Whether we want to admit it or not, whether we agree with it or not, it is becoming more and more clear that Canada has entered an era of cultural wars and we need to take serious note of this. We can no longer be comfortable that this is just happening in the United States and shrug our shoulders and say it will never happen here, because it can, and it is.
While some will want to make it so, this is not a partisan issue. This era of culture wars is a function of both the left and the right in Canada.
We have seen it in the so-called truck convoys, we see it in a movement toward more individual rights rather than collective rights and we are seeing it in an atmosphere of growing intolerance for any points of view that are contrary to our own, often with serious consequences.
The cultural tug of war here also includes a weakening of the importance of truth, a more than tepid acceptance of ‘alternate facts’, and a penchant for historical revisionism. There has been little expressed outrage about the tearing down of statues or renaming of institutions or streets. We are also seeing this in the erosion of parental rights and a lesser emphasis on the importance of family life.
I also wonder if we are witnessing a dilution in the rule of law here. People with criminal backgrounds are released on bail, back into society with little thought about the safety of others. Further, similar to what is happening in the United States, there are those among us who view activists arrested for breaking the law as heroes rather than criminals.
Of course, the latest incident in this cultural war is in the Region of Peel where all books prior to 2008 are being removed from school libraries. Some are saying that this is a misunderstanding and of course, those who dislike the Ford Government are blaming the Minister of Education. Frankly, I don’t really care if he is to blame, or if the Peel Board is to blame, or if activists are to blame. The outcome and the consequences are the same.
Young people are being denied access to age-appropriate literature based on someone’s opinion about what they should be allowed to read. Harry Potter is on the hit list. So are The Hunger Games and The Diary of Anne Frank. Some books on Canadian history, antisemitism, and literary classics have been removed and essentially banned.
Really? The last generation of young students grew up with these books and others, like Catcher in the Rye and To Kill a Mockingbird, or A Prayer for Owen Meany. Most of them turned out just fine and learned something along the way. The Bible was written prior to 2008 and so was the Koran. These are both books of great significance. I wonder if they have been banned.
The Chair of the Peel Board said that some of these books were in poor shape and needed to be gone. That’s fine, but they need to be replaced. Otherwise, this is censorship, pure and simple.
It was also said that the reason for the removal of some books was equity-based. Nonsense. You don’t create equity by denying access to specific points of view or historic events. You create equity by providing as many points of view as possible.
One senior politician put it this way: “Libraries have become the newest target by a movement that claims to pursue equity while actually projecting authoritarianism.” I agree with that and the potential of that is scary.
While corrections may be made by the Peel School Board as a result of the intervention by the Minister of Education, the fact remains that what has happened in Peel School libraries is part of a cultural war. If it can happen in Peel, it will happen in other parts of Ontario.
I have a high regard for the school librarians I have known. I am sure that most, if not all teachers who work in the library, are against censorship and want available the most extensive inventory of literature possible. They know when these books are age-appropriate for students. I am content to leave decisions to them about what books should be in their libraries. I am not content with activists who have other controlling agendas interfering in that process.
It is important to note that the situation in Peel with school libraries is a symptom and not the entire disease as it relates to culture wars. There are so many other examples of this creeping into our Canadian society that the preponderance of them is a real concern.
Of course, that does not mean that we should resist change when it is needed and appropriate. Climate change is a good example of that. It is real and needs to be addressed. But it, and other important issues can be, and would be more effectively dealt with if they are not dragged through a cultural war of historical revisionism, censorship, confusing alternative facts, and my way or the highway inflexibility.
As an example, pouring paint on valuable paintings in the name of climate change does nothing to promote it and in fact, turns some people off in relation to this important issue. Civil unrest can have the same effect.
In dealing with necessary change, we must be very careful about how we go about it if we want success rather than failure. We do not need to be involved in culture wars in order to effect necessary change.
In fact, in my view doing so would impede real progress for things that really need to be addressed. It could also result in throwing the baby out with the bath water.
Surely, we do not want that.
Hugh Mackenzie has held elected office as a trustee on the Muskoka Board of Education, a Huntsville councillor, a District councillor, and mayor of Huntsville. He has also served as chairman of the District of Muskoka and as chief of staff to former premier of Ontario, Frank Miller.
Hugh has also served on a number of provincial, federal and local boards, including chair of the Ontario Health Disciplines Board, vice-chair of the Ontario Family Health Network, vice-chair of the Ontario Election Finance Commission, and board member of Roy Thomson Hall, the National Theatre School of Canada, and the Anglican Church of Canada. Locally, he has served as president of the Huntsville Rotary Club, chair of Huntsville District Memorial Hospital, chair of the Huntsville Hospital Foundation, president of Huntsville Festival of the Arts, and board member of Community Living Huntsville.
In business, Hugh Mackenzie has a background in radio and newspaper publishing. He was also a founding partner and CEO of Enterprise Canada, a national public affairs and strategic communications firm established in 1986.
Currently, Hugh is president of C3 Digital Media Inc., the parent company of Doppler Online, and he enjoys writing commentary for Huntsville Doppler.
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