2020 Manion Lecture
Description: In his lecture, Jeffrey Simpson looks back at over 40 years of Canadian public policy, asking how lessons from our past can help us build the future.
Date: February 19, 2021
It is my great honour today to be introducing the 2020 Manion Lecture of the Canada School of Public Service. I'm Taki Sarantakis and I'm the president of the Canada School of Public Service. Today's event is named in honour of Jack Manion. Mr. Manion was a senior civil servant and he was also an Order of Canada recipient. And it's wonderful for our organization to be able to honour his memory and to honour the achievements of our predecessor organizations. While Mr. Manion passed away a decade ago, we're very happy today to have members of his family here in the audience of—the virtual audience, given that this is 2020—including his wife, Sylvia.
Today's lecture is being given to us by Mr. Jeffrey Simpson. Mr. Simpson is one of Canada's national treasures. He has been a columnist for the Globe and Mail for almost half a century; and half a century of major change in Canada. When Mr. Simpson started his career at the Globe and Mail, Canada had no Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Canada was in a period of stagflation. Canada was questioning where it was going and what it was going to become. Fast forward almost 50 years and it's a very different Canada from that era. But it's important for us to be able to look at that era so that we can learn from it. Because Canada still has many ongoing issues, including our economic well-being, including our social fabric, including regionalism, including immigration, including what is the role of the legislature and what is the role of the courts going forward.
Mr. Simpson has won all 3 of Canada's major literary awards, and he, like Mr. Manion, is a recipient of the Order of Canada.
Finally, I would like to take the opportunity to introduce a new initiative at the School. Mr. Simpson and the Manion Lecture are about ideas, and I'm very pleased to announce today that the Canada School will be honouring another one of our predecessors, again through a series of ideas. Today, we are announcing the introduction of the Jocelyne Bourgon Visiting Scholar Initiative at the Canada School of Public Service. And this will allow the Canada School and the Government of Canada to again start better interactions with Canada's academic community, because we all need to be involved in the realm of ideas if Canada is to continue to have the best public service in the world. And with that, we start with Mr. Simpson. Enjoy.
Good day, and hello.
It' an honour to deliver the Manion lecture. The circumstances of delivery are, shall we say, unique, but the name attached to the lecture remains the same. I did not know John Manion, but I heard much about him. And the universal description of John Manion was of somebody who might be called "the public servant' public servant." That is to say, he was straight, he was honest, he was balanced and he was devoted to the public service. How appropriate then that his name should be attached to this lecture.
Public servants sometimes get a bad name, including from those of us who were in the media., But the corona pandemic has underscored the importance of a capable and dedicated public service: from health officials, to analysts, to administrators. They've been working under constant pressure, dealing with unprecedented and reinforcing crises of public health and the economy. Of course, mistakes were made. But as a former senior cabinet minister, who I know quite well, remarked to me, "When the bucket brigade goes to put out a fire, some water gets spilled as the buckets get passed."
I arrived in Ottawa as a parliamentary intern in the fall of 1972, having just graduated from a graduate school abroad. Two weeks after I and nine other parliamentary interns arrived, Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau—who was elected to lead a majority government in 1968—called for an election. He won the election by just a few votes in 1972, clinging to power with 109 seats compared with 107 seats for the Progressive Conservatives. So our group had front-row seats to watch how a minority government worked first-hand. And I had the opportunity to work for three excellent and distinguished members of Parliament during those years. I learned a lot from each of them about the demands placed on parliamentarians.
Having arrived as a stripling at the end of Pierre Trudeau' first term in 1972 and having retired as columnist for The Globe and Mail 10 months into the first term of Justin Trudeau, his son, a period of about four and a half decades, I thought I might use this lecture to ruminate a bit on some of the major changes that have occurred in Canada during that period. You can call it "from Trudeau to Trudeau" if you'd like.
Please bear in mind that a lecture can merely scratch the surface of some of these changes; many changes will be missed. For example, the increased concern about global warming; the rise and influence of women in politics and many other spheres of Canadian life; foreign policy; the transformation of the media with its decline and even the disappearance of many newspapers; the end of the Cold War and its replacement by a multipolar world that' left Canada feeling morally superior, as always, but increasingly marginal to others. And those changes that I will discuss, should deserve much more commentary than I can give them.
Pierre Trudeau entered public life mainly because of the debate in the 1960s about Quebec' place within Canada. From his arrival in politics in 1965 to his departure in 1984, and for about 20 years after that, federal governments had been preoccupied about Quebec' place in the Canadian Confederation. Maintaining the country' unity, then as today, is any national government' most important obligation. Today, the threat of the country breaking up seems remote, but it was not always so. We know that the Official Languages Act and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms were central to Mr. Trudeau' ambition to frustrate Quebec secessionists. But his government has left us so much more.
Think of what his critics at the time called "French power." Trudeau brought French-speaking Quebecers to Ottawa and gave them positions of power. In so doing, he followed Sir John A. Macdonald' good advice that governments should be "frenchified." Since then, every government has been led by someone who is fully or partially or functionally bilingual, and the winning federal party has always had at least some success in Quebec.
