Canadians can’t quite believe it: Suddenly, we’re interesting.
After months of making the news only with our various communicable diseases–SARS, mad cow and West Nile–we’re now getting world famous for our cutting-edge laws on gay marriage and legalized drugs. The Bush conservatives are repulsed by our depravity. My friends in New York and San Francisco have been quietly inquiring about applying for citizenship.
And Canadians have been eating it up, filling the newspapers with giddy articles about our independence. “You’re not the boss of us, George,” Jim Coyle wrote in the Toronto Star. “So much for nice; we’re getting interesting,” wrote conservative columnist William Thorsell in the Globe and Mail. Polls are showing that it’s not just that Canadians are becoming more forward-looking and groovier, it’s also that the United States is lurching backward, retrenching into more conservative values. According to Canada’s summer bestseller, Fire and Ice: The United States, Canada and the Myth of Converging Values, by pollster Michael Adams, Americans between the ages of 18 and 29 are twice as likely to worry about crime, “moral decline” and ethnic conflict as their Canadian counterparts.
Four events have contributed to Canada’s newfound status as Hippie Nation:
(1) The Liberal Party government of Prime Minister Jean Chrétien didn’t support the US-British invasion of Iraq (“opposed” would be far too strong a word, since we maintained troops in the region).
(2) On May 27 the Chrétien government introduced legislation to decriminalize the possession of small amounts of marijuana. People caught with up to fifteen grams will get the equivalent of a parking ticket. US drug czar John Walters has promised to “respond to the threat.”
(3) On June 17 the Chrétien government announced it would introduce legislation to legalize gay marriage. This will bring the entire country into compliance with a court ruling that has already made it legal in the province of Ontario. US gays and lesbians have been flooding into Toronto to get hitched.
(4) On June 24 the government announced the opening of the first “safe injection site” in North America in Vancouver, which averages 147 overdose deaths a year. The publicly funded facility will provide needle exchanges and health assistance to heroin addicts. Walters calls this one “state-sponsored personal suicide.”
So, does all this peace, love and drugs really mean that the United States and its closest neighbor and ally are parting ways? Much as I’d love to report that I really do live in “Soviet Canuckistan” (as Pat Buchanan has taken to calling us), it’s mostly hype.
When he was elected in 1993, Chrétien pledged to reopen the North American Free Trade Agreement and negotiate a better deal for Canada. He immediately broke the promise. Now, months away from the end of Chrétien’s decade in office, Canadians are keenly aware of how much independence we have lost under the agreement.