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Trudeau’s postmodern relativism

No, “emergency” is not in the eye of the beholder

Truck drivers protest COVID-19 pandemic restrictions in Ottawa, Ontario, on Feb. 12, 2022. Associated Press/Photo by Ted Shaffrey

Trudeau’s postmodern relativism
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A federal court in Canada has ruled that the invocation of the Emergencies Act by the Federal Cabinet in response to the Freedom Convoy in 2022 was “unreasonable, unjustified and a violation of the Charter [of Rights and Freedoms].”

This ruling was a result of a challenge brought by several civil liberties groups, including the Canadian Constitution Foundation and the Canadian Civil Liberties Association. The latter issued a press release entitled “Emergency is not in the Eye of the Beholder,” which took a strong stand against relativism and in favor of reason:

Emergency is not in the eye of the beholder. Emergency powers are necessary in extreme circumstances, but they are also dangerous to democracy. They should be used sparingly and carefully. They cannot be used even to address a massive and disruptive demonstration if that could have been dealt with through regular policing and laws. The threshold for invoking the Emergencies Act is extremely high. The government must demonstrate that there is an emergency arising from threats to the security of Canada and that that emergency truly has a national scope. The Federal Court agreed that this threshold was not met.

The Trudeau government has been an experiment in postmodern governance. They regularly deny reality and say illogical things. For example, they claim that it is necessary to devastate our economy in order to eliminate carbon emissions, even though our emissions account for only about 1.5 percent of the world’s emissions and would make practically no difference to anything. They say that schools are not indoctrinating children into the LGBTQ ideology when they clearly are. They think that boys can become girls if they want to do so badly enough. They think they can pose both as colonial oppressors and freedom fighters simultaneously. And the list goes on. Postmodern relativists are in charge of a G7 country.

In 2022, the government basically said: “We think it is an emergency, and we have power so we get to do what we like.” They proceeded to live their truth and Canadians got their bank accounts frozen, women were trampled by police horses, and peaceful protesters were thrown in jail for protesting against a government that would not let them do their jobs and would not talk to them. Trudeau once said he admired China’s dictatorship, and in this crisis we saw him acting like the Communists.

This is one of the few times the government has run up against someone with authority and power who has pushed back hard on postmodern relativism.

This is why the judge’s ruling is so significant. He looked at the facts and applied logic to the interpretation of the law. Whether intentionally or not, the Canadian Civil Liberties Association press release got to the heart of the issue by saying: “Emergency is not in the eye of the beholder.” This is a direct contradiction of postmodern relativism. The standard for what is legal is not how you feel about it.

This is one of the few times the government has run up against someone with authority and power who has pushed back hard on postmodern relativism. It is perhaps worth reflecting on the fact that, in a rare bit of introspection, the judge admitted in the conclusion of his ruling that, at the outset of the case, “I was leaning to the view that the decision to invoke the EA was reasonable.” But as the case proceeded and he considered the evidence presented he changed his mind. Now that is refreshing!

If we are going to avoid sliding into dictatorship, we are going to have to pull back from postmodern relativism and recover a classical understanding of natural law as known by reason and objectively true. Only a higher law than the “lived truth” of individuals can preserve liberal democracy.  

Of course, this ruling is no panacea. The judge ordered no remedies and did not strike down the Act. Nobody is going to jail. The case was basically about whether the government was justified in saying that the situation was an emergency under the terms of the Act. The future effect is to restrain future governments from invoking it in non-emergencies using the actions of 2022 as a precedent, which is not nothing.  

The unrepentant government immediately announced that it plans to appeal, which must have been music to the ears of the opposition Conservatives, who now have yet another issue to run on as we approach the next election. Conservative Party of Canada leader Pierre Poilievre, hailed the ruling as “a landmark victory for the freedom of Canadians.” If the polls, which currently show the Conservatives with a wide lead on the Liberals, remain steady, then Trudeau will learn yet another reason to prefer Chinese dictatorship over Canadian democracy when he loses in a landslide.

Craig A. Carter

Craig A. Carter is the research professor of theology at Tyndale University in Toronto, Ontario, and theologian in residence at Westney Heights Baptist Church in Ajax, Ontario.

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