liberal supporters.

According to an Ipsos poll on the same subject, 35 per cent of respondents said they were more likely to speak positively about Canada than they were five years ago, with just 14 per cent saying they were less likely. And a 2023 Angus Reid Institute poll showed Canadians have more national pride than Americans, especially when it comes to areas like feeling safe and living in a caring country.

Canada’s refusal to enforce the sort of rigid national identity more common in places like France and the United States is a major part of its demonstrable appeal to immigrants. It’s also a key driver of Canada’s comparatively successful track record of integrating new Canadians into the broader culture and society. As Pierre Trudeau famously said in a 1971 speech, “What could be more absurd than the concept of an ‘all-Canadian’ boy or girl? A society which emphasizes uniformity is one which creates intolerance and hate. A society which eulogizes the average citizen is one which breeds mediocrity.”

This quote is, I’m sure, particularly irksome for Pierre Poilievre, who has made eulogizing the average citizen one of his political trademarks. So, too, is Trudeau’s willingness to acknowledge — and, yes, even apologize for — the uglier aspects of Canada’s history. But what I suspect is really driving the ongoing conservative hand-wringing about our supposedly waning sense of national pride is the influence the Trudeaus — Pierre and Justin — have had on it.

Conservatives think that the Trudeau vision of a "post-national" country is responsible for everything from social disorder to anti-Semitic violence. Why they're wrong, and how our national identity is inextricably linked with Pierre and Justin.

What Canadians today value most about our country has little to do with the founding fathers, the monarchy or other ancient historical totems. They take pride in more contemporary legacies like the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, multiculturalism, official bilingualism, and Indigenous culture, along with the values that underpin them.

We would do well to remember this, especially as the United States appears poised to embrace some much darker human values. What separates Canada from its peers and what makes it more attractive to people looking to move here and build a new life is its openness to change, progress and inclusivity. Justin Trudeau may well lose the next federal election, but he’s already won the fight for our shared sense of who we are — and why we’re proud to be Canadians.

Keep reading

Beautifully put. The Trudeaus, father and son, are polarizing figures. But the values they espouse -- tolerance, compassion, and yes, a sense of collective responsibility for all segments of society -- are "Canadian" values. Yes, there are angry men (lets face it, they're mostly men) who miss the good old days when they didn't have to apologize for anything and could insult or ignore anyone with impunity because they were in the majority. But young people are growing up with a modern vision of Canada that reflects its diversity. That is the Trudeau legacy and on balance, it's a great one.

Great article Max. You have highlighted the Canadian identity and its distinction from our US neighbours - which seems rather critical at this point in time. Let's remember, all Prime Ministers have had influence on Canada. Some influence just more positive than others.

The forces of reaction may win an election soon, both here and in the US. But over time they are weakening, and not just because the population is becoming more racially diverse. The young are leaving right wing religion; evangelicalism is shrinking. Before Trump came along, even the Republican party had started to think they should move away from anti-gay because it wasn't a vote getter. And, the fossil fuel interests that have taken to fueling propaganda for the fascist right will soon find their wealth and influence shrinking.

While I like the main thrust of the article, the sort of side topic I'm not nearly so happy with. Mr. Fawcett is not saying the quiet part out loud, but the general thrust of the "antisemitism" part seems to be "by the way, it's OK to massacre Palestinians and nobody should be complaining about that".

As if any rational person thinks "massacring" anyone is ever OK, but blithely picking a side along with all the other context-free people are currently doing, in a conflict as STEEPED in context as this one is, making it a unique nexus of history, land and the world-wide religions/creeds that reinforce/sanction it all is simply disingenuous.
Especially when the other side is "HAMAS" (definition--the acronym for Harakat al-Muqawama al-Islamiya, i.e. Islamic Resistance Movement-- the largest and most capable militant group in the Palestinian territories and one of the territories' two major political parties) who operate their defining war on Israel (a legitimate grievance against ever more occupying Israelis who in turn consider Palestinians wholly untrustworthy, as would anyone living in proximity to potential suicide bombers showing up on their streets) from elaborate, extensive tunnels embedded BENEATH where their people in fact LIVE. And fully half of these people are children, a unique feature of Palestine that also reflects their widespread adherence to the creed of ISLAM, defined by ITS war on modernity/women.
But the trigger for this iteration of the ongoing, low-level war was Hamas' truly definitive MASSACRE of hundreds of Israelis and taking a couple hundred (oddly INCLUDING babies and old people) down to their lair as hostages. The word "lair" fits with the Israeli military description of HAMAS as "animals" who have to be treated accordingly, the entirely arguable basis for calling this war overall as one between civilization and barbarism.
Tellingly though, and I'd say the heart of the matter is the specific horrors visited upon women in this "raid" that most fully support that assessment, can in fact be seen as a "bottom" line here. Zionism is hugely problematic (although the Holocaust WAS unprecedentedly horrific) as is fundamentalist Judaism along with that version of ALL religions really, but ISLAM stands apart as wholly indefensible when you hear what they did to women: shooting them WHILE raping them, cutting them in half, cutting off their breasts and playing catch with them, along with the usual trademark beheading of course.
There is monstrous behaviour in any war, which is why the civilized among us avoid it at all costs, considering it to be the ultimate failure of us humans as rational beings, but, there are obviously DEGREES of monstrosity. We always hear that a measure of the relative success/civility of any society is how it treats the "least fortunate" but I'd say the more salient measure is how women are regarded and treated.

