Vancouver Zeitgeist
Reflections on Vancouver, British Columbia and other topics, related or not


The big little country
that could

How the First World’s first failed
state finally made us proud

by Greg Klein | April 1, 2025


So strange now, to look back on those days when Canada sunk away from the rest of the world. That was just after the pandemic peaked, leaving a devastated species to bury its dead and begin the arduous task of rebuilding its economies and institutions. Where optimism surfaced, it sprang from the young—proportionately more numerous, less hindered by grief, and more adaptable to unprecedented challenge. In fits and starts, not without setbacks and confusion, the world was recovering.

Except for Canada.

How the First World’s first failed state found its way again

A magnanimous gesture allowed Canada to retain its flag.

Of course COVID-19 had ended the blockades that came close to shutting down what had been one of the world’s most envied nations. But just as virus recovery was within sight, someone—whether it came from the native or the environmentalist side is still disputed—said that settlers had no right to declare a state of emergency on indigenous land.

Back went the barriers, this time to shattering effect. With the confidence of military officers, organizers marshalled their troops with social distancing to widen their blockades and cover more ground. As police stood by impassively, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau warned against “extremists who would impose the rule of law on this vital democratic conversation.” Journalists fawned over American celebrities who castigated Canadians. Institutions from academia to the judiciary cheered on the protesters for their courage, principles and factual accuracy.

Already severely curtailed in activity, the country’s industrial facilities, resource projects, electricity generation, communications infrastructure, businesses, airports, pipelines, rail lines, highways, roads, streets, lanes and pathways came to a standstill. At last, Shut Down Canada succeeded.

Nor was it the pyrrhic victory that some people suggested, at least not for the movement’s leaders.

But there did come a period when everyone seemed doomed. Two crises converged as blockade-imposed shortages heightened the disease death toll. The last straw, however, wasn’t the lack of food, medicine, ventilators, masks or other necessities. It wasn’t even the body count. It was the lack of fuel—especially gas.

How the First World’s first failed state found its way again

Environmentalists who still had fuel beat
a hasty retreat from unexpected arrivals.

The shortage hit British Columbians especially hard. Like maybe nowhere else on the planet, the world’s most environmentally conscious population considered life untenable without their vehicles.

Calling it lifestyle genocide, cries went out for United Nations intervention. Luckily for Canadians, the recovering world looked down on us with pity. Heavily condescending pity, but pity just the same.

Countries as diverse as Syria, Venezuela and the Central African Republic offered peacekeepers, supplies and expertise. Others, like Haiti, Zimbabwe, Afghanistan, Somalia, Rwanda and Libya piled on charity to assuage our pathetic plight. But they all stepped back when the world’s undisputed economic and military powerhouse stepped forward.

China annexed Canada.

Without opposition. It was, after all, just a sudden conclusion to what had been a more gradual process. Weakened by disease and Ottawa, Canadians felt too demoralized to resist. Canada’s media, fixated on the minutiae of American presidential politics, barely noticed. Canadian politicians couldn’t suck up fast enough. And, their blockades abandoned as the Red Army approached, Canada’s once ubiquitous guerrilla activists were nowhere to be seen.

But what a dramatic economic turnaround! Canada underwent the most breathtaking development boom in its history. The previous impediments of reviews, consultation, activism and opposition gave way to rapid, unprecedented progress in forestry, mining, oil and gas, hydro electricity and other resources. One especially glittering jewel in China’s crown came to be the Alberta oilsands, now fast-tracked under coolie labour from Quebec, a land of desperate poverty since the transfer payments ended.

How the First World’s first failed state found its way again

Without opposition, B.C.’s Great Bear
Rainforest underwent a remarkable makeover.

All of which took place without environmentalist objection. So what happened to that intense fervour and ideological zeal that tolerated no discussion let alone opposition?

No, it wasn’t solely a case of the bully backing away from a much tougher adversary. Very conspicuously China, by far the planet’s worst polluter, never was a target of Canadian environmentalists, and their movement never was about climate change, at least not to the movement’s leaders. The goal was to smash the West—its economies, cultures and societies. And this modest part of the West was well and truly smashed now that China was in charge.

That’s not to say Canada was bereft of opposition. A few native blockades continued, offering a brief and futile protest against foreign troops. What was to be done about a recalcitrant culture that resisted integration?

The Middle Kingdom had an answer to that, too.

Adapting the country’s Uighur policy, China used the minimum force necessary to transform each reserve into a voluntary re-education camp. Whether the tactics employed behind those towering electrified fences succeed remains to be seen. But the leaders of Canada’s environmental movement found another useful role to play.

True, it was weird taking orders from Chinese instead of Americans and the money wasn’t as good. But, with Canada now a tributary of Beijing, environmentalists instinctively redirected their Maoist fervour. Hundreds of re-education camps required thousands of re-education directors. And Canada’s protest leaders always did know how other people should run their lives.

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