Oh, Canada! The land of John G Diefenbaker, the morally and socially conservative rural populist who established the Canadian Bill of Rights, the Royal Commission on Health Services, the Agricultural Rehabilitation and Development Act, and the National Productivity Council (Economic Council of Canada), and who extended the franchise to all Aboriginal peoples.
He campaigned to save the Canadian Red Ensign, with the Union Flag in the corner and thus making Canada a nation under the Cross. He opposed official bilingualism in the English-speaking provinces, a common cause between Irish Catholics and his own tribe, the Orangemen. He denounced apartheid, and blocked the Commonwealth readmission of the new Republic of South Africa. And he refused to have American nuclear weapons in Canada. But, alas, he subordinated Canadian to American air defence, one of the effects of which was to put 30,000 Canadians out of work. A salutary reminder that One Nation politics must always place an equal emphasis on the One and on the Nation.
Canada is also the land of Tommy Douglas, voted the Greatest Canadian by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation’s viewers in 2004. Born in Falkirk, and therefore an embodied link between Canada and the United Kingdom, this Baptist minister led a party of unions, farmers and co-operators with that splendid name, the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation. He gave Saskatchewan the publicly owned Saskatchewan Power Corporation, its extension of electrical services to remote villages and farms, and the Saskatchewan Government Insurance Office.
He gave Saskatchewan many Crown Corporations in competition with private sector interests, the unionisation of the public services, and Canada’s first programme of universal free hospital care. He delivered the Saskatchewan Bill of Rights, with its groundbreaking protections against private no less than government abuses. He laid the ground for the province’s Medicare programme, which soon afterwards became nationwide. And he became the first Leader of the New Democratic Party, Canada’s main party of the Left. Did I mention that he did all this while a Baptist minister?
And only in Canada, within and under the British Empire, and under the Crown to this day, was the old France, “the Eldest Daughter of Holy Mother Church”, able to survive, having providentially passed from French to British sovereignty so early that Jacobinism still forms no part of the heritage there. The fleur-de-lys, on the Royal Arms of England and then of Great Britain from 1340 to 1800, remains the symbol to this day, and the Assembly quite recently voted without any dissent whatever to retain the Crucifix between the Speaker’s Chair and the Royal Coat of Arms. The Crucifix between the Speaker’s Chair and the Royal Coat of Arms? Perfect. Utterly, utterly perfect.
Complete with the Queen and the Westminster model, a few retained British variations on the English language, and a British-style social democracy. Yet sharing with the United States a continent and the longest land frontier between any two countries. How dare they? Who do they think they are? They will indicate exactly who and what they are by withdrawing from Afghanistan. We should be right behind them. As we should be in defending secure jobs, proper wages, travel opportunities and a full diet for everyone. Now, there is a special relationship.