Now I understand...

Owen Byrne owen at
Tue Dec 2 06:39:30 PST 2003

Everything sunk in here with this sentence:
"You can be a social conservative in the U.S. without being a wacko. Not 
in Canada."
Of course they understated it. s/Canada/Rest of the World/

They also declined to mention that the well funded Reform party - whose 
primary goal seems to be
to make over Canada in the US's image. Not that they will ever get 
elected - but they have their
heroes down south to show them that you actually don't need to win.

And they're a little behind the times - the 2 main candidates for the 
next election - one wants
to give GWB free blowjobs, the other says nahh, lets just get it over 
with - bend over, grease up.


          December 2, 2003

    Canada's View on Social Issues Is Opening Rifts With the U.S.


ORONTO, Dec. 1 — Canadians and Americans still dress alike, talk alike, 
like the same books, television shows and movies, and trade more goods 
and services than ever before. But from gay marriage to drug use to 
church attendance, a chasm has opened up on social issues that go to the 
heart of fundamental values.

A more distinctive Canadian identity — one far more in line with 
European sensibilities — is emerging and generating new frictions with 
the United States.

"Being attached to America these days is like being in a pen with a 
wounded bull," Rick Mercer, Canada's leading political satirist, said at 
a recent show in Toronto. "Between the pot smoking and the gay marriage, 
quite frankly it's a wonder there is not a giant deck of cards out there 
with all our faces on it."

Mr. Mercer acknowledged in an interview that he was overstating the case 
for laughs — two Canadian provinces have legalized gay marriage, and 
Ottawa has moved to decriminalize use of small amounts of marijuana. But 
in the view of many experts the two countries are heading in different 
directions, at least for the time being.

Recent disagreements over trade, drugs and the war in Iraq, where Canada 
has refused to send troops, has made the relationship more contentious 
and Canadians increasingly outspoken about the things that separate them 
from their American neighbors.

"The two countries are sounding more different — after 9/11, 
dramatically more different," noted Gil Troy, an American historian who 
teaches at McGill University in Montreal. "You hear a lot more static 
and you see more brittleness."

Of course there have been frictions before, for instance during the 
Vietnam War, when Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau welcomed American draft 
evaders, but the differences in those years were more political than 
social. Analysts say that Canada and the United States have always been 
similar yet different, and that the differences are often accentuated at 
the margins.

But today, many analysts and ordinary Canadians said in interviews 
around the country, the differences appear to have moved center stage, 
particularly in social and cultural values.

The nations remain like-minded in pockets, but the center of gravity in 
each has changed. French-speaking Quebec, with nearly a quarter of the 
population and its open social attitudes, pulls Canada to the left, just 
as the South and Bible Belt increasingly pull the United States in the 
opposite direction, particularly on issues like abortion, gay marriage 
and capital punishment.

None of those have resonated much over the last decade in Canada, where 
the consensus on social policy seems more solidly formed, its fissures 
narrower and less exploitable.

Chris Ragan, a McGill University economist, observed: "You can be a 
social conservative in the U.S. without being a wacko. Not in Canada."

Drugs are one point of departure. A bill to decriminalize small amounts 
of marijuana is working its way through the lower house of Parliament, 
bringing threats from the White House that such a law could slow trade 
at the border.

Recently, while musing about his retirement plans, Prime Minister Jean 
Chrétien said he might just kick back and smoke some pot. "I will have 
my money for my fine and a joint in the other hand," he said with a 
smile. The glibness of the remark made it nearly impossible to imagine 
an American president uttering it. But in a nation where the dominant 
west coast city, Vancouver, has come to be known as Vansterdam, few 
Canadians blinked.

When Massachusetts's highest court ruled for gay marriage, the issue 
loomed over American politics. Conservatives vowed to change the 
Constitution. President Bush said he would defend marriage. Even the 
major Democratic presidential candidates backed away from supporting gay 
marriage outright.

Contrast that with Canada, where two provincial courts issued similar 
rulings this year. With little anguish, Canada became only the third 
country — after the Netherlands and Belgium — to allow same-sex marriage 
as a matter of civil rights.

Canadians themselves are not wholly united on the issue. Most elderly 
and rural Canadians express reservations, and the Canadian Anglican 
Church is almost as divided over homosexuality as the American Episcopal 
Church. Still, Canadians remain tolerant of the shift.

More than 1,500 gay and lesbian couples have married since the court 
rulings. "The Canadian reaction to same-sex marriage has been mostly 
positive," said Neil Bissoondath, an acclaimed Trinidadian-born Canadian 
novelist and social critic.

But the same issue in the United States "has upset the fundamentalist 
Christians who drive a lot of the politics in the country, especially 
with the present administration in power," Mr. Bissoondath added.

Rachel Brickner, 29, a political science graduate student at McGill 
originally from Detroit, said that despite her own liberal views, she 
sometimes tired of the anti-Americanism she encountered among Canadian 

After the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, she said, an old roommate told her 
that "the U.S. deserved 9/11 because we're bullies."

"Canadians are quick to blame the United States for not knowing about 
Canada," she said, "but Canadians make a lot of ignorant statements 
about the U.S." No Canadian city reveals differences as much as 
Vancouver. It looks like any American city, except for a drug culture 
that is so abundantly open. The police rarely interfere with bars, 
storefronts and even offices where people can buy or smoke marijuana. A 
"compassion club" distributes marijuana legally to cancer patients and 
others who have doctors' notes.

The city opened a publicly financed and supervised injection site for 
heroin users in September. The federal government, meanwhile, is 
preparing to start an experimental heroin distribution program for 
addicts in Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver in 2004.

The changes in marriage and drug laws, said Michael Adams, a Toronto 
consultant and polling expert, "means Canada is moving in the opposite 
direction with the United States and closer to Europe."

In his new book "Fire and Ice: The United States, Canada and the Myth of 
Converging Values," he argues that greater Canadian tolerance reflects a 
fundamental difference in outlook about everthing from the ethnic and 
linguistic diversity of immigrants to the relative status of the sexes.

Mr. Adams notes that weekly church attendance among Canadians has 
plummeted since the 1950's while American church attendance has remained 
virtually constant.

To many commentators the two countries seem to be exchanging their 
traditional roles, one founded in America's birth as a revolutionary 
country and Canada's as a counterrevolutionary alternative.

During the Depression, under the New Deal of Franklin D. Roosevelt, the 
United States was the progressive force, while Canada stubbornly held on 
to conservative economic policies.

By the mid-1960's, though, Canada shifted to a far more activist 
government, moving to a national health insurance system. Not long 
afterward, the Vietnam War began siphoning popularity from the Great 
Society experiment of President Johnson. The trends have only widened since.

Not all analysts see a big, lasting divergence. Some like Peter 
Jennings, the ABC News broadcaster who was born in Toronto and became a 
dual American and Canadian citizen in May, believe that Canadians have 
actually drawn closer to Americans. Nevertheless, Mr. Jennings said 
Canada had become "a socially more relaxed kind of place."

"Canada, as it is with some of the European countries," he added, "is 
trying to balance some of the market forces with public policy, which is 
not as apparent in the United States, where the pursuit of happiness and 
individualism are very much alive."

Still, a cultural gulf is widening.

"In the 70's we were taught Canada would be absorbed by the United 
States, and in the 80's it looked like it was happening," recalled 
Douglas Coupland, the Canadian author known for his cultural 
commentaries on both sides of the border. "Then came the latter part of 
the 90's and it was like some high school class 16-millimeter film where 
you see the chromosome duplicates, then realigns, and finally the cell 

"And that process only seems to be quickening in recent months."

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