Canada

Strange Brew

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Jeff Riggenbach has written an interesting appreciation of the sociologist Edgar Friedenberg. Riggenbach sees Friedenberg as "a libertarian outsider, one of those independent intellectuals who, usually through a career-long obsession with one particular social or political issue, eventually reason themselves into a version of libertarianism." In this case, the outsider was an antiwar activist who left the U.S. for Canada during Vietnam and soon found himself writing appreciatively of the liberties he left behind:

What would be really awesome is if this were a button for the AMERICAN Communist Party.

Though he lived in Canada for half his adult life, he had found within the first ten years of his residence there that the cultural differences between Canada and the United States were larger than he had previously realized. He saw that what people absorb, albeit mostly unthinkingly, from the culture in which they have grown up and in which they now live is extremely influential in shaping, if not determining, the politics they will later advocate and countenance. It was for this reason that, in the late 1970s, from his new home in Nova Scotia, he wrote Deference to Authority: The Case of Canada.

He began by pointing out the differences, not necessarily evident to the quickly glancing eye, between the political systems of the United States and Canada. In the beginning, he wrote, it was necessary to understand that "the parliamentary system as such provides no specific safeguards to liberty whatever apart from the promise of elections at specified intervals. This is a necessary, but not a sufficient condition of political liberty." Yet "it is all Canadians really have." It was true, Friedenberg acknowledged, that "since 1960 there has been a Canadian Bill of Rights, but it is not a part of the Constitution. It is merely statute law and can be repealed in whole or in part at any session of Parliament."…

Friedenberg found that Canadians themselves were well aware of these differences. He noted, for example, that "many Canadians…have become disturbed about the infiltration of Canadian culture by American TV shows; and one of the complaints I have heard voiced most frequently concerns the fact that these programs subvert peace, order, and discipline among the young by leading Canadian kids to believe they have constitutional rights." The problem was, Canadians told Friedenberg, that "American television police programs, though usually fanatically supportive of law 'n' order, still showed that bad guys, deplorable as this might be, had certain established rights: the right to be informed by the arresting officer at the time of arrest of the charges under which the arrest is being made; the right to make a phone call and obtain legal counsel before being interrogated; and later, should the case come to trial, the right to decline to answer on the grounds that the answers might be self-incriminating."

Friedenberg found that the Canadians who spoke with him on this subject "were distressed because young Canadians who watched American television were being misled into thinking they had such rights." They were not "at all disturbed because [the young people] didn't have these rights; they objected only to the fact that Canadian youth were being instilled with an alien and misleading view of social reality."

In 1982 Canada finally added a Charter of Rights and Freedoms to its Constitution. Give Kojak the credit.

Bonus reading: Jeet Heer argues that "Canada's Tory inheritance made it easier for a welfare state to develop in the mid-20th century. Whereas American progressives have always had to fight against their country's distrust of big government, Canadian reformers worked within a polity that extolled the centralized state." Heer also notes that the country has grown more anti-authoritarian in the years since Friedenberg was writing.

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  1. I wonder if it’s the cold, long, and cold winters that lead people to this mind set. Russia, the Scandinavian countries, Canada, etc.

    Maybe the cold, long, and cold winters batter all willingness to be free.

    1. The second-largest party in the Norwegian parliament describes itself as libertarian and calls for abolishing the welfare state.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Progress_Party_(Norway)

      1. So Norway is basically in a one party system, then?

    2. Actually the coldest parts of Canada are the areas with the least government control.

      There really are large swaths of Canada that are barely governed. While they *teach* people deference to authority, Canada doesn’t exactly have a huge army or police force maintaining order.

  2. The button reminds me of something – back in the 19th century, European Communists would always vote in parliament against any social welfare programs, since maintaining anything other than a completely laissez-faire economy would serve to delay the Revolution. Therefore, supporters of economic liberty could do no better than to vote Communist.

    1. Now THAT is playing the long con!

      1. With the con being on their own selves as they live and die by the pretense of a ridiculous hypothesis (late capitalism).

  3. We are free. Maybe not as Constitutionally free as our cousins to the south, but free nonetheless.

    I love my country, warts and all.

    1. Really? The fact that you can be searched without a warrant makes you free? OK, enjoy your freedom.

      The 4th Amendment is battered and torn, but at least it exists. You have nothing. Nothing.

      This is not a “AMERICA FUCK YEAH” argument; this is a “Canada really needs a 4th Amendment” argument.

      1. Epi,

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/S…..d_Freedoms

        Is this nothing?

    2. You’re free as long as you don’t say the wrong things, such as something that might upset the infamous Human Rights Commission. “You’d better be “reasonable” in how you use your freedoms, or you won’t be allowed to keep them.”