Think of supply management for dairy farmers, the largest number of whom are in Quebec. This cartel remains in place today, to the delight of its members, the producers, and at a cost to consumers. It was created by the Trudeau government to placate Quebec dairy farmers who, in protest against volatile prices, painted evocative slogans on the roofs of their barns. And they demonstrated on the lawns of Parliament, including dumping milk on the head of the Agriculture Minister, Eugene Whelan. And they made declarations of support for Quebec secessionist politicians, who made... Promise them a better deal.
Or consider what we might call today regional development. The first major program replete with its own Department of Regional and Economic Development and presided over by a minister very close to Pierre Trudeau, Jean Marchand, was to provide federal financial assistance for projects in Atlantic Canada and eastern Quebec. But after a while, with the menace of secession growing in Quebec, Quebec ministers began agitating for all of the province of Quebec to be included in the categories for regional development, including Montreal and the environs.
And this eventuality happened. But the designation had the effect over time to create political pressure to spend or to spread, I should say, various forms of regional development agencies over the entire country, except for the Toronto area and the lower mainland of British Columbia—which is what we have today.
Real or perceived favouritism towards Quebec during the Trudeau and Mulroney years irritated the other provinces and their populations, especially in Western Canada. In survey after survey, to the question of which province benefited the most from the federal government, the rest of Canada responded "Quebec," while in Quebec, the answer was always "Ontario." The "pernicious feeling of jealously between the regions," as a friend of mine once called it, is very present in Canada and is an ongoing challenge for any national government.
The sense of resentment and envy permeated the many constitutional negotiations of the 1970s and 1980s, as negotiating efforts to bend matters towards Quebec was met by demands for different changes from other provinces and then from Indigenous communities. The details of these negotiations are of little interest today. I covered them all as a charter member of what I would call the "Constitution Club," from which I long ago resigned. Constitutional reform efforts, which consumed so much time and so much political capital, ended, with one exception, in failure. The lesson I think, for today and for tomorrow is: touch the Constitution at the country' peril. Change the country, but not necessarily the Constitution. Because, as these remarks will argue, this country has changed, it does change, and it will change. Sometimes in the face of insistent social demands, sometimes because of intergovernmental negotiations, sometimes by gradual shifts in public understanding.
The two most important initiatives from Pierre Trudeau' time as prime minister in the face of Quebec' turmoil were the Official Languages Act and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Today, it is hard for young Canadians to [imagine] just how controversial the Official Languages Act was when it was adopted and for many years afterwards. The vast majority of Anglophone Canadians did not speak French. They were irritated and fearful that they would be pressured to learn the language or that they would lose out on an opportunity to work for the federal government. The boos resonated in Toronto' Maple Leaf Gardens as soon as a few verses of the national anthem were sung in French. Bilingual packaging—French wording on cereal boxes—resulted in furious denunciations. There are many reasons why Pierre Trudeau almost lost power in 1972, the most significant being bilingualism and "French power."
Today—and I think this shows how the country can evolve, learn and mature—sure, there remain pockets of grumbling towards the French fact and bilingualism outside Quebec, but they are a very weak echo of what was heard in the 1970s. It is now acknowledged that the national party leaders must be, in their own way, bilingual, at least functionally, as with many of the top positions in the federal government. Thousands of English-speaking students across the country are enrolled in French-immersion programs; in some places to such an extent that there aren't enough teachers. What began in division over time morphed into one of the identifying, if not always unifying, features of the country.
Official language policy is not popular everywhere. The share of Canadians who are fluent in both languages rose from 13% when Trudeau senior introduced the Official Languages Act to about 17% in 1990 and today about 18%. And much of that growth has occurred in Quebec, where more Anglophones learn French and more Francophones learn English. Bilingualism has made—and this wasn't the intention—the federal public service, in a sense, less representative of the country, linguistically speaking, since the ever-higher language requirements and the decline of internal language training effectively disqualified or discouraged unilingual speakers—mostly by definition, Anglophones.
Pierre Trudeau' other great reform came about through a moment of contingency, unrecognized at the time and still underappreciated today. And that fateful moment represents one of the great what-ifs of the last half-century in Canada.
Prime Minister Joe Clark had won only 36% of the popular vote in the 1979 election against 40% for the Trudeau Liberals. But his Progressive Conservative votes were distributed such that the party won more seats than the Liberals and so formed a minority government. And the Clark government presented its first budget without consulting the smaller parties in Parliament. The government could have changed the budget to win support from at least one of those parties to survive a confidence motion. It could have delayed the budget, by which time Trudeau, who had announced his intention to give up the Liberal leadership and leave public life, would have departed. But the inexperienced Progressive Conservatives decided that with Trudeau leaving, the Liberals would not dare bring down the government: they wouldn't have a leader. Or if they did, and Trudeau stayed as the leader, the country, having just rejected him, wouldn't accept him. The PCs were wrong on both counts. The budget was defeated. Trudeau stayed. And the Liberals won the election with a majority.
