What Canadians really believe

FULL STORY: From the death penalty to same-sex relationships, a new poll shows huge shifts.

by Ken MacQueen

An Ontario court judge will soon decide if Canada’s prostitution laws should be struck down. In British Columbia, the Supreme Court will decide if laws prohibiting polygamy can still be enforced. And in the House of Commons, a private member’s bill would make it legal for the profoundly ill to seek a doctor’s help to commit suicide. As a nation we are reinventing, refining—or undermining—our morality in dramatic fashion. In some instances we are asking the courts to do our thinking for us. But in most cases we forge a national sense of right or wrong in the millions of individual judgment calls we make every day—increasingly without the guidance of organized religion.

With so many moral issues at a crossroads, Angus Reid Strategies undertook a national survey last month asking Canadians to consider 21 ethical issues. Their answers—on issues as diverse as animal rights, prostitution, homosexuality and illegal drug use—show some profound divisions by gender and region. But taken together, they seem to reveal a rather astounding liberal tilt in our morality, albeit with some exceptions. Each Canadian steers by his and most certainly her moral compass, and the wonder is we don’t bump into each other more often.

Consider these six sticky moral situations. Which are the most and the least acceptable to you, and to most Canadians?

  1. You plan to have an abortion.
  2. You wear a mink coat.
  3. You favour killing convicted murderers.
  4. You think the dying have the right to commit suicide with a doctor’s help.
  5. You don’t care if the drugs you buy have been tested on animals.
  6. You support medical research using the stem cells of human embryos.

Let’s start by saying there’s never been a better time to be a Canadian mink, or a seal, or a lab rat. Canadians today are more likely to moralize about the treatment of animals than about the lives of our fellow humans. Just 22 per cent oppose euthanasia, but 41 per cent condemn medical testing on animals, the survey found. Abortion is considered morally wrong by 22 per cent of Canadians, fewer than the 31 per cent who have moral qualms about wearing fur. But while four in 10 oppose animal testing, only 17 per cent take issue with researchers using human embryonic stem cells. As for capital punishment, 53 per cent of Canadians consider it “morally acceptable,” a jump of six percentage points since Reid last asked the question in 2007.

As a nation, most of our sexual attitudes today would be shocking to earlier generations. Gay relationships, sex between unmarried men and women and having babies outside of marriage are “morally acceptable” to two-thirds or more of respondents. But that’s where it stops. Just 15 per cent condone marital infidelity. And pedophilia is universally condemned. Just one per cent considered sexual relations with minors to be “morally acceptable.” Moral views are liberalizing, but the public has said, “this is where I draw the line,” Mario Canseco, vice-president of public affairs for the polling group, says of infidelity and pedophilia.

Where and how the line gets drawn is something of a mystery. “Morality is actually very complicated stuff in terms of where it comes from and what we hang onto, and how we change,” says Kerry Bowman, a bioethicist at the University of Toronto’s Joint Centre for Bioethics, a clinical ethicist at Mount Sinai Hospital in Toronto who deals frequently with end-of-life care, and a conservationist who has worked with great apes and chimps for 20 years. Bowman says ethical choices are shaped to an extent by a complex response to the issues of the day, but that a person’s ethical core goes far deeper, to an evolved instinct that predates religion and even humans themselves. “Contemporary religions, the great religions of the world, are really only a few thousand years old and they really would not resonate if they weren’t plugging into something that already existed,” says Bowman.

Still, it wasn’t much more than a generation ago when the answers to life’s Big Questions were handed to us. They came from our families, our good books and religious leaders, and from our monochromatic and like-minded circle of friends. Today, church attendance for most denominations has plunged, but scratch the surface and some 60 per cent of Canadians identify as Christians, says Andrew Grenville, chief research officer for Angus Reid Strategies. “Even though we’re unchurched, there is still a lot of religious faith out there. We’re believers, but not belongers.” And not necessarily followers. The greatest acceptance of abortion and euthanasia is in Quebec, despite the opposition of the Catholic Church, which dominated the province’s religious and social life for centuries.

