New Book



$21.95 hardcover · 224 pages
9978-1594037641-January 2015


The theme of The Great Divide is that the populations of the democratic world, from Boston to Berlin, Vancouver to Venice, are becoming increasingly divided from within, due to a growing ideological incompatibility between modern liberalism and conservatism. This is partly due to a complex mutation in the concept of liberal democracy itself, and the resulting divide is now so wide that those holding to either philosophy on a whole range of topics: on democracy, on reason, on abortion, on human nature, on homosexuality and gay marriage, on freedom, on the role of courts … and much more, can barely speak with each other without outrage (the favorite emotional response from all sides). Clearly, civil conversation at the surface has been failing -- and that could mean democracy is failing.

This book is an effort to deepen the conversation. It is written for the non-specialist, and aims to reveal the less obvious underlying ideological forces and misconceptions that cause the conflict and outrage at the surface -- not with any expectation the clash of values will evaporate, but rather that a deeper understanding will generate a more intelligent and civil conversation.

As an aid to understanding, the book contains a handful of Tables directly comparing modern liberal and conservative views across a range of fundamental moral and political “issues” so that curious readers can answer the book’s main question: “Where Do You Stand?” An interesting result in testing this exercise has been the number of people who find they “think” one way, but “live” another.    


Good Reading
Essays (37)

Trump Or Clinton: Will It Be Personalities, Or Policies?

        It will not be possible in November for Americans to elect a "good" President of high character. Both candidates are unlikeable and tainted with very shady, if not illegal behaviour; and both are cut-throat and tough as nails. If I had to shake hands with either one I would count my fingers afterward.

         But America is not faced with a choice between two different personalities. It is faced with a choice between two radically opposed worldviews, and the incompatible policies necessary for their realization. For almost a century, with only feeble reversals along the way, America has been mutating into a big government, high-tax, high-debt regime that has turned what was once the freest, lowest-taxed, least-regulated nation in the world into a top-heavy, socialist-style democracy in all but name. And that has meant that America is now living in open contradiction with its own founding principles, because socialism can only work with lots of top-down control, and democracy with lots of bottom up liberty. President Reagan was the last national symbol of the battered bottom-up trend, just as President Obama is the symbol the top-down trend - of the all-providing Nanny-state. Clinton and Trump are the living expressions of these two starkly-opposed historical forces in the sense that if there had never been Obama - Hillary is just his administrative reflection, ideologically committed to consolidating his dream - we would never have gotten Trump.

          From this perspective, Donald Trump is clearly a revolutionary. He is the first man in history to run for President under the name of a major political party whose top brass and house-intellectuals he has almost completely alienated. This alone is simply incredible. Against all odds, using his own money, and floating high on a tide of astonished media mavens, the man has done an end-run around every political-scientist, pundit, and pollster - even around his own party - and is sprinting alone for the Oval Office.        

        Whether he gets there or not, one thing is for sure: what we are witnessing is a wholly unique and highly-creative one-man assault by a successful, crafty, arrogant, and wealthy SOB, who remains beyond the power or punishment of America's disapproving political elites. There is a lot to dislike in such an apparently distasteful man. But that he is a force of nature cannot be doubted. That is what is upsetting his enemies and delighting his fans. Like him or not, he is first a super success, then a super failure; a man who falls then rises by his own bootstraps, flipping everyone the finger on the way; then he's a big-shot, big-mouth TV star with a make-believe hair-style; then he decides he wants to run for President without any party support, using only his own money. My son says okay, but he's just not a good man. I reply: what is the connection between being a good man, and being a good leader? Many great leaders, like many of the world's most influential brainers and culture-heroes, have been terrible people.

            Trump's first brilliant move was to unite two seemingly-unconnected protest movements at one stroke. He is a billionaire (okay, maybe just a multi-multi-millionaire) and so, one would think, should be a target of the one-percent protesters against the rich. But it's the opposite, because the envy-oriented anti-rich mobs are not really angry at the rich. Not the honest, hard-working rich. They would like to be rich themselves some day. What they are angry at is the Wall Street brand of rich: the arrogant, high-living, stock-market hustlers, bankers, and investment manipulators, making millions on margins, currency fluctuations, and stock flipping. Screwing around with numbers, and screwing the country and the ordinary worker in the process. In other words, the smart-ass rich who don't do anything that working people can possibly recognize as real work. These folks are wild about Trump because he's the opposite. He actually works. He puts up huge buildings, on time, and fully-leased - work you can see. And for this, he hires thousands of people just like them. So he's got their vote.

           The other protest movement he has united is the coast-to-coast anti-Big-Government movement. Millions of Americans and small business owners are finally, desperately, eager to get the suffocating Big-Government foot off their necks. They want to be free again. The total government debt of a nation is always a good, if rough indicator of the real presence of government in the lives of citizens. When Obama came to power, America had about eight trillion dollars in total government debt accumulated over the previous 270 years. Almost three centuries! that was bad enough, and a huge drag on the national economy. But after the eight years of Obama's Presidency the national debt-load is closing in fast on twenty trillion (not counting additional, unfunded government liabilities, which are unimaginably massive).

