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Aggressive Canadian progressivism is descending the country into crazy

Justin Trudeau’s expansion of state power over media and technology has troubling similarities to Russia, China and Iran

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Like most Americans, I always tended to believe Canada was our more sensible, if less intense, neighbour. It was a country that respected liberal traditions derived originally from England, embracing values such as free speech and assembly along with tolerance for opposing views.

This is no longer the case. As authoritarian regimes are expanding all around the world, notes Freedom House, Canada and other western nations seem to be tilting in that awful direction. Some Canadians may fear the future of democracy under a new Donald Trump administration in the United States, but they would do well to look closer to home.

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Indeed, even as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau issues statements denouncing Russia and China, his regime is now contemplating an online harms law, Bill C-63, which would permit judges to impose house arrest on those who they fear might commit a hate crime in the future. In the case of the most heinous speech, like advocating for genocide, this law would allow lifetime imprisonment. Lighter sentences or simple house arrest could be applied to anything that censors regard as hate speech, which could include such things as “misgendering” people or criticizing any aspect of Islam.

Spiked rightly compared this to the 1956 novel Minority Report by Phillip Dick, set in a future America “in which a ‘precrime’ police division uses intelligence from mutants known as ‘precogs’ to arrest people before they’ve committed an offence.” The Handmaid’s Tale author Margaret Atwood called it “Orwellian.”

This controlling trend was foreshadowed during the COVID pandemic, where dissenting views were censored at the behest of a federal official, a regime that one U.S. federal judge compared with “the Orwellian Ministry of Truth.” In Tory-controlled Britain, the BBC, Facebook and Google worked with the government to squelch dissenting views.

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During the pandemic, Trudeau, not surprisingly, embraced the relentless expansion of state power. In 2022, his government froze the bank accounts of truckers who protested against his COVID policies. For good measure, he even denounced them as neo-Nazis, even though many were ethnic minorities.

Trudeau’s regime is abetted by progressive-dominated institutions. Break the rules as defined by the cognitive masters and expect to be re-educated. Psychologist Jordan Peterson, for example, was commanded to undergo “social-media training” if he wanted to continue his professional practice and retain his license.

The Guardian, in its most twisted Stalinist form, insists the concern over free speech has been “concocted” by the evil right. That was somewhat true in the past, but the driving force for censorship, in Canada and elsewhere, comes from progressives and their allies in the tech oligarchy. In recent years, we have witnessed a terrifying convergence of big tech platforms with security agencies. This was most obvious during the 2020 U.S. election, when the platforms — and quasi-party organs like National Public Radio — hid information about the laptop of presidential candidate Joe Biden’s dissolute son, Hunter, which was alleged to contain evidence of corruption. Former intelligence officials dismissed the scandal as Russian “disinformation,” but the laptop was later confirmed to be authentic.

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As Trudeau has tried to do, the progressive left essentially disses even the idea of legitimate debate. And they have enormous power, controlling increasingly what happens in our museums, while woke censors proliferate at large publishing firms on both sides of the Atlantic. And in some places, like Scotland, the leftist Scottish National Party is adopting a law that encourages people to report disliked speech to the police.

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To be sure, you don’t have to be progressive to be repressive. In the United Kingdom, the inept and soon-to-be-out-of-power Conservatives have expanded the attack on free speech both on the internet and in politics. The suborning of law enforcement to the notion that even reasonable dissent can be considered “hate speech” is more reminiscent of the ideas of 17th-century Tories than the modern version.

But going forward, the greatest danger lies in the collusion between Big Tech and the government. Big Tech’s control over information and culture is unrivalled, with growing influence over studios and newspapers as well. They try to erase people by taking them off the platforms, Meta having recently banned Instagram accounts tied to Robert F. Kennedy Jr.’s independent presidential campaign last year. LinkedIn also briefly suspended the account of then-GOP presidential hopeful Vivek Ramaswamy in May of 2023.

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Similar attacks on free speech, usually couched as bans on “hate speech,” have arisen in ScotlandIreland, Australia as well as Canada. In the U.K., the bank of former Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage tried to close his account because of his “problematic” views. While the U.K.’s Conservative government has publicly denounced the practice of “de-banking,” it has quietly pushed for the state monitoring of bank accounts, following the example of Trudeau in the face of protests during the pandemic.

It could get worse. Some already see the pandemic as a “fire drill” for regulating the lives of ordinary citizens. Dissenting views could be wiped out as “misinformation” even if it comes from the most distinguished sources. The existing corporate and banking elites are unlikely to stand up to this. Earlier this year, the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the heart of the global financial establishment, cancelled a planned speech by recent Nobel Prize winner John Clauser because he had dared to challenge the prevailing climate agenda.

The curators of social media platforms like Reddit have already banned climate skeptics from their science pages. Meta recently censored well-supported articles that detail the impact of offshore wind turbines on whales. All this is aided by a climate lobby funded by non-profits like the Rockefeller Foundation and the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, who now fund “reporters” at once-respected places like NPR.

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None of this is good for the future of democracy. The repressive regime seems likely to spark pushbacks with sometimes dangerous consequences. Trust in the instruments of surveillance, like the once highly regarded FBI, has plummeted. More than two in three Americans fear the country is becoming “a police state.” Similar trends have long been evolving in Europe.

In some cases, progressive overreach elicits a nasty and equally authoritarian reaction from the right. Republicans in Iowa have sought  to ban Brave New World, the 1932 novel by Aldous Huxley, revealing an intellectually demented perspective. New right parties are rising in Italy, France, Sweden, Greece, Switzerland and Spain. Some members of the American right admire Vladimir Putin, who seems to meld Soviet ideology with the religious nationalism of the tsars. Others embrace Hungary’s proudly illiberal Viktor Orbán.

Ultimately the issue here is not about ideology or belief but expanding the powers of the state in concert with increasingly concentrated media and technology industries. Trudeau and his counterparts across the Anglosphere are developing a new aggressive form of progressivism closer to the corporate fascism existing in Russia, China, Iran and North Korea.

All this is a tragedy not just for traditional liberal societies but also for other countries, largely in the developing world, now weighing whether to endorse a democratic rule of law model or embrace authoritarianism as the most efficient way to run a society. More than anything, these societies, constituting the vast majority of humanity, need to see that we can handle diversity, environmental and cultural issues without undermining our basic liberties.

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