Last week, The Hub‘s executive director Rudyard Griffiths spoke with leading author and journalist David Frum at a live event at the Gardiner Museum. The two discussed what we learned about Canada since Hama’s attacks on October 7th and the consequences for our social cohesion and national identity. Here are three key insights from their conversation.
1. Rebuilding a national security culture in Canada
“Canada faces a deep internal security problem that the country isn’t prepared, not only to cope with but even, to think seriously about. Canada does not have a substantial national security culture. All problems of security are seen through domestic political prisms. There are so many examples of this including espionage from the People’s Republic of China, an assassination by a foreign government on Canadian soil of a Canadian passport holder, etc. All of these things were interpreted through the prism of immediate political needs for one political party or another without the apparatus and the method to think about them from a national point of view. And we have seen that very much since October 7.
Canada is an amazing immigration success story. When you pull people from all over the world, one of the things that you owe them is a clear message about what the rules of engagement on this new land are going to be. There are things that if you liked them, they were welcomed in your old place, but you can’t do them in the new place. There are many benefits to life in the new place. But the new place has its own customs, its culture, and its rules. And these are the things that have to be done. Although you try to communicate that in the nicest possible way, there also is an enforcement arm where you have an apparatus that is capable of detecting radical and potentially violent activity, and either thwarting it or punishing it. That has been sorely missing including the lack of clarity.
I’m not going to criticize what the Canadian government has said about events in the Middle East. But the lack of clarity about events in Canada and expectations in Canada is really alarming. Those expectations need to be clear, and they need to be backed up by an apparatus with the skill, the technology, and the legal power to protect Canadians from extremism and potential violence at home.”
2. An intellectual self-defence of Canada
“I think it reveals that Canada is in the grips of an ideology that is very dangerous to the health and safety of Canadians. If it’s true that people who identify as Indigenous have the right to murder people who they identify as settlers, that isn’t a principle with a lot of bite, not just in Israel [but here too].
If you have systems of belief that are defenceless to explain why that is wrong, why the whole concept of indigeneity is meaningless, and why the whole concept of settlership is equally meaningless, if a country like Canada can’t explain that, then a country like Canada lacks the wherewithal for an intellectual self-defence. Canada has been on that slope for some time.
That makes it very difficult for Canadians to say ‘I’m proud of this country’s history.’ It is blemished as every country’s history is, but less blemished than just about anybody’s. And as for the blemishes, there’s a process for correcting them.
Canadians need to feel pride. Canadians need to not only feel it but to assert it. If you’ve discovered their fellow citizens who don’t feel that same pride, the majority who do feel it should have ways and arguments that can say in a forthright way ‘You are wrong; it’s a free country, you can have that view, obviously, no one’s going to prevent you from having the view. But at the same time, the majority that have the view of affirmation and pride are not going to be bashful.’”
3. The risks of voting for the Leopards Eating People’s Faces Party
“There’s a common internet joke about ‘I never thought the leopards would eat my face said the lady who voted for the Leopards Eating People’s Faces Party.’ What we’ve seen in Canada and in the United States is, for a long time, there’s been a culture where people say things that other people take offence to and then there’s this massive campaign of suppression not by the government, but by society, to hold them accountable—to give them economic and social consequences including directly targeting their careers.
What has happened since October 7 is that because the majority of Canadians and the huge majority of Americans abhor Hamas terrorists, the people who have been seen to make excuses for them are suddenly discovering they voted for the Leopards Eating People’s Faces Party. Now the leopards are on the prowl, and they’re being devoured.
We’re seeing a social pushback where people are saying ‘We disapprove of people endorsing terrorism on the public dime,’ or people who have honoured positions of instruction are teaching contempt for human life and gleeful disregard for the suffering of families that have loved ones in captivity.”
Listen to David Frum’s full interview with The Hub’s executive director Rudyard Griffiths on the audio player below or on your favourite podcast app.
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