            So crass, inelegant, swagger-rich Donald Trump, haranguing, shouting, and repeating his basic solutions, over and over, rides into town with promises he has all but forced  upon the Republican party, to lower taxes on corporations and hard-working individuals, to create more real jobs via investment (not by "creating" them via expensive tax-funded programs), to kill unfair trade deals, and to slash top-heavy bureaucracy and red tape. He also wants to snuff out (and defund) the anti-industry global-warming hoax, to get all that shale oil out of the ground to halt dependency on Arabian oil forever, to halt illegal immigrants coming to America to steal jobs, to give students vouchers for choice in education - and even ... to get rid of our Canadian marketing boards. Perhaps most stunning of all, morally and constitutionally, in that order: he wants to stop the wholesale slaughter of abortion, and to appoint strict constitutionalists to the Supreme Court. For this reasons, he's got the anti-government vote, too. His success, simply in imagining he could unite these two protest movements and restore America to at least some of its own inspired founding principles, could be enough to sweep him into power and launch America on its most sustained period of productivity in recent history. 


The Radical Camel's Nose is Under the Conservative Tent!


       This is a clarion call regarding Canada's deVeber Institute for Bioethics and Social Research - an organization that has been busy since 1982 defending the sanctity of human life from conception, critiquing sex-ed programs, and which most recently has launched a powerful attack against the legalization of killing human beings under the rubric of "assisted suicide" and "euthanasia". (Few understand as yet that this latter term is properly defined as the active killing of another human being, and not, as so many wrongly assume, simply letting them die). They have done a lot of noble work.

       So a few months ago, I was pleased to be invited by one of their Board members to speak at the Institute's Annual Symposium on July 15th. My topic was to be "Medical Ethics, or Medical Evil? How We Got Here." I was excited about the opportunity to explain exactly how, over recent decades, we have mutated from a people who once staunchly supported the sanctity of human life, into a people who now righteously promote the killing of human life both in the womb (abortion), and outside the womb (euthanasia).  It would have been my pleasure to explain the lockstep chain of ideological, political, and moral (or rather, amoral) conclusions that have brought us to where we are today. These are not well understood, but they continue to carry us all like a silent ideological tsunami to a very uncertain future.

          At any rate, a month after I was invited and an initial notice and a poster had been sent out by deVeber, I learned that the Institute's co-Chair, who was surely aware that I was the author of the bestselling book The War Against the Family,  made it known to her Board that she didn't want me saying anything about homosexuality or gay marriage at the conference.

          Well, it was simply astonishing to see this tip of the PC iceberg appearing within what is normally such a conservative, if not openly Catholic organization. So I told my Board-member friend that I should be called personally to be told why my speech must be censored. The co-Chair made the call - an act I admired. But then she proceeded to exert herself in a meandering exercise of intellectual flatulence. Her main point seemed to be that she wanted to protect the Institute from criticism because they were working so well with government (from whom, I assume, they were already receiving, or intended to receive, funding). In short, she was clearly squirming in discomfort at the thought of me speaking my mind freely.

            I, in turn, made it known that although it was never my intent to dwell on the topic of so-called homosexual marriage, I did intend to explain in passing how the gay rights movement has been a textbook example of the handful of steps required to undermine the core morality of any traditional society. And I would have explained that what most clearly marks the end-game of this undermining process is public acceptance of the "forbidding of thought" (as the Germans, who should know, described it). It is this final step that demonizes even the most rational of dissenters by promoting the use of slur-terms such as "homophobic," or redefines the unborn child as mere "property", or even as an internal "enemy" of the liberated woman.  In other words (I had to spell it out), she and the Institute were now choosing to become handmaids to the dangerous process of closing open minds. I also warned that as things are now proceeding on the topic of euthanasia, she would soon see that all those who forbid "choice" in having oneself killed by a licenced agent-physician of the State - among them herself, and myself - would soon be ‎labelled a "euthophobe" (or some such hate-engendering adjective). But these warnings were to no avail, and we ended our conversation in limbo. 

        However, I now felt quite compromised, and as a responsible freethinker (I do not support irresponsible speech, such as the promotion of treason), I was irritated that anyone felt they should be able to dictate what I am allowed to say in a public speech. ‎Then, I discovered that the Institute's Board actually launched itself into a vote on whether or not I should be disinvited, labouring, apparently, under the illusion that voting on something can make it right. Of course, public acceptance of the notion that a vote can decide the course of a sound morality, was one of the very steps I had wanted to expose! It is also a reason  why I dislike the word "ethics" (as distinct from "moral"), because "ethics" most often has to do with making sure all parties to a crisis end up equally happy (or equally unhappy). It implies a deal-making process that may, but does not necessarily, involve moral judgement. In other words, it is possible to have an ethical decision (such as deciding that citizens must have an equal right to be killed by a physician) that is profoundly immoral.

      At any rate, there are some indignities to which no self-respecting person should submit, and putting one's own head on the block of snivelling Lilliputian opinion is one of them. So I withdrew of my own accord from what was now a poisonous situation. But as the aggrieved and inconvenienced party, I also asked myself if I had any feelings of bitterness or revenge over this minor personal slight? But I find none, and in speaking out now, I have no wish to harm the Institute. I feel only sadness that such a fine organization has engaged in such an act of self-mutilation. I could have kept quiet; and might that have been a more gentlemanly thing to do? I decided not. Rather, I concluded that if I failed to speak about such a shameless forbidding of thought, my own silence would aid, abet, and conceal the Institute's hypocrisy in holding a conference, in which only politically-correct conferring will be allowed.


