Student Voices is a WOA blog feature that presents the experiences and viewpoints of current Arts students. Through their posts, you’ll experience the creativity and passion of our students as they present glimpses into student life. The views and opinions expressed within these posts are solely those of the authors.
After the Liberal majority win last year, Justin Trudeau famously declared, “We [Canada] are back.” A close analysis of this statement reveals an underlying notion of what Canada was — or should be. The “Canada” in Trudeau’s mind is characterized by ideas such as: peacekeeping, human rights, market economics, multiculturalism and so on. Trudeau defined these traits as our fundamental principles – as a benevolent state within the eyes of the international community and the eyes of our own citizens. And thus these traits have become the norm.
But I’m left wondering whether we can really define Canada under these categories, or whether we should to begin with. The hopeful view of liberalism – as a rational, reasonable ideology without the extremes of conservatism or leftist – undermines any critique as either unappreciative of our democracy or just too extreme.
We’ve hit our stride; we’ve found something that’s not too hot but not too cold either, something just right. Liberalism is understood as a balanced ideology. Moreover, who could critique the liberal notions of justice and human rights? With that, people forget to truly engage with our government, forgetting that there are still issues to be dealt with from the past and present. People forget that liberalism is still a part of the status quo, and sometimes, my critiques are brushed off as “cynical” or “ungrateful” for the rights I have. People feel an immediate defensiveness, feeling that they have a moral duty to defend their state. My critiques somehow undermine all the good that liberalism has done, despite that the fact I’m a lone figure and I pose no threat – just my critical thinking dares to question their views.
The hopeful view of liberalism undermines any critique as either unappreciative of our democracy or just too extreme.
The Liberal government definitely has shown a commitment to a gender balanced cabinet, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, and the acceptance of Syrian refugees. But there are other issues like Canadian trade with Saudi Arabia — an autocratic, repressive regime — or Trudeau’s strong support of Israel, calling pro-Palestinian movements such as the ones on campus as “shameful.”
These are things that I’d want to show to those who defend liberalism, but neoliberal trade or the support of Israel is just a given – people either readily accept or make excuses for these instances. I see that rhetoric here, on campus, the very place that is meant to be critical. This especially affects students as a part of an educational institution that, on principle, should encourage critical thinking. A number of students are still swept up in the thrill of a young prime minister, someone different than the Conservatives without realizing that even liberalism comes with fundamental flaws. Liberalism, in particular, can easily present itself as supportive of human rights and a balanced perspective that students — understandably so — buy into.
But still, the rose-coloured view of liberalism as a benevolent ideology prevails. People forget to critically engage with the current government and liberalism in Canada. My hope is that people learn to truly challenge their underlying assumptions on what we believe Canada is or isn’t. Whatever conclusion one makes after that is entirely their choice.