Previously, we set the stage that George Grant laid out in Lament for a Nation: a Canada built on foundations older than those of liberalism, nonetheless being transformed by American power and an elite which rejected Canada’s roots. We will now examine several of the key institutions and traditions of Canadian life which exist in tension with the liberalism and which have engulfed much of Canadian society, because they are fundamentally incompatible with it. Grant’s own reflections will show how well these tensions were understood mere decades ago.
Conventional wisdom is as follows:
America is a conservative country. It has evangelicals, Republicans of both the Bush and Trump varieties, and promotes interventionism and die-hard capitalism. Canada is a liberal country. It has universal health care, multiculturalism, and Trudeau is presently leading a Liberal Restoration to recover from the dark old days of Stephen Harper.
Yet, this contradicts the facts of history. While the American mythos exalts the free and sovereign individual, the historic Canadian tradition sees people as born into distinct cultures and stations. It is in Canada, rather than America, where the dominant ethnocultural heritage is explicitly recognized as British. It is the Canadian constitution, and not the American, which references the “supremacy of God”. And where in America could you find a mainstream media personality discussing the ethnogenesis of a nation in political life?
Lament for a Nation is best known today as a repudiation of the common paradigm. For George Grant, the conventional wisdom depends on an ignorance of history. Specifically, it disguises America’s revolutionary founding as an embodiment of Whig Liberalism and Canada’s slow and purposeful development as a confrontation of nations eventually united under a single royal power.