The Role of a Senate, Democracy, and "Filtration"

This is a response to a column in the National Post, June 9th., about democracy and the Senate of Canada. But the underlying argument could as well apply to the proper role of a Senate, as originally conceived, in any democracy.

The Post did not print it.


June 10, 2016

Letters Editor, The National Post

            Andrew Coyne complains that the Canadian system is "something less than a democracy" because our Senators "can overrule the elected representatives of millions of citizens" ("Senators should recall their place," June 9th). 

           But he is certainly aware that Canada's Constitution - even more so than the American one of the century prior - was designed by our Founding Fathers to ensure that Canada would always be "something less than a democracy."  They considered this to be the saving grace of the Constitution they so elegantly designed for us.

           That is because the Founders of both nations, notwithstanding the considerable differences between them, had in common a justifiable fear of what Jefferson called "elective despotism." Accordingly, the operative word in those days was "filtration":  there must be some permanent procedural means to filter and refine the democratic will of the people, thus to block elective despotism. There would be three levels of filtration.

            First, as to the laws: The people should never be allowed to vote on the laws directly, because most are too busy living to grasp the complex underlying issues and principles at hand.  Instead, they should only be allowed to vote for their political representatives, whose job it would be to filter and refine the opinion of the public  before making the laws.

            Second, as to the House of Commons: Because the will of the People, even when already filtered and expressed in law by representatives, is subject to emotional and partisan excess, and hence to the bullying of minorities, it must be further filtered by a body permanently beyond the democratic will of the people. That is the purpose of the "sober second thought" of an unelected Senate.  Our Senate has never failed us because of this ideal. It has only failed us because our standard of high character is so low we have placed some failures in it - people whose behaviour should not tarnish the noble purpose of the institution itself, which is to protect us from elective despotism.

            Third, as to the regions of Canada: The will of the Senate itself must be still further filtered by a constitutionally-fixed balancing of regional powers designed to  prevent a democratic crushing of the smaller regions by the larger.

           In Canada, what Mr. Coyne calls "the principle that must be upheld before all others," has never been democracy, as he insists, or liberty, but rather, a constitutional liberty that protects us against the unconstrained follies of democracy


What Does It Mean To Be A Conservative?


This is a slightly-edited transcript of a brief speech I gave to the Conservative Party of Canada, in Oshawa Ontario, January 31, 2016.


              People often ask me:  "What it has felt like to be a conservative thinker and writer, for the past thirty years?"

               I reply: "I feel like a man who has been standing on a rock, in a leftward drifting sea.

               In the misty distance, there is a ship drifting to the left. And the voices on the deck are saying:

             'Look! Look! - there's a man out there ... drifting to the right!' "

               That image should resonate with everyone in this room, because you all know very well that any individual or group styling themselves "conservative" today is facing the same problem when it comes to voting: what should I do about moral and political drift? Do I change my principles, or change my party?

                It was the fine conservative thinker Russell Kirk, who wrote: “The conservative…will not surrender to the contagion of mass-opinion or the temptations of…power… [I]f he hopes to conserve anything at all, he must make his stand unflinchingly.”

               Which means each of you - and your party as a whole - must decide whether you want to be on the rock, or on the ship.

                This morning, I want to talk a little about how the true conservative differs; fundamentally; heart and soul; from all the other political species on offer - especially from the modern liberal, who must be distinguished from the classical liberal, as follows.

               The classical liberal was an anti-statist, who had a heartfelt desire to get all citizens to the same starting line. That is mostly why so many of them came to Canada and America. But the modern liberal has given up on that, and is now mostly concerned to get everyone to the same finish line. And he is willing to use massive tax-funded state power to do it.

                 My recently published book, The Great Divide: Why Conservatives and Liberals Will Never, Ever Agree, is a full treatment of this topic, of which I can only offer a brief sample this morning. If you are really and truly interested in where you stand - as compared to a modern liberal - on any of the 14 topics covered, such as: Freedom; Democracy; Morality; Reason; Equality; Religion - and on the three main moral questions of our time - abortion, homosexuality, and euthanasia - you will find 14 Tables in the book allowing you to evaluate your personal level of conservatism, or modern liberalism. In a sense, the book is my attempt to explain what most of us don't see.

           Imagine a man walking along a road on a nice quiet day. Suddenly, he feels a tremor. Then he sees a huge ugly gash open in the road, right before his eyes, and he watches, terrified, as the rubble starts falling from the buildings. Immediately, he thinks: "it's an earthquake!"

            But, of course, what he sees is not the earthquake. It's the consequences of the earthquake. The real earthquake is invisible, in the grinding, tectonic forces way beneath the ground. Seismologists can "see" them with their instruments. But we can't.  My point is that  the ideological, moral, and political forces that drive policies on the surface of our life, are hard to see. My book is one citizen's attempt to give you an instrument that makes them visible.