I dwell on this subject not because I wrote my first instant rare book about these events (my critics said that the book had more pages than the government had days), but because none of us who chronicled these events understood their implications at the time. If Clark had remained in office, as was possible, Trudeau would have been gone from public life. Who would have replaced him? Neither his replacement nor Clark would have pursued a Charter of Rights and Freedoms or invented a National Energy Policy that so enraged the energy-producing provinces. It would have been Prime Minister Joe Clark and not Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau who would have directed federal government strategy during the 1980 Quebec referendum campaign on sovereignty association.
So, no Charter, no National Energy Policy, no Trudeau at the helm during the referendum campaign. Historical contingency, indeed.
Biographers Christina McCall Newman and Stephen Clarkson appositely described the Charter as Trudeau' "magnificent obsession." Whether the Charter was or is magnificent can be debated, but that it was Trudeau' obsession cannot. It was a constitutional idea, a Charter, that went beyond John Diefenbaker' Bill of Rights, which was a statute rather than a constitutional document. And the idea of a Charter had been promoted by some legal scholars and some constitutional law professors; a handful of Liberals thought the idea had merit, but most of the Liberals were not seized by the idea. And certainly, the Progressive Conservatives and the New Democrats were not interested.
Trudeau, who returned to power in 1980 for what he had to know was his last attempt, was therefore determined to apply the Charter. Much has been written about the final version of the Charter, and I won't go over the heated debates with some of the premiers, the pressure from interest groups and Indigenous leaders. I merely make three broad generalizations.
The Charter has been the most consequential change to the governing of Canada since World War II and arguably since the first constitutional arrangements of the 1860s. Most observers, at the time, believed that it would be many years before the Charter' impact would be felt. Since Canada had no experience with a constitutional charter, it was thought that judges would be wary about taking on too much, too quickly. These widely shared assumptions at the time were proven wrong. In a short period of time, judges, especially on the Supreme Court of Canada, began to flex their muscles, arguing that they had been enjoined to do so by parliamentarians in adopting the Charter. The court quickly adopted the so-called "living tree" doctrine whereby the words of the Charter, the actual words of the Charter, could have a broader ambit than the designers intended.
And this isn't the designers of 50 years ago. These are the designers of just a few years before. Over the years, the courts, and particularly the Supreme Court, have injected themselves into many policy areas. Health care, refugees and immigration, education, Indigenous rights, social programs, prisoners' right to vote, criminal law sentencing... I could go on. In the country' law schools, where pre-Charter constitutional law used to be one of those boring mandatory courses about the division of powers between the two levels of government, it quickly became the hot subject.
Here was a chance to inject into the law, through the Charter, social, linguistic, gender, Indigenous and broadly defined social and political causes. And fired by this enthusiasm, several generations of law students who became lawyers and judges use the Charter as the defining document of "rights talk," which has become one of the most important strands of political discourse in what I call the "Age of the Charter." The Charter turned Canada, as the political scientist Peter Russell has explained, from a parliamentary democracy to a constitutional democracy. Parliament is no longer, in all areas, supreme. In fact, it is not infrequently countermanded by the courts or ordered to do certain things within a certain time frame, even when and if the Parliament had refused to do so. Legal scholars call this a "dialogue" between courts and legislatures, and sometimes it is, but there are also instances where the courts are really giving a diktat such that legislatures must act, whatever the financial and administrative consequences.
The Charter also gave elected officials a political way out that let them avoid making certain controversial decisions, believing or hoping they could defer to the courts. Abortion, gay rights and assisted death are issues on which the courts have brought about legal changes that nervous legislatures seem to have accepted or adjusted. The Charter was adopted, in part, to protect and strengthen minority rights, and it has done so. The Charter reflected and contributed to the "identity politics" of groups based on gender, race, ethnicity and sexual orientation, which is now central to Canadian discourse.
The Charter became immediately and immensely popular among lawyers because it frames so many issues in terms of legal rights. But the Canadian public, too, has warmed to the Charter, such that judges are now more respected than elected officials and courts are accorded more respect than legislatures. One survey among many illustrates the point. The 2013 General Social Survey of Canada, taken for the Canadian Heritage Department, showed that more than 90% of Canadians considered the Charter equal to the flag as important to the country' identity. Canadians don't think of the Charter this way, but the "rights talk" that it has engendered and reflected—and the check on parliamentary sovereignty—are among the most Americanizing influences in Canada, with one large exception.
The appointment of US judges has become terribly polarizing, and political. As has the country. But scarcely now a month passes in Canada without some group brandishing the Charter or at least using Charter arguments in the context of their arguments. And as a matter of federal administration, the Charter is now so central that the Justice Department has become a kind of central agency required to advise governments in advance when what they are contemplating will pass Charter muster.
The unrest in Quebec that led to the election of the Parti Québécois and to the first referendum campaign made the 1970s an especially turbulent period. But that decade was also marked by two more defining events, the effects of which are still felt today. The first was the OPEC [Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries] crisis and the second was the rise of Alberta: the two went hand in hand.
