WATCHING THE SUN QUIETLY SET ON CANADA

WHERE DO WE GO FROM HERE?

DONALD CREIGHTON November 1 1971

WATCHING THE SUN QUIETLY SET ON CANADA

WHERE DO WE GO FROM HERE?

DONALD CREIGHTON November 1 1971

WATCHING THE SUN QUIETLY SET ON CANADA

DONALD CREIGHTON

WHERE DO WE GO FROM HERE?

It is always difficult to set a date for the beginning of a political movement.

Yet it seems to me that the conscious movement for the defense of Canadian nationalism had its origin in the famous debate over the trans-Canada pipeline in the parliamentary session of 1956. The first important fact to note about the movement is that it began so late. Seventeen years had elapsed since the opening of the Second World War; and these 17 years had utterly changed Canada’s position in the world, seriously weakened her traditional defenses, and left her isolated and vulnerable. But Canadians remained curiously unaware of the vast changes that had occurred in their circumstances. Our leaders made no attempts to devise national policies for a nation that was becoming increasingly solitary and unprotected. And then the trans-Canada oil pipeline — a project not vastly more significant than others that had passed unnoticed before — suddenly awakened us for the first time to an acute sense of the danger of our position.

Of course, there was nothing new at all in our freshly perceived state of perilous insecurity. It had come slowly

but inexorably into existence over a great many years, and the Second World War had simply hastened the completion of its development. The war accelerated the decline and gradual dissolution of the British EmpireCommonwealth, and it brought the United States to a position of dominating authority and influence in the world of Western Europe and the Americas. It was the combination of these two enormous world changes that completely altered the Canadian situation. Until after the First World War, Canadians had assumed that membership in the British EmpireCommonwealth would help to ensure their survival as a separate nation in North America and at the same time extend their influence throughout the world. For the first half-century after Confederation Great Britain had remained Canada’s chief market and the principal source of her immigrants and capital. Above all, the imperial connection — what I have called the Anglo-Canadian alliance — provided the only counterweight which could correct the huge imbalance of power on the North American continent.

After the First World War, this

The third in a series of articles by well-known Canadians that will explore our future in the Seventies—a period that could try this country’s will to survive as has no other decade in our history.

WE HAVE NEVER EVEN FORMULATED A STRATEGY FOR OUR OWN SURVIVAL

close association — political, economic and social — between Canada and Great Britain began to lose its vitality, and the Second World War and its consequences hastened the decline. It became increasingly obvious that neither the United Kingdom nor Canada regarded the Commonwealth as the mainstay of its protection or prosperity. Under Churchill and his successors England sought security in a special relationship with the United States and began seriously to consider the economic advantages of membership in the European Common Market. Canada was left alone in North America, in the immediate presence of the greatest military and industrial power on earth, a power which had successfully grasped the leadership of the western world and whose authority in North America would henceforth be completely unchecked and uncontrollable.

This was the fate which 19th-century Canadian thinkers had always feared. For them, independence and separation from Great Britain simply meant isolation and weakness. How cfruld four million Canadians, confronted by 40 million Americans, achieve any real independence? George M. Grant, the principal of Queen’s University, asked in 1872. Seventy-five years later, in the 1940s and 1950s, the same hopeless disparity of numbers existed; but nobody had yet grasped the fact that this huge American preponderance might seriously threaten Canada’s identity and its control of its own destiny. A continental economy, dominated by the United States, was rapidly coming into existence, and a continental defense system had already supplanted the military and political alliance of the Commonwealth. The moral and cultural personality of Canada — the sum total of its values, standards, traditions and beliefs — was assailed on all sides by the pervasive influence of the mass media — newspapers, periodicals, books, radio, television and movies — of the American Republic.

In 1956, for the first time, Canadians seemed to awake from their supine inertia. For a moment they gained some dim, confused idea of what had been happening to them. The angry pipeline debate proved that the Canadian people could at last be roused to protest the take-over of their natural resources by

continued on page 83

CREIGHTON from page 30

American capital; but it also proved how difficult it was going to be to prevent or limit this growing and dangerous economic invasion. Despite the desperate resistance of the Opposition, the pipeline bill passed, only a few hours after the deadline C. D. Howe had set; and its passage was an ominous indication of the strength of the forces of American continentalism and of the relative ease with which it would overcome the obstacles that Canadians might try to put in its path.

