Canada: Y U Fail At Religious Diversity?

So I just found out via the Wild Hunt that (Conservative) Public Safety Minister Vic Toews has nixed a posting for a Wiccan chaplain for B.C. inmates, because he is apparently concerned about the backlash from taxpayers if a *gasp!* witch is on the payroll.

I think there’s a perception among Americans (and among Canadians themselves) that Canada is a great land of tolerance for everyone, but stories like these remind us that, sadly, stupidity exists everywhere. We Canadians, however, tend to be less overt with our stupidity than, say, American Republicans (apart from, say, incidents like the “bozone layer” comments from the Wildrose Party of Alberta).

Maybe I’m being too hard on my country, after all, we have things here that my American friends can only dream of, like nation-wide same-sex marriage (keep fighting everyone! YOU CAN DO IT!), (mostly) free healthcare, and the option to affirm a citizenship oath on any book you want (you can also choose not to swear on a Bible in court), at least, we have these things in my province (Ontario). However, we also have some things that would probably make your average American’s toes curl, like (from a certain point of view) draconian free speech laws. In short, no, you cannot say any stupid shit you like here in Canada. To put this in perspective, when Ann Coulter came to speak at the University of Ottawa, she was informed that we have a different perception of free speech here, and that spewing her hateful bile saying hateful things about any identifiable group “would not only be considered inappropriate, but could in fact lead to criminal charges”.

In other words “This is Canada, bitch! We don’t tolerate hate speech here!”

While I’m on the subject, let’s talk about separation of church and state. Actually, we don’t have that phrase in any of our Big, Important documents (and no version of the establishment clause), so this leads to a lot of weirdness in schools and workplaces when it comes to religion, like the Gideons passing out Bibles in public schools. If this happened in the U.S., would there be a shit fit? Hel yes, there would be a shit fit! But over here, this kind of thing can go on for decades and no one really cares.

Also, I can’t believe I have to say this, but I’ve heard fellow Canadians say these kinds of things, but just because multiculturalism is pretty much a national policy doesn’t mean that racism doesn’t exist, nor does allowing same-sex marriage mean an end to homophobia. It’s sad to think that some actually believe this, but it’s true.

So no, my American friends, Canada is not a freedom-loving bastion of awesome. It does some things right, and it does many things wrong, same as any other country, but I don’t think I’d rather live anywhere else.


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