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Forum – Canada and the United States: So Similar Yet So Different

Every Saturday we meet to discuss a topic decided upon the previous week. These are topics of humanist interest, from a humanist perspective.

The topic of the discussion will be decided in a prior meeting, usually two weeks in advance. This week’s topic is, “Canada and the United States: So Similar Yet So Different” by HAT member, John Laberge. Join us, won’t you?

I’ve always thought of Canada and the United States as two sibling countries that were separated at birth – back in the 1780s. After 1763, they both called Britain their mother country, and they both inherited
many of their governing institutions and values from Britain. Yet one chose to break away from their parent in a violent revolutionary war, and the other decided to remain within the confines of the British Empire.

Back then, the United States was in fact still a collection of distinct colonies drawing their revolutionary ideals from the Eighteenth Century Enlightenment, whereas the Enlightenment had scarcely any impact at all upon the loyalist colonies that almost a century later became the Dominion of Canada. For a long time, the United States was seen as a dynamic and forward-thinking society, whereas Canada was usually
dismissed as an uninteresting backwater. Many observers thought that it was only a matter of time until Canada would be absorbed by the United States, but it didn’t happen.

Each country also went through very dramatic changes in the 1960s and 1970s (a period within the living memory of many of us).

There are several questions we can look at:

1. Now in the 21st century we see two countries that still have many geographic and economic similarities, yet they almost seem to operate in two parallel universes, each with political cultures and values so very different from the other. How can this be explained?

2. How did the concept of American exceptionalism arise, and what impact has it had upon the United States? Can we now speak of a parallel notion of Canadian exceptionalism?

3. What effect has religion had upon each country’s values and culture? How do humanist values matter in each country?

4. How might each country face the enormous challenges of today and the coming decades?

Meet our diverse group, trade perspectives in a free and open forum and learn from others as they learn from you!

BTW: don’t be concerned if there are not many RSVP’s. Many HAT members attend regularly but don’t sign up on Meetup. Our online meetings have been very popular with 20-30 attendees.

NOTE: The HAT Forum adheres strictly to the City of Toronto Policy on Non-Discrimination (

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