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Smells Like Seattle

Noticing differences

When asked about the differences I’ve seen with the U.S. and Canada, my response has not been about the money, the accents, or the milk containers, but rather it involves the level of cultural tolerance.

Leading the American news this morning was an accusation from a religious leader that a U.S. presidential candidate was distorting a key religious text. As a not-so closeted political junkie, I tried to recall a time in Canada’s political history when something remotely similar happened. In fact, Canadians fervently (if occasionally, wrongly) believe the words of one the country’s longest-serving leaders: “There’s no place for the state in the bedrooms of the nation

Now I have just read that Heinz has pulled an advertisement featuring two parents kissing as one of the two heads off to work. Apparently the 200 complaints received by Britain’s Advertising Standards Authority were enough for Heinz to pull the ad. My first thought was to wonder how many of the complainers actually saw the ad on television; this morning, afterall, I had received a spam from the American Family Association. The so-called “Action Alert” read in part:

We suggest you forward this to all your family and friends letting them know of the push for homosexual marriage by Heinz. This ad is currently running in England, but no doubt can be expected in the U.S. soon. It is the kind of ad which we can expect to see in California as they prepare to vote on homosexual marriage. Homosexual marriage is illegal in England. [Ed.: That last sentence, while legally accurate, is essentially false: since 2004, civil partnerships in the United Kingdom have given same-sex partners the same rights as a civil marriage does.]

The spam then urged me to take action by emailing or phoning Heinz, with the implicit message I should urge it be pulled from the air.

This week also happens to be Pride Week. In Toronto, the event and parade have become a city-wide party in which everyone is welcome to — and most often does — participate.

In Canada, I had almost forgotten why it was needed.

In the U.S., even in Seattle, I am constantly reminded.