Both of these led to a deteriorating fiscal situation that defined political discourse for a generation. Just one example: Medicare was designed in the mid-1960s when economic growth was strong and government revenues were sturdy. The OPEC crisis and subsequent deficits, however, destroyed those assumptions, leading to reductions in federal transfers to the provinces for health care, strains on provincial health care budgets, extra billing by doctors, and endless complaints—still very much in evidence today—that not enough money, public money, is being spent on health care.
As the price of oil soared, so did revenues in Alberta. And since, under the Canadian constitution, natural resources belong to the provinces, so do the lion' share of revenues from those resources. From the federal government' perspective, surging energy revenues for Alberta and higher energy prices for consumers and oil-consuming provinces, produced an unacceptable imbalance. From Alberta' perspective, the province owned the royalties from the oil that flowed and having believed for decades that the province and the West in general had been shortchanged by governments in Ottawa and having seen "French power" in evidence in Ottawa, the province was in no political mood to allow Ottawa to deny its bounty.
The echoes of those angry debates are still heard between Ottawa and Alberta. For different reasons today because, of course, the international price for oil has plummeted, whereas in those years it was soaring. Then, Alberta was flush with cash. Today, its deficit provincially exceeds $24 billion. But then, as now, a deep-seated belief existed in Alberta, and to a large extent too in Saskatchewan, that the West is either ignored by Ottawa or victimized by policies that respond to political pressures in central Canada, whether for low oil and natural gas prices or for green energy policies that discriminate against oil and natural gas. Even after the Mulroney government abolished or gutted most of Trudeau' National Energy Policy, the memory of that policy became part of the province' folk legend of discrimination and neglect.
And now, that memory is rekindled by the Justin Trudeau government, whose [party] is without a seat in Alberta and whose Speech from the Throne managed to avoid a single mention of Alberta, a province in great difficulty. Today' policy makers are confronted with the unprecedented twin challenges of COVID-19—which is a public health crisis—and an economic downturn.
But governments of the 1970s confronted something unknown in the economic textbooks of the time: "stagflation"—stagflation that sprang from the Arab oil boycott of Western countries following the Arab–Israeli war of 1973. The price of oil skyrocketed as supplies dwindled. The effects in Canada were double-digit inflation, high unemployment, high interest rates, soaring government deficits and slow growth. And to cap things off, a recession unfolded in the early 1980s that sent government deficits even higher. Those deficits, although small by the standards of today' gargantuan deficits, persisted for two decades. From the mid-1970s to the mid-1990s. It took two decades to balance the federal budget after the arrival of stagflation. Two decades. How long will it take to balance the budget starting today? The length will not be measured in years, but in decades.
In the 45 years of the Trudeau-to-Trudeau period, the federal budget was in surplus 10 times, balanced once, and in deficit 34 times. Many of the deficit years showed more red ink than the black ink in the surplus years. The struggle against the deficit produced surpluses from 1997 to 2007. There have been no surpluses since. From this history can be drawn at least three conclusions or at least lessons.
First, governments do not habitually build surpluses in good times for use in bad times. Secondly, the pressure on governments to spend is relentless, both for political reasons to secure votes, but also from every corner of Canadian society, with sometimes little concern about where the money' coming from. And third, governments are quite creative in designing and presenting new spending programs or tax expenditures, but are rarely able to end programs. Because once groups or regions or individuals receive benefits from these programs, they become akin to the rights of citizenship.
All the institutions and programs to attenuate these tendencies on an ongoing basis within governments have largely failed. What has worked only is a short, sharp decision by a government to cut, usually because of adverse reviews of Canada' fiscal situation from the International Monetary Fund or the international financial media, as with Prime Minister Jean Chrétien' program review,[which] did reduce operational spending in all government departments except for Justice and what was then called Indian Affairs. Through these decades of stagflation and its aftermath, but especially in the early years, governments looked in the textbooks for remedies and found none.
First the Pierre Trudeau government, then the Joe Clark government, and finally the Brian Mulroney government zig-zag their way through policies looking for economic growth, low inflation, unemployment and modest interest rates. The Trudeau government tried economic stimulus, especially bearing in mind the secessionist threat in Quebec. But then there was a sudden budget cut in 1978.
The Trudeau government implemented wage and price controls in defiance of attacks against the idea when the Progressive Conservatives proposed it in the 1974 election. "Zap! You're frozen!" warned Pierre Trudeau during that election campaign. Zap! He introduced them after the election. The Liberals even began to dally with sectoral free trade with the United States.
The Mulroney government sold Crown corporations created by the Liberals. It cut government spending. It replaced a counterproductive manufacturer' sales tax with the goods and services tax (GST), which immediately became the subject of furious opposition. The tax was widely hated by consumers and business owners who had to calculate it and [by] providers of services who were not previously subject to a tax. Everybody seemed to be against it, except some of the economists. And yet, the tax has endured as a ballast for federal revenues. People hated the GST, but eventually got used to it.
