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Justin Trudeau & The Misuse Of Words

How the Canadian PM has manipulated language to justify the unjustifiable
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Readers, I was away from the keys for most of yesterday, which is why it took so long to approve comments. I am leaving shortly for a conference in Madrid. I will keep blogging, but comments approval is going to be spotty. Below, I present you an essay by my Canadian friend Hans Boersma, an Anglican theologian. He gives me permission to reproduce it here.

By Hans Boersma

Canadians love their Charter of Rights and Freedoms. This is not without reason. It begins with a preamble that reads, “Whereas Canada is founded upon principles that recognize the supremacy of God and the rule of law.” The supremacy of God and the rule of law are the foundation of Canadian democracy.

When on February 14, 2022, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau invoked the Emergencies Act, the announcement caused shockwaves all over the country and, indeed, throughout the world. What serious threats might Canada face that this most drastic of measures was taken? As an aside, let me observe that the term “Emergencies Act” is a form of newspeak. Newspeak is an important instrument in attempts at reshaping people’s views. It served that role in Orwell’s 1984, and it does in Trudeau’s Canada. Canadians no longer have an External Affairs or Foreign Affairs Department. Instead, we now have a Global Affairs Department, so as to accommodate Justin Trudeau’s view as expressed to the New York Times that Canada is the “first postnational state,” since “there is no core identity, no mainstream in Canada.” He may be right, though for me this observation is cause for lament, not celebration.

 

But I already digress. I simply mean to say that to talk of an Emergencies Act is to acquiesce in newspeak. The Act’s predecessor, in force until 1988, was more accurately called the War Measures Act. To invoke the Emergencies Act is to impose a martial law—with or without boots on the ground. It’s the kind of extreme measure that nations avoid until they can no longer. Ukraine didn’t invoke it until after Russia had already begun its invasion. Canada invoked the War Measures Act during both World Wars, and then again during the so-called October Crisis of 1970, when the Front de libération du Québec (FLQ) had kidnapped Quebec’s Deputy Premier Pierre Laporte and British diplomat James Cross. Not everyone was convinced the latter crisis warranted the use of the War Measures Act, but few disputed that Canada faced a serious crisis. War measures are for times of war—or something closely akin to it—when the very existence of the nation is at stake. Clearly, no such crisis existed at any point while the truckers made their voices heard.

 

The words of the Charter too have been subjected to neglect and abuse. The preamble’s language of “the supremacy of God” has been ignored as an inconvenience and treated as an embarrassment. The words are there, but we have lost a sense of what they might mean. We do well to ask at this critical juncture of Canadian history: how do we understand these words? And what do they have to do with the current crisis? The first thing to observe is that “the supremacy of God and the rule of law” are one and the same thing. God’s supremacy indicates that he is utterly free—beyond all human scheming. This utter freedom or transcendence of God is identical to his own eternal law. Freedom and law are not each other’s opposites; they are identical in God, for God is One.

 

Human freedoms and human laws participate God’s freedom and law—in God himself. We could also say: these human freedoms and laws are finite attempts at mirroring God. To the extent that they are truly grounded in God’s eternal freedom and law, they are not gifts from a generous government. They are gifts emanating directly from God. Section 1 states, therefore, that these freedoms and rights are “subject only to such reasonable limits prescribed by law as can be demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society.” The Charter’s basic point is that the freedoms and rights of citizens come directly from God and ought not to be tampered with.

 

The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms does a pretty good job of articulating the ways in which human freedoms and rights should reflect God’s supremacy (or freedom) and his eternal law. Section 2 of the Charter lists freedom of conscience and religion; freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression, including freedom of the press and other media of communication; freedom of peaceful assembly; and freedom of association. Among Canadians’ rights, the Charter lists in section 6 the right of “every Canadian … to enter, remain in and leave Canada” and of every Canadian to “move to and take up residence in any province; and to pursue the gaining of a livelihood in any province.”

