Though he passed away in 1988, George Parkin Grant is probably still the leading traditionalist philosopher in Canada. And this year marks the 50th anniversary of the publication of one of his most popular and accessible books, Lament for a Nation: The Defeat of Canadian Nationalism. It first appeared in 1965, and has remained in print almost continuously in Canada.
Lament for a Nation mourns what Grant saw as the end of real Canadian independence in the 1960s. As he tells the story, Canadian Tory Prime Minister John Diefenbaker had refused to accept U.S. nuclear weapons on Canadian soil. As a result, the North American managerial capitalist classes turned against Diefenbaker in the crucial 1963 Canadian federal election. The lost campaign is characterized in the book as “the last strangled cry of his pre-modern Loyalist ancestors.” (The Tories were already officially called the Progressive Conservative party, having added the adjective in 1942.) The Liberal Lester B. Pearson won the election.
Grant was prophetic in announcing the passing of a more traditional Canada, though his focus was not exclusively on the impending destruction of what would later become known as social conservatism. Rather, he was more concerned with the dangers of corporate liberalism and technocracy, which he saw as emanating from America and undermining a more traditional Canada. Thus Grant’s outlook lies somewhere between that of a traditionalist conservative and what might be called a social conservative of the Left. There are a number of illustrious figures who embrace the latter outlook—John Ruskin, William Morris, Jack London, George Orwell, Christopher Lasch—and in Canada, the noted constitutional scholar and union adviser Eugene Forsey.
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