Which leads me to observe that some of the most contentious government decisions of the last 45 or so years, ones that cost short-term political support, are those that today we take for granted. These policies, the GST is one of them, have stood the test of time. Which leads to the evident conclusion that political courage is the hallmark of leadership.
During the Trump-inspired renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement, barely a Canadian voice of any consequence, that I'm aware of, advocated ending NAFTA. Canada had become a nation of free traders, even with the United States, thereby giving the lie to the traditional view that free trade with the US would not just overwhelm the Canadian economy, but weaken or even eviscerate programs and symbols that defined the country' separate identity.
Before Prime Minister Brian Mulroney took the "leap of faith"—a phrase from the Macdonald Royal Commission that recommended Canada–US free trade—the antipathy to free trade was very widespread. The conservatives, among them, George Grant' book Lament for a Nation, although not about free trade, offered an old lament about the Americanization of Canada. On the intellectual left were such books as Silent Surrender by Kari Levitt, an economist from McGill.
The political left was solidly and vociferously against free trade. Among Liberals, there were many disciples of Walter Gordon, a business icon and Lester Pearson cabinet minister, who had warned against American ownership of the Canadian economy. And those who shared Gordon' fears produced the Watkins Report of 1968, which led in the 1970s to the Trudeau government creating the Foreign Investment Review Agency and the Canada Development Corporation. And the Toronto Star, which was the bible of Canadian liberalism, denounced the very idea of Canada–US free trade.
But the Liberals did contain in their ranks those less fearful of free trade and as the Trudeau government floundered to find a response to stagflation, they began to promote the idea of maybe sectoral free trade, sector by sector free trade, with the Americans, deals in this or that industry. And then came the endorsement of free trade by the Royal Commission into Canada' economic prospects, led by Donald S. Macdonald, who had been a very prominent Liberal minister in Trudeau' cabinet.
The opposition was fierce during the Mulroney government' free-trade negotiations and then during the 1988 elections. An Alberta family court judge, Marjorie Bowker, wrote a successful pamphlet in which she warned that free trade would force Canada to sell fresh water to the United States, end Canada' Medicare program, weaken pensions and other social programs in Canada, and have disastrous consequences for Canada. After deciding to oppose free trade, the Liberals ran a television ad that showed an eraser erasing the Canada–US border, reinforcing party leader John Turner' message that free trade would mark the end of a sovereign Canada.
The Mulroney Conservatives won the election handily. Free trade became a reality. None of the strident critics' calamitous predictions happened. Canadian health care remains. Indeed, many Americans on the political left want Canadian-style, single-payer government-financed Medicare. The Canada and Quebec pension plans are fully intact and fully funded. Social programs have been expanded. No water has been exported.
Canadians, in other words, have evolved from being knotted up about Canada–US free trade to become continental free traders' ardent protectors. Free trade provides another example of how over time a country can evolve and accept as normal, even indispensable, that which had been considered impossible not too many decades ago.
If free trade didn't produce the calamity that critics had predicted, neither did it achieve an important stated goal: to improve the productivity of the Canadian economy. NAFTA did increase employment, but it did not spur, as its advocates had suggested, enhanced productivity. That word remains a bone spur for the Canadian economy. The word "productivity" scares Canadians. Prime Minister Jean Chrétien banned the word' use by ministers and in government documents, feeling that the word connoted working harder for less and would scare people. His government used such words as "education," "research" and "development" as euphemisms for productivity.
One reason not unique to Canada for inadequate productivity has been the shift over time from private-sector jobs, fewer of which are unionized, to public-sector ones that are, and the broader shift from manufacturing to services, where productivity gains are harder to achieve. Team Canada trade missions, government investment strewn across the country, and industries, aforementioned regional development agencies, research and development tax grants and credits, research chairs in Canadian universities, and a myriad of other institutions and programs.
Collectively, regrettably, these have not substantially increased Canada' exports other than of natural resources. And even the development and export of some of these natural resources, such as oil, natural gas, hydro and minerals, are now clogged by interest group objections, Indigenous claims, environmental activists and regulatory complexities.
The global economy is also very different from what it was in Pierre Trudeau' day. He was the first Western leader to order his country to diplomatically recognize what was sometimes called Red China. For a while, this made Canada famous there. China was large in terms of its geography and population, but was in the economic minor leagues when Canada initiated diplomatic relations. Today, it is an economic power, becoming a military power, led by a government that is determined to match and surpass the United States in all areas of activity. The rise of China—with which Canada now has difficult relations, to say the least—and, to a lesser extent, of India, to which we could add the dismantling and consequent weakening of Great Britain, Canada' old ally, relative to the European Union, means that Canada' influence in the world is increasingly marginal.
Canada' population in 1970 was about 21 million people and today it' 37.7 million. That represents a 43% increase over about five decades. In that same time frame, however, the world' population has risen to 7.7 billion, more than double the figure in 1970. So, as a share of the world' population, Canada' population has shrunk. Nonetheless, Canada has experienced the fastest-growing population in the G7 despite a declining birth rate. And the reason is immigration.