      I’m not bragging about the US by pointing this out because we have plenty of our own freedom and liberty problems, but the Ezra Levant prosecution circus was straight out of Orwell.

      1. The Human Rights Commission has lost sight of the Iron Law:

        You aren’t free unless you are free to be wrong.

      2. As if inoffensive speech needs protection anyway.

        1. The few Canucks in my biz who I’ve conversed with adamantly believe that there are limits to free speech.

      3. Well, except for the rats eating their way into your brain.

  4. Deference to Authority is how America should work… as long as Democrats are the authority. Otherwise, it’s okay to defy the government.

    1. Republican Douchebags say the same things. See Rudy “Freedom’s Just Another Word for Obedience” Guiliani.

      1. To be fair, Guiliani is an outlier given he is an inbred retard. I have no doubt you could find equally bad examples from McCain or Bush, but Rudy is a bad sample to use as an example to prove any argument.

  5. disturbed about the infiltration of Canadian culture by American TV shows

    This was definitely my experience. The general sense is that Canadian culture is this fragile, tenuous thing that has to be protected and nurtured (read: subsidized), because if you don’t, those gun-toting, free-speechifying Americans will bulldoze in and take over.

    To me, the focus on “is it Canadian enough?” in music, movies & TV does contribute to a more collectivist mindset (even while creating such hilariously bad treasures as Degrassi Jr. High).

    1. IIRC, that’s also the case in the UK.

      1. It’s the case almost everywhere outside of the US.

        Some French bureaucracy tries to get people to not say “weekend” or “e-mail”. Spain has a similar, if less notorious, bureau. Many European countries have “native content” laws dictating that a minimum percentage of songs played come from the country of origin. Even Japan – a country I wouldn’t think would be afraid of borrowing ideas – has its share of hand-wringers who don’t think the latest generation is Japanese “enough”.

        The irony is it’s almost always American culture that they’re worried aboot, and yet American culture is (in part) a hodgepodge of all of the cultures where these fretting people are.

        1. I’m always amused by the people who argue that allowing unlimited immigration to the US would result in the destruction of our culture. People who live halfway across the world are worried about their cultures being “taken over” by the American culture, but somehow that same American culture will be destroyed by people who actually move here and live surrounded by it every day?

      2. As long as the subject wasn’t one of the world wars, then I never experienced anything like it in the 15 years I lived in Scotland.

    2. Whats funny to me is all the Canadian influence I see all the time. Actors, producers, production companies, the little Canada tax benefit logo…

      1. The funny Canadians all come to the US to make a success of their lives. The ones that stay behind are the unfunny ones, who have nothing better to do than whine about how awful the US is.

        And Dagny, how could you forget Red Green when it comes to “hilariously bad”?

        1. “The ones that stay behind are the unfunny ones, who have nothing better to do than whine about how awful the US is.”

          I’d say the whining is more about the inane visa system and sheer impossibility of working legally in the American economy — unless you’re uniquely gifted or enjoy direct relations to an established citizen. Trust me, lots of Canadians want to work in the US, and would be happy for the opportunity. We’re Mexicans too.

    3. But they have Trailer Park Boys. An awesome show full of irresponsible gun use and complete lack of deference to authority.

      1. But because its main characters are Newfie men who aren’t in Ft McMurray, it has no basis in reality. (Awesome show, though.)

        1. They’re Nova Scotians, not Newfoundlanders. Don’t make me come over there, Wesley.

  6. “many Canadians…have become disturbed about the infiltration of Canadian culture by American TV shows; and one of the complaints I have heard voiced most frequently concerns the fact that these programs subvert peace, order, and discipline among the young by leading Canadian kids to believe they have constitutional rights.”

    This right here sums up how full of themselves Canadians are. And somehow the United States has a reputation of arrogance.

    Canada’s collectivism disgusts me.

  7. That is definitely a big difference. In my social studies classes growing up in Canada, the teachers highlighted the contrast between Canada’s “peace, order, and good government” clause vs. “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness”, in FAVOR of the Canadian version.

    However, I have to say that most *Canadians* are culturally more similar to Americans than they realize. They just get brainwashed by all the propaganda aimed at creating a Canadian “identity” by differentiating from the US, and by self-serving establishment propaganda.

    In the western provinces of Saskachewan, Alberta, and Manitoba, where I grew up, this effect is less prevalent. The sparse population makes connections across the border stronger, there is resentment at the overwhelming political influence of Ontario, and less deference to authority.

    1. Oh, Canadian Social Studies. Good times. How about the distaste at the American Revolution? The few times it was mentioned, I remember a sort of pearl-clutching at the sheer rudeness of it all. As everyone knows, authority figures are to be respected and politely/deferentially dealt with, certainly not rebelled against! With guns!

