03 July 2016

An extended insult to Canadian independence

Poor George Grant would be rolling in his grave, I’m sure. Though perhaps he’d take some cold comfort that his more pessimistic predictions in Lament for a Nation have been shown to be true.

Our president, unfortunately channelling the spirit of John Kennedy to Trudeau’s Lester Pearson, delivered a speech to the Canadian Parliament that appeared deliberately keyed to insult, denigrate and downplay Canada’s aspirations to its own national identity: a speech in which neoliberalism, NATO, NORAD and NAFTA are the symbols of import to an eternally unipolar understanding of American-Canadian relations (after some frivolous references to the Stanley Cup). A speech in which Russia (overtly) and China (in a more coded way) are summoned as the eternal bogeymen, in the now tiredly-familiar Cold War politics that Obama seems wholly reluctant to abandon. A speech in which Canada’s only useful contributions stem from its subservient status in upholding an American hegemonic order, which Obama wontedly describes as ‘international’ and ‘rules-based’, buttressed by ‘universal values’. A speech in which the deepest insult to Canada’s true heritage and cultural touchstones is delivered with insolent insistence with repeated references to the British withdrawal from the European Union. Canada is not only called upon as America’s partner-in-crime in creating the neoliberal order – it is called upon as having an identical cultural and normative orientation to the United States, in contradistinction to the British realm to which her government still swears allegiance.

Obama spent his time just ahead of Canada Day proclaiming an entirely one-sided alliance and friendship between America and Canada, in the process reviling all possible Canadian aspirations to its own place in the world, or to the values of ‘peace, order and good government’ which have traditionally distanced it from American identitarian individualism at home, the extremes of imperial violence abroad, and the economic depredations which inevitably followed both. Our president, naturally, is observant enough to recognise that the working class on both sides of the Atlantic faces some very grave problems in terms of making ends meet, but far too narcissistic to believe that his own preferred neoliberal, race-to-the-bottom trade policies might have anything to do with them. And he was met with applause in the Canadian Parliament for doing so. A sad day indeed for those of us who still hoped that the true north could remain strong and free, particularly after Brexit.

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