When Pierre Trudeau became prime minister, Canada was accepting 122,000 immigrants a year. During the 1970s, immigration levels ranged from 84,000 to 171,000. During the Mulroney years, immigration ranged from 152,000 to 246,000. By 2010, Canada was admitting 280,000 immigrants a year, and now we are in a three-year period where immigration targets are averaging about 330,000.
No doubt, many immigrants struggle to settle. There are legitimate concerns that immigrants in recent years have taken longer to find work and reach average incomes. More are falling into poverty and remaining there. But despite these challenges and at a time when some Canadians are hearing that their country is a place of systemic racism and oppression, a survey by the Immigration Department in 2018–19 found that 90% of refugees and immigrants to Canada had a "strong sense of belonging" to Canada. Seventy-one percent were employed. Eighty-five percent of those who had been permanent residents became citizens.
The largest number of newcomers settle in Ontario, with Quebec lagging far behind, which of course means that Quebec' share of the national population will continue to be reduced. What has changed in a surprising way over the past few years is the smaller provinces' desire to attract immigrants. The Atlantic provinces, where citizens often had mixed feelings about the arrival of people "from elsewhere," now understand that they need them because long-term residents are moving to other parts of Canada and the region' population is aging. And Manitoba has its own immigration process that has proven quite effective.
To repeat: many immigrants, as with any generation, struggle to find their feet in Canada and some Black and Muslim immigrants feel they have been discriminated against. There have been anti-immigrant nativist incidents. The most pathetic perhaps being the little Francophone Quebec town, which had no Muslims living there, but whose council passed a resolution against Sharia law.
As for Black Canadians, much in the news following the Black Lives Matter movement in the United States, they represent 3.5% of the population, according to Statistics Canada in 2016. In the previous two decades, the population of Black Canadians had doubled. Fifty-six percent of Black Canadians were not born in the country, in obvious contrast to the multi-generational experience of Blacks in the United States. Source countries have changed quite dramatically. Whereas Black immigration from the English-speaking Caribbean dominated until the latter part of the 1990s, with the largest source country by far being Jamaica, the Caribbean now accounts for only about a quarter of Black immigrants. The latest list of Black immigrant countries showed the largest number coming from Haiti, Nigeria, Somalia and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Two continents, two English-speaking countries, two French-speaking countries.
Surveys seldom break down attitudes by racial or ethnic groups, so we don't know how particular immigrant groups feel overall. Public spokesmen don't always speak for all, but the Canadian Heritage survey mentioned a moment ago previously found that immigrants' views of Canadian symbols were more important than for non-immigrants, and visible minorities viewed them as more important than other Canadians. So, that so many people want to come to Canada every year, and word does travel back to their home countries, suggests that Canada is a rather better place than it is sometimes depicted these days.
In and of itself, and relative to other countries, the integration of immigrants and refugees has been among Canada' singular accomplishments in the Trudeau-to-Trudeau period. No political party has campaigned against immigration, which keeps rising without any political backlash; no politician of any reputation has played a nativist card.
There are no Trump-like campaigns against immigrants, no Front National as in France, no Liga Norte as in Italy, no Alternativ fur Deutschland as in Germany, and no nativist and anti-immigration parties as in the Scandinavian countries and Finland. This non-reaction occurred in the Trudeau-to-Trudeau decades while immigrant countries changed from European, so that the top ten source countries earlier this year were: India, China, Philippines, USA, Nigeria, Pakistan, Syria, France, Iran and Brazil. From five continents the immigrants came, making improved lives for themselves and Canada a better place.
Why has this happened? Why here and not elsewhere? Here are a few reasons.
I think the immigration policy is sound. Based on a point system measuring skills and language, family reunification and, for a smaller group, investment in Canada. Our non-Indigenous population is descended from immigrants; no single immigrant group is large enough to demand special status or rights. And the sometimes-lamented lack of a singular, defined Canadian identity actually provides a more malleable standard of mores and assumptions, so that immigrants aren't judged harshly by whether they enter a melting pot or adhere, as in France, to what are called French values. Multiculturalism is in the constitution, although more as an adornment than a muscular issue, and every political party works hard to recruit immigrant votes and candidates, and no political party runs against immigrants.
I began by observing how, for the first two-thirds of the Trudeau-to-Trudeau period, Quebec' place in Canada and abroad dominated the federal government' concerns. There were two referendums in Quebec and a national referendum on the Charlottetown Accord. A series of constitutional measures were negotiated, most of which failed, including the Meech Lake Accord. Since the defeat of the last referendum in Quebec, enthusiasm for succession has waned. It could return, but the vast majority of Quebecers seem to think succession not worth the trouble. Quebec nationalism? Quebec pride? Yes, and forever. Separate from Canada? No, thank you.
The preoccupation with Quebec has given way to concerns and protests from another segment, or I should say segments, of Canada' population: Indigenous Peoples. Today, Trudeau the younger declares that dealing a better hand to Aboriginal peoples is his highest priority: recognizing their right to self-government, negotiating treaties, spending more money, apologizing for past government policies.
