As Canada commemorates its sesquicentennial with a festival of propaganda, the gulf between this country’s reality and its image – prettily packaged at home and exported around the world – has perhaps never been wider. For evidence we needn’t look further than the August cover of Rolling Stone exhibiting a photo of Justin Trudeau alongside the (anachronistically Cold War-tinged) question “Is he the free world’s best hope?”
With his rock star good looks and his patina of progressivism, our young prime minister both embodies and enacts the disjunction between the perception of Canada as the good-natured peaceable kingdom and the Canada that perpetrates its own brand of crimes against humanity, with an unbroken record of violence and oppression of Indigenous peoples and the historically novel crime of aiding and abetting climate change, whose chief weapons are tar sands and pipelines, and whose victims are the poor of the global South, future generations of humans, and innumerable other species.
Canadian Dimension has been reflecting critically on every aspect of the Canadian state and Canadian society for more than a third of the country’s history. In that time, there were moments of great hope for change, and some genuine steps forward. In the last 40 or so years, the policies of globalized neoliberal capitalism have dominated Canada’s economic and political evolution. Protest has been muted and complacency prevails – encouraged, here as everywhere, by the weapons of mass distraction and those who wield them.
The late Mi’kmaq musician and activist Willie Dunn sang: “I pity the country, I pity the state, And the mind of the man, That thrives on hate.” These are fitting words to recall as an antidote to the fiction and fanfare surrounding Canada’s 150 anniversary.