Kellie-Leitch.jpg

Canada Isn’t Immune to Trump-ism

By Sarah Boon from Watershed Moments.

In the days following the U.S. election, two former Canadian ambassadors to the U.S. had some advice for Canadians worried about the future of Canada-U.S. relations.

“Calm down,” they said. “Change the channel and watch some hockey.”

This paternalistic statement not only played on the worn cultural stereotype that all Canadians like hockey, Tweet: Nope, sorry. A ‘head in the sand,’ ‘everything will be fine’ mentality is NOT a good way to deal with Trump, Canada http://bit.ly/2gwbt7Ebut it suggested that a ‘head in the sand,’ ‘everything will be fine’ mentality was a good way to deal with Trump.

In truth, Canadians have every reason to worry.

Let’s start with the ambassador’s original concern: Canada-U.S. relations. While they argued that nothing will change, that’s highly unlikely. Trump’s policies don’t really jive with Trudeau’s. For example, if Trump goes ahead with his anti-climate change stance, Canada’s government will have to rethink their climate strategy or risk the perception of falling behind economically relative to a country with minimal climate change regulations. Other potential issues include NAFTA, our defence alliances, the Paris climate agreement, and the proposed Keystone XL pipeline.

Another consideration is whether Trump-style politics will cross the border. Well it’s clear that’s already happened. Kellie Leitch is one of the candidates running for the leadership of the Conservative Party of Canada (CPC). Shortly after Trump was declared the victor, Leitch sent out a flyer saying that Trump’s win was “an exciting message that needs to be delivered in Canada as well.”

Leitch was also a supporter of the ‘Barbaric Cultural Practices Hotline’ that popped up during our last election as a cornerstone of CPC policy. Basically a way to tattle on your neighbours for being brown. In the current CPC leadership race, Leitch has proposed screening immigrants for anti-Canadian values. What might those be? Liking soccer instead of hockey? Frequenting Starbucks instead of Tim Horton’s?

More recently, Leitch has called for dismantling the CBC to “create more competition in the media market.”

Seriously? Does she not realize that the TV market has been concentrated into just a few outlets — as of 2013? Has she not followed the news about the concentration of newspaper outlets last year? Is she not aware that the CBC is one of the few remaining (sort of) independent media outlets?

In case you think her ideas are too right of mainstream, think again. Leitch leads the CPC leadership campaign in terms of total funds raised, and donations to her campaign increased following her proposal of screening for anti-Canadian values.

While the former Canadian ambassadors focused on Trump and Canada-U.S. relations, they should have also considered the impacts of a Trump presidency on Canadian society. Racist attacks have increased in Canada since the election, including swastikas painted on Muslim and Jewish religious centres, and Muslim individuals experiencing harassment.

Following the election, some media outlets are painting Canada as the tolerant and progressive cousin to an America that’s gone off the rails. 

Instead of keeping calm, watching hockey, and basking in the compliments, however, we need to confront the fact that we’re not as tolerant and progressive as we like to think we are.

I’ve just finished reading Thomas King’s The Inconvenient Indian and Wab Kinew’s The Reason You Walk. Pair these with Candace Savage’s A Geography of Blood (and many, many more books on the topic), and you’ll begin to understand one aspect of the race problem in Canada. For example, it took an election to get the government to pay attention to missing and murdered indigenous women (MMIW), and the current government is stalling on adopting the UN Declaration for the Rights of Indigenous People (UNDRIP) into law.

We also seem to have a problem with women. In Alberta, Sandra Jansen, a candidate for leader of the Alberta Conservative Party, crossed the floor to the NDP, citing “bullying, extreme views, and intolerance” as her reasons for abandoning the Conservatives.

The leader of Alberta’s NDP, Rachel Notley, is no stranger to these types of attacks — she (and other women in her party) has been attacked repeatedly merely for being women in politics.

Then there’s our environmental record. Trudeau has approved an LNG plant in Squamish and another in Prince Rupert. The latter is particularly contentious given the potential impacts on salmon in the region. Trudeau has also approved permits for B.C.’s Site C hydropower development. All of these projects negatively impact indigenous communities and have serious environmental implications, but are being approved nonetheless.

It’s no surprise, then, that over 1300 early career Canadian scientists wrote a letter to Trudeau asking him to apply more transparency and rigour to the environmental assessment process. And when it comes to our progress on tackling climate change, the Dialogues on Sustainability group based out of McGill University notes that the approval of the LNG projects outlined above will make it difficult to reach our emissions targets.

Finally, there are those who think we have some wisdom to impart to Americans about how to deal with an anti-science government. While it’s true that we learned a lot about how to organize and fight for science during Harper’s War on Science, we remain far behind the U.S. in several crucial ways. First of all, the U.S. has the Union of Concerned Scientists, which has advocated publicly for science since 1969.

