Perhaps Orwell should have named his novel 2021 because our times seem more like his novel than any in previous history. For Canadians, the examples abound.
In Orwell’s novel, the government established a Ministry of Truth where truth was whatever the government said it was – no dissent allowed. If they said 2+2=5, that’s what it was. And if they changed their minds later, that was the new truth. Dissenters were identified, silenced, punished and indoctrinated so the authorities’ narrative could continue unchallenged.
The COVID-19 narrative provides the most immediate and stark example of the 1984 approach. Whatever the authorities say is authoritative, and contrary messages are yanked from social media – and sometimes, the messenger himself is yanked.
Colleges of physicians and surgeons across Canada have threatened doctors with the possible removal of their licences if they vocally oppose or question masks, social distancing, lockdowns or COVID vaccines. They turn the Hippocratic Oath into the Hypocritic Oath.
Orwellian doublespeak inspired positive or euphemistic language concealing a true meaning that was worse or even opposite. In our Ministry of Truth, the fact-checkers are more like fact-wreckers.
In Orwell’s 1984, the Thought Police discovered and punished thought crimes using informers and high-tech surveillance. Citizens couldn’t challenge the authority of their Big Brother regime. When the former Canadian heritage minister proposed that social media companies take down flagged content within 24 hours, Brad Vis, Conservative MP for Mission-Matsqui-Fraser Canyon, tweeted, “I never thought I would have to be concerned about a Canadian ‘thought police’ in my lifetime. Even the idea of this Bill makes me worried.”
At worst, this bill wouldn’t preserve Canadian heritage. Instead, it would impose political correctness that reclassifies some truths (or at least permissible opinions) as hate. This bill changes Canadian values and practices instead of preserving them, making its author the Heritage Erosion minister.
Justice Minister David Lametti was appointed because his predecessor, Jody Wilson-Raybould, wouldn’t pressure prosecutors not to prosecute a company that many observers thought clearly deserved it. That would have made prosecutors Orwellian and, in effect, non-prosecutors. Ultimately, SNC-Lavalin avoided criminal convictions by paying fines.
Former Public Safety minister Bill Blair banned thousands of kinds of guns owned by law-abiding gun owners even though no proof existed that owners commit more crimes than others. The ban turned previously law-abiding owners into criminals if they hid their guns while leaving criminals at large with the guns they always had.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is supposed to serve the people of Canada but the Orwellian leader serves his own interests instead. Trudeau claims to serve the middle class but places them in servitude under government debts the nation might never escape. He has violated ethics guidelines repeatedly, only to receive slaps on the wrist so light they seem unjust.
Then again, in Orwellian times, the ethics commissioner might lack the character or latitude to do his job. Like the Ministry of Truth, ethics becomes whatever the government says is ethical.
Nevertheless, if someone in a position of power abandons service, acts unethically and against the interests of his people, he has earned the title of prime sinister. Sing our new anthem lyrics with me: “Government keep our land inglorious and shackled. …”
Lee Harding is a Research Associate with the Frontier Centre for Public Policy.
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