The Canadian Red Ensign

The Canadian Red Ensign

Sunday, November 23, 2014

King, Byng, and Canada’s Parliamentary Monarchy

A conservative is a traditionalist, i.e., someone who believes strongly in preserving all the good things – ideas, customs, habits, institutions, rules, etc. – that have been passed on to us in the present from the past, as a trust for future generations. A progressive is an innovator, i.e.. someone who believes that the road to a better future starts by moving away from the past through radical experimentation guided by the light of reason and science.

The terms “Tory” and “Whig” are synonyms for “conservative” and “progressive” respectively, but they have more specific connotations. They are the old names for the parties which were re-organized and re-named into the Conservative and Liberal parties in the nineteenth century. The old names were used from the late seventeenth through to the early nineteenth century. The Tories were the champions of the rights and privileges of the Crown and of the established Church of England. The Whigs were the champions of the elected legislature and of the dissenting, non-conformist, Protestant sects.

The term “Tory” is still widely used, mostly as a nickname for the members of the Conservative Party. I use it as a self-descriptive label in a somewhat different sense, to indicate that my conservatism is the older type of royalist and religious conservatism rooted in established institutions that the Tory Party stood for before it changed its name, and not primarily a conservatism of low taxes and free markets, although I have nothing against those things per se.

The term “Whig” has not survived as well. The American Republic was founded upon Whig principles in the eighteenth century and for a time the term was used as the name of an American political party, albeit one whose policies differed somewhat from those of the English Whigs. This was dissolved in 1860 and the Republican Party took its place. Canada was founded upon Tory principles as a confederation of provinces that had remained loyal to the British Crown in the American Revolution. Here, we do not refer to the members of the Liberal Party as Whigs in the way we speak of members of the Conservative Party as Tories, we call them “Grits” instead.

Nevertheless, Whig ideals have often been on display in the policies and actions of the Liberal Party in the Twentieth Century. Likewise, Canadian history, once written by such stalwart Tories as Donald Creighton and W. L. Morton, in the last half of the Twentieth Century began to bear a marked resemblance to what Sir Herbert Butterfield called “The Whig Interpretation of History”, when a new school of Liberal historians, including such notables as Pierre Berton and Peter C. Newman arose. Whereas the older school of historians were patriots of the Dominion of Canada founded in 1867, who believed in its founding principles, and saw its British heritage of Common Law, the Westminster Parliamentary system, and the Crown itself as an indispensable part of what Canada was all about the newer school were advocates of a newer kind of Canadian nationalism, heavily promoted by Lester Pearson and Pierre Trudeau in the 1960s and 1970s, which sought to create a new Canadian identity by stripping Canada of as much of her British heritage as possible and de-emphasizing the rest, while emphasizing the traditions and heritage of French Canadians, Canadian Indians, and new immigrants from the Third World. This new Canadian history can be seen at its most Whiggish, however, when it discusses a 1926 event known as the King/Byng affair.

To understand this it would be helpful to define the basic difference between Tories and Whigs under the Westminster system. A Tory and a Whig can both support the system of parliamentary monarchy. They view it differently, however. A Whig has a natural distrust of kings and regards the powers of the elected assembly as a fundamental check on the potential for tyranny in the royal office. A Tory’s natural distrust is of mobs and the demagogues that stir them up, and he regards the office of the king as an essential check on demagoguery, political opportunism, and the “tyranny of the majority” that Alexis de Tocqueville warned the Americans about.

The Whig interpretation of history, as Butterfield explained it, is the theory, predominant in the histories of the Whig historians of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, in which the past is seen as one endless series of progressive events leading up to the liberal democracy of the present. Every event in which royal power is limited is regarded as a positive step towards the rights, freedoms, and democracy of the day, regardless of whether the king at the time was behaving tyrannically, as was the case with King John, or was a good man defending the traditional rights and prerogatives of his office, from unscrupulous fanatics, as was the case with King Charles I.

In classrooms across Canada, the King-Byng affair, if discussed at all, is given the Whig treatment. It is portrayed as an important step in Canada’s becoming a sovereign country with full control over her own affairs. While this view conforms to the 1926 election propaganda of William Lyon Mackenzie King’s Liberals it does not conform to the facts.

The events leading up to the affair began with the 1925 federal election. At the time King was Prime Minister, the Liberals having won the 1921 election with 118 seats. This was reduced to 101 in the 1925 election. Arthur Meighen’s Conservatives won 116 seats. Ordinarily this would have resulted in the Conservatives being asked to form a minority government. King, however, went to Lord Byng of Vimy, the Governor General (viceroy) at the time, and told him that he had obtained the support of the Progressive Party for the continuation of his government. Byng reluctantly accepted this.