We are inclined today to work out our moral answers from a more worldly point of view. Or, more cynically perhaps, we find a morality that justifies our lifestyle. We are an increasingly diverse nation, drawn from the full spectrum of races, religions and cultures. It’s no longer a case of living within a tight homogeneous circle where the orbit consisted of seeing the same people at work, at church, at the same clubs and at bowling on Thursday nights, says Grenville. Today sociologists talk of “network individualism,” where daily life takes people into a variety of social groupings. “The more you’re exposed to people of different beliefs and different ways of living, the more you realize, you know, they’re not really crazy,” says Grenville. “It’s not weird. It’s not bad. It’s not a threat to us.” And so, views change. Sometimes dramatically:

ANIMAL VS. HUMAN LIFE
Abortion is morally acceptable to 66 per cent of Canadians, an increase from 61 per cent in two years. It is one of a remarkably few areas where men and women agree in similar proportion. Support for the death penalty has jumped six points in two years to 53 per cent. The result is that more people (41 per cent) consider it morally wrong to conduct medical tests on animals than the diminishing 34 per cent who oppose capital punishment. (The remaining 13 per cent are undecided on the death penalty.)

Reconciling those two views is a bit of a challenge, concedes Grenville, who says the poll signals a heightened sensitivity to animal life. “If everybody lived on a farm, or knew farmers, it might be quite different,” he says. To him, the poll’s greatest surprise was the hardening attitude in favour of the death penalty. “To see it in the majority is really striking, particularly when we see other things becoming more permissive or morally acceptable,” he says. “For it to become more acceptable to kill someone as punishment, that seems almost a countervailing trend and, to me anyway, a disturbing one.”

Moira McQueen, a University of Toronto theology professor and executive director of the Canadian Catholic Bioethics Institute, says the poll shows a higher level of reverence for animals than for facets of human life. “It just seems to me we’ve got something a little bit out of proportion. I’m obviously downplaying my words there,” she says. McQueen, a practising Catholic, says in light of the support for animal life, it’s “paradoxical” that attitude doesn’t extend to abortion, human embryonic stem cell research, euthanasia and capital punishment, which all have majority support. “It’s always strange that there is so little regard, it seems to me, for human life at different ends of the spectrum.”

The shift from viewing animals as merely property is one of the greatest changes in Western morality, says Bowman. “Attitudes toward non-human life, and I include both the environment and animals in that, is in rapid transition,” he says. “When animals are abused the public reaction is phenomenally strong,” he says. “Whereas people aren’t lining up to help street people. It’s very complex and strange stuff.”

Perhaps it’s a case of finally listening to our instincts and according our first teachers the respect they deserve. Bowman considers it a conceit to believe that morality is what separates humans from the rest of the animal kingdom. “Morality predates human existence because you can see it in our primate heritage,” he says. “You can see moral instinct in our non-human primates.” Bowman—who is also president of the Canadian Great Ape Alliance—points to many studies and recorded observations of primates exhibiting such altruistic acts as compensating for the disabilities of fellow primates or even rescuing humans. Steven Pinker, a Montreal native and Harvard psychology professor, writes in his essay The Moral Instinct of rhesus monkeys who go hungry rather than pull a chain that delivers food to them but also a shock to another monkey.

RELATIONSHIPS
On marital and relationship issues, Canadians are liberal—to a point. Same-sex relationships are acceptable to two-thirds of Canadians, a seven-point jump from just two years ago. Some 87 per cent had no qualms about sexual relations between unmarried women and men. Divorce is morally acceptable to 84 per cent of national respondents, and 92 per cent of those living in Manitoba and Saskatchewan. Even siring children out of wedlock (there’s a quaint term) isn’t an immoral issue for 79 per cent of Canadians—and 87 per cent of those in very liberal, and once very Catholic, Quebec. In terms of relationships, the poll shows an uptick in the desire for personal liberty, with less concern for others, or, in some instances, for life.

Marriage itself would seem increasingly irrelevant, except for the curious and contradictory fact that people keep getting hitched. Says Granville: “I think it just speaks to the fact that we’ve asked these people if [unmarried family life] is morally acceptable, not if it’s a good idea.”

