The Lord forbid it me, that I should give the inheritance of my fathers unto thee.
—1 Kings 21:3
The story of Canada is that of the triumph of will against the weight of historical forces. The first settlers of this land lived a precarious existence perched at the top of the world, on the border of the frozen wastes of the arctic. Conquering the elements, they managed to carve out an existence on this continent. Their descendants faced and defeated numerous attempts by the American republic to the south to conquer Canada.
The American calculation was logically sound. Canada covered a vast expanse of territory rich in resources, but it had an inversely tiny population and was thus unlikely to be able to defend its sovereignty. Yet Canadians were repeatedly able to muster armies that made up for their small number with the will to defend their inheritance.
John A. Macdonald, as a colonial politician, understood with great prescience the fundamental problem that the political disunity of Canada’s regions posed for their continued existence. He envisaged the unification of all the separate colonies of British North America into one Dominion. Through a concerted application of his will and considerable political skill, he united the petty colonial governments under the Canadian state. It was only by organizing the powers of the nation under a singular political mandate that Canada would be able to resist the forces of entropy that threatened the existence of her society.
Canadian anti-Americanism … emerged from the Canadian rejection of the American revolution for its liberalism … The USA has embraced the enlightenment project to such a degree that it has become not so much a nation as the avatar of globalism.
In recent years, the question has been raised with increasing forcefulness: what is it exactly that Canada is fighting to preserve? The current regime that rules from Ottawa has wholeheartedly embraced globalism. The idea of preserving some kind of national uniqueness has been rejected as it contradicts the regime’s agenda. In a sense, it is only natural in light of Canadian history that there should be such an effort here of all places to enforce globalist orthodoxy. Here at the Canadian Journal we’ve written previously about the fact that in spite of all the grand proclamations from our ruling institutions, Canada, uniquely, has been historically defined by its conception as an expressly illiberal project.
Canadian anti-Americanism, one of our defining characteristics, emerged from the Canadian rejection of the American revolution for its liberalism, progressivism and secularism. Indeed, America in its relationship to history is the opposite of Canada. The USA has embraced the enlightenment project to such a degree that it has become not so much a nation as the avatar of globalism. While US corporations fund leftist causes such as BLM and Pride Marches, both Republican and Democratic politicians enthusiastically participate in elite groupings such as the World Economic Forum, which promotes globalism.
Since the Enlightenment, the West has entered a stage of civilizational decay in which nations fall, one by one, into the grip of either socialist internationalism or liberal globalism. In spite of this, Canada remained until the mid 20th century a stalwart upholder of a Christian national order as the only alternative to the globalism of the US.
Wexit, like all forms of separatism, ignores the powerful historical forces at work in Canada. Any separatist project is doomed by the very historical forces its proponents ignore.
In recent years the power of the globalist system has shown signs of weakening in the face of rising national-populism in Western nations. After a long period where American neoliberal imperialism ruled totally unchallenged it seems a new generation is willing to take up the torch of fighting for a different world. In this moment when it seems that historical possibilities have once again opened up, many in Canada particularly are advocating for the abandonment of the Canadian national project in favour of regional separatism. The latest and seemingly fastest-growing of these movements is Wexit.
As the name suggests “Wexit”, or “Western Exit”, refers to the secession of Western Canada (British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba) from the Canadian state. The aim of this article will be to speak specifically to Canadians who, being rightfully disillusioned with the political system, are considering placing their faith in separatism in general and Wexit in particular. Wexit, like all forms of separatism, ignores the powerful historical forces at work in Canada. Any separatist project is doomed by the very historical forces its proponents ignore.
Any analysis of our current moment must begin by grasping that the fundamental conflict driving events in the 21st century is that of nationalism vs. globalism. The conventional thinking of both conservatives and liberals to this day remains mired in the 1980’s. Many still operate under the Cold War mindset that politics is between socialism and capitalism. From this faulty premise emerge manifold variations like “small government vs. big government”.