Before the year was out, King’s government was rocked by scandal. Here is how John G. Diefenbaker described it in his memoirs:

Within weeks of the 1925 election, the entire range of corruption began to emerge. Canadian customs officers were involved in a smuggling ring operating in Windsor-Detroit, in the Eastern Townships of Quebec, and throughout the New Brunswick-Maine boundary. Directing much of these operations was a senior Customs Inspector and implicated was the former Liberal Minister of Customs and Excise, the Honourable Jacques Bureau, who, instead of being sent to jail, had been appointed to the Senate by King prior to the 1925 election. (John G. Diefenbaker, One Canada, Volume I, p. 146)

A House committee was appointed to investigate and when its report was in, the Conservatives called for a vote of censure against the King government, the socialists called for a Royal Commission to investigate the customs corruption further, and finally a proposal was put forward that combined both of these calls.

Desperate to avoid a vote of censure, and having obtained an adjournment, King went to Lord Byng and asked him to dissolve Parliament. Byng, in Diefenbaker’s words “rightly and properly refused King’s request” for:

Never before in Canadian or in the whole of British parliamentary history had such a request been granted to a Prime Minister facing the censure of the House of Commons. (Ibid. p. 147)

Byng instead, asked Arthur Meighen, leader of the Conservative Party – which had won the largest number of seats in the preceding years election – to form a government. It was entirely within his rights and prerogatives as representative of the Crown to do so. As it so happened, Meighen’s government lost a confidence vote shortly after being formed and an election was called anyway. During that election, King lied through his teeth about the whole affair. Here is how Diefenbaker described it:

Mackenzie King then produced one of the most transparent falsehoods of any man in any generation of our country. He claimed that Canada was in the midst of a constitutional crisis, that the Governor General, Lord Byng, had acted on instructions from Downing Street in inviting Meighen to form a government, and that he, MacKenzie King, would save the common people of our nation from colonial peril. King’s “challenge of imperialism” was so phoney it made Barnum look like an amateur. There was no substance in it, either in law or in logic. But it attracted the public imagination, or at least King’s performance did. (Ibid., pp.147-148)

What the last sentence means is that King’s Liberals won the election. This doesn’t speak well of the electorate at the time that they would buy King’s spurious charge of interference from London when the Prime Minister had clearly asked for a dissolution of Parliament for entirely self-serving reasons, showing utter contempt for the legislative body that was about to censure his government for corruption. This charge was all the more spurious given that in King’s letter to Lord Byng, resigning his premiership he reminded the viceroy that:

in our recent conversations relative to dissolution I have on each occasion suggested to Your Excellency, as I have again urged this morning, that having regard to the possible very serious consequences of a refusal of the advice of your First Minister to dissolve parliament you should, before definitely deciding on this step, cable the Secretary of State for the Dominions asking the British Government, from whom you have come to Canada under instructions, what, in the opinion of the Secretary of State for the Dominions, your course should be in the event of the Prime Minister presenting you with an Order-in-Council having reference to dissolution. (William Lyon Mackenzie King to Lord Byng, Governor General of Canada, June 28, 1926)

Lord Byng, far from acting under orders from Downing Street, had rejected King’s advice that he consult with London, before doing his constitutional duty of refusing to dissolve a parliament just so the Prime Minister could avoid a vote of censure.

Far from being a champion of Canadian sovereignty against imperial interference in Canada’s domestic affairs, King was a sleazy politician, desperate to cling to power and avoid the censure his government richly deserved. While the Whig interpretation of this event is taught in history classes around the country, the Tory interpretation of this event, as explained by John Farthing in his posthumously published Freedom Wears a Crown is more in keeping with the facts. According to Farthing, the King-Bing-Thing, damaged the traditional constitution of parliamentary monarchy that is the foundation for our country’s form of democracy and tradition of personal liberty. King, in insisting that Byng should have granted his dissolution request, showed contempt both for the constitution role of the King, whom Byng represented, and of the Parliament that wanted to censure him. He did not want his government to be accountable either to the Crown or to the elected assembly. Here is how Farthing put the matter:

If a Prime Minister either receives or is threatened with adverse vote in Parliament has he the right to demand of the King the immediate dissolution of the Parliament? Must the Sovereign or the Governor General accede to any and every such request on the part of a Prime Minister? If so, then it follows by the same logic that Parliament itself also becomes a puppet of the same Prime Minister. (John Farthing, Freedom Wears a Crown, p. 67.)