From that moment, Canada did make occasional attempts to resist the gradual, persistent erosion of its independence; but no comprehensive and systematic strategy of defense was ever adopted. The Canadian efforts were isolated and piecemeal, tentatively advanced, and hurriedly abandoned at the first sign of risk or retaliation. In the 15 years since the pipeline debate, there have been more retreats than advances on any of the, three Canadian nationalist fronts, political, economic and social. And while the political and economic leaders who negotiated the retreats have remained securely in power, the nationalists who tried to lead the advances have been dismissed, or defeated, or repudiated.

The heavy pressure of American influence is obvious in Canadian defense and foreign policy. The Ogdensburg Agreement of August 1940 established the Canada-United States Permanent Joint Board on Defense; and the military cooperation on a continental scale which it inaugurated was continued during the Cold War by the North American Air Defense Agreement (NORAD) of 1957. Like Great Britain and Australia, Canada gave general support to American power politics in the Cold War and even went so far as to contribute military assistance to that first inglorious endeavor of American imperialism in the Far East, the Korean War. It is true — and we must all be profoundly grateful for the fact — that Canada has never stooped to take any active part in that most criminal of all imperialistic ventures, the American intervention in Indo-China. But it is equally true — and must be admitted — that the Canadian sale of large quantities of war materials to the United States makes it impossible for us to escape the charge of complicity in this evil conflict. The only Canadian in power who dared seriously to question the wisdom of American leadership in defense and foreign policy was John G. Diefenbaker. He declined to make the automatic response to American initiative in the Cuban

continued on page 84

crisis in the autumn of 1962; he dared to postpone the adoption of nuclear weapons for the Canadian Armed Forces against the wishes of the Kennedy administration; and, as a result, he was attacked by the Kennedy administration, as well as by the official Liberal Opposition in Canada, and defeated by the Canadian people in the election of 1963.

The efforts to defend the Canadian economy from the invasion of American capital have been equally shortlived and vain. It is 10 years now since James Coyne, the governor of the Bank of Canada, tried to convince Canadians that they “must live within their own means”; and it is more than eight years since Walter Gordon failed to persuade the Liberal Party to accept his take-over tax of 30% on the sale of shares in Canadian corporations to foreign interests. Three years ago the Task Force headed by Melville Watkins completed its official government survey on the extent of American ownership and control in Canadian industry; and since that time a dozen books and scores of newspaper and magazine articles have kept Canadians fully informed about the steady onward march of American investment in almost every division of our economy. The popular protest has grown stronger with each successive take-over: the expansion of the Mercantile Bank, the transfer of the Denison Mine and the Flome Oil Company and the huge sale of natural gas to the United States have all provoked strong and prolonged critical comment. But in the main the government has remained unmoved by this nationalist clamor. If it has acted, it has acted indirectly, privately and sometimes at the last moment; and, despite repeated promises, it has not yet produced a comprehensive plan of defense.

In the face of all this, the moral and cultural identity of the Canadian people has had a hard struggle to survive. The Canada Council has done much for Canadian scholarship and the arts; and successive regulatory bodies have tried to save the airwaves for Canadian interests, issues and talents. But the struggle to compete with American television programs and to combat the changing technology of American broadcasting has overtaxed the resources of the Canadian industry, just as the popularity of American periodicals has proved too much for Canadian magazines. Ten years ago a royal commission made recommendations for the promotion of a genuine Canadian periodical press. The bill, based on this report, which was passed a few years later, placed

certain tax disabilities on foreign publications; but the two most popular American periodicals in Canada were specifically exempted from these provisions. American publishing houses have become increasingly active in Canada in recent years; one veteran Canadian house and a division of a second have been taken over by American interests. A third, the largest wholly Canadian-owned and controlled publishing business in the country, was put up for sale a few months ago and was rescued only by the intervention of a provincial government.

II

The story of the Canadian national movement during the 15 years which followed the pipeline debate is a dismal story, full of retreats and defeats and frustrations. The nationalists have had some good leaders, a copious and effective supply of statistical ammunition, a good deal of interest and some support from the press, and apparently a large and vocal following among the Canadian people. Yet they seem

to have achieved virtually nothing. What has gone wrong? Why are the results so tragically disproportionate to the effort expended? Was the Canadian nationalist movement doomed from the beginning? Or is its comparative failure up to now attributable to some vital defect in its strategy and tactics? Who are the principal opponents of Canadian nationalism? What are the reasons for their opposition and what forces can they bring to the attack?