The goal of the American Empire is not the power and prosperity of the American people, but rather the power and prosperity of international elites and the political, economic and cultural institutions they control.
To truly understand the present we must realize that there is no more international socialist workers movement, there is no more Soviet Union. American victory in the Cold War meant the inauguration of the total global hegemony of the American empire. However, the American empire is not a traditional empire like the Roman, Persian or Mongol Empires. The American empire is ruled by financial capital from London and New York, its wars are fought by the US army and NATO, and its ideology is produced by liberal universities and spread by international media conglomerates. The goal of the American Empire is not the power and prosperity of the American people, but rather the power and prosperity of international elites and the political, economic and cultural institutions they control.
In the face of this total dominance, people groups all over the world have left behind 20th century ideological identities like socialism and capitalism, and begun seeking refuge in the most deeply rooted aspects of human identity. The new nationalism in the west can be understood as a collective mobilization around faith, family and fatherland. The conflict, then, between nationalism and globalism is a conflict between groups of people defending their heritage and independence from global elites trying to engulf the whole world into their international corporate system.
The popularity of Wexit is driven by the same nationalist vs. globalist conflict that exists all over Canada. Wherever the middle and working classes become organized into a populist movement one will find this conflict as an underlying motivation. The wave of voters in Ontario who propelled Doug Ford into office share this fundamental motivation with Albertan supporters of Wexit. As counter-intuitive as it may seem, the Quebec voters who caused the Bloc Quebecois to experience a political resurgence in the last federal election are being driven by the same historical forces as Wexit and Ford.
As the existence of a distinct “Canada” on a national level increasingly becomes less of a concrete reality, people turn to regional identities to resist the process of homogenization.
Regional separatism in Canada is currently driven by the absorption of Canada into the American empire. As the existence of a distinct “Canada” on a national level increasingly becomes less of a concrete reality, people turn to regional identities to resist the process of homogenization. The degree to which Canada is politically subservient, economically dominated and culturally absorbed by the US is so great that it becomes unclear even to the average person what makes Canada distinct from the US.
However, it is important to note that many people respond to the symptoms of Canada’s subservience to America without responding to the root cause. On the conservative side, many Canadians see America as Canada’s friend and some sort of model we should emulate. Nevertheless, the rise of regional alienation is a response to the social conditions created by Canada’s absorption into the American Empire. In short, the American imposition of homogenizing globalism has impoverished and destroyed much of Canada, prompting an entrenchment of regional identity as a response.
This fact gives rise to recurring themes in the discourse of all regional populist movements throughout Canada. Opposition to a federal government which seems distant and totally disconnected from the particular questions which are pressing for Canadians. Opposition to the way the economy is structured by and for special interests who are unconcerned with average people. A desire to protect one’s distinct culture from larger forces intent on transforming society.
The global industrial-technological system could only be built by eliminating political, economic and cultural distinctions. Any such distinctions were barriers causing inefficiency in the new global order. In his book, Lament for a Nation, Canadian philosopher George Grant argued that since the USA after WWII emerged as the centre of capitalist internationalism, the Canadian elite sought to integrate themselves into the American Empire. This meant turning Canada into a branch of the American Empire, thereby turning the Laurentian elites into the local representatives of American power.
With the backing of all of Canada it would be much more possible to reform the country in the necessary ways … a separatist movement would face all the same problems as a national movement … without having any of the potential benefits.
Throughout Canada, every relevant institution is directly or indirectly controlled by the interests of the American metropole. No country can be truly independent if its civil service, universities finance, industry, media, etc. are controlled by global elites. If Wexit and any other separatist movement were to succeed, the new states established by the separation would be unable to resolve any of the issues currently facing their people, because they would be unable to resist the power of the global system giving rise to the issues in the first place. In fact, these small new states would be in an even worse position than the current Canadian state and would be absorbed more easily into the American Empire.
