Even Orwell’s Thought Police didn’t go as far as Trudeau

You’d assume the reaction to the SNP’s new hate crime laws would make other authoritarian governments hesitate before introducing similar legislation. Humza Yousaf has become a laughing stock and his approval ratings have fallen by 15 points. But apparently not. The new Irish Taoiseach, Simon Harris, is determined to railroad through the Criminal Justice (Incitement to Violence or Hatred and Hate Offences) Bill, Donald Tusk’s government in Poland wants to introduce a new law that would make it a criminal offence to ‘defame’ a member of the LGBT community and Justin Trudeau is pressing ahead with an Online Harms Bill that makes our own Online Safety Act seem like the

Adrift on the Canadian frontier: The Voyageur, by Paul Carlucci, reviewed

At the core of Paul Carlucci’s debut novel is a protracted medical experiment conducted by one human on another. Set on the Canadian frontier of the 1830s and inspired by historical record, the book takes the strange case of Dr William Beaumont’s tests on Alexis St Martin’s digestive system and spins a marvellously dark yarn around them, exploring the uses and abuses of an innocent. Alex is the innocent in question – the voyageur of the title. Our journey with him starts in raw boyhood, finding him living at the back of a Quebec harbour storehouse. His mother is dead, his beloved petit frère also. His grief-stricken father has sailed

The problem with trying to resuscitate dying languages

Books about endangered languages tend to be laments, full of shocking statistics and portraits of impossibly frail, ancient last speakers in faraway places. Ross Perlin’s exuberant, radical book blasts that away, exploring, instead, New York, now ‘the most linguistically diverse city in the history of the world’, home to more than 700 languages (of approximately 7,000 on the planet), and a ‘last improbable refuge’ for many speakers of ‘embattled and endangered’ tongues. ‘Far from being confined to remote islands, towering mountains or impenetrable jungles, they are now right next door.’ So one block of flats in Brooklyn is a ‘vertical village’, home to 100 of the world’s 700 speakers of

Something the Tories can learn from Canada’s conservatives

When contemplating the scale of the Tories’ expected drubbing in the coming general election, some commentators reach for the example of Canada’s Progressive Conservatives. The 1993 federal election saw the governing centre-right party, which had been in power since 1984, lose all but two of its seats in the House of Commons. It never recovered and became defunct within a decade. The comparison is particularly tempting given one of the factors behind the Progressive Conservatives’ demise was the emergence of a rival right-wing party called Reform. If the fate of the Progressive Conservatives is an object lesson in how even major political parties can die when they lose their way,

Longing for oblivion: The Warm Hands of Ghosts, by Katherine Arden, reviewed

This novel, set towards the end of the first world war, is eerie and fanciful yet gruesomely down-to-earth. It features Laura Iven, formerly a nurse at the Front – awarded the Croix de Guerre in 1915 – and her brother Freddie, part of the Canadian Expeditionary Force sent to take Passchendaele Ridge in November 1917. Owing to a deep shrapnel wound, Laura is back home in Halifax, Canada. It is January 1918, and the previous month her parents died when their ship Mont Blanc exploded in Halifax harbour. To make matters even worse, Freddie is missing. Laura is now a live-in nurse companion to three elderly sisters who conduct séances.

Canada’s parents are taking to the streets

In the biggest demonstration since the Freedom Convoy, large numbers of Canadian families and supporters took to the streets across the country on 20 September to assert the rights of parents as primary educators and protectors of their children with the slogan, ‘Leave our kids alone!’  The ‘1 Million March 4 Children’ was spearheaded by Muslim Canadians in response to increasingly aggressive policy and curriculum changes in publicly funded schools, pushing radical gender ideology and putting content before children that protesting parents say is indecent or age-inappropriate. Turnout was impressive, with many thousands of participants in over 100 cities and up to 10,000 marchers reported at the largest gathering in Ottawa. Yes, it was the biggest

Spectator Out Loud: Robert Tombs, Jamie Blackett and Tanya Gold

22 min listen

This episode of Spectator Out Loud features Professor Robert Tombs on Canada’s willingness to believe anything bad about its own history (00:55); the farmer Jamie Blackett on the harms of wild camping (12:10); and Tanya Gold on the reopening of Claridge’s Restaurant. Presented and produced by Cindy Yu.

