Re-Enlightening Canada explores the vital role of questions in shaping democracy
In a world where the very essence of democracy is under the microscope, Professor Bryan Schwartz takes readers on a compelling journey through the intellectual landscape of contemporary society in his thought-provoking book Re-Enlightening Canada – A Legislative Program for Promoting Open, Democratic and Rational Policymaking. This insightful work is a powerful reminder of the vital role that questioning and debate play in shaping a healthy and vibrant democracy.
From the outset, Schwartz confronts us with the unsettling reality that the Socratic Method, celebrated for its legitimacy in fostering questions and providing answers, has gradually faded into obscurity. In our ever-evolving society, certain questions have been relegated to the shadows, deemed unacceptable, and left unanswered. These were the very questions – such as the roundness of the Earth, women’s suffrage, and equal rights under the law – that, in the past, triggered intense debates and deliberations.
Schwartz masterfully guides us through history, shedding light on how these accepted truths were forged through rigorous discourse. The Earth’s roundness, for instance, wasn’t irrefutably proven until the third century BC, and the struggle for women’s voting rights in Canada occurred merely a century ago. Indigenous peoples’ voting rights came even later, and only following lengthy and arduous dialogue. These milestones, now taken for granted, were achieved through rigorous debate and stand in stark contrast to the current landscape.
Re-Enlightening Canada reveals the alarming transformation of our contemporary era, marked by a shift toward a progressive and “woke” agenda. Here, science is often declared as an immutable fact with little room for discussion, identity politics dominates public policy, and any deviation from the progressive narrative faces vehement resistance. The handling of the COVID-19 pandemic stands as a striking testament to this shift, with strict measures enforced without comprehensive debate.
As governments curtailed fundamental rights and called for blind trust in science, questions remained unanswered. Schwartz highlights how inquiring about mRNA vaccines’ appropriateness and side effects became a social taboo, emblematic of a broader trend suppressing free speech in Canada.
Schwartz boldly asserts that free speech, despite what the Charter may imply, is no longer a guaranteed right in Canada. Those who dare to ask questions, whether about COVID-19, climate change, gender dysphoria, or historical events like the treatment of Indigenous children in residential schools, often face severe repercussions, including job loss and social ostracism. The chilling effect on open discourse extends far beyond individuals, casting a long shadow over the nation’s decision-making processes.
Schwartz offers practical and common-sense solutions to these pressing issues. He calls upon governments to create an environment where citizens can ask questions without fear of retaliation and where policymakers respond with reasoned responses instead of dogma. While recognizing the complexity of the solutions, Schwartz argues that fostering robust discussion is essential for achieving the best policy outcomes.
Drawing from his extensive four-decade career as a Professor of Law at the University of Manitoba, Schwartz divides his arguments into 12 chapters, each designed to stand alone or complement the others. His approach transcends political affiliations, focusing solely on improving government decisions in an increasingly polarized nation.
Re-Enlightening Canada delves into critical topics such as freedom of speech, human rights codes, political beliefs, higher education, environmental policy, subsidiarity, affirmative action, and the revival of democratic and legal values. By infusing these complex issues with personal anecdotes and real-world experiences, Schwartz renders them accessible to the average Canadian reader.
As we grapple with expanding government repression, identity politics, and diminishing policy effectiveness in today’s Canada, Schwartz’s work is a timely and indispensable resource. It serves as a clarion call to legislators, policymakers, and university administrators to seek common ground and nurture deeper understanding, guiding Canada toward a more prosperous and relevant future.
Re-Enlightening Canada – A Legislative Program for Promoting Open, Democratic and Rational Policymaking is a captivating and thought-provoking masterwork that challenges readers to embrace the power of questions in preserving the essence of democracy. Professor Schwartz’s insights are not only a reflection of our times but also a roadmap for reclaiming the lost art of debate and questioning – a must-read for those passionate about the future of democracy … and Canada.
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