The world is burning with the fires of illiberal populism. The flames take on different shapes in different nations. There is Trump’s lurid xenophobia in America, Brexit in Britain, a right-wing government in Poland, a “People's Party” smoldering in both Denmark and Austria, Marine le Pen’s Front National in France, Geert Wilders’s “blond beastliness” in the Netherlands, and the Kultur-warriors of Germany’s “Alternative für Deutschland.”
But in the Canadian wilderness, the fire isn’t catching yet.
For decades, Canada has sustained exceptionally high levels of immigration without facing an illiberal populist groundswell. It is the most inclusive country in the world in its attitudes toward immigrants, religion, and sexuality, according to a 2018 survey by the polling company Ipsos. In a ranking of the most important Canadian symbols and values, its citizens put “multiculturalism” right next to the national anthem—and just behind their flag. In the U.S., those supportive of multiculturalism say they’re the least patriotic; in Canada, patriotism and multiculturalism go together like fries and cheese curds.
To be clear, Canada has not discovered some magical elixir to eradicate intolerance, racism, or inequality, all of which are present in the nation of 36 million. Its indigenous communities, which have endured centuries of brutalization and discrimination, often live under conditions that are still described as “third world.” And the country is not equally welcoming to all newcomers. But at a time when anti-immigrant sentiment and populist politics are sweeping across Europe and America, Canada stands apart.