The Idler: Take Heed

If you cannot be a shining example to your children, then be a terrible warning to them,” was the advice the great Anne Muggeridge gave me on parenting. It is advice that can be extended to other fields, including the didactic role of nations.

Canada is the country of my birth and parentage, where I still live. She is among several countries that instinctively present themselves as shining examples to the world. Canadians are not as unbearable as the Swedes (no one could be), but neither are we as modest as the Czechs, nor as stylish as the French. No, the Canadian’s sense of his own unimpeachable superiority is in the mincing, priggish, sanctimonious tradition of British High Methodism— yet with a curious Catholic twist.

I don’t think Canada has a parental relationship with the United States (you’d be orphans if we did), but it is a common enough thought among my countrymen. Asked to “define themselves” in opinion polls, Canadians reach spontaneously for the options they think will be most edifying to our southern neighbors. Which is why “multiculturalism,” “tolerance,” and “socialized medicine” are so frequently cited as our national virtues. We roll our eyeballs till the Americans “catch up.”

The reality, until about a generation ago, was that English Canadians differed from Americans about as much as New Englanders differed from Pennsylvanians. Which is to say, on the global scale, not by much. The significant contrast was constitutional: Crown-in-Parliament, as opposed to checks and balances. Add French Canada to the picture, and Canada becomes proportionally much more Catholic. It remains so, outwardly strengthened by heavy Catholic immigration to English-speaking urban areas.

Yet it is a strange Catholicism. This is one of the big facts now making the two countries so radically different. A major poll a few years back of national attitudes on social questions showed that while strong majorities of our self-described Protestants frowned upon abortion, “gay rights,” and other such moral disorders, an equally strong majority of self-described Catholics were well-disposed to all such things. In other words, Canada’s large Catholic community has become overwhelmingly apostate. And no, there is no nicer way to put it.

This is necessary background for foreigners trying to understand what has happened in Canada—the long train of events leading most recently to the national legislation of “same- sex marriage,” successfully rammed through Parliament by a minority Liberal government this summer. Aside from the measure, what astounded me, as a person both Canadian and Catholic in the traditional senses, was the way it was done, under instruction from the courts, and in defiance of polled public opinion.

It was carried out by a government that had lost the confidence of the House of Commons on four successive votes, one in which massive corruption had just been exposed (by the “Gomery Inquiry”). Instead of calling the general election that Canadian constitutional practice demanded, the Liberals recovered control of the Commons by publicly buying off a prominent opposition member (Belinda Stronach).

This is a government under Paul Martin, who persists in posing as a “devout Catholic.” Moreover, obviously apostate Catholics have been in the key positions of political power throughout our social revolution— since the late 1960s when Pierre Trudeau pioneered no-fault divorce and unrestricted abortion.

Canada has become, without much popular objection, a country in which the government changes the people, instead of vice versa. In the course, we have become a terrible warning, of which Americans should take heed.


  • David Warren

    David Warren is a Canadian journalist who writes mostly on international affairs. His Web site is

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