In Canada, as in most other nations in the late 20th century, nationalism has been opposed by, two forces of great potency — by internationalism on the one hand, and by provincialism and localism on the other. These two forces are complementary in their destructive effects; they are the upper and nether millstones between which the 19th-century national state has been steadily ground down and weakened. Nationalism, the great creative force of 19th-century politics, has, for the last two generations, been increasingly subjected to criticism and disparagement; and perhaps the most important of the powerful solvents which have led to its disintegration is

the group of ideas, interests and aspirations implied in the word internationalism. Internationalism can, of course, have an economic, a cultural, or a political meaning; but fundamentally it rests upon a single ideal — the belief that the only hope of humanity rests on the possibility of a peaceful world order. Nationalism, these idealists assume, breeds division and conflict; internationalism will bring peace. Nationalism is therefore morally inferior to internationalism; and nationalists are ordered, as I was ordered recently by a censorious reviewer, to abandon what he called my “parochial proclivities” and to look on Canada in the “broader context of international society.”

Stated in these impressive terms, internationalism appears as a noble and appealing idea; but, under a more critical scrutiny, its specious excellence begins to take on a curiously spurious appearance. Logically, I suppose, the ideal of complete world concord can be realized only through the establishment of a homogeneous and universal state; and whether this would be desirable, even if it were possible, is a question many of us might find it difficult to answer. In the meantime, we know very well that the present division of the world into a large number of supposedly sovereign states is likely to continue indefinitely into the future. We are also well aware of the fact that the second attempt in the 20th century to found an organization — the United Nations — for the maintenance of international peace and security has grievously disappointed the high hopes of its creators. The first attempt — the League of Nations — collapsed in the Second World War, after only 20 years of existence. The United Nations has survived longer; but how tragically has it failed to attain the first of the declared objectives of its charter “to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war.”

The truth is that the international ideal has not yet succeeded in creating an effective world organization. On the other hand, it has helped to bring into being several regional associations of states, often on a continental scale, and usually dominated by a superpower. Ever since the beginning of the Cold War, the superpowers, each with its attendant string of satellite states, have become the dominant fact of modern politics. They are now the empires of the 20th century; and it is their imperialistic rivalries, and not the contentions of the smaller states, which alone seriously endanger the peace of the world. If the nuclear war, which will destroy the world,

The nationalists have had some good leaders, yet they seem to have achieved virtually nothing

continued on page 86

ever breaks out in Europe, or the Middle East, or the Far East, it will come, not as a result of the quarrels of the small powers of the region, but because of the intervention on a grand scale of the superpowers. It is imperialism, not nationalism, which poses the greatest threat to the peace of the world. And yet, in the absence of any effective system of international security, the imperialistic pull of the superpower is so great as to be almost irresistible. Canada has succumbed to it; and since that genuine international organization, the British Empire-Commonwealth, to which she once belonged, has now virtually dissolved, she has become a dependent member state of the American Empire.

When Canadians defend or extol internationalism, this is the strictly limited kind of internationalism that they have in mind. Dale Thomson, the Canadian critic who sanctimoniously invited me to see Canada “in the broader context of international society,” is at present resident in Washington, the capital of the United States of America; and from that vantage point it is easy and natural for him to comprehend the whole of North America in a truly imperial vision. The Canadian advocates of internationalism are not really talking about internationalism at all; they are talking about North American continentalism. The international ideal is not the justification, but merely the excuse, of the continental empire dominated by the United States. Our first task is to expose this pious fraud and to free ourselves from its spurious moral compulsions. Our second and much more difficult need is to gain a clear view of the enormous and varied power of continentalism, and of the tight grasp it has already acquired on our actions and our thoughts.