The rise of conspiracy history

Readers would doubtless find it hard to believe that the late Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh kidnapped and killed indigenous children while on a state visit to Canada in 1964. Yet this story circulated for years in Canada along with other horror stories of the rape, torture and murder of indigenous children at the hands of depraved priests and nuns. The bodies, it was said, were thrown into furnaces or secretly buried at dead of night. These accusations were linked to boarding schools run by various religious bodies first established in the 19th century and finally closed in the 1990s. A Truth and Reconciliation Commission was set up in

Canada’s assisted dying horror story

My favourite Martin Amis novel was his 1991 book Time’s Arrow. It is a pyrotechnically brilliant work in which all time goes backwards. On publication it was criticised in some quarters because the novel includes a reverse version of the Holocaust and some thought Amis was using the Holocaust as a literary device. As so often, these transient critics didn’t get the point. It is hard to say anything new about the Holocaust or find any new angle on it. Europe, like Canada, does not believe in the death penalty for criminals. Only for victims But Amis managed, because towards the end of the novel (that is, at the beginning

How to spend 48 hours in Montreal

‘You’ll see when you get there,’ my friend said. ‘There’s just a different vibe in Montreal.’ He wasn’t wrong. I travelled from Toronto by train – a five-hour journey made infinitely more bearable by the impressive landscapes that flashed past the window – to find that Montreal is a tale of two cities. Still distinctly North American – and Canada’s second most populous metropolis – Montreal is dotted with all the chrome skyscrapers and wide, bustling intersections you would expect. Yet around each corner there is also a dose of seemingly incongruous European flavour: a cobbled street, an old stone church, a statue in a tree-lined square. For every modern

Must we now despise colonial architecture too?

Here’s a thing. A disturbing book about disturbing cities. And it’s full of loaded questions. Like Hezbollah, the publisher uses the silhouette of an automatic weapon as its logo. This is a trigger warning. Jonathan Swift wrote: All poets and philosphers who find  Some favourite system to their minds  In every way to make it fit  Will force all Nature to submit. So I give you Owen Hatherley, an architectural critic of the left, adept in the predictable tropes of Guardian-sprache, who exists in a world, as he often tells us, defined by concepts of colonial domination, exploitation and ocean-going misery. As Lionel Trilling observed, leftish people are always glum

Travels in time and space: Sea of Tranquility, by Emily St. John Mandel, reviewed

It’s a bold writer who confronts a major historical moment such as a pandemic before it’s over, but Emily St. John Mandel has a claim to fictionalised outbreaks. Her 2014 novel Station Eleven presciently envisioned a devastating flu. That book was televised by HBO and became a major hit, and this latest touches on the same ground. As J.G. Ballard proved, revisiting a subject – as a painter might – can be a fertile approach in speculative fiction. Sea of Tranquility initially adopts a time-leaping structure reminiscent of David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas (which itself sprang from Italo Calvino’s masterpiece If On a Winter’s Night a Traveller). In 1912, we meet

Fabulously boring: Weather Station’s How Is It That I Should Look at the Stars reviewed

Grade: C– Anyone remember that TV advert for Canada from the 1980s – a succession of colourful images, including a delicious pink donut, downtown T.O. and soaring mountain peaks, displaying the beauty, vitality and vibrancy of the country? It made me want to visit. Wild horses wouldn’t drag me there now – that glorious, vast expanse now the sine qua non of smugness and condescension. It has become a terminally precious country and we should withdraw our ambassador, or invade (that being the fashion). Weather Station, led by the fabulously irritating Tamara Lindeman, were once okayish indie folkies who have now become pretentious, half-assed purveyors of somnambulant fake jazz, like

Where’s the outrage over Trudeau’s trip to Britain?