             So today I want to speak a little about just a few of those forces, because in the end, they are the underlying forces that steer the policies and the parties at the surface: which is to say - that drive them together, or drive them apart. In the case of conservatism - of conserving what is good in society - they separate the  conservatives who want to stay on the conservative rock, from those who would rather jump onto the drifting ship.

            Let me speak a little now about freedom, human nature, the role of the state, the true nature of civil society, and finally, about those three watershed moral issues.


            Historically, the most enduring topic dividing conservatives and liberals, is the question of individual freedom (or, what Americans often call liberty). There are hundreds of essays and discussion topics on my website. And one of them is called "Six Kinds of Freedom" - which I have edited and reproduced in the book. It surprises me to see that of the many thousands of downloads from this site every year - whether from the Phillipines, France, Australia, China, or ... Canada - about half are of this one single essay. It seems that people everywhere are interested in the meaning of freedom.

         I argue that for the modern liberal, freedom is perceived as some kind of innate quality that is inherent in all human beings as a right, and the operative word that currently signals the emotional invocation of this right, is: "choice." In our time, this has become a near-talismanic word, assumed to have the power to displace all social and moral custom, manners, traditions, and even to change or trash time-honoured laws the people have held dear for centuries. Indeed, the word "moral", and the word "choice",  are now conflated in the public mind, and we are close to believing that whatever someone freely chooses (such as what gender they want to be), makes their choice morally acceptable. Through this hyper-individualist process of exerting one's Will, morality is no longer conceived as a public good, but a private one.

          But the conservative, who loves freedom too, sees it not as an inherent right, but as a qualified, legally-limited, and hard-won historical and political achievement of the ages, that must of course be defended for the good it may do - but also guarded against for the damage it may do to the social and moral fabric of the people. The great Edmund Burke said something very important about freedom that supplies the entire conservative warning.

          He said: "Liberty, when men act in groups, is power." He meant that a simple peek into history will immediately show that people tend to hold the flag of liberty high, even when - especially when - perpetrating their atrocities. So for the conservative, freedom is always a qualified good; it is an instrument, like a shovel. You can dig a useful hole with it; or beat a man to death with it. So beware when liberals (and libertarians) begin their rant about individual freedom to justify whatever change, or perversion, elimination of the good they may be seeking. The conservative - the fellow standing on the rock - if he is really a conservative, will insist that the freedom of the people as a whole: the sum of all their human relations, institutions, enduring customs, traditions, and manners, must have priority over individual freedom. Or else ... where is the common good? Where is our democracy of the whole people? The pie produces the slices, the slices do not produce the pie.

              Which is only  to say that all true conservative thinkers, past and present, while very supportive of a core of qualified and restrained individual freedoms, are just as concerned about "social freedom." By this term, they do not at all mean any figment of government, or the state - entities rooted in a monopoly on power.

       Rather, what they are referring to is the authority of all the freely-created and inherited traditions, customs, and moral rights and obligations of society itself - (often called "civil society") to restrain, to direct, to coax, to shame - yes, I said it out loud: to shame! - but also to reward, and to encourage all free individuals by its myriad approvals, conscious and unconscious, to behave as free, but also as civil, and responsible human beings. In this brief paragraph I have pointed to one of the core reasons that conservatives are always wary of liberals carrying the banner of reason to make human society conform to their vision of the good. Namely, the plain fact that so much of all human action throughout the ages is not driven by reason, but rather, by emotions, passions, instincts, and unconscious forces of which we are quite often unaware. 

           But let's go back to the central role of civil society. While for the modern liberal, civil society is just the aggregate outcome of a reasoned contract freely-entered (or exited), and either sustained, or revoked, by freely-choosing individuals (the slices of the social pie); this is not so for the conservative. For this person, society is no contract made by self-important individuals claiming rights, who happen to be here today. It is, rather, an historical and organic achievement, a whole compact of all prior ages, that we inherit as a gift from millions of thoughtful predecessors, many of whom died creating it. Most importantly - and this surely reinforces the term "priority" - it is only such a free and thriving civil society that can possibly produce free, thriving, and responsible individuals, and (quite contrary to the liberal view) not the other way around. The pie comes first.

          To employ another image, "civil society", for the conservative, is like a horse pulling the cart of civilization along, stopping frequently to load it up with the free and responsible individuals it creates as it moves through history. The sickness of modern liberalism, is that it separates the cart from the horse - thinking only of the individuals in the cart, not of what makes the whole thing go forward - then shoots the horse!

        If you really think about it, the conservative notion of an organic society - not an aggregate, but a composite that is far more than the sum of its parts, the whole pie rather than just a bunch of isolated slices - is just what we used to call "democracy."  But what happened to it? Well, the letter W, and the Letter M, are the same. You can just flip the first letter upside-down and say that although democracy used to be about We; it is now about Me.  This up-ending of democracy - I call it "hyperdemocracy" - is the notion that democratic legitimacy, or sovereignty, is inherent in individuals, rather than in the whole people. It is an idea that happens to be sharply echoed in the three most important moral issues of our time, which I will get to in a moment. 


