Through the curiosities of circumstance, Nigel Clarke finds himself marooned in Ottawa, the capital of the socialist haven of Canada. Thanks to The Progressive Army and co-conspirators who must remain nameless, Nigel is able to smuggle his thoughts on life behind the curtain to the outside world each week.
To read last week’s correspondence click here
I do not usually walk, if I can avoid it, on the busiest streets of whatever city I happen to be in. The noise, the lights, the throngs of humanity — these things do not excite me as they might have when I was a younger man.
I did, however, find myself one recent evening ambling along a street known as one of Ottawa’s hot spots; a procession of bars and restaurants frequented by both university students and members of the political class.
Through the sounds of inebriation and loud-voiced elitism, an unusual noise reached my ears. I stopped and looked around for its source. Eventually, my eyes came upon a Native man sitting on the steps of a small stone church which seemed out of place along this street of debauchery.
He was singing, a cappella, a traditional Native song.
Though he appeared the worse for wear, perhaps homeless and certainly down on his luck, his voice was strong and pure. As the song began to crescendo, the pain was evident on his face and in his vocals. I stood for quite a while watching him, his anguish washing over me.
I was the only one. The rest of those passing did not give the man so much as a glance.
Well before I found myself in Ottawa, I was aware that Canadian Revered Leader Justin Trudeau had campaigned in 2015 on a slogan of “Hope and Real Change.” I thought it to be a somewhat comical repackaging of Obama’s “Hope and Change” from 2008.
I was also aware that in his victory speech, Trudeau opened with the words “Sunny ways my friends” — unattributed, yet ‘borrowed,’ from a Prime Minister who reigned over 100 years ago.
But I don’t think it was until this week that I fully understood what Trudeau was up to.
Currently, one of the districts in Ottawa is having a by-election. I happened upon a campaign advertisement for the candidate from Trudeau’s Liberal Party. In it, the Revered Leader himself stands with his arm around the candidate, his free hand pointing a finger towards her as she smiles. The caption below reads: I’m With Her.
(For my non-American friends, this was, word-for-word, the campaign slogan of Hillary Clinton, not six months ago.)
Justin Trudeau may often be criticized for a perceived lack of intellectual depth, but the man clearly excels in one crucial area of political intelligence – the creation of a popularized character.
By using the words and slogans of politicians from the past, an image has been created of Trudeau as a great orator. One wonders when he might be giving his soon-to-be-famous “I Have a Dream” speech.
On a deeper level, Trudeau the character is often presented as the champion of issues which Trudeau the man has no intention of championing.
Particularly relevant here, within the Trudeau character, is an image, perhaps ‘borrowing’ from Bill Clinton and his ‘First Black President’ infamy, which borders on presenting Trudeau as Canada’s first Native Prime Minister.
It seems that nearly every second day there are pictures in the newspaper of Trudeau wearing a tribal headdress, or wrapped in a beaded blanket, or paddling a traditional canoe wearing a buckskin coat. As far as photo ops are concerned, Trudeau’s only rival may be Putin.
Unfortunately, I think many of my American friends will remember how Clinton the man differed from Clinton the character regarding the African-American community.
I cannot help but allow my thoughts to take the Trudeau narrative and apply it to a larger trend.
I remember driving through Arizona, past glittering, well-trafficked casinos. I ventured to ask the locals about the Native community in their state. The response was the same each time; from the restaurant server, the gas station attendant, the bank teller, all of them white – “Our Natives are doing really well because we let them have casinos.”
Later, while driving down a desert road, I noticed small shanty towns built into the sides of distant hills, alone in the middle of nowhere. I was told they were part of different Native reservations. Much later, I learned about the harm done to many Native communities by gaming for very little tangible benefit.
I have a friend who lives in Victoria, Canada — an island off the coast of Vancouver. She often insists that the relationship with the Native community on the west coast is different because “we didn’t make them sign treaties.”
The last time I saw her, she told me about her city’s plans for a new sewage treatment plant. The issue, she said, was that the government sought to build the plant in the growing community where she and her husband own a home worth near a million dollars.
Feeling cynical, I mentioned sarcastically, perhaps derisively, that the government should just find some Native land to put the plant on. Her eyes lit up. That was exactly the solution the government had decided on.
The examples, unfortunately, could continue.
But the point is: when Trudeau cultivates the image of Canada’s first Native PM, he follows the trend – “Our Natives are doing great because we …” let them have casinos, didn’t make them sign treaties, elected a white leader who represents their interests.
I suppose perhaps the outward rationalization may be a self-deception which helps inner guilt.
I went not too long ago to the Canadian Museum of Human Rights. There were exhibits on the Holocaust, the Holodomor, and many other topics, including, surprisingly, a section on the European genocide of the Native North American population.
The most striking exhibit to me was a large map of Canada in which small pins were inserted in each place the Europeans established a residential – “Indian” – school. The pins were thick in the east, across the prairies, and even on the west coast. What was most gut-wrenching however was that at the very top of the map was a smattering of pins. The land up there is today called Nunavut. There is an anecdote in Canada which states that the name reflects how much of the land is livable – None of it. It was hard not to feel ill realizing that even those Native peoples living literally a thousand miles from any city, in a place in which hundreds of years later people still do not live, were nevertheless tracked down for cultural extermination.
If the guilt is not from the assumption of responsibility for historical events, perhaps it is from not understanding or admitting the true depth of the genocide.
I suppose I have not talked all that much about socialism this week. Unless you consider the critique of socialism which says that it empowers “Big Government” to infringe on the rights of those it deems unpeople.
Unfortunately, this is no hypothetical. It has been and is happening, in Canada and the United States alike.
In case you were wondering, Trudeau, the man not the character, has already begun to walk a well-worn path. He has recently approved multiple pipeline projects despite the protestations of the Native communities the pipes will pass through. He has imposed through the courts a hydroelectric dam project on unwilling Native land. In northern British Columbia, he has officially been banned by the community of one Native territory for approving a natural gas project which threatens their existence.
If opponents of socialism are proposing that we fight against entities, governmental or otherwise, who seek to create and exploit ‘unpeople,’ then I am ready and able to stand beside them.
Shall we start at Standing Rock, North Dakota? Or in British Columbia, Canada?
Read More: Correspondence from Socialist Canada