As Justin Trudeau waltzed through the UK, visiting Boris Johnson and the Queen, did anyone spare a thought for Canadians struggling under Trudeau’s authoritarian Covid power moves? In 2016, the British parliament debated whether Donald Trump, then running for the US presidency, ought to be banned from the UK for inflammatory ‘hate speech’. When Trudeau announced his visit to the UK, did the House of Commons ask itself whether he should be made welcome?  Trudeau invoked the never-before-used Emergencies Act to resolve a parking problem Trudeau is no stranger to inflammatory language – having called the unvaccinated in Canada ‘extremists’, ‘misogynists’ and ‘racists’. But it’s far worse than that. He has undermined

The tyranny of Trudeau

Early in the corona era the historian David Starkey gave some thoughts on Covid. ‘We’ve got a Chinese virus,’ he said, ‘and we’ll finish up with a Chinese society.’ I remember at the time thinking the phrase neat, but doubtful. Fast forward a couple of years and the doubts have eroded. Although Britain seems to have avoided becoming a permanent Covid state (and is indeed one of the first societies to try leaping out of the Covid age), other parts of the West certainly do seem to be trying to meet the CCP more than halfway. Foremost among them is Justin Trudeau’s Canada. There is no shortage of things going

Portrait of the week: Storms rage, Covid curbs end and Russia’s ‘renewed invasion’

Home Boris Johnson, the Prime Minister, announced, in the House of Commons, sanctions against Russia after its ‘renewed invasion’ of Ukraine. These included the freezing of five banks’ assets and those of three Russian billionaires (Gennady Timchenko, Boris Rotenberg and his nephew Igor Rotenberg). The price of Brent crude oil reached a seven-year high of $99.38. A day earlier, the Prime Minister had told parliament that all coronavirus restrictions in England were to end on 24 February. People who tested positive for Covid would no longer be required by law to self-isolate, but would still be advised to stay at home. The £500 isolation payment for people on low incomes

Trudeau vs truckers: a head-on collision

Two-and-a-half centuries ago in 2015 I had a video call with a Canadian friend who lives in my hometown of Toronto. As we spoke, she was putting together a Middle Eastern spice box for the Syrian refugee family she’d sponsored through her daughter’s school, carefully printing the labels in Arabic. Canada had recently committed to accepting 25,000 refugees, compared with the UK’s 10,000, which we both agreed was stingy. I explained to her that although there were lots of charities and refugee initiatives here, the public attitude was different. Not xenophobic, I insisted, just less precious. None of the parents at my son’s school, as far as I knew, were

Portrait of the week: Sue Gray speaks, Boris goes to Ukraine and 477-mile bolt of lightning strikes

Home Sue Gray, the second permanent secretary in the Cabinet Office, in a 12-page ‘update’ on her investigation into 16 gatherings in Downing Street, refrained from comment on particular cases, 12 of which were being looked into by police. ‘Some of the behaviour surrounding these gatherings is difficult to justify,’ she concluded. ‘There was a serious failure to observe… the standards expected of the entire British population.’ Some events ‘should not have been allowed to take place’. She said that ‘excessive consumption of alcohol is not appropriate in a professional workplace’. Boris Johnson, the Prime Minister, told the Commons that he ‘wanted to say sorry’. ‘I get it and I

Canada should be proud of the truckers’ convoy

The first wave of truckers in the Freedom Convoy arrived in Ottawa on Friday, having travelled across Canada to protest the vaccine mandates and to fight Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s tyrannical Covid restrictions. While the rest of the world has begun to admit that we simply need to learn to live with Covid, like any virus, Canada’s Liberal government has clamped down with vaccine passports, lockdowns, and vaccine and mask mandates. It’s those same measures that the truckers are determined to fight. In a January 26 press release, the organisers of the Freedom Convoy explained: ‘The supply chain has been in shambles for well over a year due to the

No, America couldn’t have been Canada

What if William Howe, the dithering British commander, hadn’t let the American army escape in the Battle of Long Island in 1776? What if he had nipped the whole damn thing in the bud? In that case, as dual Canadian-American citizen Adam Gopnik complains in the New Yorker, ‘We Could Have Been Canada’. That’s not exactly a hill to die on, but it’s catnip for other dual nationals such as Malcolm Gladwell, who some years back produced an amusing plea for Canadian World Domination in the Washington Post. Gladwell wrote that in 1993. Gopnik’s essay is more recent. The earlier essay was light-handed and witty. Gopnik’s was ponderous and dry.