         But first, let me touch briefly on another fundamental ideological divide between the liberal and the conservative over the concept of human nature. As it happens, the modern liberal tends to be unhappy with life as it is, a malcontent, and therefore a social and moral renovator who urgently wants to change human society to please himself. But you can't radically change human society if human nature is essentially unchangeable. So to enable radical change, this person is forced to take the view that human nature is malleable. Otherwise radical change would be impossible. And once he believes this (despite all the lessons of history, and of human evil, to the contrary), he soon believes the best way to change human nature is to perfect human society by perfecting all government, no matter the cost. 

          But the conservative disagrees profoundly. Human nature is more or less fixed, and flawed, and all human beings are obscurely inaccessible to any full and complete understanding by the blunt instrument of mere reason. So they cannot be perfected by any policy on earth, and therefore no government, or state, can ever be perfected. It follows that we should not be using the coercive bully powers of the state to force change according to some fanciful and impossible notion of a perfect society never before seen in all of human history.        


           Now, let us address briefly the three most important and incendiary social issues of our time - homosexuality, abortion, and euthanasia - all of which hinge on the underlying and opposing liberal vs. conservative notions I have mentioned. These are so incendiary that there is not much hope of rational discussion, because of what the Germans, who should know, call denkverboten, or "the forbidding of thought," which is now, shamefully, like an intellectual sickness that has infected all the democracies. I can only touch on this now, but you will find the full liberal vs. conservative story on these three moral watershed issues, in my book.   

            To begin with the first: over the last thirty years, as some pundit has said, homosexuality has drifted from the love that dare not speak its name, to the love that won't shut up! And many, but not all conservatives, have been cowed by this trend. For the true conservative, however, from Aristotle to our day, "the family" is that eternal triangle of a married mother and father living together with their dependent children. So you can stay on the conservative rock by accepting  homosexuality as a private love, and acknowledge all the standard citizen rights for such people. But no special privileges. For the state simply has no business - none whatsoever - involving itself in love or marriage, or privileging these private passions in any way, except for one thing: the potential of ordinary marriage to produce and nurture future citizens. Any human arrangement that doesn't have this potential, may carry on as it wishes, but it should not be privileged for doing so. So If you have become part of the large wave of public opinion that has been aggressively normalizing homosexuality for children, altering schoolbooks, and editing TV shows to brainwash them to the effect that homosexuality is normal, or if you agree that  fatherless or motherless homes should be legitimized by the state as a matter of policy and applauded, then you have already left the rock and jumped onto the ship.

             Abortion is another watershed issue. For the liberal, it is again a matter of individual freedom and choice for all those slices, and to hell with the pie. The unborn child is considered a woman's private property, a material thing that is not considered a human being until it is born alive, so she may do with it as she freely wishes. But for the conservative, the unborn child is alive from conception; and the logic says that if it is alive, it must be a human life; it cannot be a pelican, or a giraffe. And if that is so, then we all have a duty to conserve it.  In other words, as a matter of social freedom, the right and freedom of society as an organic entity to protect and conserve the lives of its own unborn citizens, must take priority over the choices of individuals concerned only for themselves. That is another conservative rock you can stand on, or jump off.

            Euthanasia is the most recent, and most pressing moral issue now before conservatives. And here, let it be said, no one is advocating suffering, or the artificial prolongation of an agonizing life. However, most people simply have not done the work to understand that while assisted suicide - helping someone to kill themselves - may seem like an act of great sympathy (that is - may seem so, once you have gotten out of the way the money-hungry relatives, the macabre doctors with a Christ complex, the crooked lawyers, and the cash-strapped welfare state hoping to save health dollars) - it is a very different thing from euthanasia. For no matter how you try, you cannot escape the truth that euthanasia does not mean letting someone die, or helping them kill themselves; it means making them die; which is to say, killing them - whether by suffocating them, injecting them, or stuffing deadly pills down their throat that they cannot administer to themselves. And the moment such actions are legalized, we transform ourselves and the entire medical profession, from a civilization rooted in an ethic of life, to one rooted in an ethic of death. In a welfare state such as our own, where all expenses come from the same pot, if  you don't want to someone to kill you when you are old, make sure you check into a private care facility. At least, they have a vested interest in keeping you alive. But even then ... be sure to ask the nurse to drink some of the orange juice first!


               I imagine that throughout your deliberations today there will be many occasions when the rock and the ship will loom before you, and I wish you full and hearty discussion, on all heads.


A Speech given to the Conservative Party of Canada, Saturday, January 31, 2016,

by William D. Gairdner



Are We Getting the Truth?

             Questions about the veracity of Canada's Truth and Reconciliation Report on our Indian Residential Schools, and the meaning of the published death-rates in those schools, first arose when my colleague Rod Clifton, who worked for a year and a half in such a school at Inuvik, and whose wife spent ten years as a student in one, was asked: Was it really that bad? Grabbing little kids off reserves and forcing them into religious schools? Abuses, beatings, cultural genocide? He replied that many of the children "came to us straight off the land, hungry, sick, and poorly clothed, sometimes with mothers who begged us to take them in. But usually, they just straggled in with other children." In some of the southern schools, this was a weekly-boarder situation. The children spent five days a week at the school, and went home on weekends to be with their families (if they had a family to stay with).

