Why Isn’t Canada Part of the United States? A Primer for Americans

Virtually every American I keep in touch with has, at some point, asked me this question. American history classes do a very poor job of explaining how one region of mainland North America colonized by the United Kingdom became one country and the next region over became a different country, and tend to pretend Canada isn’t even on the map most of the time. I certainly faced this question with confusion prior to moving to Canada and being confronted with its reality.

As it happens, though, the events that led to these two settler states to emerge as separate entities are fairly interesting, and tied into the events that started the Thirteen American Colonies thinking of independence. Continue reading “Why Isn’t Canada Part of the United States? A Primer for Americans”

Why Isn’t Canada Part of the United States? A Primer for Americans
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Rant: Let’s Talk About the BLACKLIVESMATTER Protest at PRIDE (Part 1)

This past weekend, July 3rd, was the Toronto Pride Parade, one of the biggest if not the biggest pride events in Canada. This year’s parade was a historic one for a variety of reasons. The weekend included the largest trans march in the world and the first time that a sitting Prime Minister joined the parade. Another major historic event was the protest staged by Black Lives Matter.

For those who haven’t heard, during the pride parade, after a moment of silence for the victims of the Orlando Shooting at Pulse Club, Black Lives Matter Toronto staged a sit in halting the parade. Their protest had the following list of demands:

Continue reading “Rant: Let’s Talk About the BLACKLIVESMATTER Protest at PRIDE (Part 1)”

Rant: Let’s Talk About the BLACKLIVESMATTER Protest at PRIDE (Part 1)

The Totally Biased Guide to Canadian Politics for my American, UK, and Aussie Friends

How it works:

Each city is divided into ridings based on populations, so smaller cities might make one riding, sparse rural territories might only have 1 MP, and each of the territories only has 1 (which is fucked up and is a slap of Native People). Each riding votes for a Member of Parliament (MP) who becomes the riding’s representative in the House of Commons. The party with the most MPs in the House of Commons has their party leader become the Prime Minister of Canada (get it, first minister). The party with the second highest number of MPs becomes the Official Opposition. If there are more opposition MPs than there are leadership party MPs then it is a minority government, if they have more than half the MPs in the House, then it is a majority government.

The Parties:

The Conservative Party of Canada:
Leader:
Stephen Harper (Douche King of Douche Mountain) aka Canada’s Bush.

For comparisons sake, this party is akin to the Republicans in America, and the Tories in the UK (in fact, we call them Tories here too), and from what I understand the Liberals in Australia. Just to make this extra confusing.

A little bit of history: The Conservative Party of Canada is actually a relatively new party made up of former right wing parties including the Canadian Alliance, the Reform Party, and the Progressive Conservatives. There has been a “Conservative” Party of Canada since the British were here so they kept the name for branding sake.

The current leader of the conservatives has been Prime Minister now for a decade and his tenure has been one of shifting the whole country into a recession, taking away people’s rights, and generally putting this country in the shitter. Oh and he committed election fraud. Multiple times.

The Liberal Party of Canada:
Leader:
Justin Trudeau (Pierre Elliot Trudeau’s Son, is overly fond of reminding people of that.)

Justin Trudeau wearing Buck Dewey's glasses and hear from Steven Universe, with the Caption I'm Trudeau's son.

Akin to the Democratic Party in the US, though I would compare them to Hillary Clinton Democrats shifted more right of late. Possibly similar to the Labor Party for Australia. He voted in favour of the controversial and messed up Bill C-51, which is akin to the US’s Patriot Act. He’s young and considered by some to be handsome. Basically high school Jock Legacy running for Daddy’s seat, and ironically he’s not the one who’s Bush… that would be Harper. This party used to be the left’s primary party of choice however in the last several years they’ve shifted to the right in an effort to go after the conservative’s base. The irony being that in doing so, they lost a lot of their support on the left.

There was some hope with Trudeau since his father was the Prime Minister responsible for the Charter of Rights and Freedoms which is akin to the Bill of Rights. But his vote for C-51 helps strip Canadians of a lot of those very same rights, no matter how much he might bring up his father in conversation.

The New Democratic Party of Canada
Leader:
Tom Mulcair

The NDP used to be considered the fringe left party, kind of like the kind of people who would want Bernie Sanders to run. During the last election, they replaced the Liberals as the official opposition which was kind of a coup. This year, they have a real chance of winning the election if the left can get adequately mobilized, kind of like how Bernie Sanders seems to have a chance now that people understand how much we need to shift towards better social policies.

Tom Mulcair lacks the charisma of the former NDP leader Jack Layton, but the NDP is also offering the only real alternative to Conservative Party policies, especially now that the liberals are catering to the conservative base by supporting scary bills like this one. The NDP does have a strong history on a lot of these issues.

The Green Party of Canada
Leader:
Elizabeth May

The Green Party in Canada is like the green party everywhere. Consistently the party that has the best environmental policies and seems to align well with most social policies. Invariably though they also seem to be more connected to woo policies including those like anti-vax movements which is seriously scary for immunosuppressed people like me.