Trudeau the elder also wanted to improve the lives of Indigenous Peoples, but in his way, not theirs. He never wanted special status for Quebec. He believed everyone was equal in Canada and without particular arrangements, and that included Indigenous Peoples. So a White Paper his government crafted proposed scrapping the Indian Act and other special arrangements. The reaction from Indigenous leaders was so hostile that Trudeau backtracked, something he seldom did, and when he began negotiating with the provinces constitutional changes, Indigenous leaders demanded seats at the table, which they were granted as spokespeople, if not as voting leaders.
The twisting and long road of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms enshrined "existing treaty rights," that was the phrase, from which the courts then constructed and are still constructing an elaborate body of Canadian law for Indigenous Peoples, recognizing their special standing in Canada. For some years now and for many decades ahead, Canada will be attempting a unique experiment: designing a sovereign federal country, which is what we have, with more than 600 self-governing units within it. Because self-government must mean—can't just be a word. Self-government must mean full political responsibility for many public functions, accountability for those chosen to lead, and own-source revenues to deliver those functions.
Nowhere else in the world has this been tried, except perhaps in the United States, where tribes—or what Canadians call First Nations—have considerable sovereignty over their own affairs within defined limits of territory. But in legal terms they are "domestic dependent nations." According to the 2016 census, there are about 1.6 million Indigenous Peoples in Canada or 4.9% of the overall population—more than twice the share than when Pierre Trudeau was prime minister. The Indigenous population is growing rapidly and the greatest challenge for progress lies among the young, too many of whom commit suicide or fail to secure an adequate school education.
There are about 977,000 First Nations people, up 39% from 2006 to 2016; 587,000 Métis, up 51% during that period; and 65,000 Inuit, up 29%. During that period, the population growth of First Nations with treaty status grew 13% on reserves, but 49% off reserves. There are 70 Indigenous languages with 12 broad linguistic groupings. But within those groupings, 30% have fewer than 500 speakers. About one in five Indigenous Canadians can converse fluently or haltingly in a Native language, the total being about 260,000 people. That compares with 510,000 people who speak Tagalog, the Philippine language, and a roughly similar number who are conversant in Arabic.
So preserving Indigenous languages—apart from Algonquian languages, where there' 175,000 speakers—[like] Cree, Ojibway, Dene and Mohawk will therefore be hard, despite government funding and good intentions. The rise in Indigenous populations, greatly enhanced political awareness among Indigenous Peoples from the time of Trudeau senior to Trudeau junior, improved levels of education and an entire court-developed superstructure of Indigenous rights have thrust Indigenous issues into the Canadian political mainstream. How scattered populations, often very small, can develop the capacity to fund and deliver services effectively, which is the definition, I repeat, of self-government, is a hard question for which there is no easy answer.
So hard that it' actually not considered polite in certain quarters to ask it. How small are First Nations populations? Well, let me draw an example from British Columbia, where there are more than 200.
There, five years ago, the B.C. Treaty Commission, in its annual report, gave these populations for First Nations which had signed final agreements: 2260, 350, 400, 1500, 160, 780, 830, 3460, 290, 225. Those with advanced agreements in principle: 770, 940, 465, 550, 1090, 1790, 370, 2505, 1625, 1041, 675, 3685, 270, 745, 830, 6565.
Statistics Canada reports that one in six First Nations across Canada has more than 2500 people. One in six. Whereas more than half have fewer than 1000. To state these numbers is to underscore, therefore, the challenge of genuine self-government with capacity and own-source revenue to make the ideal the reality.
Not everywhere, but in enough places for optimism to prevail, some First Nations leaders are increasingly aware that, as long as they are seriously consulted and rights are respected, their populations will support the development projects that bring the jobs, training and money they need.
This change became evident in recent years in two high-profile instances in British Columbia: the Trans Mountain pipeline and the LNG natural gas pipeline project to Kitimat. In the Trans Mountain case, five Indigenous nations oppose the oil pipeline, but dozens approve it, including some that want a financial stake in the project. In the LNG case, every elected council, all 20 of them along the pipeline, approved the project, but a handful of hereditary chiefs in one nation opposed it. In both cases, Indigenous opponents were in the minority, but they were supported by environmental activists. They received an inordinate amount of media attention and they formed an alliance acidly called by Indigenous supporters the "enviro-colonialists."
Throughout the entire Trudeau-to-Trudeau period, the lingering realities and historical memories of the country' treatment of Indigenous Peoples hung heavy over all discussions. William Faulkner' observation about the American South might apply to the Indigenous Peoples' treatment in Canada. "The past is never dead," Faulkner wrote, "it is not even past."
The clearest example is the reality and the memory of residential schools. Examined in many books by the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples established by the Mulroney government; apologized for formally by the Chrétien and Harper governments; the subject of billions of dollars in payments to residents as part of the settlement agreement in 2007 that also established a payment mechanism for victims of sexual abuse; and given further examination by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and the Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls.