            But the most important question of the Report Summary, would seem to be: What is the factual, versus the political truth, about the 3,201 children who were "killed by relentless waves of epidemics" in our residential schools in the 135-year period since the 1880s? The death of a child, any child, is the most mournful death of all, and to be sorely lamented, especially if it could have been prevented by a reasonable duty of care, such as we expect from a school. Mr. Clifton attests that residential school staff often "worked around the clock to protect students from such diseases," and that all Canada's residential schools had good infirmaries. So, is the number of deaths of native children reported by the TRC for 1902 - fully 2.74 per cent of the school population, as compared to 0.43 per cent in the non-native population - really proof of poor care and abuse of those children, as the summary of the Report suggests in morally-judgmental terms? Perhaps not.

        In his fascinating study of life here prior to the arrival of Europeans, entitled 1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus (2005), Charles C. Mann informs us that native Americans have always died at unbelievably high rates from infectious diseases compared to those of European stock, and a close reading of his section on "The Genetics of Vulnerability" raises the possibility that our residential schools may actually have protected native children from far worse death-rates than they actually experienced.

        Indian biochemistry, we learn, is doubly compromised. First, their immune systems are "much more restricted than European immune systems," which means they are more vulnerable to disease-driven sickness and death than non-natives. That is simply because the Europeans who came to North America had almost all been exposed to diseases such as smallpox and measles as children, "and those who didn't die, were immune." In short, "smallpox and other European diseases didn't exist in the Americas, and so every Indian was susceptible to them."

              The second reason is that all American Indians, whom it is believed came to North America more than ten thousand years ago from Siberia across the Bering Sea land-bridge, not only lacked a normal immunity to those European diseases, but were also especially vulnerable to genetic diseases, because they all shared (and most continue to share) the same restricted gene pool from a very small group of ancestors. 

             Mann cites the work of Yale University virologist, Professor Francis Black, an expert on specialized molecules called "Human Leukocyte Antigens" (HLAs), which rid most people of what these antigens recognize as cell-garbage, like viruses. Overall, he writes, "Indians have fewer HLA types" than other populations. Most of us have thirty-five main classes of HLAs, "whereas Indian groups have no more than seventeen." As a result, Black argues, "people of the New World are unusually susceptible to diseases of the Old." The only other group Black has found that was just as susceptible to these diseases then, as now,  is their closest genetic relative: Indigenous Siberians.

            Mann then cites the sad 1967 case of how a single case of measles in a two-year-old baby ravaged the Yanomami native population in a remote region of Brazil. The Yanomami have exactly the same limited genetic profile as the Indians of Canada. Scientists rushed ahead of the epidemic wave to preventively vaccinate everyone not yet sick, but without success. After it was over, the mean death-rate of all the villages, was 8.8 per cent: "Almost one out of ten people died from a sickness that in Western societies is just a childhood annoyance." That is four or five times higher than the rate in our residential schools.

            Familiarity with the factual and historical, rather than political "truth" about native people and their restricted immune and genetic history, soon reveals the shocking fact that in the century and a quarter between the arrival of Columbus in 1491, and the American Pilgrims in 1620, fully 95 per cent of all northeast coastal Indians ranging from the Carolinas to Nova Scotia, were wiped out by European diseases, against which they had no immune or genetic defence.         

          There is reason to believe that the cited 1902 death rate of 2.74  per cent, after "relentless waves of epidemics," means our residential schools did a pretty respectable job of handling this crisis. 


Entrevue avec le Hill Times d'Ottawa, sur The Great Divide

Below is a translation, by Richard Bastien, of my Interview of April 27th with Kate Malloy, of The Hill Times newspper, Ottawa, on April 27th., 2015.


Dans The Great Divide : Why Liberals and Conservatives Will Never, Never Agree, William Gairdner soutient que les populations des pays démocratiques sont « de plus en plus divisées » et qu’il y a une incompatibilité idéologique grandissante entre le libéralisme moderne et le conservatisme. Et si le dialogue civil est un échec, la démocratie l’est tout autant. 


Quel est ce grand fossé et pourquoi libéraux et conservateurs n’arrivent-ils jamais à s’entendre? 

The Great Divide (le grand fossé) n’est pas une opposition de partis politiques. Il s’agit d’un ensemble de divergences et de désaccords fondamentaux d’ordre philosophique et moral opposant les esprits conservateurs et libéraux depuis très longtemps. Au fil des siècles, les partis politiques auxquels on attribue ces qualificatifs (ou d’autres qualificatifs comme républicains et démocrates) ont géré ces désaccords sous-jacents via des compromis politiques et législatifs; en général, on évitait la confrontation directe qui conduit à des positions idéologiques profondément incompatibles.  



Pourquoi les populations des pays démocratiques sont-elles devenues « irréconciliablement divisées » comme vous le dites? 

Les Canadiens et les Américains sont venus s’établir en Amérique du Nord en tant que colons chrétiens parlant une langue commune, ce qui signifie qu’ils avaient une  même conception du bien commun. Mais, au fil du temps, le matérialisme et le sécularisme ont pris de plus en plus d’ampleur, ce qui a entraîné une érosion de notre patrimoine commun. Nous avons épuisé le capital moral de cette époque, de sorte qu’il ne reste plus que des différences idéologiques.