If the King or his viceroy must grant a dissolution whenever the Prime Minister asks for one and for whatever reason, even if it is to prevent the Prime Minister from being held accountable to Parliament, then the Prime Minister and his cabinet have usurped the rightful, constitutional powers of both the King and Parliament. Ever since Stephen Harper became Prime Minister of Canada the Liberals and NDP have accused him of showing contempt for Parliament and running the government as if he and his cabinet were accountable to nobody. If this is the case, he is following the precedent of Liberal Prime Ministers going back until Mackenzie King in the 1920s.

The solution to the problem is not one either the Grits or the NDP are likely to accept, but it was identified by John Farthing years ago, who wrote:

I suggest that only when its true and rightful priorities are restored to the Canadian Constitution – when the King is recognized as of prior significance even to the Prime Minister – will the Cabinet take its true place in our national government and fulfil its democratic function. (Ibid. p. 68).


John Farthing, Judith Robinson ed., Freedom Wears a Crown, Toronto, Kingswood House, 1957.

John G. Diefenbaker, One Canada: Memoirs of the Right Honourable John G. Diefenbaker, Volume One: The Crusading Years 18695 –1956, Toronto, Macmillan of Canada, 1975.

Letter from William Lyon Mackenzie King to Governor General Byng, 28 June 1926 found here:

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Yes, It Is the Twenty-First Century. So What?

The local left-liberal newspaper, the Winnipeg Free Press, recently ran an article on the angst, humanists, atheists, and agnostics were feeling over the Christian faith of Devon Clunis, the chief of the Winnipeg Police Force. Several people wrote to the editor to comment on this. One of the letters printed on November 12th, attributed to the pseudonym “OBSERVER6” asked “Why, in the 21st century, are these practices still around?” The practices in question were those of offering Bibles to police recruits and using material prepared by John C. Maxwell in leadership seminars.

OBSERVER6’s remark is a variation of words that are frequently used by progressive, forward-thinking people as a one-size fits all answer to everything they find objectionable. Those words are “this is the twenty-first century”. The number of situations in which progressives seem to think this is an unanswerable argument is astonishing.

Do you still believe the teachings of the Christian faith? If so, do you allow your Christian faith to affect how you live your life in every aspect, publicly as well as privately, including professionally and politically? “Get with the program”, the progressive says, “This is the twenty-first century” as if the truth of Christianity and the validity of Christ’s claims as Lord over the entirety of the lives of His believers are determined by the date on the calendar.

Do you think that men are men and women are women, that it is more meaningful and more important to be a man or a woman than it is to be an “individual”, that men and women are different and complementary rather than equal and interchangeable, and that men are made by God and nature for women and women for men? If so, you are really out of step with the times and the progressive will say to you “This is the twenty-first century.”

I could go on giving other examples but I think you get the idea.

As an argument “This is the twenty-first century” makes little sense. Whether a person ought to believe the teachings of Christianity or not does not depend upon what year, decade, century or even millennium it is. It depends upon whether or not those teachings are true. Did Jesus of Nazareth, after being crucified by the Romans to appease the Jewish mob, rise from the dead? If so, this validates His claim to be the Christ, the Son of God come down from Heaven to save mankind, which in turn validates everything else He ever said. As it so happens, the evidence that Jesus of Nazareth did indeed rise from the dead is very strong – strong enough that more than one, convinced skeptic who set out to disprove it ended up converting. The empty tomb that prevented the account of the Resurrection from being snuffed out by the Romans and Jewish leaders in the first century, the transformation of the Apostles from the men who fled at Jesus’ arrest and crucifixion into men who went to their deaths as martyrs for their conviction that He had risen from the tomb, the five hundred plus eyewitnesses that St. Paul could refer to as being still alive when he wrote his first epistle to the Corinthian church, and indeed the conversion of St. Paul himself, from a man hostile to the faith to its foremost proponent due to an encounter with the Risen Christ, provide a very strong case indeed for the truth and historicity of the Resurrection of Christ. The truth and historicity of the Resurrection and of Christianity itself do not diminish the longer in time we are removed from the event. Indeed, the truth that the Son of God came down from heaven, lived among us, was crucified and rose again, cannot help but be the most important truth in human history and will remain that way throughout human history. Indeed, the fact that we are in the twenty-first century since these events took place – note that we date the centuries from these events – makes it more important than ever that we believe these truths and live our lives accordingly because one of the things Jesus said, that is verified by His being the Son of God, which in turn is verified by His having risen from the dead, is that He will come back to judge the living and the dead, and event which inevitably grows nearer the further removed from His Ascension that we get.