McQueen is troubled that Canada’s freewheeling sexual ethics have strayed so far from Catholic doctrine. “It’s not that these behaviours are new, it’s that they’re societally approved now.” She believes Canada is in the midst of a sexual social experiment, one that may take three generations to work itself out. “I don’t think that we’re any less moral, or more immoral. Canadian society still seems to have its act together and is willing to make a judgment that some things are wrong, so we’re not completely relativist,” she says. She points to things like the strong objections to pedophilia, polygamy and infidelity. “I find that quite encouraging but quite normal. Most of us know when things are wrong and we’re willing to call it wrong.”

In her definition, “something is wrong if it’s causing harm.” Premarital sex, children out of wedlock, divorce in many cases—all have the potential for harm, she says. If they are morally wrong, it’s not because of Catholic doctrine but because that doctrine identifies their potential risk. “I wouldn’t be surprised if there is a return to more committed faithful relationships,” she says. “Unless we’re programmed to self-destruct, which I don’t think we are, I really think we’ll see what’s harmful and continue along the path of adjusting [behaviour] to what helps.”

Bowman, from a secular point of view, sees no evidence of moral decay. “Society is not collapsing in any way, shape or form. You’ve got falling crime rates. In some ways you’ve got more social cohesion than you did 20 years ago,” he says. “If you take something like gay relationships, a lot of what’s happened with that is that people had not thought very deeply about this as a form of prejudice. Is this a perversion, or is this just an element of human diversity?” In his view, it reflects a healthy and continuous ethical evolution.

POLYGAMY
It’s little shock that nine out of 10 women consider polygamy (defined in the poll as a man with multiple wives) to be morally wrong. Or that fewer males, about seven in 10, share that view. Still, taken together there is solid 81 per cent opposition to the practice.

While most Canadians consider the practice immoral, the question vexing the B.C. government is whether polygamy remains illegal in an enforceable way. It has tried and failed over the past two decades to convict many of the males of Bountiful, B.C., the breakaway Mormon sect that claims a religious right and imperative to take multiple wives, many of them perilously close to the age of sexual consent. In Victoria last month, the government asked the provincial supreme court to rule on two questions regarding Canada’s rarely enforced law prohibiting polygamy. Is the law constitutional? If not, is polygamy illegal if the multiple marriages involve minors or those exploited through an imbalance of power? The impact of any eventual ruling would extend beyond Bountiful. Polygamy is practised by some Islamic fundamentalists, so the courts will determine if Canadian law overrides their religious rights.

PROSTITUTION
Three women—a prostitute, a dominatrix and a former sex trade worker—were in a Toronto courtroom recently challenging the constitutionality and contradictory nature of laws that make prostitution legal but outlaw most everything around it, from discussing money with a client to operating or working in a brothel. Government lawyers and those representing Christian groups argued the laws protect public morals. But the lawyer for the women also made a compelling point. The current laws drive women into furtive, risky transactions in streets and alleys. Where is the morality in that?

While the judge has yet to rule, the verdict, according to the Reid poll, is a split decision. Prostitution is morally acceptable to 56 per cent of men, but just 29 per cent of women. In Reid’s survey two years ago, only 46 per cent of men found prostitution acceptable and 25 per cent of women. While opinions on prostitution are liberalizing, men seem to favour personal freedom, whereas women are concerned by the moral implications, and the potential for exploitation.

In a related survey, the pollster asked other questions dealing with the Ontario case. Allowing prostitutes to work indoors or in brothels won the support of half of Canadian women surveyed and 71 per cent of the men. Half of Canadians think actions surrounding prostitution should be legalized to allow adults to engage in consensual prostitution. Again there is a gender divide, with 62 per cent of men but only 40 per cent of women agreeing with the idea. While many of the arguments in the case are related to safety, the pollster notes in an analysis, “Canadian women are, at this point, not convinced that decriminalization is the solution.”

EUTHANASIA
In Ottawa, Bloc Québécois MP Francine Lalonde pushes gamely ahead on a private member’s bill, C-384 (Right to Die with Dignity), which would amend the Criminal Code to allow for doctor-assisted suicide. It is her third attempt since 2005 to push through such a bill. While it is unlikely to pass, the issue isn’t going away. McQueen’s Catholic bioethics group sent a message last month to every member of Parliament urging them to defeat the bill, saying, “Physician-assisted suicide and euthanasia are not human needs or rights.” The group instead urged a focus on better palliative care, to “allow all Canadians to live life well, until its natural end.”

