There is a saying up here in Canada that when the US sneezes, we catch a cold. Our economy is closely tied to our neighbours to the south, our close ally. It is by far our largest trade partner, with 75% of Canadian exports going to America. We are also influenced by the political tides that come and go in the United States; as political extremism increased south of the border, so too has it increased here.
This brings me to today’s decision by the United States Supreme Court to overturn Roe v Wade. It’s just the latest of the recent decisions that I find frightening, disturbing, and an unwelcome calling card to Canadians.
A few days ago, the Court made it more difficult to enforce Miranda Rights, a person’s right to not incriminate themselves upon arrest. Yesterday, they struck down NY State’s right (and thereby any state) to determine who is allowed to carry a concealed weapon in public. The idea that you can now stand in the middle of Time Square and be surrounded by people carrying firearms, to me at least, is terrifying.
On this sad day
And on this sad day, Roe v Wade is no more. We knew it was coming, thanks to the leaked draft decision from last May. But I held out, hope against hope, that they would change the decision. Crazy, I know. But these are crazy times. The decision quoted precedents set by Sir Matthew Hale. He was a 17th Century judge who believed husbands could not rape their wives. He also presided on the court that sentenced two women to their deaths. Their crime? Witchcraft. The decision inspired the Salem Witch Trials. This man was cited 9 times in the leaked decision. Nine.
Today’s decision also included a supporting opinion from Justice Thomas. It suggested other SCOTUS decisions including those supporting same-sex unions, same-sex relationships, and birth control should be reviewed.
It is the quickest and most radical swing to the far right I ever recall seeing in the United States.
Why though, you may ask, am I so concerned as a Canadian, that these changes are happening outside of my own country?
Because when the US sneezes, Canada catches a cold. This does not solely apply to economics. In my opinion, the conservative parties of Canada (and we have a few) are taking cues from the disturbing trends and decisions being made in the US. Our most recent federal election in September of last year saw the left-leaning parties (Liberals, NDP and Green Parties) gained seats overall but not enough to win a majority government. In the June provincial election in Ontario, the Progressive Conservative party gained seven seats gliding easily to another majority.
As a woman…
All this leaves me, as a woman, feeling vulnerable and frightened. And more engaged. I say this often but now more than ever, it is critical that we not take for granted the rights we so happily enjoy in this country. The Ontario “majority” conservative government was decided by 43% of voters in comparison to the federal minority government elected by 62% voter turnout. Which is more reflective of the will of the people?
In my heart of hearts, I want to believe that Canada is better than the decisions that are being made in the US and that we would never go down that path. But hope will not secure the rights we enjoy now. Voting will. Engagement will. Hope will not make changes to marginalized communities, it will not bring clean drinking water to thousands of First Nations people and it will not change the biased policing and justice systems we have.
There is so much work to be done. On this sad day, I mourn with all women who feel this decision as a clear and decisive condemnation of our standing as people, deserving of equal rights. And I will work so my granddaughters live in a country that values them equally.