Pouvez-vous expliquer de manière plus approfondie les causes de cette opposition idéologique entre le libéralisme moderne et le conservatisme et préciser où elle se manifeste?

Au cours des années 1990, Francis Fukuyama a publié un livre où il prétendait que la démocratie libérale constituait « la fin de l’histoire ». C’était un titre accrocheur. Mais, bien entendu, il ne peut y avoir de fin de l’histoire tant qu’il y a des êtres humains. Ma thèse est un peu différente. Je soutiens que toutes les soi-disant démocraties libérales de l’Occident ont renoncé progressivement au vrai libéralisme en substituant à leur fondement initial, qui était la liberté pour tous, un nouveau fondement, qui est une égalité de nature purement législative et qui n’a rien à voir, comme je le démontre clairement, avec le concept d’équité. Par suite de ce changement, toutes les démocraties se retrouvent aux prises avec une contradiction fondamentale d’ordre moral et politique : comment une société politique intellectuellement honnête peut-elle reposée à la fois sur la liberté et sur une égalité forcée, étant entendu que la vraie liberté encourage les différences naturelles tandis que la vraie égalité (au sens d’uniformité) exige le recours généralisé au pouvoir de réglementation de l’État? Comment une démocratie peut-elle être tout à la fois plus ou moins libertaire et plus ou moins étatiste ou socialiste?


Pouvez-vous donner des exemples? 

Je soutiens que les démocraties occidentales ont surmonté cette contradiction en divisant le corps politique en deux. Partout on observe un corps politique égalitaire public lourdement taxé et réglementé sur l’autel duquel ont été sacrifiées à divers degrés bon nombre de nos libertés traditionnelles de nature politique, économique et juridique. 

Mais on observe aussi, à côté de ce corps public, un corps politique libertaire privé jouissant d’une liberté sexuelle et corporelle comme on n’en a jamais vu dans le passé. Nous bénéficions d’une liberté quasi-illimitée concernant l’accès à l’avortement (au Canada, financé par l’État), le style de vie homosexuel, le mariage des personnes de même sexe,  la transsexualité, la pornographie et combien d’autres vérités autrefois interdites. 

C’est pourquoi je dis que nous sommes tous maintenant des « socialistes-libertaires ». On pourrait parler à juste titre d’un marché faustien : le sexe (et les autres droits corporels) a remplacé la religion comme opium du peuple. Cette nouvelle réalité n’est peut-être pas la fin de l’histoire, mais elle ne changera pas de sitôt.

Le fond de l’affaire, c’est que les démocraties occidentales sont devenues ou sont sur le point de devenir des « États tripartites », c’est-à-dire des sociétés politiques où un tiers de la population active crée des emplois et de la richesse, un autre tiers travaille au sein du secteur public (municipal, provincial ou fédéral) ou est tributaire de contrats avec une administration publique (ce qui revient au même), et le troisième tiers reçoit des prestations publiques importantes en espèces ou en nature. Et on voit bien que, lorsque vient le moment de voter, les deux derniers tiers se liguent contre le premier, comme deux loups et une brebis qui votent sur ce qui figurera au menu du prochain repas.


Et comment ce fossé influe-t-il sur les débats concernant la démocratie, la raison, l’avortement, la nature humaine, l’homosexualité, le mariage gai, la liberté et le rôle des tribunaux? 

Comme je l’ai mentionné, nous partagions une même conception du monde et un même langage moral, mais l’une et l’autre se sont érodés, de sorte que chacun de nous, dans sa solitude intérieure, se heurte à l’âpreté de forces idéologiques sous-jacentes et opposées dans tous les domaines que j’analyse dans mon livre. Par exemple, l’interprétation libérale typique de la démocratie est qu’elle a pour objet d’exprimer la volonté actuelle de la population. Mais, tout comme Edmund Burke, le conservateur dit : attention! La démocratie concerne la volonté et la sagesse de ceux qui nous ont précédés (et dont plusieurs sont morts pour nous donner ce que nous avons), ainsi que nos devoirs et obligations à l’égard des personnes vivantes, de même qu’à l’égard de ceux et celles qui ne sont pas encore nés.

Les libéraux mettent l’accent sur la volonté présente, les conservateurs sur les devoirs et obligations passés, présents et futurs. 

Il y a un autre fossé concernant le sens du mot « raison ». Le libéral dit que toute politique doit satisfaire au test de la raison, sans nécessairement tenir compte de la religion, de la coutume, de la tradition ou de l’expérience passée. Le conservateur dit : soyons prudents! Ce que la raison peut créer, elle peut tout aussi bien le détruire. Tous les régimes totalitaires de l’histoire ont été justifiés par la raison.  

Ceci nous amène à la question de la nature humaine. Le libéral déclare que la nature humaine est malléable. Elle peut donc être modifiée au moyen de politiques et de lois, ce qui signifie qu’elle est perfectible (si elle est confiée aux soins d’un État perfectionné). 

