Bonfire of the Canadians

On Election Day, racist old Asterix comics burn

It’s election night in Canada, and Canadians are burning books as a matter of course. The prime minister, running to keep his job, has said, “There is no core identity, no mainstream in Canada.” In just the past six months, Canadians have vandalized hundreds of churches or burned them to the ground. And in Ontario, a Catholic school district has destroyed nearly 5,000 books in a gesture of “reconciliation” with the native peoples. In a nation with no core identity, people of European descent burn books to apologize to people of indigenous heritage for the deeds of their long-dead ancestors. Identity crisis, meet identity politics.

Press play to hear a narrated version of this story, presented by AudioHopper.

Fast-forward to the postmodern present. Canada, ground zero for the emerging globalist architecture of the Great Reset, has already embraced a great many of the ‘new culture’ values of wokeness, including a penchant for taking the dimmest possible view of its own past. Books have not escaped a (sometimes literal) scorched-Earth reckoning with our brave culture warriors. Trudeau has been only too happy to fan these flames by continually reminding us what genocidal maniacs our ancestors were, and what racist and sexist pigs we yet remain today. The bonfires haven’t even spared poor Asterix.

For readers unfamiliar with the long-running French cartoon, Asterix  has been charming mostly juvenile audiences worldwide with jape since its debut in 1959. Recounting the adventures of two Gauls, the cunning Gallic village elder Asterix and his brawny and somewhat brainless sidekick Obelix, the series eventually spawned a book/film entitled “Asterix et les indiens” which appeared in English as Asterix Conquers America. School officials have decided that the story, which imagines our intrepid Gauls somehow crossing the ocean to North America, is an example of “sexual savagery” and “an intolerable crime against the sexual dignity of indigenous women” for depicting First Nations females as attractive and wearing shirt skirts. A schoolboard in Ontario sponsored a book burning in 2019, destroying 30 copies.

This panel from Asterix Conquers America is a bit problematic.

To understand what might drive school educators to sponsor a book burning, one must examine Canada’s long-standing cultural reckoning with its past treatment of indigenous people. The government and society have invested years and hundreds of millions of dollars in a process intended to build a bridge between European and First Nations cultures. But the vacuum in the zeitgeist left by the Trudeau government’s policy of not acknowledging any kind of historic cultural center to Canadian identity, has left the Truth and Reconciliation process–to say nothing of both European and indigenous Canadians themselves–marooned at high tide.

The logic which led to a book burning has inspired the Providence Catholic Schoolboard to undertake a review of its inventory of books. As many as 5,000 titles may find themselves on the chopping block in the board’s rush to certify its anti-racist bona-fides. Canada has always had an uneasy relationship with its colonial past. This has reached fever pitch in the Age of Woke and shows no signs of abating.

A nation that burns books immolates any sort of literary legacy. As we await announcement of this year’s Giller Prize, we reflect on Trudeau’s words about Canada’s lack of a core identity. What makes this year’s prize-winning book–or any book published here–demonstrably Canadian? This is a difficult question to answer in a country that is increasingly unrecognizable as anything but multicultural and globalist.

Justin Trudeau has presided over the deconstruction of Canadian identity and culture, to the general approval of his base. That mostly urban, transatlantic elite accepts Trudeau’s specious definition of Canada as a “set of ideas,” despite its lack of a Declaration of Independence or equivalent to the Federalist Papers. What we have instead is the strident message of wokeness, anti-sexism (“peoplekind”) and antiracism. Trudeau and his urban disciples are pleased to define Canada in negative terms, unaware that defining a culture by exclusion (i.e., “what we are not”) inevitably leads to acts of exclusion. The book burning in Ontario is not the first.

Canada’s Supreme Court recently upheld a ruling permitting the burning of another form of the written word: school records. Between 1936 and 1944, the Canadian government destroyed 15 tons of paper records related to residential schools in Canada. In 2017, the Canadian Supreme Court ruled that present and future destruction of such records are not inconsistent with constitutional law. And so it’s opened a legal path to memory-holing evidence of one of the worst episodes in our national history.

What history does a nation with no core cultural identity leave behind? It would seem the historical record is as barren as the literary one. Just as the publishing industry and Hollywood are tied in America, so are publishing and academia tied in Canada. One lies downstream of the other, and cultural change is downstream from both. The change wrought has been one where the records of the past and the creative products of the present can be erased in the interest of “a set of ideas” that they define vaguely at best. When the government defines them in negative terms, they heap up fuel for cultural bonfires. My hope was always that we had left that particular cultural symbol behind in the Middle Ages and the Nazi era, where it belongs. But bonfires line the road ahead for as far as the eye can see.

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Jamie Mason

Jamie Mason is the author of The Book of Ashes, Certain Fury, and The North Atlantic ProtocolThe North Atlantic Protocol. His most recent effort, THE BOOK OF JAMES, is a historical epic set in Viking-era Britain.

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