What Are Western Values Anyway?

Since October 7, 2023, we have been reminded that Western countries have been transformed by mass migration. Crowds in America have chanted “Go back to Poland!” at Jewish students; in Canada, shots were fired at a Jewish elementary school; in the UK, a Jewish man in a kippah was told by a police officer that he should stay away from a pro-Palestine protest because he looked “openly Jewish”; and posters of Israeli hostages have been torn down everywhere. As Douglas Murray noted, posters of missing pets would never be removed, but posters of kidnapped Jewish children scarcely stay up for more than a few hours.

Mark Steyn predicted all of this back in 2006 in his bestseller America Alone: The End of the World as We Know It, but most cultural commentators moved on to the threat of wokeness by the mid-2020s. However, the mass migration topic never entirely went away, but the consistent refusal of any political party to take steps to significantly curtail it had neutered the discussion. Now, with Islamist rallies rocking campuses and capitals across the West, the debate has resumed with renewed vigor, with the standard conservative view being that millions of people have migrated to the West without adopting ‘our’ values and instead importing their own value systems.

This is clearly true, but there is a complicating factor that conservatives must grapple with that defies easy answers or solutions: What are Western values, exactly? When conservatives refer to Western values, we usually refer to our collective Christian civilizational inheritance. But when Joe Biden, Justin Trudeau, or even Rishi Sunak talk about ‘our’ values, they mean abortion on demand, ‘Pride Month,’ and the pelvic privileges of the Sexual Revolution. It is true that many immigrants to the West have not assimilated Western values. It is also true that hedonistic materialism is what’s on offer for them.

A prime example of this incoherence was the failed federal leadership campaign of Canadian Tory Kellie Leitch in 2016. Leitch proposed that incoming immigrants be subjected to a ‘Canadian values’ test to determine whether their views were compatible with Canadian citizenship. The proposal was intended to address the threat of immigrants with Islamist views. The difficulty was that Leitch couldn’t come up with a test that wouldn’t exclude Christians as well. When journalist Evan Solomon put the question to her directly, it turned out she hadn’t even considered this conundrum.

“Let’s say someone comes and they want to become a citizen and they’re Catholic,” Solomon said. “And they say, ‘Do you believe in same-sex marriage’? And they say, ‘No, I don’t.’ Do they get in? Or do they now have an ‘anti-Canadian value’?” Leitch grimaced and dodged. “I think this is a discussion Canadians want to have. And for myself, there are certain values.” Solomon pressed her further, highlighting quite accurately that her loyalty oath would apply to many groups she presumably had not intended it for. She refused to answer specifics, and finally defaulted to: “I’m not going to go point-by-point, issue-by-issue and trivialize this issue.” In other words, a demand for adherence to ‘Canadian values’ would exclude a Filipino Baptist pastor as well as a Saudi imam.

The failed Leitch loyalty test is a good microcosm of the issue we face. What are Western values? In Canada, Christians find themselves more aligned on fundamental issues like abortion and euthanasia with Sikhs and Hindus than ‘old stock’ Canadians of European descent, who have almost entirely embraced the Sexual Revolution. Polling indicates that immigrants are the most socially conservative people in the country—largely because so many of them, particularly the Sikhs, have not assimilated (although the public school system does the job in a generation or two).

For that matter, it isn’t the Indo-Canadians who are attempting to gut Remembrance Day of Christian symbols or raze our heritage—it is, in virtually every instance, white progressives. It is true that our civilizational heritage in the West is being trashed. It is also true that the majority of those doing most of the trashing—Islamist rallies notwithstanding—are the descendants of the very people who built these countries. The migrants showed up in countries that had largely abandoned and, in many cases, destroyed their heritages and found very little to assimilate to besides materialism. Indeed, the hollow nature of postmodern life in the West has led many young people to find Islam attractive, as the Protestant churches their grandparents attended hoist the ‘Pride’ flag and hold sparse services presided over by women cosplaying as preachers.


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