Books, churches, what will Canadians burn next?
Most of us only know about book burning as a scene from the Third Reich. In grainy images, crowds of young men gleefully pile up pages torn in flames. It is one of the nightmarish images of the 20th century.
But book-engraving has also been practiced closer to us in time and space. On Tuesday, Radio Canada’s French service reported a “flame purification ceremony” conducted by the Providence Catholic School Board, which includes 30 schools in Ontario. In 2019, 30 pounds were burned and their ashes used to fertilize a newly planted tree. Another 4,700 volumes have apparently been taken from school shelves and destined for destruction or recycling.
The organizers of the fire do not see themselves as the heirs of the Nazis. Rather, the cremated books were chosen for their ostensibly degrading accounts of indigenous peoples. According to a statement published in National Post, the Council designed the ceremony with the participation of “many Indigenous Knowledge Keepers and Elders.” The event predates the wave of summer church fires, which followed the revelation of hundreds of anonymous graves in state-funded, church-administered residential schools that operated from the end of the century. 19th century until the 1990s. But this is clearly part of the effort to deal with darker episodes in Canada’s past that parallel iconoclastic anti-racist movements in the United States.
The country’s leader does not seem up to the task. In a debate Wednesday night, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said “it is unacceptable to burn books” but denied the power to tell Indigenous people how to feel. The comments echo his weak response to the church fires. In a July statement, Trudeau condemned the arson, as well as the vandalism of statues of historical figures, including Queen Elizabeth, Canada’s official head of state. But he also admitted, “I understand the anger that reigns against the federal government, against institutions like the Catholic Church. It is real and it is quite understandable, given the shameful history that we are all from. more and more aware … “
This lukewarm response is characteristic of the leftist establishment. Like many Democrats in the United States, Trudeau has not only refused to defend the honor of Canada in particular, but also the principles of a liberal society in general. The problem with the burning of books and churches is not that misguided people have sought an inappropriate outlet for justified rage. It is because they are attacks against the fundamental freedoms of thought, association and worship.
However, it is not clear how much Canadians care about it. Conservative Erin O’Toole has a slight lead in recent polls, but Trudeau still has a good chance of leading a coalition government. The social and political condition of Canada is much better than that of Germany in the 1930s. But we have seen this film before and it does not end well.