Howard Levitt: Young people are rejecting the woke status quo and that spells trouble for the Liberals

Opinion: Young voters are increasingly leaning conservative and it may be more than generational rebellion

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What’s going on with young people today?

I was at a private function recently where Jordan Peterson was speaking and talked to a couple whose sons, one in his late teens and the other in his early 20s, were his avid aficionados. They told me that many of those in their demographic were fans of Peterson. I asked why there were so many conservative young people these days, since in my youth that was rare. They replied that young people invariably rebel against their parents and that the parents of today’s young people are socially liberal.

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It’s a shift that appears to be playing out on the political landscape, where Conservative support among young Canadians eclipses that of the Liberals and the NDP. When Justin Trudeau was first elected, young adults were the bedrock of his electoral support and volunteer base. Now, they represent his prospective political annihilation. For the same reason, despite Trudeau’s unpopularity, which should have created opportunities for the NDP, Jagmeet Singh cannot afford to break their parties’ pact to force an election because young voters have turned against him as well.

I am not a sociologist and cannot profess to certainty as to this phenomenon’s cause. Perhaps the verities preached by Peterson and Conservative Party leader Pierre Poilievre have as big a role to play as generational rebellion. But I believe it is something else.

The suppression of free speech, the curtailment of public discourse and the devaluation of the opinions of those outside the easy confines of identity politics have caused resentment and outrage among those who do not fit in the “right” DEI categories.

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This is why personalities such as Russell Brand and Joe Rogan have become wildly popular among the younger cohort as they speak against constraints on free speech and cancel culture.

The young are outraged by the woke movement’s extremism and its attempts to homogenize them and dictate their thought. They realize that its focus on censorship of thought and speech reflects its inability to provide rational arguments. Going back as far as 1965, William F. Buckley Jr. warned of the intolerance of liberals who “claimed to want to give a hearing to other views and then were shocked and offended to discover that there are other views.” The same can be said today with even greater poignancy.

The young are also upset that DEI policies that limit jobs to certain races by definition limit access to preferred employment by non-racialized groups.

The culture wars are everywhere. One poll found that only eight per cent of Americans now agree with woke views.

When Pierre Poilievre recently announced his view that transgendered women should be banned from female sports (a position supported by more than two-thirds of Canadians, according to a Postmedia-Leger poll) and women’s bathrooms and locker rooms should be limited to biological women as a safety measure — echoing the view of Alberta Premier Danielle Smith — our PM denounced them both as anti-LBGTQ and accused them of importing U.S.-style right-wing politics to Canada.

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Jordan Peterson’s response on X to Trudeau’s attack on Poilievre, characteristically, was: “Beats incompetent moralizing self-aggrandizing narcissistic child-mutilating euthanizing woke communism.”

Although much of the public and employers have, until recently, assumed DEI to have a positive impact, that view is changing.

A report by Eric Kaufmann titled The Politics of the Culture Wars in Contemporary Canada and published this month by the Macdonald-Laurier Institute, found attitudes have shifted.

“By a 70 to 30 margin, survey participants prefer a colour-blind rather than colour-conscious approach to issues in society,” the report found, adding that “those who have taken diversity training are significantly more fearful of losing their job or reputation for what they say than those who have not.”

DEI is facing a backlash because, as it has been increasingly practised in this country by left-wing ideological trainers, it has pitted races against each other, rather than uniting them.

Jews, in particular, have felt disadvantaged and excluded by DEI and the left as DEI practitioners ignore antisemitism and put Jews at the top of the white racial hierarchy.

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But despite the rise in youth conservatism described above, young people are not monolithic.

A recent Harvard Harris poll, for instance, found that 95 per cent of Americans over 65 support Israel. But among young people aged 18 to 24, nearly half — 48 per cent — support Hamas.

As Barbara Kay put it: “Consider the future of a culture in which half the population cannot distinguish between legitimate political protest and hysterical blood lust.”

And the cohort we are seeing in the rallies featuring hate speech on our streets are overwhelmingly young.

Why is this? The left has a profound control over our public educational systems. A guidebook titled Facilitating Critical Conversations that was distributed to all 20,000 Toronto public school teachers declared that the educational system is “inherently designed for the benefit of the dominant culture,” that education itself is a “colonial structure that centres whiteness” and “must be actively decolonized,” that teachers are to become the agents of “decolonization” and that teachers are to interact with students primarily based on their “identity groups.” This guide replaced one from 2003 that was colour-blind and declared the freedom to learn and think is essential to democracy. But there is now substantial pushback. The province’s education minister, Stephen Lecce has attacked the guide as divisive and demanded that it be withdrawn.

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What guidance can we derive from this?

It means that the woke left have a stranglehold on public education, that the very young in school and in university are being indoctrinated into their teachers’ views but that those views are increasingly out of touch with the majority of Canadians, including other young people, who are increasingly rebelling against them.

On the corporate side, one can envision this leading to a movement back to what DEI was supposed to be, genuine diversity, equality of opportunity and inclusion, which is the Martin Luther King, Jr., model, rather than what radically politicized DEI has become.

On the Middle East, we can take heart that the wave of antisemitism is losing ground and that the vast majority of Canadians, including young people once they gain distance from the clutches of our “educators,” will return to the tolerance and anti-racism which has always characterized this country.

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The most immediate change could come in politics. If federal and provincial Conservatives can maintain their youth support and limit the funding of universities that do not promote genuine freedom of thought and expression, as some provinces are requiring, the Liberals might not return to office for generation.

Howard Levitt is senior partner of Levitt Sheikh, employment and labour lawyers with offices in Toronto and Hamilton. He practices employment law in eight provinces and is the author of six books including the Law of Dismissal in Canada.

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