How Canada Compares
To The U.S.
I think your website is fantastic.
I live up in Ontario, Canada and our culture is different. Although we have separation of church and state, we also have, entrenched in the 1867 constitution (the British North America Act) a provision for a separately funded Catholic school system. Originally there were mainly protestant schools outside of Quebec, and Roman Catholic schools inside Quebec. When the confederation was formed, The people in Lower Canada (Quebec) wanted cultural protection from Upper Canada (Ontario). This was all done by British politicians.
In 1982, Pierre Elliot Trudeau's Liberals decided to patriate the constitution. When they did this they added a bill of rights, which is similar to your bill of rights, but more specific. We still had all of the American freedoms in Canada, but they were provided by parliamentary tradition and British common law. The bill of rights became the precedent for many important judicial rulings on issues like Abortion, prisoner rights, and school prayer. I think a bill of rights preferable, but some do not. Any ways even then, in 1982, they still kept the provision protection Catholic schools (which are in most provinces now). The Federal and most provincial legislatures say a prayer before the legislature opens.
The interesting thing is that despite this preferential treatment to religion, Canadians are far less religious than Americans. In surveys that I have seen the atheist/agnostic category approaches 20 percent of our population, where as America is only about 10 percent, I thought. Our politicians hardly ever quote God in their speeches (with the modern exception of the Alliance party leader, Stockwell Day who is an ex-evangelist). They do not need the endorsement of the Christian moral majority to get elected.
We do not have the death penalty. Our provincial health insurance system covers the entire cost of abortions (though they are only partially funded in some provinces). Anti-abortion activists are banned from picketing the entrances. In Southern Ontario, which is the economic heart and "soul" of the country, we have a full funded system of Catholic schools, and prayers are not announced over the P.A. system in the public schools. Religious groups don't try to force religion on the public schools, and if they did, it wouldn't work. Other religious groups have tried to get the same schooling rights, but courts have ruled against that. The provision is only for Catholic schools. So, effectively, our constitution provides for a state system of religious schools, and separation of church and state. Catholics don't receive any other specific benefits (besides being such a wealthy group).
This may seem like a contradiction, but it does work. You could call the governing Liberal party, the Catholic party as most Catholics tend to be Liberal, but we are not ruled by a religious group. Our media does not show leaders going to Church (if they ever do except on Easter and Xmas) and our leaders would never want to publicly claim that they talk with God. The rise of the Alliance party (previously the Reform party) is some cause for concern. As party leader, Stockwell Day endorses school prayer, [is anti-abortion, and supports] the death penalty but makes the (bogus) claim that he would not allow his personal beliefs to influence how he ran the country. When the constitution was changed, the writers changed it in such a way as to make further editing very difficult, if not impossible. To make a change you need the endorsement of the Federal and all provincial legislatures as well as a majority vote in a referendum. This has been attempted, but never accomplished. Stockwell Day would have to do that, or make a stand and try and overrule the authority of the supreme court. This would be political suicide for him.
It is the policy of the governing Liberals not to use the notwithstanding clause which is in the constitution. This clause allows a provincial or Federal government to ignore a constitutional law with a majority vote in the legislative house. This decision must be re-voted on every year or two. This is the means for Quebec to run her anti-english laws which drove the center of business from Montreal to Toronto. This clause has never been used outside Quebec.
Any ways, I could go on and on, but I'm not writing an essay here. America is far more religious than Canada, and as a nation, I think you suffer for it. We certainly don't deal with nonsense like creationism in school science books.
My name is Eric, and I am Canadian!
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