The New Solitudes

By Erna Paris, Walrus Magazine, March 2011

[...] It was November 26, 2009, and I happened to be in Ottawa with a few hours to spare; so, on a citizen’s whim, I decided to drop in on Question Period in Canada’s House of Commons. [...]

The debate centred on the scandalous detainee transfer affair, which had once again exploded into public view. […]

 […] The Harper government’s actions called into question the right to free speech; to freedom from obstruction and intimidation; and to institute inquiries, call witnesses, and demand papers — all of them essential to democratic governance. […]

For a very long time, Canadians have spoken of shared social values as a way of bridging our traditional French-English solitudes. Now I ask myself whether we might be morphing into two Canadas, each with a distinct world view. The more familiar Canada has promoted secular, humanist values, expressing them in a welfare society it took decades to build. The newer Canada is brasher, harder, and angrier. [...] I am beginning to question how, and if, we can find common ground.

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Illustration: Barry Blitt