 

Despite this setup of the Charter, ever since March 2020, provincial governments have systematically regulated and limited freedom of worship, mostly with general appeals to health concerns. My home province of British Columbia simply abolished religious freedom and the right to worship for four months on end. The assumption appears to be that religion is a luxury, the practice of which the state may or may not grant to the church, depending upon the situation. Put differently, by abolishing the church’s worship, the state has cut the participatory link between human freedoms and laws on the one hand and God’s own freedom and law on the other hand.

 

Other freedoms too have been curtailed by the state. The unvaxxed have not been allowed to travel by plane or train within Canada, let alone leave the country. They are essentially imprisoned, Soviet-style, within their own country. Most worryingly, as I hope to show, the freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression is under attack by the federal government of Canada. Suppression of unacceptable views is the stated aim of the Liberal regime’s Emergencies Act.

 

Not all human freedoms and laws are equally truthful and real. Only to the extent that they participate in God do they carry genuine weight. The truth and validity of our freedoms and laws depend upon their faithful reflection of and participation in God’s freedom and law. When the state regards itself as ultimate lawgiver, it shouldn’t surprise us that they feel free to curtail or abolish Charter freedoms and rights and instead impose laws and restrictions that fail to reflect the character of God. Such so-called laws, because they fail faithfully to participate in God’s freedom and law, do not carry weight. They are empty, unjust words of human origin. As such, they may well give rise to tyranny. The Emergencies Act is not legal simply because of Trudeau’s fiat. Martial law is legal only when it corresponds to the Charter—which is to say, when it faithfully reflects and participates in God’s freedom and law.

 

Language matters. The language of the Charter certainly does. The pious mouthing of the Prime Minister and government officials that the Emergencies Act leaves the Charter fully in place simply cannot be taken at face value. Already during the two years before the Emergencies Act’s invocation were the Charter’s rights and freedoms systematically trampled by Canadian governments. It is beyond satire to suggest that martial law would somehow leave Charter rights and freedoms intact.

 

The problem goes back to our Prime Minister’s view of how words function in the Charter. While he pays lip service to the “rule of law” mentioned in its preamble (and I have no idea how he would even try to make sense of the language of the “supremacy of God”), it matters little to him that the freedoms and rights mentioned in sections 2 and 6 have been suspended for well over a year. But as we have just seen, freedoms and rights may be set aside without consequence only where they are mere constructs of the human will—the gifts of a benevolent dictator perhaps. When, instead, they are a participation in the freedom and law that is the nature of God himself, it is unconscionable to bracket them for any length of time without demonstrable justification. In short, it is a radically voluntarist—not to say Nietzschean—view of reality that undergirds Canada’s regnant political climate.

 

Just as human laws are (or should be) grounded in eternal law, so human words derive meaning from the eternal Word. When we sever the link between human laws and eternal law, we invariably also sever the link between human words and the divine Word. Like human laws, so human words become the playthings of those with the most clout. Philosophically, this linguistic approach may be traced to nominalism (from the Latin nomen, meaning “name”). For nominalists, things are what we name them; their meaning is not a truth we are meant to discover. When words no longer participate in reality, we end up using them to construct reality as it suits us—while banning words that express views we reject and disdain.

 

This nominalist construction of reality in line with our own whims is apparent in the Canadian Prime Minister’s actions. When the trucks first started rolling from the west coast toward Ottawa on January 22, he spoke of a “fringe minority” that held “unacceptable views.” He did not specify, but it’s likely he had in mind the truckers’ opposition to vaccine mandates and passports. Weeks earlier, he had already denounced the unvaxxed by saying, “They don’t believe in science/progress and are very often misogynistic and racist. It’s a very small group of people, but that doesn’t shy away from the fact that they take up some space. This leads us, as a leader and as a country, to make a choice: do we tolerate these people?” To the Canadian Prime Minister, the unvaxxed hold unacceptable views and should not be tolerated. Antivaxxers are (very often) misogynistic and racist; their views should be banned.

