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Terence Corcoran: Steven Guilbeault asks: ‘What’s woke?’ Some answers 


There’s now much more to wokeism than race, gender and inequality

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On Tuesday, after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced his government’s NDP-backed plan to fight inflation with GST rebates, rent support and the launch of a new dental-care initiative, the new opposition Conservative leader issued one of his standard political putdowns. The measures, said Pierre Poilievre, were the work of the “radical woke coalition” between Trudeau and NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh. When informed of this charge, Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault said, “Frankly, I don’t know what it means to be woke.”

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It is a tad unbelievable that Canada’s ultra-green minister of the environment and deeply committed warrior against inequality, systemic racism, racial injustice and environmental racism now claims to be clueless about the meaning of “woke.” Back when he was minister of Canadian heritage, Guilbeault signed on to a declaration that “too many equity-seeking communities in Canada — including racialized communities, LGBTQ2 individuals, persons with disabilities, Indigenous Peoples, and religious minorities — face significant discrimination, disparities and systemic barriers across a broad range of areas such as employment, housing, health care, and public safety.”

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But maybe, just maybe, Canada’s minister of the environment, long attached to the fluttering radical wing of Canadian politics, is clueless on wokeism in government, even though the evidence of its existence permeates Liberal policy, from the 2018 passage of the Canadian Gender Budgeting Act to the latest emanations from Statistics Canada.

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Canada’s national statistics agency, official monitor of the Canadian economy and its people, has turned wokeism into a core mission as it struggles to define and get Canadians to identify racially and sexually. As an example, on Wednesday StatCan issued a report titled “Understanding sex at birth and gender of people in Canada.” Among StatCan’s woke observations is that “Different genders exist on a spectrum. Gender is a multidimensional concept influenced by several factors, including cultural and behavioural norms and self-identity. Gender includes two concepts: gender identity (the internal and individual feelings a person has) and gender expression (the outward presentation of gender, regardless of gender identity, through body language, behaviour, or esthetic choices).”

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These new official Canadian statistical paradigms are now available for review and analysis at StatCan’s Gender, Diversity and Inclusion Statistics (GDIS) Hub and the Sex, Gender and Sexual Orientation Statistics Hub, both hubs having been funded through Liberal budgets and now under the oversight of Pablo Rodriguez, Guilbeault’s successor as heritage minister.

If Guilbeault would like a broader historical introduction to woke, I suggest he would benefit from Wikipedia’s 3,000-word post on the subject, which is accompanied by 52 linked footnotes. The entry concedes, as Guilbeault may be implying, that “there is no single agreed-upon definition of woke,” although it traces usage back through U.S. history from the recent Black Lives Matter movement to mid-20th century race culture.  One writer on the evolution of woke positions the definition with the context of Critical Race Theory and another says woke has been weaponized on the general ideological battlefield, possibly to the detriment of its racial origins.

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That may or may not be true, since there’s now much more to wokeism than race, gender and inequality. Wokeism is also a major force behind cancel culture campaigns to shut down and purge unwanted views and personalities in media and academe.

As minister of the environment, Guilbeault would be fully aware of woke capitalism and the woke corporations that are constantly aiming to capitalize on the Liberals’ climate campaign, many of them collecting or seeking handouts to build electric vehicles, windmills, battery plants, mines and other accoutrements of the global green new deal.

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Canada’s corporate culture is generally awash in public wokeness. Bank CEOs, oil executives, investment firms and the global consultancy establishment today ritually display their wokeness. Corporate executives and directors are now publicly hired and identified by gender and race. Executive pay is scaled to meet equality guidelines. Green and social credentials are aggressively promoted. As Guilbeault would know, when it comes to climate change, fossil fuels and carbon emissions, Canada’s corporate leaders are as woke as they come — at least in their public statements and advertising activities.

Corporate wokeism has also helped produce the current global investment fad that targets environment, social and governance (ESG) issues as a prime motivation for business decision-making. As a result, much of ESG activities are now under global scrutiny as a form of green-washing — or worse. Investment options are now shaped based on ideology rather than business, economics and science. Even among wokeism supporters it is acknowledged that the approach has sparked a backlash “war on woke capitalism.”

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Given all this, one must assume Guilbeault was playing dumb when he said he does not know what woke means. But just in case Guilbeault is as unaware as he claims, allow me to offer a definition. Woke policy-making and woke corporate decision-making occur when the motivations are grounded in social and political ideologies based on debatable theories about equality, gender, race, environment, and other aspects of human existence.

That’s a polite definition, but given the uncertainty behind the theories, the application of wokeism to policy should therefore be avoided, as Pierre Poilievre not-so-politely suggests.

• Email: tcorcoran@postmedia.com | Twitter:

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