In a powerful essay published recently in the National Post, Conservative MP and Minister of State Steven Fletcher, a 37-year-old quadriplegic, showed the issue is far more than an esoteric debate. Fletcher was 23 when his car struck a moose: “In an instant, my head was neurologically disconnected from my body below the neck.” He wished for death, and while that eventually changed, he says his living will calls for euthanasia under certain circumstances. Though most in his party are unlikely to support the bill, Fletcher says he will abstain. “It is flawed,” he says of the bill. “But I cannot vote against empowering Canadians to make deeply personal decisions for themselves.”

Bowman, who consults on end of life issues as a clinical ethicist at Mount Sinai Hospital, predicts there will be increasing pressure for euthanasia as baby boomers age and demand a greater measure of control. Emotionally loaded terminology is often an impediment to the debate, he says. Active euthanasia, using drugs to speed the death of a terminally ill patient, is illegal. But removing life support or feeding tubes from a failing patient and letting nature take its course happens on a daily basis in intensive care units across the country. “Yet,” he says, “the moral difference between the two is an open question.”

McQueen says Canadians apply morals more humanely than they theorize about them. “I think I’m a bit more optimistic about human nature. I don’t think most ordinary people would think of their really old end-of-life parents as being just a burden or something to be dispatched,” she says, though that is hardly the stated intent of the bill. “For the vast majority of people, we look after our children, and our children look after us. It just seems very natural. It’s not a Catholic approach. It’s not Presbyterian. It’s a human thing. It’s deeper than religious stances.”

THE GENDER DIVIDE
Only a fool would hazard an opinion as to which gender is more ethical, but it seems the sexes live on different moral planets. Women are far more likely than men to declare it is morally wrong to wear fur, clone animals or humans, gamble, commit adultery, use animals for medical tests, or condone euthanasia, polygamy, pornography, prostitution or illegal drug use. As for the view from Mars, men are more likely than women to oppose abortion, contraception and having a baby out of wedlock—issues following a related, if somewhat contradictory, theme. (In fairness, the number of males in opposition is small: 18 per cent of men oppose having children outside of marriage, for instance, compared to 13 per cent of women.)

The pollster Canseco says women are more attuned to the risks of being “objectified and sometimes exploited” and as a result are less likely to accept issues like porn, polygamy, infidelity and prostitution where there is a perceived power imbalance.

RIGHTING WRONGS & VICE VERSA
In an era where condoms are advertised on television and radio, the inclusion of contraception as a moral question in this poll seems an anachronism. Just five per cent of men and one per cent of women call birth control a moral wrong. Yet not that long ago druggists hid condoms behind the counter, and contraception was deemed a sin that thwarts procreation and leads to promiscuity—another example of evolving morality.

Harvard’s Pinker often writes about the shifting moralization and “amoralization” of issues. Smoking went from a social activity with a personal health risk to a moral issue of second-hand smoke. Food became an ethical minefield, “with critics sermonizing about the size of sodas, the chemistry of fat, the freedom of chickens, the price of coffee beans, the species of fish and now the distance the food has travelled from farm to plate.” Meantime, once-loaded issues like divorce, children outside marriage, homosexuality and marijuana use have largely shaken off the bonds of immorality.

As for contraception, it’s made a conversion from sinner to saint. A recent report by the London School of Economics, titled “Fewer Emitters, Lower Emissions, Less Cost,” concludes that money invested in family planning not only helps women in the Third World, but every unborn child lessens the eventual production of greenhouse gases.

Perhaps Canadians, with our low birth rate, already knew that. We’re a pragmatic bunch—as moral as possible, under the circumstances.

Angus Reid Strategies conducted online interviews with a representative sample of 1,003 Canadian adults on Oct. 7 and Oct. 8, 2009. The margin of error for the complete sample is 3.1 per cent.