 

It’s a commonplace now—except among Liberal MPs, ruled by their party leader’s iron-fisted discipline—that the country’s leader is divisive and that he uses language as a key tool to divide his populace. During the House of Commons debate on the invocation of the Emergencies Act, Trudeau called in the heavy verbal artillery when he responded to a Jewish Conservative MP with the accusation that Conservatives stand “with people who wave swastikas.” That the comment is outrageously untruthful does not seem to bother him.

 

Since the trucker demonstrations were entirely peaceful and looked like a fun carnival or a neighborhood party, language had to be marshaled to obscure and deflect the reality that people witnessed on the ground: down-town Ottawa littered with bouncy-castles, saunas, hockey games and barbecues, people singing the national anthem and praying the Lord’s Prayer, truckers cleaning the streets and handing out food to the homeless. Language has the power to name and hence to control; sadly, the Prime Minister’s demagoguery employs it with evil intent and with eminent skill.

 

So, you ask, if the protests were mostly just a street party, why did the Prime Minister invoke martial law, and how did he get away with it? I am not privy to the stirrings of Mr. Trudeau’s heart, so it’s hard to say what, in the end, provoked him to do so. But we are familiar with some of his views and with those of his inner circle. We also know what he did during the few days that he had a nearly completely free hand.

 

In a 2013 townhall meeting, Trudeau was asked which country he most admired after Canada: “There’s a level of admiration I actually have for China,” Trudeau responded. “Their basic dictatorship is allowing them to actually turn their economy around on a dime and say, We need to go greenest fastest, we need to start, you know, investing in solar.” For some reason, China first popped into his mind. Admittedly, China’s social credit system is efficient—terrifyingly so. It’s a system that gives individuals scores based not just on vaccination status, but also on compliance with environmental policies, food purchases, dog registration, you name it. But it’s not easy to transplant such a system from China to the free West. Without QR passports you simply can’t do it; they are indispensable if you want to introduce a China-inspired social credit system here in the West.

 

It’s hardly surprising that Klaus Schwab’s The Great Reset, published within months of the onset of the Covid crisis in 2020, warmly welcomes the opportunity it affords: “The pandemic represents a rare but narrow window of opportunity to reflect, reimagine, and reset our world,” exclaims Schwab. Justin Trudeau, one of the so-called Young Global Leaders groomed by Schwab, couldn’t agree more. Nor could his Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland, a Board of Trustee member of Schwab’s World Economic Forum.

 

Terence Corcoran, one of the National Post’s most perceptive journalists, observes that Trudeau’s opposition to the freedom convoy is directly related to his attempt to advance the WEF ideology: “That possibility may explain why Justin Trudeau has now turned to extreme rhetoric and unprecedented constitutional action against the trucking convoy and its multi-faceted supporters. His reaction is an attempt to divert attention away from the flaws in policy and the failure of the WEF-shaped model he adopted to guide policy.” Trudeau’s “extreme rhetoric” serves to protect the vax program, which (for Trudeau, at least) in turn serves to advance the authoritarian agenda of Schwab’s so-called Fourth Industrial Revolution.

 

Why impose martial law? The peacefully demonstrating truckers were having a good time; to some, nothing is as dangerous as ordinary working stiffs having a good time. Think of it: the trucking party scored major successes, simply by driving to Ottawa and parking their trucks. First, the Conservative MPs turfed their not-so conservative leader Erin O’Toole in a parliamentary caucus revolt. Then, five provinces—Alberta, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Prince Edward Island, and even Ontario—declared an end to all mandates. Why, they even started banishing QR passports. This last development obstructs, of course, the very best thing about the pandemic: the possibility of digitally controlling every single aspect of ordinary citizens’ lives. The success of the trucker convoy put a major spoke in the WEF’s wheel.