When progressives say “this is the twenty-first century” to dismiss Christianity, traditional ethics, private property, the differences between the sexes, monarchy, the survival of Caucasian ethnicity, and everything else from the past that they despise, they are clearly not making a valid argument as far as sound reasoning goes. They are expressing an attitude, an attitude held by all progressives, and by far too many who would not consider themselves to be progressive. Thanks to C. S. Lewis we have a term for that attitude – “chronological snobbery”.

In Surprised by Joy Lewis tells how he himself had held this attitude in his earlier days, how he had dismissed old ideas and customs as belonging to older and therefore outdated periods. He was cured of the attitude by his friend Owen Barfield who demolished all the assumptions it rests upon. Lewis described chronological snobbery as “the uncritical acceptance of the intellectual climate common to our own age and the assumption that whatever has gone out of date is on that account discredited”.

Now it is true, to an extent, that we have more knowledge in the sense of accumulated information available to us in the present than was available in the past. I say “to an extent” because information is lost as well as accumulated with the passing of time. This fact, however, calls for a very different attitude than that of chronological snobbery. . The knowledge that we have available today that was not available in the past is knowledge of the past – the knowledge of what has been thought and said, done and accomplished, discovered and accumulated, by all the generations that have preceded us. This ought to command an attitude of respect towards the past – not an attitude of “who cares what they thought in the past, we know so much more today.”

Of course people thought things in the past that are not true. People continue to think things today that are not true. I do not mean the things that have held over from previous ages that are dismissed with “this is the twenty-first century” but ideas that are modern, progressive, and in keeping with the prevalent spirit of the present age. An ideas being new and modern, is no guarantee of its being true, and an ideas being old and unfashionable is no guarantee of its being false.

Indeed, if it were to come down to a question of the presumption of truth, with regards to ideas that cannot be demonstrated to be false, then the presumption of truth ought to go to ideas that are older in the sense of having been held for long periods of time in the past (as opposed to older in the sense of having been thought up millennia ago and discarded in the first generation) rather than to ideas that are new and innovative. Their having endured the passing of ages past, is an argument in their favour, rather than against them.

So the next time some progressive tries to dismiss a timeless truth as being outdated by the fact that it is "the twenty-first century" congratulate him on being able to read the date on the calendar and ask "So what?"

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Random Thoughts on Recent Events

Someone had the bright idea of filming a young woman as she walked through the streets of New York to “create awareness” of the “harassment” women face as they go about their daily routine. The video, which includes multiples cases of catcalling, went viral and has generally provoked one of two responses. Among those who still possess a degree of sanity it raised the question of when, exactly, the words “How are you?” became offensive and began to fall under the category of harassment. Progressives, on the other hand, noted that two thirds of the men who whistled, or hooted, or asked the young lady how her day was going were non-white. Now the only explanation progressive thought will allow for non-whites being presented in a less-than-flattering way in a video is racism on the part of the video-maker. So began the great progressive moral dilemma of which is the greater outrage – that young women have to endure such offensive remarks as “how do you do”, or that the feminists who produced this video were so insensitive as to fail to edit their film in such a way as to show only white men doing the “harassment”.

Speaking of feminists, back in the 1970s a famous squabble took place between Betty Friedan, whose The Feminine Mystique launched “The Women’s Liberation Movement”, also known as second-wave feminism, in the 1960s, and Simone de Beauvoir, the French existentialist philosopher whose more academic The Second Sex had laid the intellectual foundation for a more radical form of feminism fourteen years prior to Friedan’s book. In a 1975 interview, Friedan proposed a voucher system by which women who have stayed at home and raised their children could receive cash value for their work, to which Beauvoir responded by saying:

No, we don’t believe that any woman should have this choice. No woman should be authorized to stay at home to raise her children. Society should be totally different. Women should not have that choice, precisely because if there is such a choice, too many women will make that one.

Friedan saw this as taking things a bit too far and she expressed her disagreement saying that “there is such a tradition of individual freedom in America that I would never say that every woman must put her child in a child-care center”.

Someone apparently forgot to inform the current president of the United States about that “tradition of individual freedom” because he is now echoing Simone de Beauvoir. On October 31, Barack Obama turned up on Rhode Island where he gave a speech on public, pre-school, day care. In this speech he said:

Sometimes, someone, usually Mom, leaves the workplace to stay home with the kids, which then leaves her earning a lower wage for the rest of her life as a result. That’s not a choice we want Americans to make.

So let’s get this straight. Barack Obama is notoriously “pro-choice”. Almost as pro-choice as Liberal and NDP leaders Justin Trudeau and Thomas Mulcair here in Canada who will not allow the members of their parties any choice about being pro-choice. The choice in question, however, is the choice they believe every woman should have as to whether to allow the new human life growing in her womb to survive or to snuff it out. That choice, Obama – and Trudeau and Mulcair – insist must be left to the woman, and the state should not interfere even to protect the interests of the unborn. If, however, a woman should choose to leave the workplace, and devote her time to raising her children at home – that is a choice he does not want Americans to make?