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What Canadians really believe

  1. Canadian liberalism has some very not-so-liberal sources. Unlike Americans, we accept elite driven change from the courts (in part because our supreme court is less democratic, and thus viewed as less partisan), and, moreover, our liberalism (relative to Americans) is a source of national pride. So we are liberal because we are more accepting of elites and because of nationalism…

    …not that it is a bad thing – the views of the narrow-minded majority shouldn't dictate the rights of individuals (when we are talking about negative rights). Still there are more fights to be won – marijuana should be legalized, not merely [kinda] decriminalized, as should shrooms and LSD. Prostitution should be legal – freeing prostitutes from abusive pimps. I would also like to see polygamy legalized. It happens informally anyway, but at least if it were legal, women in Bountiful would have appropriate legal claims in a divorce. Besides which, love is a funny thing, that isn't always captured by traditional marriage.

    • Sigh, libertarian values at work I see.

      How about instead of legalizing prostitution we build more woman's shelters, drug treatment facilities, and employment training centers? And we aggresively go after johns, with very large fines and vehicle confiscation (heck use the money for more policing and for the social programs mentioned above) ?

      Yes, yes, I know – the government had no place in our lives and why shouldn't somebody be allowed to do what they want with their own body and be paid for it ? Freedom and rights and all that!

      Yes, yes, I know – the abused 14 year old who runs away, lives on the street, gets assaulted several times a year, is hooked on drugs, and is working as a prostitute is excersing her rights and freedoms and nobody can interfere in the situation!

      • Well Jesse, if civil society provides those services to prevent degrading behaviour, should the state still have the ability to imprison women who sell their bodies?

        • If you're asking whether there are a small percentage of women who willingly enter prostitution, enjoy it, and want it legalized then my response would be

          if a small percentage of people enjoyed being slaves should we legalize slavery ?

          Obviously, the mass exploitation of people cannot be justified by the desire to cater to a small fringe of people who enjoy being exploited.

    • I doubt most Canadians develop there attitudes based on what the Supreme court rules on any given issue.

      On the contrary, I believe Canadian "liberalism" is an expression of our pragmatic and peaceable national nature – we don't enjoy strife for its own sake and we prefer a basically sensible society. I believe the majority would be content with a legalize and regulate approach to many drugs as well as prostitution because we know quite well that prohibition of these works as well as it did for booze and by legalizing we can remove the criminal element. In contrast to the Americans (since you bring it up) we are not generally ideological people and thus less easily roused by the media, religious or political leaders thus you don't see that wild pendulum swing left-right in Canadian society as you do in the US.

      FYI, polygamy is technically legal I believe and that is why the people in Bountiful were not prosecuted in the past and without successfully this time. Unlike you though, I believe we are failing in protecting the children involved in those marriages. Again, regulate — it would be more effective to adjust the age of consent (upward) for polygamous unions.

    • Look you only legalize things which you'd be proud to see kids do. Shrooms, LSD , come on you honestly want your teenager in an altered state of mind legally? then you get to deal with why they killed themsleves in the batrooms at school work, or even undeer your nose at home dead because they thought they were invincible. and kid by the way means anyone not thinking at a mature level and I know many who don't mature untill their 30's when they've soaked up enough of themselves to know what they ought to do and how they out to behave.and legalizing pologamy, lets not forget that these"women", ( honestly they are girls) are in most cases they find themselves in these mariages unwillingly, they are forced into these relationships because they were brought up in that community and don't get to choose for themselves who they marry. and just because they could divorce legally doesn't mean they would even if they wantted to, they're in an abusive relationship and they wouldn't have the guts to divorce or they would have jest said no in the first place. DUH. morally we should look out for these girls not legalize a technicallity so we can put that responsibility on their shoulders and walk away hoping they do the right thing. Did you even put yourself in their shoes when you made that coment? I hope you read this and I hope you respond. thanks.

  2. (one thing – animal rights are a crock of crap. It makes no sense to give rights to agents that are unable to comprehend those rights, or to adhere to the responsibilities that come with rights. Besides which, the first right for any being should be the right to not be killed. Unless we are going to enforce national vegetarianism, animal rights activists are proposing an utterly ridiculous scheme. Animals are morally irrelevant… and sooo sooo tasty)

    • Hey Hoser, hate to break it do you, but humans ARE animals — I guess you missed that lesson in kindergarten. So, I guess you must consider yourself irrelevant (based on your comments, I happen to agree), and I guess you also must support cannibalism. After all, there's no reason not to believe that human flesh, like other animal flesh, is also "sooo sooo tasty".

