Jackson Doughart
articles   |   poetry   |   music   |   officiating   |   c.v.
Trinity Western and the Two Canadas

Prince Arthur Herald, 07 January 2014

Last month I had the occasion to converse with a group of six first-year students at Queen’s University, who represented the quintessential ideal of multiculturalism. They were of different ethnic backgrounds, different religious lineages, and two of them were foreign-born. They unanimously lauded their school and social circle, where “diversity, equality, and difference” were paramount.

It occurred to me that their understanding of diversity was far different from mine. ”What’s diverse about them? They all think the same way,” I thought. If they were to encounter someone who didn’t share their views, they would surely say that he or she was anti-diversity, when surely the most relevant category of diversity is the diversity of opinion.

This is the paradox of today’s identity politics, where disparate understandings of diversity have produced two competing forms of liberalism. In effect, there are two Canadas.

The First Canada is animated by the Anglo-American democratic tradition and its rights of liberty: the freedoms of thought and speech, of conscience and religion, of association and enterprise. These allow groups of citizens to create and develop their own institutions apart from government prerogative.

In the First Canada, society is not a train with all cars moving in unison; it is a system of Burkean “little platoons”. This permits a very substantive kind of diversity, where people are best able to live according to their own beliefs and consciences.

The Second Canada is a radical and egalitarian break from the Anglo-American liberal tradition. Unlike economic egalitarianism, however, which enjoins the state to actively eliminate income gaps, this egalitarianism believes in an ideal of identity justice. Under the liberalism of the Second Canada, all important arguments can be reduced to manifestations of identity, with the legal system picking winners and losers in the grand pursuit of “equality and diversity”.

But this diversity is ultimately superficial when compared to that of the First Canada, and rests on the frankly illiberal assumption that identities are monolithic, uncompromising, and deterministic. The Second Canada would blindly hold up my Queen’s interlocutors as a liberal ideal; the First Canada would say, “Let’s wait to hear what they have to say first.”

My distinction is exemplified by the case of Trinity Western University, the Christian college whose law school was controversially awarded accreditation this month. And there is no better example of an egalitarian take on the issue than the National Post article of Dec. 27 by Adam Goldenberg, entitled “Don’t create ghettoes— for gays or Christians”.

Goldenberg makes two arguments that illustrate the difference between the two Canadas. The first is consigned to parentheses, but is nevertheless important. In describing TWU’s code of behavior, which forbids all sexual activity outside of Christian (i.e., monogamous and heterosexual) marriage, Goldenberg writes: “In other words, no gays allowed. (Before you ask: No, you can’t ban gay sex without effectively banning gays.)”

In the First Canada, this claim would be obviously challengeable, for the burden placed on gay students is no more onerous than the one placed on unmarried straight ones. And there is nothing preventing a gay man from practising chastity at TWU, along with his unmarried colleagues. The school follows the teaching of Christianity, which prohibits homosexual acts, not the persons who desire them.

I disagree with that teaching, and can do so from comfortably within the First Canada. But even if it were cogent, Goldenberg’s ideology would prevent him from even considering it. This is because in the Second Canada, where Goldenberg lives, there can be no moral argument without an indulgence in identity equilibration — such are the only things worth talking about. As such, the Christian argument against homosexuality is off limits not because of rational demerit, but because homosexual acts are (wrongfully) considered by social egalitarians to be coterminous with the homosexual person and identity.

Secondly, Goldenberg says that we need gays and Christians to be spread throughout all law schools in order to achieve diversity. But this can be compellingly countered with the First Canada’s superior conception of diversity: instead of having many schools which espouse the same values, we should have many schools which espouse diverse values. The upshot, of course, is that people who don’t like the policies at TWU’s law school can go to a different law school, with the education, and not the value of superficial diversity, being the arbiter of success.

The student rag at my university had a regular section openly entitled “Sex”, which produced a Valentine’s Day exposé identifying the best places on campus to publicly fornicate. If it were up to me, universities wouldn’t allow such things, but neither would they impose behaviour codes regulating the conduct of the bedroom. Thankfully, however, this isn’t Doughartgrad, meaning that one has to choose between the First Canada, allowing for a substantially-diverse civil society, and the Second Canada, which imposes a pseudo-diverse egalitarian conformism on all institutions, public and private. For lovers of liberty and democracy, the choice should be obvious.

Jackson Doughart jdoughart (at) gmail (dot) com