Pierre Trudeau, even as one of the most divisive prime ministers in Canadian history, was a champion of a singular, unifying notion: one Canada. He boldly fought to bring the “two solitudes” of English and French Canada together. His nationalist leanings were unsurpassed. He also believed in the rule of law, equal rights for all Canadians, and a limited role for government in the social fabric of our society.
While certain policies, such as the National Energy Program and the rather inarticulate Constitution and Charter of Rights, remain controversial, his commitment to one Canada should not be among them. No modern prime minister did more to foster a sense of national unity and pride.
So it’s deeply disappointing that Justin Trudeau is moving in the opposite direction.
Within the liberal movements in Canada and the U.S., the trend is to abandon the one-country perspective and use identity politics (tribalism) to divide the electorate into ever smaller segments. The goal is to define them and then tell them that all conservatives oppose minorities. The ultimate message is that only liberals will protect minorities from the wrath and prejudice of the majority.
John F. Kennedy said, “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.” Similarly, Pierre Trudeau said, “The country will only remain united – it should only remain united – if its citizens want to live together in one civil society.”
The idea of one country with a multinational basis was embraced by Pierre Trudeau. No one in the 20th century did more to bring Canada together. If not for his belief in one country, it’s almost certain Canada would have broken up with the rise of Rene Levesque and the Parti Quebecois’ separatist mandate.
A generation later, Justin Trudeau is carving up that image of Canada by catering to any and all groups that claim special status.
In a nation led by his father, we all were happy to be Canadians. But Justin Trudeau wants us all to be hyphenated Canadians, LGBTQ-Canadians, First Nation-Canadians, Indo-Canadians, first generation-Canadians, Muslim-Canadians, etc. etc.
The only time Justin Trudeau spoke in tones similar to those of his father, he was sadly supporting Zakaria Amara, a Jordanian-Canadian serving a life sentence for a plot to kill scores of Canadians. A bill to remove his citizenship was passed by the previous government. It allowed Amara to be deported to his home country of Jordan. But Justin Trudeau revoked the legislation once in power, ensuring that this convicted terrorist (and others) will remain in Canada. He insisted that even terrorists were Canadians.
Sadly, Justin Trudeau didn’t learn the lesson of one Canada that his father worked so hard to teach. Imagine what Pierre Trudeau would have thought of Canada’s 21st century hyphenation fixation.
Randy Boldt of the think-tank Frontier Centre for Public Policy is an experienced immigration practitioner and licensed immigration consultant.