There are plenty of comments in social media right now from people who claim that they want to leave the United States and move to Canada. In fact, as the election results rolled in on Tuesday night and it became clearer and clearer that Donald Trump would become the president of the United States, Americans reportedly crashed immigration Canada’s website (i.e.,. The Independent). However, I am critical of those that want to move to Canada as a sort of asylum seeker, mainly because Canadians themselves are capable of electing a Donald Trump-like figure.
I’d like to start with a literary analogy, one that might seem opaque at first. I’m sure many of you have heard of CS Lewis’ novel “The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.” There is a message in that novel, at least according to my interpretation of it, that is pertinent to the matter at hand.
In the novel, which is set in World War II England, four children move to the British countryside to escape German bombing of English cities. They find a portal to another dimension of sorts, the land of Narnia, and appear to be safe from the terrors of World War II. Unfortunately, the catch is that Narnia itself is heading to war and the children end up dead smack in the middle of it. The message I take from that is that you can run, but you can’t escape the times you live in. Those Americans that figure there’s a better life in Canada aren’t necessarily right.
At present Canada is in a period of political centrism with a little bit of a spike in progressive support. Alberta, historically Canada’s most right-winged province went NDP in the last election (the mainstream left-wing party). Things didn’t follow suit perfectly in the Federal election, but Justin Trudeau’s Liberals took over, ousting long-serving Stephen Harper. That we currently have a political climate that’s different than the one that emerged in America on Tuesday night is a fair point. However, there’s enough wrong with Canada that if you moved here you might find your own Narnia someday.
Currently, on Twitter, there is a #proudtobecanadian hashtag circulating. While in and of itself there’s nothing wrong with the hashtag as most people, if you asked them, would attest to some degree of identity-oriented pride. However, the hashtag’s emergence is in the context of Donald Trump’s rise to presidency and it is not just about being proud to be Canadian, it’s an intended reference to the political developments in the United States. The day after the 2016 Election, “proud to be Canadian” means “thankful not to be American.”
Yet how far removed is Canada from being like the United States? Certainly, we don’t have a perfect analogy to the president-elect, but we can talk about Canadians and their scapegoating the same way that Trump supporters use scapegoats. For starters, there are definitely a lot of Canadians that do not like immigrants in Canada and that’s something that helped culminate into a right-wing movement and the Stephen Harper government, one that only ended about a year ago.
I don’t paint a whole nation with one brush. However, there are also a lot of Canadians that have anti-aboriginal sentiments in Canada. It seems that being a recent immigrant works against you and that having ancestors that came here thousands of years ago works against you too. The key, apparently, is to be in the in-between group in Canada.
The anti-immigrant sentiments that Donald Trump partly built a movement on aren’t dead in Canada and anti-aboriginal sentiment exists as well. What unifies the two is the theme of scapegoating. We might be in a period where there is higher tolerance, and Justin Trudeau claimed that he wants a society where everyone feels they belong. But I find politics to be cyclical. Someone Trump-like could come along in Canada in the future and seek a political followance by claiming that Canadians face undue hardship for all of the following reasons:
(1) because of payments to Indian bands for treaty rights;
(2) because of Indians and their land claims;
(3) because of Indians on welfare;
(4) because of residential school liability;
(5) because of lawsuits from Indian bands;
(6) because of Indian chiefs or band councilors stealing money;
(7) because of Indians not letting corporations develop on their reserves or disputed land claim areas;
(8) because of having to pay for incarcerating aboriginal criminals and
(9) because of the costs of running the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development.
Test these attitudes out on the next Canadian you meet. Start claiming buddy-to-buddy that Canadians suffer because of everything listed above and you’ll find some sympathetic ears.
I bet that an individual, with above-average charisma, would be able to find a large enough followance to become politically relevant while representing the ideas above. If he/she ran for power at a time when the current government was seen as failing then Canada could be no better off than America is now. That’s something I don’t think Americans are aware of – they’re just looking for something different and better and putting Canada on a dreamy pedestal.
But, in conclusion, Canadians are as human as Americans, and there’s plenty of people in Canada that have views that overlap with Trump. If Trump-mania spread north of the border, it would ground itself in the Canadian prairies and in Ontario. I bet that Ford Nation people tend to like Trump (the people that supported disgraced Toronto Mayor Rob Ford even after the crack) and I bet that the climate-change deniers that work in the oil industry on the prairies like Trump too. I’m certainly not predicting a spread of Trump-mania to Canada, but don’t let the self-righteous #proudtobecanadian Canucks convince you that we’re the land of the enlightened up here, because I’ve heard way too much scapegoating in my life to believe that for one second.