As a new year's commitment, I have obliged myself to thank God for a minimum one new thing that happens each week.
As it happens, I have never thanked God for Jeffrey Simpson, unless Heaven groups the venerable Globe and Mail columnist in the same category as dry toast for breakfast or warm milk for insomnia.
So this week, I do thank God for Jeffrey Simpson. I say it most sincerely.
In our current issue of Convivium magazine, my colleague Father Raymond de Souza playfully chides Simpson for a very silly late 2012 column on politics and religion, but does grant that the Globe's long-time Ottawa writer is both respected by, and important to, the capital's ruling elite.
It is true that Simpson is the unrivalled unofficial Orifice of Ottawa, akin in his métier to Warren Buffett as the Oracle of Omaha. He makes plain from his mouth—or at least his keyboard—what Parliament Hill's movers and shakers are all thinking but absolutely cannot say for publication.
His column in Saturday's Globe was a genuine work of art in his particular genre of political writing. He said, with surprising clarity and charity, that it is time for Canada's aboriginal people to abandon the "dream palace of memory" that now only compounds the very real, truly shameful historic injustices they have suffered.
"Large elements of aboriginal Canada live intellectually in a dream palace, a more comfortable place than where they actually reside," he began. "Today's reality, however, is so far removed in actual day-to-day terms from the memories inside the dream palace as to be almost unbearable."
He then proceeded in his stately, sotto voce style—one that is to Conrad Black's euphonious vocabularism or Rex Murphy's stentorian perorations what subcutaneous breathing is to a Zen master—and utterly dismantled the delusions afflicting a vast swath of publicly politicized aboriginal Canadians and their apologists.
- Sustaining traditional hunter/gatherer economies in 2013? "Noble ventures (but) without a wage economy beyond these 'traditional' ways, the path lies clear to dependence on money from somewhere else, namely government, which, in turn, leads to the lassitude and pathologies that plague too many aboriginal communities."
- The notion that aboriginal "nations" have a "right" to deal directly with the Crown, which somehow supersedes the elected government of the day and allows them to bypass it? "The 'Crown' is nothing of the sort. The 'Crown' is the Government of Canada, a matter of clearly established constitutional law."
- Hunger striking Chief Theresa Spence and the protests, such as the current Idle No More Movement, that pop up from time to time to demand aboriginal villages be treated a "sovereign nations" while achieving only the inconvenience of local communities? "Much of the rhetoric surrounding Chief Spence is of the usual dreamy, flamboyant variety, a mix of anti-capitalism and anti-colonialism . . . to imagine that isolated communities of a thousand or so people can be vibrant and self-sustaining, capable of discharging the panoply of responsibilities of 'sovereignty' is to live within the dream palace of memory."
Simpson's understated intellectual annihilation of aboriginal ideologues is convincing in its own right. What makes it truly compelling is the certainty that it originates from the great and the good who populate the parliamentary precinct, and who appear to have finally said "enough!" to the aboriginalist hijinks that have gone on and on and on in this country since the Oka crisis of 1990.
Jeffrey Simpson is not some raving right wing racist, hiding anti-Indian hatred under his mild mannered reporter's hat. He's a highly intelligent, genuinely accomplished, sometimes stultifyingly sober member of the landed liberal gentry. If he's saying these things, it's because he believes them and believes they need saying. But it's also because he's seen that others he respects believe them, too, and believe as well that they need saying.
For as Simpson emphasizes in his column, using his own words but clearly reflecting increasingly acceptable thought in Ottawa, the true victims of these political shenanigans are aboriginal Canadians themselves. Devastated for decades by a disgraceful (indeed sinful in its violation of charity) combination of neglect and paternalism, the aboriginal peoples of this land have suffered long enough. The last thing we as Canadians should silently tolerate is their further exploitation at the hands of those whose political ambition blinds them to the horrors inherent to the dream palace of memory.
Thank God for Jeffrey Simpson having the courage and wisdom to say so.