Here in Canada we have Evidence For Democracy, which is doing excellent work but has only been around since 2012. In the U.S., scientific societies publicly advocate for science funding, as they did last year when the House Science Committee threatened earth science funding. Here in Canada, scientific societies are noticeably absent from the debate about science and science-based policy.

The U.S. also has a President’s Science Advisor, who directs the Office of Science and Technology Policy. Here in Canada, Harper abolished the office of the Science Advisor after it had only been in place for four years. We’re still waiting for word from the Trudeau government as to whom they’ll appoint as the new Chief Science Officer.

The Americans have fought for science before, under the George W. Bush administration (particularly climate science). While the current fight won’t be the same — and could be a lot tougher — they’re prepared. Much more so than Canadian scientists are.

Given just these few examples of how we treat indigenous peoples, women, and the environment, and the state of science nationally, Canada can’t get too smug about being a better version of our neighbours to the south. Although we don’t have the same level of income inequality as we see in the U.S. (thanks Alexis Morgan for pointing this out), we can’t assume that Trump-style politics won’t gain a foothold here.

Instead of watching some hockey and burying our heads in the sand, we need to stay aware, and commit ourselves to ensuring that we not only fail to buy into the racist, misogynist, and anti-science politics from south of the border, but that we actually improve things here at home.

Sarah Boon was an environmental science professor for seven years before returning to writing. Her articles about academic culture, women in science, and the environment have appeared, or are forthcoming, in Outpost, BC Forest Professional, iPolitics, Canadian Science Publishing, the Nature Conservancy of Canada, Hakai Magazine, CBC’s The Nature of Things, Terrain.org, and Science Contours. Sarah is a co-founder and serves on the Board of Science Borealis, where she was formerly the Editorial Manager (2013-2015) and Earth & Environmental Science Editor (2013-2016). Find her at Watershed Moments or on Twitter: @SnowHydro.

Image: Kellie Leitch via kellieleitch.ca

Like a kid in a candy store
When those boxes of heavily redacted documents start to pile in, reporters at The Narwhal waste no time in looking for kernels of news that matter the most. Just ask our Prairies reporter Drew Anderson, who gleefully scanned through freedom of information files like a kid in a candy store, leading to pretty damning revelations in Alberta. Long story short: the government wasn’t being forthright when it claimed its pause on new renewable energy projects wasn’t political. Just like that, our small team was again leading the charge on a pretty big story

In an oil-rich province like Alberta, that kind of reporting is crucial. But look at our investigative work on TC Energy’s Coastal GasLink pipeline to the west, or our Greenbelt reporting out in Ontario. They all highlight one thing: those with power over our shared natural world don’t want you to know how — or why — they call the shots. And we try to disrupt that.

Our journalism is powered by people just like you. We never take corporate ad dollars, or put this public-interest information behind a paywall. Will you join the pod of Narwhals that make a difference by helping us uncover some of the most important stories of our time?
Like a kid in a candy store
When those boxes of heavily redacted documents start to pile in, reporters at The Narwhal waste no time in looking for kernels of news that matter the most. Just ask our Prairies reporter Drew Anderson, who gleefully scanned through freedom of information files like a kid in a candy store, leading to pretty damning revelations in Alberta. Long story short: the government wasn’t being forthright when it claimed its pause on new renewable energy projects wasn’t political. Just like that, our small team was again leading the charge on a pretty big story

In an oil-rich province like Alberta, that kind of reporting is crucial. But look at our investigative work on TC Energy’s Coastal GasLink pipeline to the west, or our Greenbelt reporting out in Ontario. They all highlight one thing: those with power over our shared natural world don’t want you to know how — or why — they call the shots. And we try to disrupt that.

Our journalism is powered by people just like you. We never take corporate ad dollars, or put this public-interest information behind a paywall. Will you join the pod of Narwhals that make a difference by helping us uncover some of the most important stories of our time?

TC Energy staff claimed they got their ‘really good content’ published in the Wall Street Journal

The Wall Street Journal is staying mum about an allegation it ran an editorial criticizing U.S. President Joe Biden using “really good content” supplied by...

Continue reading

Recent Posts

Our newsletter subscribers are the first to find out when we break a big story. Sign up for free →
An illustration, in yellow, of a computer, with an open envelope inside it with letter reading 'Breaking news.'
Our newsletter subscribers are the first to find out when we break a major investigation. Want in? Sign up for free to get the inside scoop on The Narwhal’s environment and climate reporting.
Hey, are you on our list?
An illustration, in yellow, of a computer, with an open envelope inside it with letter reading 'Breaking news.'
Our newsletter subscribers are the first to find out when we break a major investigation. Want in? Sign up for free to get the inside scoop on The Narwhal’s environment and climate reporting.
Hey, are you on our list?
An illustration, in yellow, of a computer, with an open envelope inside it with letter reading 'Breaking news.'