Continentalism means the increasing organization of the activities of North America along continental lines under the leadership and direction of the United States. Political sovereignty may remain formally separate for a long time to come; but the chief governing decisions in defense, foreign policy, economic growth and cultural development will increasingly be made, not by Canadians but by Americans. This system, which has come gradually into existence over the past half century, has already conferred enormous material benefits on Canada and will, no doubt, continue to do so. It cannot give us security, for this is impossible in the nuclear age; but it can at least ensure us the protection of the greatest of the su-

continued on page 89

perpowers. The capital, the enterprise, the technology and the technological skills of the most heavily industrialized and economically powerful nation in the world are all freely available to us on terms not very different from those required of its own citizens. We can enjoy the comforts, the luxuries and the excitements of the most affluent and spendthrift continent in the world. We can continue to fill the ever-increasing hours of our leisure time with the endlessly varied products of the most elaborate entertainment industry on earth.

Canadians, of course, do not get all this largesse for nothing. They pay for it and the price is extremely high. In effect, they put themselves and all that they possess or may acquire under the control and direction of their neighbors. Their natural resources — their metals, oil, gas, water and water power, the very birthright of the Canadian people — will be offered up to meet the voracious demands of the American military and industrial machine and unappeasable appetites of a lavish American society. The knowledge, the abilities, the professional and technical skills which the expensive Canadian educational system has created will go to serve, not companies owned and controlled in Canada, but huge international or multinational corporations whose plans and policies are adopted in the United States. The rapid growth of industrialism and urbanism in Canada and the increasing dependence of the Canadian people on the proliferating marvels of technology will gradually weaken and break down the native Canadian moral standards and cultural values, and undermine the inherited Canadian belief in an ordered and peaceful society and a gentle and simple way of life.

These predictions are not baseless or extravagant. They may very well take place. And a good many Canadians are uneasily aware of this frightening possibility. Yet they shrink back, intimidated, if not appalled, by the risks and the costs which seem inextricably involved in any decisive change in the steady course Canada has followed so long. The truth is that Canadians, in accepting American capital, American management and American technology, have unwittingly received the spirit that animates all three. They have not only become subjects of the American continental empire; but they have also become converts to its characteristic philosophy of life, to what might legitimately be called its religion. The central doctrine of this religion is the belief that progress is the only good in life and

that progress means the liberation of man through the progressive conquest of nature by technology. In the satisfaction of man’s wants lies the only meaning of his existence; and human wants can, of course, be altered, multiplied and endlessly refined by modern advertising. There must be no limitation on the indefinite expansion of man’s desires, no limitation on the capacity of modern industry to satisfy them; and, as an inevitable consequence, the conquest of nature and the exploitation of its natural riches must proceed swiftly and continually forward without stop or hindrance. This new doctrine — the doctrine of continual economic growth — has captured the minds of Canadians, just as it has those of every other people in the western world. To achieve economic growth, they are prepared to sacrifice their independence, pillage their natural resources, contaminate their environment and endure all the hideous evils of modern industrialization and urbanization. The American empire is taking over the birthright of Canadians; and its imperial religion has taken over their minds.

Continentalism, the only aspect of that question-begging term “inter-

nationalism” which has any meaning for Canadians, is with little doubt the strongest opposing force with which Canadian nationalism has to contend. But continentalism is merely the upper millstone; the lower millstone, parochialism or provincialism, is its complement; and it is the attrition of these two powerful forces that has ground down the solid fabric of Canadian nationalism. The pressure from without may be the more powerful of the two; but division within is a persistent enduring tendency in Canadian history going back to the disruption of the British Empire in North America and the coming of the Loyalists. The presence of the Loyalists led to the creation of a new province in the Atlantic region and to the division of the old Province of Quebec into Upper and Lower Canada. The mountain barrier of the Appalachians prevented any easy communication between the Canadas and the Maritime Provinces. From the beginning,

there was a strong strain of provincialism and localism in the history of British North America.

Confederation was the culmination of another and completely contradictory tendency in Canadian history — the urge toward unity and centralization for defense. Geographically, Canada is a western extension of the St. Lawrence River system, and the St. Lawrence has been a centralizing force in Canadian history. It is at once the symbol and the inspiration of the main style of Canadian endeavor, a transcontinental empire based on the east-west axis. From the days of the French regime, successive generations of Canadians have struggled to frustrate and defeat their rivals and to extend the dominion of the St. Lawrence to the western plains and the Pacific slope. These rivals, the Thirteen Colonies and the United States, were from the beginning more numerous and powerful than the northern provinces; and in order to compensate for their relative weakness and to adjust the balance of power on the continent, the British North American colonies which had survived the American Revolution began to follow two basic policies. They sought to retain the political, military and economic support of Great Britain as a makeweight against the preponderance of the United States; and they drew slowly closer to union for better self-protection. The modern British Commonwealth, and the vital AngloCanadian alliance that underlay it, was the realization of the first aim; Confederation was the highest achievement of the second.

