About Canada | Why Choose Canada? | Benefits of Canada | Social Assistance | Statistics
How are Canada and the United States different?
Though Canadian and American societies are in some ways very similar, in other ways they are very different. In a sense, Canada represents a rejection of the ideals of the American Revolution. Most of the early settlement of Ontario and New Brunswick was by Loyalists fleeing the revolution, and there was a significant flow of Loyalists to parts of Quebec and Nova Scotia as well. These were people who rejected the notions of individualism and equality, which became the basis of an American ideology, in favour of a more hierarchical, elitist society.
This affected many facets of Canadian life. The dominant religious denominations in Canada, Catholic and Anglican, were much more hierarchical than the main Protestant denominations in the U.S. Though Canada does not have a state church, neither do we have the rigorous separation of Church and State that exists in the U.S. There are state-supported schools with religious affiliations in many Canadian provinces.
Perhaps because religion was less of a personal affair in Canada, it seems to have suffered a steeper decline here than in the U.S. Church attendance is significantly lower here, and politicians do not make a show of being publicly pious, as American politicians do.
Though the early settlement of Canada reflected a conservative rejection of the liberal (in the 18th century sense) ideals of the American Revolution, this has, paradoxically, made Canada far more receptive to socialist ideas, since both socialism and traditional conservatism both involve a more interventionist, "paternalistic" government than classical liberalism. Thus Canadians are far more accepting of government-run health insurance, or of gun control.
Canadians are much less wedded to the concept of individual liberties, and more accepting of government intervention to maintain an orderly society, than are Americans. (This is a very broad generalization, to which there are countless exceptions.)
The adoption of the Canadian Charter of Rights in 1982 can be seen as a significant step towards a more American philosophy. However, note that the Charter is significantly more limited than the American Bill of Rights (see 3.4).
The American system basically sees government as bad. There is an elaborate system of separation of powers and of checks and balances to ensure that one branch of government does not gain too much power. Much of the US constitution is designed to protect individual citizens from the actions of governments.
In Canada, in contrast, the executive and legislative branches of government are intimately linked. The Charter of Rights is a recent innovation, and its application is tempered by the power of legislators to override it.