How appropriate that Obama chose Halloween as the day on which to make such a ghoulish remark.

On the subject of ghoulishness, up here in Canada the ultra-ghoulish Bill C-36 has just received Royal Assent, having passed the Senate on Tuesday the 4th, and the House of Commons a month earlier on October 6th. This Bill, introduced by Justice Minister Peter McKay earlier this year, is designed to replace the prostitution laws that were struck down by the Supreme Court last December. The problem is that the laws this Bill introduces are a gazillion times worse than the ones they will be replacing.

Prostitution is by definition the exchange of sexual intercourse for money. Ordinarily it is a man who is offering money in the exchange and a woman who is offering sexual intercourse. In a country that does not wish to make sexual immorality itself illegal, it makes no sense to pass laws against prostitution, which is distinguishable from other sexual immorality only by the fact that money passes from one hand to another. It makes even less sense to pass a law that makes it legal to offer sex in exchange for money but illegal to offer money in exchange for sex. Yet this is exactly what Bill C-36 does. It is a fundamentally bad law.

All you need to do to see that this is a terrible law is to try and imagine any other law that would take the same form. What if the Prohibitionists, rather than declare the sale of alcohol to be illegal, had told the saloons they were free to stay open and peddle their wares but that all of their customers would be arrested? Imagine a law that would allow a drug dealer to peddle dope while punishing his customers for buying it!

Advocates of this law will argue that prostitution is often connected with other evils such as kidnapping, abuse, slavery, drug addiction, etc. This is true, but there are already laws against kidnapping, human trafficking, slavery, and all these other evils. When a new law is proposed to combat evils that are already covered by existing laws you can be sure there is something nasty to be found in the deal somewhere. Think of Section 13 of the Canadian Human Rights Act which has finally been removed from the law. This was included in the CHRA in 1977, because the prosecution in Ontario found it too difficult to proceed against John Ross Taylor under the “hate propaganda” laws that Pierre Trudeau had added to the Criminal Code in 1970. These were themselves unnecessary because the laws against incitement were already sufficient to deal with the one or two demagogues out there who might try, with little success, to stir up a mob to racial violence. Canada has suffered a tremendous loss of freedom because we piled up unnecessary laws on top of the perfectly good laws against incitement. There is more suffering down the road due to Bill C-36, I am afraid.

Bill C-36 takes its inspiration from the laws of Sweden, which were based upon Marxist feminist ideology. According to this ideology the relationship between the two sexes has historically been that of an oppressor class (men) and an oppressed class (women). Prostitution, this ideology states, is a form of patriarchal oppression in which men (pimps and johns) conspire to keep women (prostitutes) in sexual slavery. Therefore, according to this ideology, social justice demands that the law liberate the oppressed and punish the oppressor. It is from this starting point that the architects of the “Nordic Model” came up with the idea of making prostitution legal while criminalizing the purchase of a prostitute’s services.

This is a very deceptive ideology. The fact that many prostitutes enter the sex trade by being kidnapped while young, addicted to drugs, and forced into it, is distorted into the lie that all prostitutes enter the trade in this way. The fact that prostitution would be nobody’s first choice in earning a living is twisted into the lie that no woman would ever choose prostitution apart from coercion. Prostitution is presented, not as an exchange of sex for money between two desperate people, but a conspiracy by men (pimps and johns) against women.

Prostitution is a distortion of the natural relationship between the sexes. Men are primarily attracted to youth, beauty, and other indicators of fertility in women, whereas women are primarily attracted to strength, wealth, confidence, and status, indicators of the ability to provide and protect in men. Optimally, this results in a marriage in which a man and a woman find what they are looking for from each other in a context of mutual love, self-sacrifice, and lifelong commitment. Human nature being what it is, this does not always happen and in prostitution you have the opposite of marriage. Man’s desire for a fertile mother for his children is reduced to a desire for sex, and woman’s desire for a strong, resourceful, husband to protect and provide for her and her children is reduced to a desire for cold, hard, cash, and the one is exchanged for the other as a business transaction. Things have to have gone terribly wrong somewhere for both the man and the woman before they could come to this kind of arrangement.

Bill C-36 will not solve the problem and it is not a step in the right direction. That this bill has been put forward by the Conservative Party and endorsed by the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada is a sad indicator of the extent to which Marxist and radical feminist ideology has infiltrated the Canadian right and evangelical Christianity.