Opinion: Biden’s democracy summit is a chance for Canada to show off

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A global summit on democracy led by a country under siege begins on Thursday.

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It should come as no surprise that China is calling Joe Biden’s hosting of more than 100 countries some kind of “joke”. Meanwhile China is claiming – a huge joke – that it is a democracy.

The US run-up to the summit – the sabotage of the Capitol, states restricting voting rights, the denial of valid voting counts – gives opponents ample fodder. Presenting the United States as the moral arbiter of the world is a bit much.


Of course the blatant insults are being committed by Republicans, not Mr. Biden. Given the turmoil of our times, given the rising authoritarian tide, his attempt to unite the democratic forces is a commendable idea. But by dividing the countries into undemocratic and democratic camps, the summit would intensify the divide.

From Canada’s point of view, virtual international gathering is advantageous. Here is a chance for Canada to show its democratic stature. In various rankings of democracies, this country always remains at the top. It has jumped to fifth place in the Economist Intelligence Unit’s latest Democracy Index, trailing only smaller countries such as Iceland and Norway where the challenges are rarely so dire.

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As such, Canada is in a strong position at this summit, in contrast to the recent climate summit in Glasgow. An example of this – we are talking about democracy in the broader context here, not the day-to-day deceit on Parliament Hill – is to be promoted.

The convention could also serve to provide Ottawa with an pylon of influence with Washington. Mr Biden wants to build on a compact of democracies with an individual global summit next year. Ottawa could work hand in hand playing a major role.

Ahead of US summit, China tries to move goalposts on the meaning of ‘democracy’

Joe Biden’s Summit for Democracy Provides Opportunity to Rethink Our Current Political Path

That is not to say that Canadian democracy is not lacking in many ways. But in terms of competition, it holds up well. By comparison with American democracy, it is difficult to recall another time when the differences in Canada’s favor turned so much.

Democratic traditions have faced serious challenges. There have been forces like Trumpism, authoritarian populism, extremism, propaganda epidemic, Brexit torn on the cloth.

Canada – I realize Canada’s bragging about country like this – has been able to withstand trials. The recent election saw a few isolated outbreaks of violence, but otherwise it went off without a hitch. Our party system is intact. There is no major backlash in our immigration flow. Racial discord is prevented by policies that promote multiculturalism and diversity. Our apex court is not prone to political bias like the South.

Our prime ministers need to at least take out the credit. The extent to which power has been centralized in their shops at the top over the years is shameful. Cases of abuse of power are well documented. The list is long and objectionable.

It is not politicians who deserve credit for the relative health of the system, but for the character of the Canadian people. It has been his credibly good judgment through history, his spirit of restraint and fairness has nurtured and sustained the democratic good of the country.

Born out of compromise, not revolution, in this vast, complex country, people have remained on the middle path from day one, rejecting the ideologies of the right or the left.

The vision followed, if not specifically clarified, is that of a fair society. It is a vision that is being worked upon, the treatment of indigenous peoples being a prime example, but one for which great progress has been made.

Left-right polarization in America has seen that country lose the centre, the middle path. This is where consensus and consistency thrive. Canada is not on any such path.

Politically, it has been the fate of the Liberal Party to capture the moderate middle and they have formed majority governments as a result. Conservative leader Erin O’Toole realizes this, although a large part of her party does not.

Canadians stick to their own way. They are not as susceptible to the introduction of new forces as other jurisdictions seem to be. They don’t want to be Americanized or, as a survey commissioned by CBC showed this week, Albertaised.

At the Democracy Summit, Joe Biden will extoll the virtues of restraint, decrying authoritarian tendencies and punishing undemocratic regimes. But since his country has lost such a moral height, he is facing a formidable challenge. There aren’t enough Canadians around.

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