Why populism hasn’t come to (English) Canada. Yet

February 15, 2019

By Vancouver Sun |

Populism has arisen virtually everywhere in the West, but remains weak in English Canada.

The election of Donald Trump, the Brexit vote, resistance to high immigration in Australia, mounting European nativism and last year’s Quebec election are strong signs that growing centre-right white populism will be tenacious.

It’s often said that people in the U.S. display “American exceptionalism,” the belief they’re uniquely committed to freedom. But there is also a “Canadian exceptionalism,” a deep belief among English Canadians they are uncommonly tolerant and will make a success of multiculturalism when others will not.

A ground-breaking new book by Vancouver-raised political scientist Eric Kaufmann peels back the layers of Canadian exceptionalism while detailing the increasingly tense decline of white populations in Europe, the U.S. and Australia. It places an extra focus on big cosmopolitan cities in which whites are no longer the majority, such as Toronto and Metro Vancouver.

Even though Whiteshift: Population, Immigration and the Future of White Majorities delves into race, culture and identity in ways some will find uncomfortable, the book has attracted supportive reviews across Britain’s vigorous press. It’s being called “insightful,” “valuable,” ”substantial,” “brilliant,” “extraordinarily deep and wide” and far ahead on the immigration discussion.

Whiteshift is bursting with ideas, which synthesize old theories into something altogether novel. They include Kaufmann’s positive argument that declining white populations in the West, to avoid extreme nationalism, will need to embrace what he calls “whiteshift.”

He defines the term as “the turbulent journey from a world of racially homogeneous white majorities to one of racially hybrid majorities.” In other words, Whiteshift envisions a Western world a century from now of predominantly intermarried people who are beige in colour.

But Kaufmann – who is of mixed Latino, Chinese and Jewish ancestry while regularly viewed as white ­– is not a one-world globalist dreamer, as many say is the case with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

Identity has largely replaced economics as the battle front of the 21st century, Kaufmann says. And he understands how many conservative whites are losing confidence in their identity; leading to “a growing unwillingness to indulge the anti-white ideology of the cultural left.”

The Economist agrees, remarking in its review of Whiteshift that nativism is rising because free-market globalism and high immigration have disrupted Western economies and the “culture is dominated by preening elites who not only think they are cleverer than the average person but also that they are more virtuous.”

It is virtually only in the West, says the professor at the University of London, Birkbeck, that the educated feel it necessary to oppose their own culture and celebrate its decline. Although some consider it radical, Kaufmann makes the point that white majorities are an ethnic group whose conservative members have the same normal attachments to group as minority ethnic groups.

Many white people in Europe, of both the right and welfare-state-supporting left, have started resisting the “cosmopolitan imperialists,” he says. Virtually no European politician has dared use the word “multiculturalism” since the 1990s.

But the term still has traction in Canada, where Vancouver pollster Mario Canseco found this month that 62 per cent of Canadians think multiculturalism has been good for the country, while 33% believe it’s been bad.

Because of Canadian exceptionalism, Kaufmann says, English Canada is perhaps the only place left in the Western world where almost all right-wing politicians fear being accused of racism for suggesting immigration levels decline. That’s despite Canadian polls consistently showing roughly four in 10 Canadians think immigration has been a mostly negative force.

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