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According to the headlines Justin Trudeau has now apologized for applauding a Nazi in the Commons chamber. I’m not sure he did, or that he or the press know what an “apology” actually is. Or a great many things including what branch of government failed most dramatically in this disgraceful episode.

The Speaker has belatedly fallen on his mace, and the Treasury benches seem convinced it settles the matter. Not that they’d realize they were the “Treasury benches”. That phrase, familiar in Wilfrid Laurier’s day, refers to those MPs who support the current ministry on money bills and thus keep it in power. A point that clearly eludes the fancy empty suit known as Jagmeet Singh.

If I seem pedantically off-topic, let me attempt to justify my position by saying this entire debacle would not have happened if members of Parliament knew more about history. For instance who fought whom in World War II. As I recently complained in the Epoch Times, the problem here is that not one MP apparently realized if someone fought Russia in that conflict they might well have been on the wrong side. How did they not know?

As so often, lots of practice. As I also lamented in that column, “François-Philippe Champagne, minister of Foreign Affairs for over a year before flitting into Innovation, Science and Industry, recently tweeted, ‘Canada and Japan are, and always have been, strong allies and partners.’” So evidently he didn’t realize we were deadly enemies from 1940 though 1945.

Yes, 1940. Japan entered the war that September. Although arguably it started the whole thing in 1931, or 1937. But do not ask our Parliamentarians to tell you what that aside is about, let alone which side Japan was on in World War I and why. Or anyone else, since as far as I can tell, I was the only person who noticed Champagne’s egregious blunder.

Nor, indeed, would I want to surprise MPs with the question of why in that column after writing “if someone fought the Russians during World War II he wasn’t on our side” I added “Unless he was Finnish or Polish before 1941”. And level with me here: If you were to give every member of the House of Commons a pop quiz on who the main belligerents were in World War II and what side they were on, how confident are you that any of them would get it right? Winter War? What Winter War?

On that point I should mention that Pierre Poilievre and his associates are trying to tie this international embarrassment for Canada to the Liberals. But the Tories all stood and applauded too. Had not one of them read, say, Churchill’s history of the war? Or the Wikipedia article? So they too are guilty, of the act and the mens rea or in this case mens inanis. Talk about a tabula rasa.

Or don’t, because I wouldn’t count on them knowing that phrase either, or in what century John Locke wrote, let alone when and why he returned from exile. Glorious Revolution? What Glorious Revolution?

Indeed, how confident are you that any member of Parliament, and the Prime Minister in particular, could pass a pop quiz on almost any subject, historical or otherwise? Some of them, being lawyers, might manage a narrowly focused legal one; these people are not all dolts despite the impression they work hard to give.

Some genuinely are, which I guess is some kind of excuse. Though not for voters. But I wonder whether Justin Trudeau could even pass a quiz on current events in Canada. (For instance: How many actual bodies have been found in unmarked residential-school graves?) Is there one single subject on which you would bet on him knowing anything of importance? Could he tell you Canada’s GDP without briefing notes? Or this year’s projected deficit?

He doesn’t even seem to realize orthodox Islam leans conservative on gender and sexuality. (Think he’s read the Koran?) Or that not everyone who opposes the radical woke position on any point is a Nazi. Or who really is a Nazi.

Or as noted what an apology is. He’s mighty good at “apologizing” for what other people did and how far they fell short of his sublime excellence. But in this case, even while accepting personal responsibility to an unusual degree, he shrugged it off: “All of us who were in the House on Friday regret deeply having stood and clapped, even though we did so unaware of the context.”

Pfui. What you really need to apologize for is clapping enthusiastically to signal virtue without knowing “the context”. And for not knowing the context. As in who fought the Soviets on the Eastern Front after 1941. (Hint: It wasn’t Gondor. Nor is it a state secret.) Trudeau did say “It is important that we learn from this. It reaffirms the need to keep promoting and investing in Holocaust education.” There’s that telltale “continue/keep” meme when the problem is MPs don’t know who fought in the war that featured the Holocaust.

I also don’t think most MPs understand the history of the institution in which they are privileged to sit. If you asked them to identify and explain the significance of Charles I could they? Let alone Edward CokeWilliam Lenthall or Stephen Langton? When Poilievre says “Every single person ought to have been vetted for their diplomatic and security sensitivities if the prime minister and his massive apparatus were doing their jobs” he seems unaware of the crucial constitutional importance, and exciting history, of Parliament managing its own affairs instead of letting the Executive do it.

Indeed MPs, and journalists, don’t even seem to know “Sorry, but…” is not an apology but sneaky self-justification. An apology is where you admit blame and accept punishment.

If I might interject a pretentious aside (another one, you cry?) my daily online “Words Worth Noting” for today was “His imperfections flowed from the contagion of the times: his virtues were his own.” Which isn’t just an important reflection on how to judge people in the past but is Edward Gibbon on Belisarius (and quoted by George Kennan). Whoever they were.

So how did we get here? Or rather, how did they get there? Well, in the case of MPs we elected them. And most of them, and us, and my fellow journalists, were educated in government-run schools. So let me switch the focus and ask how confident you are that your children, or any others you see flocking into and out of those dreary state buildings, know the sine law, or the parts of speech. Or could say with confidence when World War I was, or spontaneously utter a coherent sentence in both official languages. Or either. And on and on.

On the other hand, here’s a list of things students reliably do “know”: we’re roasting the planet; there are dozens of genders; thousands of bodies have been found of murdered residential school children; non-woke Canada is a hotbed of Naziism.

Government is broken in so many areas in Canada today that it becomes wearisome to keep track. But we can’t let them grind us down because government is a necessary evil and we must grasp the necessity while guarding against the evil. So here’s another question I’d like to put to MPs, voters and even students: Why do we let the government run our schools? If we trust the state, our history teachers didn’t do their job. Or did, depending what their paymasters wanted.

I won’t quote On Liberty here on this point again. Or even ask “Who was John Stuart Mill?” or “What are Mill’s three key arguments for free speech?” though I once got to explain them to a Commons committee, whereupon I, Mark Steyn and Lindsay Shepherd were filibustered by an NDP MP. But I would ask “Who was George Orwell?” and “What is the main point of Nineteen Eighty-Four?”

That the state should require parents to educate their children, and set basic achievement standards, seems to me incontrovertible. To leave your child illiterate is a grotesque violation of their rights. As is leaving them in total ignorance of science, literature and history. But that state schools have done all these things to a large portion of the population is increasingly hard to ignore, and surely impossible to condone.

So my final pop quiz for MPs and anyone else concerned that Canada has become a profoundly and smugly unserious place in a serious world: “Do you support school vouchers? Who first proposed them and when? Who opposes them and what self-interested motives might they have? Why don’t citizens demand control over their children’s education so (a) it will actually be one and (b) our Parliamentarians have basic knowledge of the Second World War?”

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