O Canada: A Country Divided

Photo collage of Canadian figures and symbols
Photo Collage / Maclean’s Archives

Canada is often overlooked in the international community. Canadians are caricaturized as being neutral, harmless, and even a little dull – a polite, sensible, open-minded people.

Compared to other countries, this seems like a favourable public perception to have – and one that even Canadians boast about.

But the problem we now face is these tropes have long been baked into the mindset of outsiders who sincerely perceive Canada to be a land of opportunity and freedom, coupled with a sense of humanity unmatched in other countries. Canada consistently ranks at the top of ‘Best Country’ lists, including in 2021, when it scored the number one spot for best country, topping the Quality of Life and Social Purpose categories, and reaffirming the notion that Canada is a beacon of stability, safety, openness, and inclusivity. While these ‘Best Of’ lists are click bait and are not to be taken seriously, they still contribute to this image of a Canada that really only exists in our minds.

A more accurate portrayal of Canadians is that we are polite, not friendly; we are passive aggressive, righteous, and silently judgemental. Most important of all: we see ourselves as a moral superpower, especially in comparison to our neighbours to the south. Our deep-seated contempt for Americans is consistently reflected in public opinion polls. In 2018, our opinion of the U.S. hit an “unprecedented” low according to Canadian research firm Environics Research. Two years later, a Pew Research Center report found that only 35 percent of Canadians surveyed favourably viewed the United States, beating its earlier record.

Our superiority complex is not a new development; it’s woven into our social fabric. In 2004, journalist Jonathon Gatehouse aptly describes Canadians as the ‘know-it-all neighbor.’ Certainly, there’s a level of arrogance required in viewing ourselves as the world’s “helpful fixer.” Jonathon writes, “Like the know-it-all neighbour who never misses a chance to bend your ear over the back fence or critique your yardwork, Canada has become the block bore.”

Combined, these characteristics laid down the groundwork for the deep-seated fractures we see today.

We have a prime minister, Justin Trudeau, who brands himself as a cool, progressive social justice crusader; a doting father and husband who wants the world to know he’s a feminist, too; and a trendsetter with a penchant for novelty socks. This is the carefully crafted image of a leader who seeks to conceal his disdain for everyday Canadians, but every so often, this image shatters. Many Canadians saw this when Trudeau called unvaccinated Canadians ‘racists’ and ‘misogynists.’ This comes as no surprise considering Trudeau has always been more conniving than he lets on, having been taught by one of the best, his own father, and who once admitted, “I get so annoyed at the complacency of Canadians, the idea that we’re so virtuous.”

Trudeau is propped up by a number of hand-picked journalists and media who never dare ask the difficult questions or deviate from the party line, lest they risk complete censorship and ostracization themselves. This is not a free press. This is a media working in lockstep with the powers-that-be. Some of us may know this, but many Canadians still cling to every word delivered from the publicly-funded media as if it were gospel.

To appease its Liberal overlords, the mainstream media has gone into overdrive fanning the flames of division exacerbated by the pandemic.

Global News green lit this inflammatory tirade authored by a journalism professor who seems to resent the fact that Canadians have fundamental rights. In his tirade, the journalist describes unvaccinated people as “deniers of science . . . right-wing anti-vaxxer fanatics . . . [who] cling to the dangerous idea that individual liberty must be absolute, even when the common good is imminently threatened (as in a pandemic) by the unrestrained exercise of personal freedom.” These are the words of a professor who teaches journalism to aspiring journalists – a grim foreshadowing of an already dying industry.

This Star article also resorts to the same tired stereotypes and hyperboles, equating unvaccinated and unmasked people to unhinged criminals, ready to wreak havoc wherever they go. “The fervently unmasked attack the masked in public, often violently or in racist terms. We see it on airplanes, at corner stores and on the subway, citizen journalists compiling mixtapes of ugly scenes, the kind of thing you will find in museums 50 years from now showing how humans behaved in 2022.” The writer even compares unvaccinated people to “anti-vax creatures howling outside hospitals, invading stores and terrorizing politicians in their homes.”

With Trudeau’s smug nod of approval, the same narratives are being regurgitated over and over again by the establishment who seeks to further divide and shift the blame from the government’s own abysmal failures.

In another effort to dehumanize unvaccinated people, researchers are claiming in a yet-to-be peer reviewed study that vaccine hesitancy is associated with people who are “less oriented toward the future, and more likely to choose a smaller reward today than wait for a better one down the road.” In other words, they claim unvaccinated people are more impulsive and lack self-control. Of course, one doesn’t need to be a researcher to see how absurd this claim is. Many Canadians, whether they are willing to admit or not, got vaccinated for what many will classify as “selfish” reasons, i.e., to travel, go to restaurants, attend concerts, go to gyms, etc. Or, to get back to the “normal” they were promised. Authorities dangled the carrot, and we bit. Not once, not twice, but three times and counting. Meanwhile, it is the unvaccinated who are delaying gratification as they do not reap such immediate rewards. They are being punished in all directions. There is no immediate gratification in being effectively demonized and ostracized at every turn.