    • Funny! Also true regarding animal rights. Impossible to enforce for everyone. More kindness to animals perhaps with less animal testing but national vegetarianism…not going to happen.

    • Not give rights to agents that are unable to comprehend those rights? Children can't comprehend those rights. Are you saying children shouldn't have rights? The animal is YOU!

  3. Though I generally agree with hosertohoosier, there is research showing that prostitutes are at least economically better off in the long run with a proxenet than without one.

  4. Hosertohoosier, you are right on both counts, but please, I hope you're not one of those liberals whose commitment to liberty is limited by culture. The same victimless crime/harm principle argument that applies to drugs also applies to guns. Yes, guns can be used to harm others with greater ease than drugs, but the potential for harm by state use of arms in an environment without civilians arms more than justifies this possible harm.

    • I support some degree of gun control (background checks, registration), just as I also support some regulations on drugs that I would legalize (eg. age limits). You may also note that I didn't advocate legalizing cocaine, crack, meth or heroine, just as I think handguns are too risky (I'm okay with people owning long-guns). There is a tradeoff between public safety and liberty, and yes I have a breaking point.

      I do personally dislike guns and would rather see everybody (including criminals) carrying tasers.

      PS: I am not a liberal, at least in the contemporary sense.

    • RobertS, we see the effects of civilian gun ownership immediately to our south. The murder rates are staggeringly higher, and by my count the American's government seems to impose on their public's civil liberties more than here. Look at Toronto, 47 murders this year! 47, and this is November in the fifth largest city in North America. The eventual harm from civilian gun ownership is not worth the risk. Public safety trumps some abstract view of liberty associated with gun ownership, always.

  5. The scary part of this isn't what "rights" people recognize or fail to recognize, it's the distinct impression that people are coming to these conclusions on a purely emotional, rather than rational, level.

    Rights based on caprice are no rights at all. Anyone who runs afoul of the public mood can expect to discover this in short order, as indeed many have already with respect to the recently-deceased right to free speech.

    • I completely agree with your comments Gaunilion. I think the public mood has allowed their animal instincts to take over. Which can eventually lead to the 'Anything goes Philosophy". Without reason you have choas.

  6. What a Canadian Believes
    Abortion
    Every woman has the capability to flower. Some life circumstances are crushing to the existence of the spirit. If she decides that this outcome would result in her end of ability, then one may choose to have their spirit exist.

    Fur
    Back in the day it's all we wore for warmth. We're not 'back in the day' anymor…e. When's the last time you ate mink stew? If you kill it, and don't plan to eat it, then it should have been trying to snuff you.

    Killing Convicted Murderers
    The science of conviction has changed…why hasn't the procedures? The Red Handed Clause. Evidence beyond doubt….skip the courts and the crap…time to meet your maker. (Ball on Ball crime can still see through the bars, it's not Utopia, women or children…monsters, we're turning on the lights.) Maybe have it in a party format and sell expensive tickets to A-listers so we can spread the wealth to those in need.

    • "the capability to flower" What the hell is that ? Stop with the ivory tower verbiage. You're pro abortion, so just come out and say it!

    • SUCCCCKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKK ITTTTTTTTTT

  7. Assisted Suicide
    So you can't pull your own plug when it's all gone to hell….that just sounds so dumb there's nothing more to say. Rover doesn't have to sit in his own urine, why should you?

    Drug Testing on Animals for the betterment of man
    Little Jordan or lab rat? If you said the lab rat then we are conducting some research and you are the lucky audience member who gets to involuntarily volunteer.

    Stem Cell Research
    Now you've gone to far. Step away from the stem and the cell. Neither of those things has gotten us anywhere as a human race. Dry throat….anyone got water?

  8. Maybe I am mistaken, but something seems amiss about the way that question is asked. Ranking something last or second last (as in least acceptable) might not necessarily mean that you support actions against it. Rather, it could merely be an indication that you are more pro choice (for example) than anti-fur. Wouldn't it have been more effective to ask "How morally acceptable is X on a scale of 1 to 10" and then compare the results? I am interested in the statistical story that would tell as opposed to the current question.