Elizabeth May however is often discriminated against and not allowed to participate in any of the leadership debates. In the Maclean’s one, where she was, she came off a lot better than any of the other politicians, probably because as a woman she is used to being cut off by men and so knows how to be succinct. A lesson more politicians would do well to learn, perhaps by not talking for a while. Her history includes failing radically on issues relating to victim blaming, see also the Jian Ghomeshi Rape Case.

The Bloq Quebecois
Leader:
Gilles Ducceppe

Conceptually closest to the Scottish National Party. Their aim is essentially for Quebec to separate from Canada to become its own country. The support for this movement gains and recedes depending on what is going on at the time. Although they really only exist in Quebec, they have been the official opposition before since Quebec is a major population center in Canada. When that happened, Lucien Bouchard, who also was famous for losing his leg to Flesh-Eating Disease, made it party policy to only speak French in the House of Commons: a policy which is in place till this day.

They are relevant enough to mention.

The election is to be held on October 19, 2015. If Harper wins, I’m moving to New Zealand.

The Totally Biased Guide to Canadian Politics for my American, UK, and Aussie Friends

Family History

I come from a large family that I have never met.

My parents moved to Canada before I was born, leaving behind everyone. In Canada they knew nobody. My grandfather had 6 brothers, and 7 sisters. Most of them got married and had children. In Poland, we count our extended relations a lot more closely than they do in other places. My father’s cousin is my aunt, my ciocia, she is also my Godmother and her children are my cousins. My cousin’s baby daughter is as much my niece as much as any potential future niblings from my sister.

Growing up disconnected from all that, I felt the lack of family in my life. I was obsessed with having a sibling. I secretly wanted it to be a boy so that someone could continue the “Bula” line in Canada. When my sister was born, I made the decision then that I would keep some form of my name forever. For my father. The hilarious part is my dad has never cared. When I mentioned it to him once, he was confused about why that would matter.

Continue reading “Family History”

Family History

A Canadian's Reaction to the Terrorist Attack on AME

On June 17th, 2015, a white man entered Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in downtown Charleston, South Carolina, United States and killed 9 people. This was a targeted terrorist attack meant to strike fear into the black community. His choice of church was highly symbolic. The AME church in general is a famous denomination, but this church in particular is also steeped in civil rights history. It was here that community organizing took place dating back to before abolition. This church had been previously burned down by white supremacists, attacked and raided.

This choice of location was a reminder that even 150 years after slavery was abolished black people are still not welcome in the USA and are still treated as less than human.

Before he murdered these 9 people, the terrorist defended his actions in the name of protecting white women from the criminal advances of black men. The murder of black people in the name of protecting white women’s purity is an excuse that has a long racist history, and as a white woman I would like to join with others in saying #notinmyname.

Continue reading “A Canadian's Reaction to the Terrorist Attack on AME”

A Canadian's Reaction to the Terrorist Attack on AME

An Imaginary Q&A on the World’s Degrees of Britishness

As many readers are undoubtedly aware, this past week the people of Scotland held a long-awaited referendum on whether to become an independent country.  What, exactly, this means has been more confusing than it should have been, because Scotland exists at a nexus of confusion within the mess of terms used to describe that general region of Europe.  With my trusty Imaginary Correspondent, let’s sort that out.

Imaginary Correspondent: I find Britishness quaint and also confusing.  Where do we start?

Alyssa: Geography.

IC: Okay…

Continue reading “An Imaginary Q&A on the World’s Degrees of Britishness”

An Imaginary Q&A on the World’s Degrees of Britishness

Salsa Fuerte, Vergüenza Profunda

Yesterday was Ontario’s provincial election, a frustrating event for this American citizen.  Even if Canada were just enough to enfranchise its permanent non-citizen residents, that would not give me a say in how this peculiar country runs itself.  My status in Canada is, for now, temporary, and my voting will continue to be in the far more globally significant Florida, where a handful of badly filled ballots or a rash of felony convictions can be the difference between a drawl-feigning warmongering theocrat or an environmentalist deciding what the world’s largest army will do.  As it was, Ontario’s Liberal Party sailed into a majority government with no particular difficulty, a source of both elation and disappointment for Ontario’s progressive constituents.

Canada’s parliamentary system affords a much larger niche for third parties than the United States’s legislature.  In Canada, if one party’s candidates get 35% of the seats, a second party gets 40%, and a third party 25%, that 40% party will have to form a coalition with one of the others, and that coalition will select the Prime Minister and otherwise set the government’s agenda.  If a particular attempted coalition cannot get along well enough to form the government, the coalition dissolves and another one tries.  This entanglement between the executive and legislative branches means that the leaders of Canada cannot, usually, afford to ignore people who didn’t vote for them, and it means that third parties that manage substantial segments of the vote don’t necessarily disappear behind the ones that got slightly more, because they can become necessary coalition partners.  A system like this one still eventually converges on two parties—it takes a much more complicated system to preserve more than two poles indefinitely—but it takes much longer and affords those third parties and their constituents a much greater voice in the meantime.

