Canadians and the War on Terror: No, Mr. Goldberg. We are not "Wimps!"

By: Rachel Marsden


The most recent issue of National Review featured members of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police on horseback, decked out in ceremonial red surge, with the word "Wimps!" emblazoned in blue across the cover. Inside the issue, Jonah Goldberg discusses, at great length, Canada’s "whiny and weak anti-Americanism." He then goes on to label the country "Jean Chrétien’s Canada", and to suggest that Canadians are hell-bent on opposing, as a mere matter of reflex, every action that America happens to take and every position that it adopts. Goldberg barely stops short of calling Canada the lapdog of the United Nations.

First of all, Prime Minister Jean Chrétien is hardly representative of your average Joe Canuck. Thanks to the Canadian electoral system, Chrétien took office in the last federal election with far less than 50% of the popular vote. Moreover, his support in the westernmost provinces of British Columbia, Alberta and Saskatchewan was virtually non-existent. But it’s no secret that the only votes needed to secure a federal victory are those in the most highly populated provinces of Ontario and Québec. Chrétien couldn’t give a damn about the West; he’s spent more time playing golf outside of the country than he ever has visiting Western Canada.

King Jean’s voice does not echo that of the Canadian West, where voters habitually vote overwhelmingly for the Canadian Alliance—a western-born conservative party that currently forms the Official Opposition. According to a recent speech by Canadian Alliance leader, Stephen Harper, the party "is dedicated to a strong national defence and national security, including protection for Canadian citizens and loyalty to Canadian allies" like the USA.

The difference between the reigning Liberals and the Canadian Alliance is illustrated rather succinctly in the following exchange in the House of Commons between Alliance Member of Parliament James Moore and Liberal MP Bonnie Brown:

MOORE: I understand her point very well about not making lists of good and evil nations, but there are some questions and there are some people that can clearly be categorized as being evil. I am going to ask the honorable member straight up, does she believe, yes or no, that Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein are evil?

BROWN: Certainly Osama bin Laden offended us terribly.

Thus the reality-challenged Liberal Party logic appears to go as follows: Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda have "offended us", but still it wouldn’t be right to offend them in return by categorizing them as "evil"! The Canadian Alliance, on the other hand, has no problem whatsoever with calling a spade a spade.

But the Liberals weren’t always so soft on terrorism. As recently as 1970, then-Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau—arguably the most popular leader in Canada’s history, as well as one of its most left-leaning—declared martial law and suspended the civil liberties of Canadians after a series of terrorist acts. Trudeau invoked the "War Measures Act" when the Front de Libération du Québecois—a terrorist organization that favored the rapid departure of Québec from the rest of Canada, and had planted 85 bombs and taken six lives—kidnapped James Cross (the British Trade Commissioner to Canada) and killed Québec Minister of Labour Pierre Laporte. And Trudeau invoked the act initially without even consulting Parliament. In a few cities, officials used the WMA to clean up the streets, picking up "undesirables" and throwing them into jail. Anyone belonging to the FLQ, or to any cultural or political association suspected of being linked to the FLQ, could be rounded up in the dead of night without a search warrant and incarcerated without the right of habeas corpus. More than 450 people were jailed in Québec for suspected connections to the FLQ, but most were later released without any charges being laid.

In a now-infamous exchange, Trudeau—the notorious lefty who spent his youth traipsing around communist countries, remained lifelong friends with Cuba’s Fidel Castro, and was targeted and spied on by former US President Richard Nixon and the FBI for being a suspected communist—was questioned by the media on the issue of having armed soldiers and tanks in the streets of the nation’s capital. He replied, "There's a lot of bleeding hearts around who just don't like to see people with helmets and guns. All I can say is go on and bleed." When asked how far he would go, Trudeau said, "Just watch me!"

In the end, the cold shoulder shown to the FLQ Trudeau in his adamancy not to negotiate with, or appease, terrorists under any circumstances, completely destroyed the FLQ. By the time the crisis had ended, Québecers and Canadians had for the first time seen a federal government willing to take extreme measures to fight terrorism. And who was the junior minister in Trudeau’s cabinet at the time who urged his colleagues to order sweeping police raids and arrests throughout Québec without warning, and worry about the explanations later? It was none other than Jean Chrétien!

So no, Mr. Goldberg. Canadians are not "wimps" and the Jean Chrétien of today is not representative of all Canadians. And he certainly doesn’t represent our collective take on the United Nations and the war on terrorism. Not by a long shot. Canada, after all, is far more than just Chrétien’s power base in Ontario and Québec. So what exactly has happened to Chrétien over the past 30 years to make him change so seemingly drastically? Perhaps University of Moncton professor Donald Savoie has the answer when he states that "as it has evolved over the past 30 years, the Canadian political system gives Prime Minister Jean Chrétien and his successors more untrammelled authority than any US President could imagine."

Just another case of absolute power corrupting absolutely. Perhaps when Chrétien steps down from his post, as he’s scheduled to finally do within the next year, Canada’s true political colors will finally have a chance to stand out.