The Trudeau government proposes now a national day on September 30 to remember residential schools. And residential schools remain the abiding subject of plays and poems and songs and books and political discourse woven into today' Indigenous cultures. And the willingness of non-Indigenous Canadians to continue expiation for this part of the nation' past is an open question, with public opinion surveys showing a division between those who want to keep apologizing and those who want to say that enough is enough.
For example, an Angus Reid Institute survey, by a 53 to 47% margin, showed Canadians felt we're too focused on apologies for residential schools and by the same 53–47 margin felt no group should have special status. Well, diversity and inclusion are now ubiquitous words in Canada. The groups recently demanding, quite rightly, a more prominent place in the country are new. The accommodation of diversity and the struggle of recent arrivals is not.
This country, from the beginning, was an attempt to accommodate two religions, Catholic and Protestant, and two language groups, English and French, that had been at murderous odds in Europe and around the world, including in the 18th century in North America. That French-speaking Catholics and English-speaking Protestants, each with their own internal divisions, would move from what Lord Durham found when he did his report after the 1837 rebellions in Upper and Lower Canada—two nations warring in the bosom of a single state—to a federal arrangement three decades later, defied historical experience.
And then came the out-migrations. Hundreds of thousands of French speakers from Quebec went to New England, and tens of thousands of English speakers went to the richer, more vibrant United States. So that in the late-19th century, Buffalo and Detroit had huge Canadian populations. But then came the in-migrations, not without travails and discrimination against people from Ireland and Israel and Eastern Europe and Southern Europe and Asia, until, in the Trudeau-to-Trudeau period, people were arriving from every continent, facing their own settlement challenges but not burdened by guilt for the country' past. And all the while, Indigenous populations were marginalized and ignored; and it is now the difficult task for this and future generations to make good that debt.
Since I've spoken of the past, let me conclude by highlighting a striking difference between the two Trudeaus. In 1984, his last year as prime minister, Pierre Trudeau was asked by Brian Mulroney, then the Leader of the Opposition, whether the government would apologize to and compensate Japanese Canadians who were interned during the Second World War. Mr. Mulroney insisted that Mr. Trudeau do so, saying that it was a unique case and, therefore, compensation was required.
To this, Pierre Trudeau responded:
"I do not see how I can apologize for some historic event to which we or these people in this house are not a part of it...
"I don't see how I can apologise for a matter in which we did not participate.
We can deplore that it happened... I do not think the purpose of a government is to right the past. We cannot rewrite history. It is our purpose to be just in our time." He asked where the apologies would end, once they started.
Trudeau senior had spent his life in politics trying to build national pride and especially to make French-speaking Canadians share in that pride. And Trudeau senior was right in asking where the apologies would end because subsequent developments have shown that they do not. Mulroney in power proceeded with payments and apologies to interned Japanese Canadians. Prime Minister Paul Martin opened a government office with a $25‑million budget and invited groups that felt historically wronged to apply for money. Prime Minister Chrétien apologized for 23 Canadian soldiers executed during World War II. Prime Minister Harper apologized for a head tax imposed on Chinese immigrants. But none of them compared to Justin Trudeau, who has scoured Canada' history to find groups to which he can apologize.
He even took Hector Langevin' name off the prime minister' office building, despite the historical record showing that Langevin had offered only two derogatory paragraphs about Indigenous People in his long and stormy career that included participation as a Father of Confederation at the Charlottetown Conference.
Unlike his father' view that we can only be just in our time, his son believes that retroactive, if rhetorical, justice is desirable thereby, through these many apologies, abetting the idea that Canada' past has been a sad saga of widespread oppression, racism and other forms of discrimination with actually very few redeeming virtues to celebrate. And this is the prevailing discourse in university history departments towards Canada' past. It' a strong narrative of the Canadian History Museum in Ottawa, the Canadian Museum of Human Rights in Winnipeg, and most Canadian authors about Canada' past. Publishers these days are not even remotely interested in sagas of success in Canadian history. They want stories of oppression, racism and discrimination; and high school textbooks, too, play upon this narrative.
Despite a drumbeat from the intelligentsia and from the prime minister, the majority of Canadians remain positive about what Canadians have achieved. A June 2019 survey of Canadian attitudes for the Association of Canadian Studies found that 75% of Canadians were very proud of health care, the passport, the flag and the Charter. A study by Ipsos for Historica Canada revealed that 86% of Canadians were proud of diversity. Ninety-two percent believed that Canada was polite and 86% thought that there was a distinct Canadian identity. A recent Angus Reid Institute survey showed that 75% of Canadians were proud or very proud of being Canadian and the highest levels of pride were on the Prairies.
The survey data is clear: the vast majority of Canadians are proud of their country. Over 300,000 immigrants arrive every year and, over time, become proud of Canada. Despite the intellectual elite, this feeling of national pride, at least in English-speaking Canada, and even present in Quebec, is another way the country has evolved, Trudeau to Trudeau.
Thank you very much. Thank you for listening. Good day.
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