Monday, June 30, 2014

The One Where I'm Proud to be Canadian

So tomorrow, July 1st, Canada will be celebrating its 147th birthday as a nation. Growing up, I don't think I really understood just how special it was to be Canadian: Canada Day wasn't all that exciting, and since it was in the summer I didn't even get a day off school. What was really the point?

As I've gotten older, however, I've come to appreciate my Canadian heritage more and more. Our country's history is by no means pristine. Our treatment of our indigenous peoples has been abhorrent for as long as Europeans have existed in the country. We interned Japanese Canadian citizens during World War II for absolutely no reason beyond their ethnicity. There's a lot to be ashamed of...but acknowledging that, there's a lot to be proud of too.

Today the news came from our southern neighbour that the US Supreme Court ruled that a "closely held" company (meaning one with a limited number of shareholders) has the right to deny birth control coverage to its female employees due to religious reasons. Under the Affordable Care Act, companies have been required to pay for a full line of female contraceptive options as part of standard medical coverage for employees. Now, under the new ruling, these aforementioned closely held companies can say "Yeah, actually, we find it objectionable that you might not want to have a baby. Jesus wouldn't be down." And poof, no contraceptives for you. We're not even talking abortion here, we're talking the pill...though apparently the Christian right considers contraceptives such as IUDs a form of abortion, because they prevent a potentially fertilized egg from reaching the womb to implant. I shit you not.

The scary thing about this whole thing is not the fact that there are crazy Christians (not to be confused with the totally awesome Christians that are absolutely completely sane and plentiful) out there trying to dictate exactly what any individual woman has the right to do with her own body. That's scary, for sure, but it's old news- we women are used to hearing a bunch of old white men tell us what to do with our ladybits. No, what's scary, at least to me, is that a legal body has upheld that the rights of the corporation outweigh those of the individual. In short, the opinion of a bunch of wealthy corporate drones means more to the Supreme Court of the US than real living, breathing women. Women with lives and stories and feelings and emotions. These women are being told if you want to work for us, you have to accept the fact that we have the right to dictate how your uterus is used. That? Is downright terrifying.

As a Canadian woman watching this horror story unfold, I am confronted with how well I have it here in the country I was born into. When I turned 5 years old, I enrolled in school, as is expected of all Canadian children, regardless of gender. I stayed in school until I completed my education. I first had sex at my own behest, in my late teens, to a man I chose to have sex with. I went on to marry the man I wanted to marry, and I married him for love. I received a post secondary education, worked in my field for several years, and chose to have children when I was ready for them. When I am sick, I go to the doctor. When I have lost my job, I have made use of employment insurance. I have voted in every election I've been eligible to vote in. I have had an abortion. I did not pay for the procedure, and I was not heckled and tormented on my way into or out of the clinic. I have always had my birth control covered by medical care, and I have never felt like a criminal for availing of it.

I know that there are women in this country who suffer, and that nationality is not a guarantee of a happy and carefree life. I am not naive enough to think that I live in an equal world; I'm well aware that issues such as wage inequality and rape culture are alive and well right here on my native soil. I'm also speaking here as a white, cis-gendered, heterosexual, middle class individual, and my privilege has coloured my experiences with absolutely no doubt at all. I mean no disrespect to those who have not had it as easy as I have. But if life were an obstacle race... I'd say that living in Canada is equivalent to a 10 yard lead (does that even make sense? I don't do sports. Or measurement. For all I know, 10 yards is like, across a room. I know nothing. Jon Snow).

So on our nation's birthday, I guess what I'm saying is...I'm glad I live here and not somewhere else. Because it might not be perfect, but god knows it could be a hell of a lot worse. Cheers, Canada. Happy birthday.

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