      1. Oddly enough, I went to most of high school in Australia and the American Revolution was dealt with very sympathetically there. Mind you, there was always a fairly strong pro-American faction there, as is evidenced in their Constituion and federal structure.

        As for Canada, I spent my last year of high school there and again the subject was dealt with fairly sympathetically, as were the several movements to have closer ties, up to and including union in some cases, that rose and fell both before and after Confederation.

        In fact, my history teacher remarked that growing up in Nova Scotia in the 1920s there was a widespread sentiment among the people there that they had really gotten a raw deal out of this Confederation (then barely sixty years old) and would have done better if only they had “joined the States”.

        As recently as 1964 (when Macleans ran a poll) 39% of Maritimers wanted to be part of the US.

        1. I’m not sure I remember correctly, but as I recall they did a similar poll last time Quebec had a secession vote, but with the contingency that Quebec seceded. Then, I think a majority of Maritimers (or maybe just Nova Scotians) would want to join the US if Quebec left.

    2. Well things are slowly getting better here and there. In Alberta the Wildrose Alliance is starting to gain traction as a second right wing party with some libertarian tendencies (also unfortunately with some social con. mixed in but it seems mostly of the live and let live type.)

      Federally we almost got rid of the long gun registry and the Liberal Party lost some major face over the vote. What we really need is proportional representation. The currently ruling Conservative party is made up of a mishmash of red Tories, social conservatives, and other somewhat undesirable right wing elements. Its really a marriage of necessity to provide a sorta fiscal sanity. With proportional representation we could at least have a better chance of a right of center coalition government made up of better elements.

  8. As a libertarian American in Canada, there are two general things that bother me about the country:
    1. The deference to authority and rules is much greater than in the US. It’s amusing to watch people refuse to cross an empty street because of a “Don’t Walk” signal. I think it plays into the politeness, but were I a Canadian, I would worry that it makes them more susceptible to falling into tyranny.
    2. The amount of propaganda that the government puts out about what a great job it’s doing for you. It’s really pervasive.

    1. 3. Canucks don’t tip well.

      1. That may be true in other places, but here in Calgary, it seems like that’s a myth. Calgarians seem to tip well, at least those that I know.

        1. When I was in Saskatchewan in the sixties, it was said that Southern Albertans were almost Americans.

        2. Most folks in Calgary are ex-pat Americans.

          Or so I have heard.

          1. Everyone in Calgary is from somewhere else. If they say they’re from Calgary, it really means that they’ve been here 10 years. Most of them are from somewhere else in Canada, but there’s a fair number from the US, UK, Australia, and any number of Asian/South Asian countries.

    2. “It’s amusing to watch people refuse to cross an empty street because of a “Don’t Walk” signal.”

      apparently you haven’t been to quebec

      1. when reffering to canada quebec is its own thing

  9. When I lived in Canada, there was much less of the anti-Americanism of today (I left in 1979).

    My observation, though, is that there is also a class aspect to it. A couple of years ago I read an article by a women who moved (read fled) to Canada because she had become convinced that it would be more congenial to her leftist sensibilities. In her workplace (she worked for some kind of lefty non-profit or in academia, IIRC) she listened to a steady stream of invective directed at the “Yanks” and sometimes directly at her. She ended up returning to the US.

    I may be wrong, but I’m fairly sure this is far less likely to happen in blue collar or private business environments. I worked with union ironworkers anf othe trades who never once made me feel uncomfortable and who are, I’m fairly sure, much more at home with their American union brothers than with the socialist academics and clergypersons who claim to represent the labor movement.

    I have same impression about the west, from having lived in Saskatchewan and observing all the Americans that came to work there in the oil and gas industry.

    The government knows best attitude is still pretty widespread in all classes though, but less in the west.

  10. It seems to me that Canadians have a bit of a drive to not be like the USA.

    When the USA is seen as an overly permissive society, Canadians tend to want to define themselves against that. As the US came to be seen as more of a police state, Canadians seemed to want to define themselves against that as well.

    There’s no question, however, that a lot of people who champion the will of the people find themselves rethinking that stance once they’ve actually met the people…

    Too much democracy can be a bad thing. Sometimes it doesn’t matter what the people want or what they voted for–we fought a civil war over that. And the Democrats lost, thank God.

    1. “Democrats” don’t necessarily represent the democratic tendency in our society any more than “Republicans” represent the republican tendency. And in the pseudo-aristocratic antebellum South, least of all.

      Anyway, I think a representative selection of the people tend to be better at governing than the people collectively, simply because it ameliorates the tendency of large groups toward moral apathy — when you’re explicitly told that you’re now a decision maker and a leader, you tend to feel more responsible for your decisions, less anonymous. However, our method of determining “representatives” doesn’t actual lead to a representative subset of the populace leading (nor, for that matter, a selection of the wisest and most honest members of society), but instead profession hucksters who hold a majority in a district specifically designed to disenfranchise a large minority of the people who live there by permanently locking them out of power.