 

Now, naturally, these are not the reasons Trudeau gave for invoking the Emergencies Act. Instead, in proclaiming a national emergency, the government’s stated rationale mentioned “continuing blockades by both persons and motor vehicles that is occurring at various locations throughout Canada and the continuing threats to oppose measures to remove the blockades, including by force, which blockades are being carried on in conjunction with activities that are directed toward or in support of the threat or use of acts of serious violence against persons or property, including critical infrastructure, for the purpose of achieving a political or ideological objective within Canada.”

 

In truth—in a universe where language and reality correspond—the contrast between this rationale and the realities on the ground could hardly be more obvious. Trudeau’s proclamation pointed to blockades throughout Canada presumably because the Emergencies Act defines national emergency as an “urgent and critical situation of a temporary nature.” In this case, the situation was so local, so not-urgent and not-critical, and so temporary that all of the border blockades had already ended by the time Trudeau invoked the Act. The only protest remaining was that of a small rag-tag group of truckers and their sympathizers in Ottawa, none of them in any way violent.

 

Pressed on what the “acts of serious violence” might be, Minister of Public Safety Marco Medicino commented, “There is an ideologically-motivated operation that we see in the rhetoric here that is meant to incite.” Queen’s University Professor Bruce Pardy points out how dangerous this statement really is: “They have no actual violence occurring. They have no intelligence about threats of violence occurring. I’m sure you can work out what the consequences are if this is to be considered a proper use of the Emergencies Act.” There is no hiding the shocking reality: Trudeau imposed martial law simply to silence political dissidents whose only crime was to hold opinions different from his.

 

To make the case for martial law stick, the Canadian government basically broadened the concept of violence. No longer does it refer just to physical violence (the use of arms to overthrow a government); it can now also refer to rhetorical violence (discourse used for political purposes). How does one critique this broad application of the word violence politely? Well, by its own admission, the Canadian government imposed a national emergency to silence people with “unacceptable views.” Canada had martial law imposed so the government could silence alternative viewpoints.

 

It is hardly surprising that a majority of the provinces immediately rejected Trudeau’s attempted subversion of democracy, that he faced court challenges from the Canadian Constitution Foundation, from the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, and from the Alberta government, and that he was forced to admit defeat and let go of his so-called emergency hours before the Senate was likely to vote down the government’s naked grab for power.

 

Words matter. The Prime Minister’s consistently incendiary and divisive rhetoric makes clear that he is keenly aware of the power of words. And his fearful reaction to truckers and their “unacceptable views” shows how afraid he is of other people using words he dislikes.

 

We must unequivocally denounce this misuse of words that turns a peaceful protest into an illegal act of “serious violence” to be suppressed with every power the state has at its disposal. Truckers were put in prison, their trucks impounded, their bank accounts frozen. Numerous ordinary people, having donated $20 or $50 to the truckers’ good cause via the crowdfunding platform GiveSendGo, scrambled to safeguard their bank accounts because of threats emanating from government ministers and officials.

 

Canadians—those who have had the temerity to disagree with the Prime Minister, either by refusing to get vaxxed or by peacefully protesting vax mandates and QR passports—have suffered egregiously from Trudeau’s misuse of language. They’ve been excluded from all public transit; they’ve been shut up in their country; they’ve been imprisoned; they’ve had their vehicles impounded and their bank accounts frozen—all because a Prime Minister considers their so-called fringe views unacceptable.

 

Perhaps the issue of proportionality should finally be raised. What is the more serious legal offense: to peacefully protest vax mandates and QR passports or to pressure and coerce people into submission, grievously violating the very heart of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, withholding all public travel from the unvaxxed, and imprisoning people for so-called violent rhetoric? Truly, the rule of law and democracy are safer in the hands of the peaceful truckers now in prison than in the hands of the violent Prime Minister residing at Rideau Cottage. In a world where words still had meaning, they would be told to trade places.

 

Hans Boersma is the Saint Benedict Servants of Christ Chair in Ascetical Theology at Nashotah House Theological Seminary in Wisconsin. A Canadian citizen, he resides in Langley, British Columbia.

 

 

 

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