The only plausible solution to the central issues facing Canadians in the 21st century must begin with a national political movement that is able to gain power over the Canadian state. With the backing of all of Canada it would be much more possible to reform the country in the necessary ways. The argument is sometimes put forward that regional separatism is a better option because it is impossible to break the power of the current elite over the federal Canadian state. Yet it is worth noting that a separatist movement would face all the same problems as a national movement, plus the additional ones described above, without having any of the potential benefits.
Wexit took off after the electoral defeat of Conservative leader Andrew Scheer in the 2019 federal election. Since the founding of the Conservative Party, Western Canada has been its most staunch base of support. This electoral base (which had previously supported the Reform Party) was motivated by a sense of alienation from a political system they perceived to be dominated by the interests of eastern Canada.
Wexit, as the latest manifestation of Western political discontent, has re-interpreted the motivations of their presumptive constituency in a distinctively libertarian manner … Any discussion of social issues … has been contorted ... in the dichotomy of ‘big government vs. small government’.
The issues that motivated the Western electoral base were translated into the reform party platform: social conservatism, decentralized government and fiscal conservatism. When Stephen Harper united the Reform Party and the Progressive Conservatives to make the Conservative Party of Canada these issues were understood to be important within the mainstream of conservatism. A party leader and later Prime Minister, Stephen Harper presented himself as a champion for these issues.
Interestingly, Wexit, as the latest manifestation of Western political discontent, has re-interpreted the motivations of their presumptive constituency in a distinctively libertarian manner. The central issues for the Wexit party revolve around government support for the construction of pipelines to transport petroleum extracted in the West to consumer markets. The question is presented as a population angry that big government in Ottawa is hampering economic growth by restricting corporate investment.
Another key issue is that of equalization payments wherein the federal government transfers tax revenues collected in a given province to other provinces to help them pay for public services. For supporters of Wexit the issue is that certain provinces like Alberta and Saskatchewan end up having to pay for the social spending of provinces like Quebec and get nothing in return.
In their adoption of crass libertarianism and Americanism, the Wexit leadership have demonstrated they are still mired in the same political paradigm which currently dominates the failing consensus politics of Canada.
My intent here is not to disparage the importance of these issues, or even deny that they are important to Westerners. Rather, I wish to point out the transformation of the political priorities pursued by those who claim to represent Western Canada. Gone is any discussion of social issues, and even the question of decentralized government has been contorted by ideologically libertarian politicians and media commentators into the dichotomy of “big government vs. small government”.
In the past decade the federal and provincial conservative parties have been responsible for this transformation. But now that Wexit seeks to claim the mantle of leadership over Western Canada, they are signaling that they wish to follow in the footsteps of the Conservative Party leadership. So far their proposed solutions to the issues facing Western Canada amount to becoming an independent rump state in North America, or cutting to the chase and seceding from Canada in order to become a part of the United States of America. In their adoption of crass libertarianism and Americanism, the Wexit leadership have demonstrated they are still mired in the same political paradigm which currently dominates the failing consensus politics of Canada.
Given the ideological Americanism of the Wexit leaders, it is not a surprise that they have not addressed the serious practical problems that would face the proposed independent state they wish to create. If we begin by considering a map of the proposed country several problems become immediately apparent:
Firstly, the only access to seaports that could service commercial and military shipping is through British Columbia. While Manitoba technically has sea access through the Hudson Bay, there is no port on that coast with the infrastructure required to receive commercial and military shipping. This is of course contingent on British Columbia joining the new state which seems unlikely considering the substantial ideological and cultural differences between Alberta and British Columbia. Without British Columbia the only viable transportation routes for goods and people would be through Canada or the United States. It is most likely that relations between the new state and Canada would be strained, in combination with the total economic dominance exerted by the US, the new Wexit state would become an economic outpost of the United States.
This dynamic of great power conflict applies to the entirety of Canada. The central question for Canada now, as it has been for much of its history is how it will secure its own existence when facing pressure from great powers on many sides.