  9. are they saying 69% of people would have no qualms wearing fur ? maybe this question should have just been asked to women .. fashion is designed to impress people and move you up the social ladder…you would have the opposite effect if you were a woman wearing fur in a city like vancouver ..you'll probably also take some verbal abuse from strangers…in places like the arctic it would be morally acceptable

    • I wear fur all the time. i dont care? its warm and soft. why not kill a few animals to make you happy?

  10. I find it deeply disturbing that many Canadians feel that human life is secondary to personal convience or animals, of all things. Animal testing is required to save human beings, the fur-trade is what built this country, and how can the majority of this country feel that it is moral to execute criminals, and unborn children? It is "easier" that way?

    Seems like hypocrisy in our democracy. More like cowardly, pragmatism compounded with a phoney love for cute animals to sugar coat it all. Macleans is right, "Where and how the line gets drawn is something of a mystery" indeed.

    • People don't have internally consistent philosophies any more and shun institutions that try to (eg. religion). Rather they have pop philosophies that have more to do with showing off how tolerant they are. Thus we have lots of pro-choice families that would probably pressure their child to have an abortion if she got pregnant. We have people with the carbon footprint of Godzilla who drive Priuses (which aren't that great anyhow). We have meat-eaters who oppose killing animals (at least cute ones). They tut tut about conservative views on climate change or evolution, while avoiding genetically modified foods (no evidence at all that they are dangerous) and protest nuclear power (the cheapest power source per kilowatt hour, with zero C02 emissions). They utterly despise racism, yet always seem to live in mostly-white neighbourhoods and avoid minorities that don't look like they just came out of a Bennetton ad.

      We have an upper middle class in this country that views liberalism as a claim to moral superiority – they don't support liberal ideas for their inherent worth, but so that they will look good. As a result, the kinds of solutions they favour to problems and dilemmas are superficial and/or ineffectual.

      We have become a country of Lindsay Funkes (from Arrested Development).

      • Food for thought. People who attempt to show off how tolerant they are – isn't that preferable to showing off ' how 'tough' you are? Bullys, the other end of the spectrum however, should not be tolerated. Is that where you are going?

    • Jack, I find it deeply disturbing that you and so many others of your ilk have such a over-inflated view of our species. Humans like you don't like to face the fact that you, too, are nothing more than a particular species of animal — an incredibly self-indulgent, violent, destructive, overpopulated species. Animal testing is not required to save humans, but torturing animals is more cost effective than other methods. The fur trade belongs in the past and needs to stay there. As for abortion, the only thing needed less on Earth than millions more babies being added to the population each year is millions more UNWANTED babies being added to the population each year. I was pleased to read the results of this survey — it shows that the younger generations of Canadians are evolving and open to change.

      • look the only change younger canadians are open to is preserving the change that's in their purse! not having a baby is largly a finacial choice. if everyone had the means to support the baby they would have it and increase in their joy instead they panic when confronted with the fact they thier choice will bring another finical strain that they can't handle and opt out of the situation alltogether. Keep reading it gets better. The error you made when you said that babbies are UNWANTTED is that you as a human gave yourself enough importance to determine the worth of an unborn child. which by your own words you said that we have an over inflated view of our species, if that is true then who are you to judge if the babies are unwantted? or if the earth can't support them? you or myself don't know how much life the earth can support if the earth was run efficently . as it stands my scientific research reveals that their is enough food on the planet for everyone to eat 4 pounds a day. we'd be overweight if everyone at their potential quota per day! I know we're all worried about overpopulation but don't worry your day to go to war will come thanks to the agendas of power driven greedy men at the top who will assure that we die before our time. when you determine the value of life as a human you fall short in seeing it's true worth. to God we are pricless so much so that he gave his life, through Jesus, that we may see that we have, gracely been given highest value on this planet. I HOPE YOU RESPOND thanks

