Welcome to Canada vs America, passports please

scales of justice apples and oranges

How do Canada and the US stack up on issues of law and politics? This site seeks answers.

Like whiny preteens who try to extort the latest Apple products from their parents (by promising to move in with That One Relative who happens to own an in-ground swimming pool unless their demands are met), every so often, when things aren’t going their way, US voters threaten to migrate North.

Americans have portended to move to Canada for all sorts of reasons, even when it’s in clear opposition to their desired outcomes, such as when the US Supreme Court legalized gay marriage or when Obama announced his plan to take in 10,000 Syrian refugees. All of this emigration talk naturally contributes to Canada’s vexingly subtle smugness.

So, how much do Americans really know about the country whose borders they threaten to storm en masse? For example, does the US safeguard free speech better than its northern neighbor? Why doesn’t Canada have the death penalty? How does each country conduct indigenous relations? How does universal healthcare work? Does it have something to do with the fact that Canadians buy their milk in bags? Enter Canada vs America, a project that seeks to compare the two countries through their respective systems of law and governance.

Canada US border - Vermont

Credit: National Film Board of Canada. Photothèque / Library and Archives Canada


Before you sling your AR-15 over your shoulder and hitchhike to the closest Canadian border, I must first inform you that Canada vs America is not a guide on how to immigrate to Canada. If you’re from the US (like me) and are actually serious about moving to Canada (also like me), please consult the appropriate governmental agency or your daily horoscope, as the two are equally disheartening and effective at providing insight on the matter.

Why am I doing this?

First, to avoid being bit in the ass by the yuge elephant in the room—yes, I’m referring to the United States’ 2016 Republican candidate—I must acknowledge that Americans’ most recent threats of mass exodus appear surprisingly sincere (for a country that literally invented the revolving door).

One poll finds that 19% of Americans would consider moving to Canada if Trump wins, and 15% if Clinton wins. Of course, it’s important to note that the numbers vary significantly among age and gender, and the sample size was relatively small.

While many of these threats are as empty as the seats would be at a Clinton rally held at NRA headquarters, they still have the real impact of circulating inaccurate stereotypes, like the belief that Canadians who wear white on Halloween risk being mistaken for a polar bear and shot (FALSE: that only holds true in, like, one place in Manitoba, where you also definitely shouldn’t “wear raw meat”), or that Americans subsist solely on freshly squeezed “cheese-products” that defy the laws of physics and chicken sandwiches made by homophobes (FALSE: some of us also eat at Cracker Barrel).

Canadians are relatively more informed about the United States given that US history is often part of their school curriculum (which references the War of 1812 in more than a whispered aside) and that Canada is code for “place where American reality TV shows go to die.” The majority of Americans, on the other hand, still think of Canada as America’s hat, that is, if they think of Canada at all.

Part of the reason behind this project (aside from cultivating a sense of civic virtue from the comfort of my own couch) is thus to address the common stereotypes that trigger the kneejerk threats by actually looking into how each country deals with various hot button issues (and other, less hot issues). By examining different aspects of their respective laws and politics, I hope to ignite a more informed discussion on the differences between the two democracies, and perhaps inspire their respective citizens to hold their countries to account.

Sure, Canada has adopted the parliamentary system from the UK, whereas the US has adopted John Oliver, but at bottom, Canada and the US are relatively similar, which makes their differences all the more revealing.

How am I doing this?

Written articles, some infographics, and a wee bit of data analysis will help to illustrate the legal and governmental differences between Canada and the United States. Please note that posts will be written in US English to avoid purchasing any extra vowels.

Yes, I’m a lowly lay person—neither legal scholar nor lawyer. So my expertise arises only from my experience as a US expat living in Canada and keen observation skills (read: my ability to ask people questions when search engines fail me).

As my grandfather, a US army colonel, used to say to his classroom of young soldiers on the first day of school, “There are a lot of people who know a lot more about this stuff than I do, but they’re not here right now.”

Well, that’s partly the philosophy I’ve adopted for this project. Except that I’m going to beg the people who do know a lot more than me to help shed some light on how these two countries regulate their respective societies. And with a bar that low, it shouldn’t be too hard.

So, if you have any burning questions about how Canada stacks up against the US when it comes to certain legal, political, or governmental issues, simply inquire at Canada vs America, and I’ll likely look into it. You can also tweet @canadavsamerica.

— Slightly Concerned US Expat


Also published on Medium.

5 thoughts on “Welcome to Canada vs America, passports please

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