How should we understand Canada’s version of the ‘culture wars’?

By Shachi Kurl, President

Sept. 15, 2023 – Oh, we were so smug then, in simpler times, when we flicked through the American cable news networks to gawk at people screaming at each other about social values. But like it or not, the so-called “culture wars” have woven their way into the fabric of Canadian political, educational and societal discourse too. Even if we wanted to (and many of us do), there’s no avoiding them anymore.

“Culture wars” is a catch-all phrase that has become shorthand for increasingly divisive discourse around issues such as gender, race, climate, capitalism, the nature and limits of public speech, and the legacies of colonialism.

Examples are everywhere. An unpopular premier sets off an uproar with a policy requiring that parents must give consent if their children wish to use a different pronoun at school than the one assigned at birth. Although polling shows most parents, while wanting to be informed of any change, are not convinced their permission is required, politicians on the right threaten to invoke the notwithstanding clause to see the policy through. Meanwhile, politicians on the left cast the plan as a matter of life or death to young people.

Another example. Federal Conservative leader Pierre Poilievre takes to the PA system on a WestJet flight to yuk it up with passengers. Some airline employees object. The airline says it will review its policies. It escalates quickly, with Poilievre demanding an apology from airline staff for attempting to limit his “free speech.”

And of course, there are the by-now routine shouting matches about renaming buildings and roads, or taking down statues of (usually white male) figures from the past.

If you’re tired of all this, you’re far from alone. In a first-of-its-kind, multi-part polling series about the culture wars, the Angus Reid Institute finds 60 per cent of us find the culture wars “exhausting.” Although, it should be noted, about one-third also find them “informative” and “important.”

Who are these folks?

Read more from the article in the Ottawa Citizen here.

Image Credit – Photo 195086929 | John Macdonald © Beth Baisch |

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