Both these strong supports of Canadian nationalism have declined. The slow dissolution of the British Empire-Commonwealth began half a century ago and the Anglo-Canadian alliance has ceased to act as a buttress of Canadian independence in North America. The descent from the high level of unity and centralization achieved in 1867 began early and has continued, with only brief interruptions, since. In part, this gradual diminution of national authority is an accident — the unexpected result of a series of legal decisions, particularly in the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council, which gave the provinces far more power than the Fathers of Confederation had ever intended them to have. But, if repeated strokes of meaningless bad luck have played a part in the process, the dismemberment of Canada must also be attributed to certain clearly discernible causes. At the centre of the decline lies the deterioration of the St. Lawrence itself as the chief factor in

Increasing dependence on the marvels of technology will weaken and break down Canadian moral standards

continued on page 90

Canadian history. The east-west axis, transcontinental and transAtlantic, has ceased to represent the main thrust of Canadian ambition and endeavor. In the 19th and early 20th centuries, the settlement and exploitation of the west was the great national enterprise in which all Canadians joined; but now Canadian economic activity has largely shifted its direction from west to north. The national economy created by east-west transport and traffic has been broken up into a number of regional or provincial economies, each of which is controlled and used for its own purposes by the province to which it belongs. The main trade routes, which used to run east-west across the continent and the Atlantic Ocean, have now been sharply diverted south. The United States has become the chief market for Canadian exports and the chief source for Canadian imports of capital and technology.

Much of the provincial assertiveness and national disunity of the last two decades can be traced back to economic sources; but much of it also has equally deep cultural origins. The aggressive cultural forces of presentday politics are not national but local, provincial, regional, inspired by race, language or religion; and the sudden outburst of separatism in Quebec is one more example of this angry divisive trend. The so-called “Quiet Revolution” began as an attempt to preserve French-Canadian culture and to give French-Canadian citizens a larger place in the life of their province and of the natas a whole. From the start, two methods were advocated as a means of achieving this object: the first was the creation of a united, bilingual Canada and the second was the recognition of Quebec as a distinctly different province with a right to a special, separate status in Confederation. As time went on, the leaders of all political parties in Quebec have increasingly emphasized the second of these methods, and have steadily enlarged the scope of the legislative ^autonomy which they claim for their province. The differences among the Liberals, Union Nationalists and the various kinds of separatists are no longer differences of kind, but simply of degree; and the consequences of all of them for Canadian nationalism would be almost equally disastrous. At the constitutional conference last June, the new Victoria charter, designed very largely to guarantee the official position of the French language and to protect other French-Canadian interests, was deliberately rejected by Quebec because it failed to satisfy her insatiable demand

for provincial independence. When Claude Castonguay remarked with brutal candor that he had no interest whatever in Canada beyond the borders of Quebec, he seems to have voiced only too accurately the feelings of its government, if not of all of its people.

This, then, is our troubled state at the present moment. The forces opposed to Canadian nationalism — American continentalism and Canadian particularism — are extremely powerful and pervasive. None of the political parties by which the public life of this country is carried on has yet adopted a comprehensive program for the defense and preservation of Canadian nationalism. The Liberals hesitate to restrict the American economic invasion; the Conservatives have not urged them to adopt vigorous measures of protection; and the NDP, the one party which has taken a positive stand against all aspects of American domination, is split between those of its members who are willing to grant separate status to Quebec and those who are determined to refuse it. But Canadian nationalism can be preserved only by a comprehensive program in which resistance to excessive particularism and defense against aggressive continentalism is each an integral part.

We can save two cultures in a single nation; but not two separate nations and not 10 quarreling provinces. Our politicians have refused to acknowledge this truth because, like politicians the world over, they fear that, if they really tackle an important national issue, they will antagonize a powerful interest or an influential minority. Canadian nationalism is one of those causes, deep in people’s hearts, that ordinary politicians never dare to touch. The nationalist movement in Canada must remain an apolitical movement, in the hope that if it cannot capture one party, it can influence them all. ■