And since ISLAM sanctions outright gender apartheid, THAT DOCTRINE is the underminer-in-chief of civilization as we have known it, the enemy that lies beneath.

Are you kidding me?! Gazans are not half children because they're Muslims. They're half children because they're incredibly poor and because their life expectancy is very short and probably because contraceptives can't get in past the Israeli blocking of everything useful entering Gaza. Talk about blaming the victims.

The problem is that the other side is NOT Hamas. What Israel has been killing and victimizing over the past decades is the Palestinian people in general. They kill doctors and journalists, they burn orchards and break solar panels, they demolish schools and mosques and universities, they imprison and torture children, they use literal rather than supposed human shields (as in, they grab random Palestinians and literally push them ahead of soldiers as they go to do demolitions or other violence), they break into homes at midnight and drag away all the males to be imprisoned for months without charge (and usually tortured).

Remember the Great March of Return? Or did you even pay attention? Over 200 Palestinians shot dead, including 46 children and quite a few medics, and thousands upon thousands wounded, just for walking up to the walls of their giant prison cell. If the world was ever going to react to nonviolent Palestinian resistance, was ever going to say enough Israeli brutality was enough, that was our chance. Crickets. The whole "free world" did our best to ignore it. Now we wag our fingers when their resistance turns violent, and people like you pretty much say genocide and ethnic cleansing are OK BECAUSE THE VICTIMS ARE MUSLIMS. Really, that's what you seem to be saying here.

"The civilized among us" you say? You should be ashamed.

As to the Hamas atrocities . . . Hamas did some horrible things, and the horrible things Israel did to Palestinians before that did not justify them, just as the horrible things Hamas did does not justify ethnic cleansing (and while the question of "Genocide" is before the courts, "ethnic cleansing" is what Israel is increasingly officially saying that they are trying to do, without quite those words). That said, much like the WMD in Iraq, and the Iraqi soldiers throwing babies out of incubators, and Gaddafi giving viagra to his troops for planned mass rapes of his own cities, a lot of the claims about Hamas' actions are propaganda. Some clearly are real, but for instance there was a much publicized case of a young woman who was burned alive, an atrocity by Hamas--it turned out she was burned alive when an Israeli tank shot the house she and, I believe, some Hamas captors, were hiding in with tank rounds, lighting it on fire. There have been a lot of unsupported claims. Complicating the picture is that a lot of people who weren't Hamas followed in the wake of the breakout, members of smaller groups and just armed teenagers brought up in a war zone. Some of the people of Gaza turning out to be brutal young thugs has little to do with Islam and everything to do with mass poverty, shattered families, most of them having PTSD from repeated bombings during Israeli "mowing the lawn" operations and so on. But I'm sure killing twelve thousand children not counting the ones buried under rubble starving to death will teach the NEXT generation all to be model citizens . . . if they had anywhere to be citizens of.

Just finished a book about the creation of Canada by 2 men dedicated to reform .
Louis-Hyppolyte LaFontaine and Robert Baldwin, by John Raulston Saul, part of the Extraordinary Canadians series. These men, one French, one Scottish literally risked their lives in the 1840s to make Canada whole, not a country where there was a subclass or superior class. And it was tough sledding for a decade. But they set in motion the creation of Canada. John A MacDonald and other finalized this transformation. Canada is apparently the only country in the world to have incorporated the conquered French fully into its society, and its amazing it happened given what Baldwin and LaFontaine had to endure