Canada’s Illiberal Backsliding

Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland wanted individuals whose bank accounts had been frozen to be denied their cash until they reported to the police. The suggestion was not ultimately acted upon,


Is Canada becoming an illiberal democracy?

That description is typically associated with developing countries such as India, or recent democracies such as Hungary, where right-of-centre governments are accused by western observers of democratic backsliding and an illiberal turn. It’s ironic, then, that, by some measures, Canada, which we once assumed to be a bastion of liberal democracy, is becoming increasingly illiberal.NP Platformed Banner

Sure, we have a government that is ostensibly centre-left and claims to have a “progressive” and “inclusive” agenda. Yet it was the Liberal government of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau that invoked highly illiberal emergency powers during peacetime. This had only happened once before, under another Liberal government, led another Trudeau, during the October Crisis of 1970.

You would think that in a country in which many people, certainly many of the elites, profess liberal and progressive values, a lot of them would have been disturbed by last winter’s declaration of an emergency. Police forces acting under government orders broke up a peaceful protest in the nation’s capital, and the bank accounts of many innocent Canadians who participated in, or gave support to, the Freedom Convoy were frozen.

We recently learned through secret cabinet documents that Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland wanted individuals whose bank accounts had been frozen to be denied their cash until they reported to the police. The suggestion was not ultimately acted upon, but was made public in a redacted document shared with the Public Order Emergency Commission.

What is even more alarming is that the major banks were apparently pleased with this suggestion. One financial institution, Farm Credit Canada, a Crown corporation that provides financial services primarily to farms, went so far as to tell its employees to proactively and secretly record the names of customers who they suspected may have been involved with the convoy, according to a Blacklock’s Reporter story based on documents provided through an access to information request. This sounds more like communist East Germany, than India or Hungary.

But it’s not just the liberal elite who seem to be giving up on liberal values in Canada. A recent poll by Innovative Research Group found that 51 per cent of Canadians surveyed said that they supported the use of the Emergencies Act, which is actually up two per cent since February.

This, despite revelations in the ongoing public inquiry, which fell within the polling period, that law enforcement officials at all levels did not believe that there was an imminent threat to Canada’s national security and that the protesters were not violent extremists, which demolishes the government’s stated rationale for its use of the Emergencies Act. It’s more than a little disturbing that more people actually support the emergency declaration after these revelations were made public.

Until not that long ago, Canada was, and was widely seen internationally, as a sane and pragmatic country, where rights and freedoms were protected, and encroached upon only when absolutely necessary, such as in the two world wars. While Pierre Trudeau’s use of emergency powers to round up a small group of separatists in Quebec has been debated, the overreach of all levels of government in dealing with the pandemic has been nothing short of astonishing.

Canada had the toughest restrictions in the advanced world, something that Justin Trudeau himself bragged about, and now, when the rest of the world is moving on, voices in Canada’s “liberal” elite are again fear-mongering and urging for fresh restrictions, such as a return to mandatory masking, with the threat of new vaccine mandates not officially disavowed by the federal government.

It’s noteworthy that much of the advanced world has been moving to the right, most recently Italy and Sweden, but Canada remains in thrall to a government driven by a leftist ideology that is among the most illiberal in the western world. How did the citizens of a country that proclaims itself the “true north strong and free” start accepting life under government diktat and the loss of our individual liberties?