Now I understand...
owen at permafrost.net
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
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.
*By CLIFFORD KRAUSS*
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
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
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
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
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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