Suffice to say, there’s a much greater possibility to vote one’s conscience in Canada, even if some situations demand voting for whoever stands the greatest shot at keeping the Conservatives out of a particular seat.

So it was with curiosity and interest that I surveyed the pamphlets and cards that the various candidates and advocacy groups kept leaving in our mailboxes.  Most of them were political boilerplate, a series of minor promises next to a candidate putting on the best trustworthy-and-not-smug mug xe could manage.  But I had to give one of them a lot of extra attention.

Did you know Canada has a Communist Party?

Continue reading “Salsa Fuerte, Vergüenza Profunda”

Salsa Fuerte, Vergüenza Profunda

Why I am an Atheist – 3 of 3

It would turn out that I had overestimated the extent of the damage.  True, I had become a pariah from many of the people that had filled the social outings of the past few years and simply grown apart from many more.  But I still had friends (mostly from high school) I would have felt bad about losing.  It would be they that I would commit to seeing on my visits back to Miami.

In Ottawa, population 1 million, I could build myself anew.  The blogosphere became a close companion in my newfound solitude, and what had been intuitions and half-formed ideas grew into a far greater understanding.  I learned about the historical events surrounding the major religions.  I learned that Mormonism is, in fact, more overtly ridiculous than Catholicism, by a hair.  I learned about the psychological underpinnings of faith.  I learned just how little the average believer’s ideas relate to the Bible they claim is the foundation of their faith.  I learned about the gory zeal with which religions persecuted science that revealed religious teachings to be factually incorrect.  I learned about confirmation bias and how it convinces people they have psychic powers.  I learned why the sexual education regimen in my elementary school had to be split into sections at multiple locations: so that the segment on safe sex could be kept away from zealots’ eyes.  I finally understood the religious energy directed against the pure, visceral, primal joy that is sex, and into the authoritarian command to obey without question.  I learned about the seemingly boundless well of the Catholic Church’s crimes against humanity.  I learned about how Buddhist teachings encourage people to treat disabled people as monsters because their genetic disorders are a curse from karma for past lives’wrongdoing.  I saw that so, so, much of religion can only exist in a pluralistic, secular society when people do not live by it, that the litany of reforms that fill history classes occurred precisely because religions as originally formulated, as “God intended,” are utterly monstrous.  I saw that religious notions pervert our innate, empathetic moral sense until it is something inchoate and unrecognizable.

I saw that my parents and many of my friends and most of our leaders were in the grips of a vile and transmissible mind poison that told them their lives were worthless beneath the judgmental gaze of a cosmic entity whose plagues and marauding beasts we were supposed to take as expressions of “love.”  I saw that those same people paid regularly to hear someone tell them that this loving god would condemn one tenth or more of the human race to eternal torment based on who they loved, and that the best of them would merely disavow that notion without disavowing that church.  The worst of them would share that abuse out of “concern,” and drive a wedge through our family that makes me burn with sad, piteous rage.

I don’t remember when I listed myself as “Atheist” on OkCupid, but that designation was most emphatically in place when I changed my location to Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.  The lady I sought would not find this problematic, or would even look for it specifically.

I cultivated a different persona.  I did my reading, and recognized my desperation and my caution for the impediments they were.  I was now in a land where I could be the swarthy, exotic foreigner, where my American manners were fashionably impolite, and where my quiet, cerebral nature didn’t make me seem gutless and ineffectual to my ethnic kin and utterly invisible to anyone else.  In Miami, I was Solomon Vandi angrily listening to Johnny Archer shout at him, “Without me, you’re just another black man in Africa!”  In Ottawa, I could be who I wanted, and it would work.

In Ottawa, the zealots only come out to hold up their evil signs at Gay Pride parades and to show off their insultingly incorrect billboards about terminating pregnancy.  Canada isn’t as irreligious as paradises like Sweden or Estonia, but compared to the suffocating weight of Miami’s obsession with Spanish virgins, it was beatific.  Here, at long last, I could feel safe.  The political discourse here figured out that caring for one’s population and treating them fairly even when religious groups demand otherwise is the only way to run a modern country, while the United States still has to fight, over and over, people who want the government to enforce some specific version of Christianity on 320 million people.  Canada figured out the humanist notions of ethics that are the watchwords of the best atheists out there.  The United States belongs in another century by comparison.

And it was in Canada that I met a lady who thought clearly enough that she could see all of that, and did not despair.  A lady who, at long last, I would not have to placate with lies.  I met a lady who would not make me choose between loneliness and dishonesty.  A lady whose intelligence and understanding is matched only by her fiery commitment to making the world a better place and her mastery of Polish cuisine.  A lady who was everything I needed, and more.  I met Ania, and then we became co-bloggers.

Why I am an Atheist – 3 of 3