On top of the usual restrictions, we have a province that will be implementing an additional health tax on unvaccinated people, and another that plans to expand the vaccine passport into a digital ID that will be used to hire employees, open a bank account, apply for loans, and more. We’ve already seen cases where parents have been separated from their children for being unvaccinated. In Quebec, a father lost the right to see his 12-year-old son, and some doctors are refusing to see unvaccinated children. These are just a few stories. Every day a new horror story emerges.

All of this has transpired with little to no fanfare. Quite the opposite.

Fear has gripped the lives of many: Canadians are eager to participate in a digital surveillance society; others, in an almost morbid gleeful state, are eager to get tested as often as possible, some multiple times a day, creating a new class of hypochondriacs. Shops are proudly displaying the private medical status of their employees. Medical professionals are getting their licenses suspended for refusing to parrot the party line, and unvaccinated people are being terminated in droves, with many filing claims.

Moral righteousness has blinded Canadians, especially where it concerns covid vaccinations. Canadians, being the ‘know-it-all’ neighbour have doubled down on their unbridled obsession with vaccines, seeing the shot both as a panacea and a badge of honour, signalling to others of their superiority, while wishing ill will towards anyone who doesn’t eagerly comply.

A recent poll found that more than 1 in 4 Canadians support jail time for unvaccinated people, 37 percent of respondents support denying health care to the unvaccinated, and two-thirds of respondents favour mandatory vaccines for everyone over the age of five.

Meanwhile, other countries are loosening their restrictions. The UK is scrapping vaccine passports and masks. Czech Republic is abandoning plans to make covid vaccinations mandatory. The World Health Organization (WHO) also says it’s time to lift restrictions, including scrapping blanket travel bans and eliminating proof of covid vaccination for international travel.

All of this is happening while Canada tightens its grip.

Meanwhile, in my country of birth, thousands of Bulgarians have taken to parliament to protest against covid restrictions. As a post-communist country, Bulgarians know what it’s like to live in a repressive system, where shortages were frequent, access to Western goods was limited, and the economy was entirely controlled by a corrupt government. After the fall of the Berlin Wall, government-owned enterprises were replaced with mass privatization creating few winners, including the same old corrupt politicians who ruled under the former regime. Nothing much changed. Bulgarians remember all the promises they were told, both under communism and the current perverted capitalist system – all told, none filled.

Living within these culturally liminal spaces made me realize that, in many ways, Canadians are more repressed than others because we live under the illusion that we are free. But because this illusion of freedom has been sustained for so long, we forget what real freedom looks like – and so we ignore it, even when we are at risk of losing it all. Our rights are conditional. They can be suppressed whenever the government sees fit, and that is why we must defend them when our government exhibits gross overreach. As is the case now.

Alarmingly, many Canadians see all of this happening and think nothing of it. When I see my fellow Canadians reduce those who value freedom, autonomy, and self-sufficiency to juvenile descriptors such as "freedumb fighters," I feel deeply ashamed. I have to wonder how much of their own environment has clouded their judgement to the point where they’re willing to ridicule their own neighbour to prove their loyalty to a leader who only sees them as another pawn to be used and discarded.

Canada has fallen – and it is us, Canadians, that have allowed it to get this far. But perhaps this is the Canada that always was. We just needed a crisis to reveal our true nature.

What this pandemic taught us – and what I long suspected – is that most people eagerly sustain their blind deference to authority; they prefer to exist unconscious in the world, waiting for someone else to tell them what to do. They have not developed the ability to think for themselves, and that is the most dangerous thing of all, especially in so-called democratic societies.

While the establishment works overtime to vilify anyone who deviates from the narrative, I will be here, showing support to the thousands of truckers convoying across Canada to protest against vaccine mandates and covid restrictions. These truckers are not terrorists, insurrectionists, or white supremacists – they are ordinary Canadians (and Americans) who have come together for a common cause: to fight for our fundamental rights. The trucker convoy has already raised an impressive $5.5 million on GoFundMe, making it one of the highest-earning GoFundMe campaigns to date.

Unfortunately, some Canadians – including our own prime minister – are determined to undermine the convoy, calling it a 'fringe' minority of people who hold 'unacceptable' views. Without skipping a beat, NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh added his own thoughts, saying he doesn't support a campaign that harbours "extremist and dangerous views." This goes far beyond right vs. left and anyone who tries to tell you differently and pigeonhole you is not arguing in good faith. We must ignore these political mouthpieces who seek to divide. It is not us who holds dangerous views; it is them.  

We have the opportunity to put aside our moral superiority, and envision a country where our freedoms are not conditional, but guaranteed. We must work together to support one another, abandon the fake niceties and ‘sorry’s’ that are a trademark of our passive aggressive nature, and unite. Right now, ordinary Canadians are doing just that. And the establishment wants you to ignore this – for that you have to ask yourselves why?