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On Basic Values, Chasm Separates Canadians, Americans After 9/11

By Clifford Krauss

The New York Times -- TORONTO

Canadians and Americans still dress alike, talk alike, like the same books, television shows and movies, and trade more goods and services than ever before. But from gay marriage to drug use to church attendance, a chasm has opened up on social issues that go to the heart of fundamental values.

A more distinctive Canadian identity -- one far more in line with European sensibilities -- is emerging and generating new frictions with the United States.

“Being attached to America these days is like being in a pen with a wounded bull,” Rick Mercer, Canada’s leading political satirist, said at a recent show in Toronto. “Between the pot smoking and the gay marriage, quite frankly it’s a wonder there is not a giant deck of cards out there with all our faces on it.”

Mercer acknowledged in an interview that he was overstating the case for laughs -- two Canadian provinces have legalized gay marriage, and Ottawa has moved to decriminalize use of small amounts of marijuana. But in the view of many experts the two countries are heading in different directions, at least for the time being.

Recent disagreements over trade, drugs and the war in Iraq, where Canada has refused to send troops, have made the relationship more contentious and Canadians increasingly outspoken about the things that separate them from their American neighbors.

“The two countries are sounding more different -- after 9/11, dramatically more different,” noted Gil Troy, an American historian who teaches at McGill University in Montreal. “You hear a lot more static and you see more brittleness.”

But today, many analysts and ordinary Canadians said in interviews around the country, the differences appear to have moved center stage, particularly in social and cultural values.