“You’re moving back to Canada if Trump wins, right?” This is a question I get asked with some regularity these days, especially as the specter of President Trump (or what I like to describe as: “MelaniaMania”) sweeps the land.
Life, however, is more complicated than purchasing a 1-way Air Canada ticket to the rather pleasant inclines of The 6, with its Drake infused coolness, or to Canadaland in general, where Justin Trudeau has become world’s latest boyfriend.
As many have said before me: the longer you live “away” the more baggage (however handsome that baggage is) you collect.
“It’s not like your country,” my boyfriend retorted when I suggested we ditch The MTA for the TTC, “has the best tracker record; I mean 8 years of Harper and 4 years of Rob Ford isn’t something to be proud about.” Gruesome twosome real-talk is sacrosanct to Canadians whose sense of sanctimonious superiority, when it comes to our pseudo colonial neighbors to the south, knows no bounds.
And while his point is a decent one, the probable fallout from four years of having an overgrown man-child running Toronto’s City Hall was replacing a crack stained sink in the mayor’s bathroom; the potential fall-out from electing an overgrown man-child to the American Presidency is degrees of magnitude more frightening.
A couple of weeks ago my boyfriend and I had a rather innocuous conversion about free of speech; it was your typical Sunday morning at Casa Paymark: laundry*, Soulcycle, and a First Amendment throw down.
He had told me about a story he reported on in college, which involved hate-speech, and I asked about the epilogue: “So did the guy get arrested?”
“Arrested for what?” He looked at me quizzically, “You can’t get arrested for hate speech.”
“You can in Canada.” My boyfriend looked at me in horror.
“What is going on up there?” I had made a giant strategic error in my pro-Canada agenda.
What followed was a history lesson about #Murica and its ultimate belief if the freeom of speech, which infamously culminated in an incident now known as the Skokie Affair; as if I should be impressed that a band of neo-Nazi’s were allowed to march through a predominately Jewish neighborhood because of a little thing known as the First Amendment, bitches.
Free speech is a fundamental freedom in Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms, an ‘Inalienable’ right if you will, but unlike the US, free speech has its limitations; Canada’s Criminal Code criminalizes certain type of speech, such as inciting hatred against any identifiable group. As interpreted by the Ontario Supreme Court: “the right to freedom of expression is not absolute, nor should it be.”
I later retold this story to a bunch of friends, the kind of liberal, East Coast friends who went to Ivy League schools. They looked at me in horror: “Canadians don’t have freedom of speech?!”
Canadians and Americans share a lot of things: The world’s longest uninterrupted border, a newfound affinity for Celine Dion (in a sort of ironic lovable crazy aunt kind of away). But there are certain things – like freedom of speech – that speak to an entirely different cultural ethos. The only American who backed up my affinity for Canada’s free speech limitations was the son of Chinese immigrants.
Most of the time my existence in ‘Merica feels not so different from my former life in Canada; a Pumpkin Spice Latte is a Pumpkin Spice Latte, eh. However, every once in a while I get slapped in the face with the realization that “Toto, I’m not in Saskatoon anymore.”
Someone once had tis to say about Canada’s limitations on freedom of speech: “Sometimes we need to be protected from our baser and stupider selves.” In America there is no such protection. It’s as if America is still a vestige of its colonial self; every Goody Clinton unto themselves.
The hope, this year, is that never the Trump shall they meet.
* We do not do our laundry