The inclusion of British Columbia in Wexit would allow the new country access to seaports in the Pacific, which would permit the export of Western petroleum to China and other Asian countries. However, the large Chinese population in British Columbia, would act as a vector for the Chinese state to have political influence in the new country. Already, the Chinese diaspora in BC have been mobilized to support Chinese political candidates on Chinese social media. Canada has around 38 million people, with most of them living in Quebec and Ontario. In the case of Western secession, the Chinese population of BC would be an even larger proportion of the new state’s population than they are of the Canadian population. Therefore China would be able to leverage this power over a crucial strategic region into even greater influence in the Wexit state than it already has in Canada.
Looking towards Canada’s Arctic territories in the north we must consider global geopolitical trends to understand the dynamics at play. In the coming decades, due largely to global warming, the Arctic will increasingly gain prominence as an area for resource extraction and the northwest passage will be a route for global trade. Consequently world powers will seek to assert their dominion over Arctic territories with increasing forcefulness. Russia with its huge Arctic coast is already in a strong position, the United States will seek to use Alaska and the Canadian Arctic as a launching point for its Arctic power projection. China lacks Arctic territories and will act as something of a wild-card as it attempts to acquire a foothold in the Arctic.
In this geopolitical context the Canadian Arctic territories emerge as an asset whose value will only appreciate for decades into the future. If we turn once again to the map displaying the proposed border changes which would be wrought by Wexit, we can see that Wexit would effectively cut off Eastern Canada and thus federal power from the Canadian Arctic. This would cripple the Canadian state’s ability to project power into its Arctic territories and specifically the North-West Passage. Such a situation would likely be exploited by either Russia or China to expand their arctic influence to the detriment of American Arctic influence.
Such a challenge to their influence would be unacceptable to American policy makers who would likely intervene in some capacity to secure the Canadian Arctic, thus increasing their own influence.
The Wexit project is doomed to fail, but it is true danger lies in the possibility that it will absorb the energies of the right.
This dynamic of great power conflict applies to the entirety of Canada. The central question for Canada now, as it has been for much of its history is how it will secure its own existence when facing pressure from great powers on many sides. This question becomes even more pressing when we consider the centrifugal forces of regionalism emerging from within Canada, of which Wexit is a prominent example. With the success of Wexit the continued existence of Canada altogether becomes doubtful. Certainly Wexit would galvanize the rise of Quebec separatism, which is already regaining some political force as demonstrated by the rise of the Bloc Quebecois in the 2019 federal elections.
The loss of the West would effectively shatter the concept of federalism as the remaining Canadian rump state truly would be an uneasy union of Quebec and Ontario. The maritime provinces in this context would lack the political, economic and demographic weight required to effectively change this situation. Thus, Quebec could much more easily pursue separatism. The loss of the west compounded by the loss of the Saint Lawrence estuary represented by Quebecois secession would make the continuation of the Canadian confederation a geopolitical impossibility.
The end of Canada would produce a power vacuum in which the United States and China would jostle for influence with the newly independent ex-provinces of Canada. But supporters of Wexit may argue that Wexit is the only way to achieve their political and social goals; with US dominion over Western Canada being much preferable to the current Canadian political arrangement.
The Wexit project is doomed to fail, but it is true danger lies in the possibility that it will absorb the energies of the right. Separatism in Canada is a dead end and in our current historical moment we cannot afford to make such a miscalculation. The most likely outcome of a marriage between Wexit and the Canadian right would be the further confining of the right into the libertarian mental prison. The Wexit movement is a grotesque creation: it masquerades as a populist movement presenting an alternative future for Canada, while containing within itself all the fatal flaws that have crippled the Canadian Conservative party for the last 60 years. The only activity in which both have succeeded is serving American and corporate interests. The fact remains as it has always been, that either this country will stand united, or it will lose any hope of having an independent existence.