Le conservateur soutiendra que la nature humaine n’est pas malléable, qu’elle possède des caractéristiques fondamentales qui sont fixes et universelles et qu’elle est plus faillible que perfectible. Le conservateur affirme donc qu’il ne peut y avoir de société parfaite ou d’État parfait et recommande la méfiance à l’égard des politiciens qui prêchent le contraire (avec leurs mains bien enfoncées dans vos poches).   

À la fin de mon livre, j’aborde les trois grandes questions sociales et morales les plus controversées, à savoir l’avortement, le mariage gai et l’euthanasie. Je ne peux pas traiter de ces sujets ici. Mais ce que mettent en évidence ces trois questions, c’est un conflit entre la thèse libérale selon laquelle il faut respecter la volonté des individus (correspondant à un « choix »), cette volonté étant considérée comme le plus grand bien, et la thèse conservatrice selon laquelle il faut respecter ce qui est biologiquement naturel et ce qui favorise naturellement le bien commun, celui-ci étant considéré comme le plus grand bien. Il s’agit d’une reprise, avec une terminologie nouvelle, des conflits moraux qui ont suscité des débats passionnés entre les partisans de Thomas Paine et ceux d’Edmund Burke au début du XIXe siècle. 

Pour ce qui est de l’homosexualité et du mariage gai, tant les libéraux que les conservateurs sont portés à utiliser un argument fondé sur la notion de nature. Les libéraux disent que l’homosexualité est naturelle, ce qui lui donnerait des droits; les conservateurs disent qu’elle est contre nature et qu’il faut donc y résister pour le bien de tous. Concernant la question de l’avortement, les libéraux affirment ici encore qu’il s’agit d’un choix que toute femme a le droit d’exercer. Les conservateurs rétorquent que la liberté de choix n’est pas nécessairement liée au bien commun, qui est un objectif plus élevé que le bien individuel.


Comment le grand fossé influe-t-il sur la politique fédérale canadienne? 

Le dialogue civil est de plus en plus superficiel et acerbe, à tel point que les divergences idéologiques les plus profondes ne sont tout simplement pas discutées. Les deux côtés semblent mal équipés intellectuellement et moralement pour aborder ces questions. J’ai écrit The Great Divide dans l’espoir qu’il élèvera le débat national dans plusieurs domaines. En ce sens, le livre vise à permettre aux Canadiens de mieux se connaître. 


Vous dites que le dialogue civil a échoué et qu’il pourrait en résulter un échec de la démocratie. Pourquoi?

Non seulement le dialogue civil a-t-il échoué, mais, au niveau le plus profond, il n’y a plus de dialogue. Je soutiens, que d’un point de vue moral, nous sommes revenus à notre état colonial antérieur. Lorsque nous étions une colonie, toutes les grandes décisions morales concernant le Canada étaient prises par des juges en Angleterre. Au fil du temps, nous avons obtenu la responsabilité ministérielle et nous avons entrepris de débattre de ces questions et de légiférer nous-mêmes à leur sujet. Mais depuis l’adoption de la Charte en 1982, les législatures se montrent de plus en plus réticentes à s’attaquer aux questions morales litigieuses. Elles les laissent de plus en plus à la discrétion des juges. C’est ce qui se passait à l’époque coloniale, sauf que les juges sont maintenant ici au Canada plutôt qu’en Angleterre. La réalité nous a infantilisés comme peuple.


Qu’est-ce qu’un libéral moderne?

Une société libérale classique s’enracinait dans ce que David Hume appelait  liberty under the law, c’est-à-dire « la liberté encadrée par la loi ». Dans la première partie de The Great Divide, je décris les quatre étapes en vertu desquelles le Canada et les États-Unis sont passés du « libéralisme fondé sur la vertu » au « libéralisme classique », puis au « libéralisme égalitaire » et, enfin, (par suite d’une tentative réussie de résoudre la contradiction décrite ci-dessus) à notre actuel « socialisme libertaire ». Il se peut qu’il n’y ait pas d’autre étape. Nous sommes enlisés dans le socialisme libertaire parce qu’il semble nous plaire. 


Votre livre comporte des tableaux permettant au lecteur de déterminer s’il est un libéral moderne ou un conservateur. Vous dites que certaines personnes découvrent qu’elles pensent d’une manière et vivent d’une autre. Pourquoi importe-t-il de savoir cela? 

L’ignorance généralisée et déplorable est sans doute la seule réalité sur laquelle tous les politologues s’entendent, quelle que soit leur orientation politique. On s’est rendu compte de la chose par suite de la parution d’un article célèbre du politologue américain Philip Converse paru en 1964 et intitulé The Nature of Belief Systems in Mass Publics. Les 14 tableaux figurant dans mon livre ont pour objet de permettre aux gens de voir, de comprendre et de formuler leur système de croyances et, du même coup, de s’élever au-dessus de l’ignorance publique.    


Pourquoi ce livre est-il important et qui devrait le lire?

Tous devraient le lire. Il invite les lecteurs à s’armer intellectuellement et moralement pour défendre les idées et les idéaux qui méritent d’être défendus (et qu’ils découvriront en lisant le livre). Ils pourront ainsi participer sans crainte au dialogue civil. 


The Great Divide: Why Liberals and Conservatives Will Never, Ever Agree, par  William Gairdner, Encounter Books, 264 pp., $32.50.