  11. They don’t have rights? How about their rights aren’t protected by the government. That positivism bullshit always pisses me off. If positivism were the case, then there would be no such thing as human rights abuses because the respective governments could just declare by fiat that no citizen has a right to life or some other BS.

  12. I’m a libertarian Canadian in the lower mainland of BC.

    Let me tell you, it’s lonely out here.

  13. In some positive news on Canadian rights, our laws against prostitution were just ruled unconstitutional:

    http://www.cbc.ca/canada/story…..aw028.html

    Any American ladies of the night willing to relocate north?

    1. Actually, I recall reading an article many years ago (ca 1970) that prostitution per se is not illegal in Canada.

      What is illegal, and in most places pretty vigorously enforced, are things like soliciting, “keeping a common bawdy house”, “living of the avails” etc. IOW all of the things necessary to actually practice prostitution. I believe the same is essentially true in many US states*.

      IIANM, “living of the avails” is used to catch pimps mostly, but a madam or two gets nabbed on it now and then.

      *(trivia)it is worth pointing out here that unlike the US there is a single national criminal code in Canda, passed by the federal parliament. The provinces are obligated to enforce it and most cases are tried in provincial Courts. Province may add additional offenses subject to the constitution and BOR, so there may be differences at the margins how things are handled in different provinces. But the biggies, murder, rape etc are consistent nationwide and sentences are served in federal prisons.

  14. when you’re explicitly told that you’re now a decision maker and a leader, you tend to feel more responsible for your decisions

    HAHAHAHAHA!

    Whew! That was a good one.

    Have you ever spent much time around actual politicians when they are making decisions? I have. It’s ugly.

  15. “In 1982 Canada finally added a Charter of Rights and Freedoms to its Constitution.” Yup, and Quebec still hasn’t signed the damn thing…

  16. Just for the record, the people of Canada have all the same rights the people of the United States have–regardless of what their Constitution or the Charter of Rights says…

    My rights belong to me. They’re not for any government to give or take away. Some governments may trample all over them, but that doesn’t mean those people don’t have the same rights I do.

    It just means their government tramples all over them.

  17. Jeet is wrong. The American welfare/reg state led Canada, not the other way around.

  18. In 1982 Canada finally added a Charter of Rights and Freedoms to its Constitution. Give Kojak the credit.

    Of course, our 1982 Charter was not exactly forged in a climate of liberty. Consider this, from the very first section:

    The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantees the rights and freedoms set out in it subject only to such reasonable limits prescribed by law as can be demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society.

    Sure, you have rights; but those rights have “reasonable limits”. Compare that with Congress shall make no law? abridging the freedom of speech and you’ll see what we’re up against here. The vagueness of this section has allowed the Supreme Court to rule that stuff like
    suppressing “obscene” literature, criminalizing hate speech, and (oddly) banning the publication of election results are permissible under the Charter.

    If that’s not a big enough government loophole, there’s also the so-called Notwithstanding Clause, which allows provincial legislatures to pass laws infringing fundamental freedoms: expression, religion, torture, search and seizure, and that other good stuff. (The law resets after five years, but they can renew it ad infinitum.)

    Our constitution has a built-in PATRIOT Act.

  19. Canadians have no taste for freedom… freedom here means free health care (would you believe private health insurance is actually illegal here). I think this ‘mental slavery’ is why this country produces so little art and culture. There is social prohibition against thinking anything ‘new and deviant’.

    However… while historically America has had some taste for freedom, your constitution has done little to actually protect your freedom – you simple declared it a ‘living document’ and interprete it as you please. I recently heard about your ‘enhanced pat downs’ at airports.. seriously wow! and they’ll do it to children too. There were forced sterilizations (i.e. eugenics) for much of the 20th century. Where was the constitution then. American freedoms are illusionary, your constitution has lost all power. Although you at least have it to remind you of what you lost.

  20. Canadians have no taste for freedom… freedom here means free health care (would you believe private health insurance is actually illegal here). I think this ‘mental slavery’ is why this country produces so little art and culture. There is social prohibition against thinking anything ‘new and deviant’.

    However… while historically America has had some taste for freedom, your constitution has done little to actually protect your freedom – you simple declared it a ‘living document’ and interprete it as you please. I recently heard about your ‘enhanced pat downs’ at airports.. seriously wow! and they’ll do it to children too. There were forced sterilizations (i.e. eugenics) for much of the 20th century. Where was the constitution then. American freedoms are illusionary, your constitution has lost all power. Although you at least have it to remind you of what you lost.

  21. what’s meaning YREFDHFDD

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