By Jonathon Van Maren
Earlier this month, Konrad Yakabuski over at the Globe and Mail shared some interesting insights on the cultural social conservatism of many new Canadians—an often-overlooked fact that explains quite a bit about recent political trends in this country:
Canada has accepted about five million new immigrants in the past 25 years and they have irreversibly changed our political dynamics.
Twenty-five years ago, Quebec’s place within the Canadian federation was almost all we ever talked about. Today, the Quebec question has faded from the national agenda. All we seem to talk about now is diversity…
What our political elites have a hard time admitting, however, is that diversity is not a one-way street toward harmonious living – what the French call le vivre-ensemble – but a multilane expressway of competing and often colliding values, norms and ideas. Nowhere has this become as apparent as in the emergence of social conservatism as a political force in Canada.
This is something that the Trudeau Liberals are finding out the hard way. They were, to put it bluntly, stunned by the backlash they received over the “abortion attestation” they inserted into the application requirements for the Canada Summer Jobs Program, because left-wing politicians of every stripe have been trashing Canadian Christians with great gusto for over a decade with very little pushback. Only the overwhelming response to Ontario’s sex-ed curriculum a couple of years back, which came primarily from new Canadians, indicated that perhaps it was not just conservative Catholics and Protestants who held social conservative values—and the Liberals have inadvertently forced many disparate communities into recognizing their own shared values by targeting them with the attestation. Yakabuski notes that these voters have already had a significant impact in Ontario politics recently:
Doug Ford’s election as the leader of Ontario’s Progressive Conservative Party would not have been possible without the mobilization of social conservatives. That a strident anti-abortion activist – Tanya Granic Allen – was even on the ballot was proof in itself that this is no longer your father’s PC Party. That Ms. Granic Allen captured almost as much first-ballot support as the centrist Caroline Mulroney, and that her supporters propelled Mr. Ford over the top on the final ballot, was especially sweet for social conservatives.
The latter are now celebrating their new-found political clout — in dozens of languages. Immigration has swelled the ranks of Canada’s social conservatives. Polls shows that Canadian-born voters are less religious than ever, even when they claim to belong to a particular faith. That is not true of immigrants, who often identify more with their religion than their country.
Immigrants have increasingly shaped our communities, our schools and our self-conception as a country. So, it was only a matter of time before they began shaping our politics, too. It is unlikely Ontarians would be debating the province’s new sex-education curriculum at all if only Canadian-born voters were concerned. Resistance to the new curriculum has been strongest among immigrant parents. Some even pulled their kids out of school in protest.
Ground zero for the anti-sex-ed movement is Thorncliffe Park, in Toronto’s inner suburbs, where 70 per cent of the population was born outside Canada and almost 60 per cent of residents speak neither English nor French at home. They’re far more likely to speak Urdu, Farsi and Tagalog.
Pro-lifers have already discovered this to be true in door-knocking campaigns: New Canadians are very likely to be overwhelmingly pro-life, and many of them are genuinely upset to discover that Canada permits abortion on demand throughout all nine months of pregnancy. Additionally, many had not even given Canada’s abortion regime a single thought when the Trudeau Liberals, in their ongoing zeal to force their abortion extremism on all Canadians, forced them to consider the issue in depth due to the Canada Summer Jobs “kerfuffle”:
More than half a million Muslims immigrated to Canada in the 20 years to 2011, according to Statistics Canada’s National Household Survey. The 2016 census showed that Canada accepted more than 150,000 immigrants from Pakistan, Iran, Iraq and Syria— all Muslim-majority countries – between 2011 and 2016. Tens of thousands more came from Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia and Egypt.
Almost 200,000 Filipino immigrants came to Canada in the five years to 2016, replenishing the pews of the country’s Catholic churches. As with most Canadian Muslims, these Filipino newcomers take their faith ultraseriously.
A 2016 Environics poll showed Canadian Muslims voted overwhelmingly for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Liberals in 2015. But that was likely a result of the uproar surrounding Conservative attempts to ban the niqab at citizenship ceremonies and the party’s pro-Israel foreign policy. The same poll found that, among Canadian Muslims, “religious identity and practice are important and growing, in contrast to the broader secularizing trend in Canada.”
It is a testament to the homogenous nature of Liberal thought that they did not consider this before making their ill-advised move to essentially declare that groups that did not have the same views they did on abortion and other issues were “un-Canadian,” and it will be very difficult for them to claw back the perception that has begun to spread through many religious communities—which is precisely why so many Liberal MPs, behind the scenes, are panicking over the feedback they are receiving. Many NDP MPs, I’m told, are also stressed that their party decided to back the Liberal “abortion attestation” due to the anger that it generated in the religious communities back home in their ridings.
The irony of it all is that the Liberals, while trying to target the pro-life movement, have instead handed it an unprecedented gift, as Andrew Coyne pointed out yesterday in the National Post:
If you want to know how the Liberals managed to turn a 20-point lead in the polls into a five-point deficit in little more than a year, a good place to start is their apparently sincere belief that they could blackmail the country’s churches into dropping their opposition to abortion…
No big deal, you understand: you can continue to hold whatever beliefs you like about abortion, the government told faith groups. You just have to sign a document pretending you don’t.
So you can believe abortion should be outlawed, but if you want to receive government funds, you must affirm it is a right. Or, as the government later “clarified,” that whatever “activities” you conduct will respect that right. Not surprisingly, the churches have been no more receptive to this updated opportunity to exchange their consciences for cash than they were the first.
And not only the churches. Amazingly, the primary effect of the government’s ham-handed attempt to banish abortion opponents to the margin of Canadian society has been to give them the most sympathetic hearing they have have had in years, even from a media that leans overwhelmingly in favour of abortion rights.
They have had the chance to make the point that, in fact, there is no constitutional right to an abortion, whether in the text of the Charter or in the jurisprudence arising from it. The 1988 Morgentaler ruling, in particular, was concerned only with the law that was on the books at the time, not whether any abortion law would be constitutional. Indeed, several of the justices, notably Bertha Wilson, offered suggestions as to what sort of law would pass constitutional muster.
So, too, we have been reminded that the absence of an abortion law owes not to any decision by the House of Commons, but to a tie vote of the Senate, by which means Kim Campbell’s abortion bill, though passed by the Commons, was allowed to die; that the resulting legal vacuum, far from the norm, makes Canada the outlier among democratic states; and that, notwithstanding the passage of 30 years, public opinion remains sharply divided on the question, with upwards of 60 per cent typically supporting limits of some kind.
Trudeau’s Liberals have finally pushed too far, and while many MPs have realized this already, Trudeau and other high-ranking Grits have already proven themselves incapable of backing down and utterly unable to admit when they have made a mistake, no matter what the cost. What they have succeeded in doing in informing millions of Canadians what the status quo on abortion actually is—and alienated faith groups that were previously sympathetic to their government.
For anyone interested, my book on The Culture War, which analyzes the journey our culture has taken from the way it was to the way it is and examines the Sexual Revolution, hook-up culture, the rise of the porn plague, abortion, commodity culture, euthanasia, and the gay rights movement, is available for sale here.