      • look the only change younger canadians are open to is preserving the change that's in their purse! not having a baby is largly a finacial choice. if everyone had the means to support the baby they would have it and increase in their joy instead they panic when confronted with the fact they thier choice will bring another finical strain that they can't handle and opt out of the situation alltogether. Keep reading it gets better. The error you made when you said that babbies are UNWANTTED is that you as a human gave yourself enough importance to determine the worth of an unborn child. which by your own words you said that we have an over inflated view of our species

    • animail testing is also required so that some idiots can wear chemical laced products that will probably give them cancer anyhow …all you are saying is you are anti-animal rights, anti-abortion, and anti-death penalty … see you couldn't even be a republican, you got to learn to like the death penalty

  11. I find both the methodology and the questions of this survey highly suspect as to what people actually believe.

    I don't doubt that people are generally more and more thinking that human life is unimportant. From support for abortion, euthanasia, capital punishment, torture and inhuman conditions for prisoners, environmental concerns over human lives, social order over human rights. Whether you look to the right or left, conservative or progressive, it is quite clear that humanism is largely dead. As soon as you consider something more important than human lives, you cease to be a humanist and should be properly identified in your ideology with what you think trumps human lives.

  12. I couldn't care less about animal testing and wearing fur – go for it.
    But do not have abortions! It's murder.

    • well you surely don't have the right to tell other people what to do .. i many not support abortion ..but women can go for it if there morals support it….meanwhile anybody in a fur coat outside of the arctic or an indian reservations surely has no class

    • well you surely don't have the right to tell other people what to do .. i many not support abortion ..but women can go for it if there morals support it….meanwhile anybody in a fur coat outside of the arctic or an indian reservations surely has no class

  13. Liberal propaganda hiding as a poll. If one asked Canadians if we oppose unnatural fibers, synthetic clothing (created from fossil fuels and not biodegradable), we Canadians would say, of course we oppose that! But synthetics from fossil fuels are the alternative to natural fiber fur clothing and our wonderful sheepskin (fur) boots that keep us so warm.

    And every Canadian benefits from medical research which has to be tested (required by law and morality) on lower life forms before being tested on humans at the top of the food chain. Of course we support safety in medicines (which means testing before you use anything new).

    It's all in how the questions are phrased and chosen.

    • The sheep are not killed for their wool. They are sheared. You know that, right , Rebecca? Fur is not counted as a natural fiber. Cotton, linen and such are. Rayon, nylon, dead little naugahydes, are not natural at all. These would have some of your petroleum products in them.

      Lower life form? I think you qualify sweetheart. Now, if we put you and a hungry doberman in a room, who would come out on "top of the food chain".

      There are so many stupid comments to this article that I can only assume that most didn't read the entire thing and there was a full moon. Sheesh, I'm embarrassed that there are so many stupid people out there claiming to be Canadian.

  14. The death penalty is only popular until the bill comes in. When people find out that it's considerably more expensive than just locking them up, it loses most of its appeal.

    • I agree Dick – as well as the cost in money there is the hiring of executioners, the training of same and all the apparatus to consider.

      Most humans are not naturally comfortable deciding to kill anyone regardless of their crime; I have read that there is that juries are less likely to convict, knowing they are passing a death sentence. Even in New York state – not known for shrinking violets, they have not had an execution since 1963.

      • you are right Dick ..in the USA it's easier to have the death penalty because it is up to each state ..in canada, even if the majority now support it you would alienated the other 47% who are against it … better to just leave it like it is …similary with the abortion question

  15. Let's face it. Morality is like eating chocolate. It's only useful within reason. And when compared to our friends to the south I'd say we're much more reasonable. We're less likely to cheat in our relationships, we're less likely to harm others, and we're less likely to tell others what to do.

    A comedian once said that in order to be Canadian you need to know what it means to be oppressed. If that means we're less likely to oppress others than I take it as a case of pride.

    • WOOO HOOO!

      • Into the scotch this morning?

        • you suck dick!

  16. humans are as diverse now as they have always been….what matters more is…. how one has outgrown ones own stupidity, ignorance, non-reasoning and invested in rational thought/action and the unconditional aspiration to leave the world a better place..

    • there is an emotional component to peoples beliefs and actions outside of rationality

  17. You are assuming that there is a surplus of children for people to adopt. That is not the case. So if you bring your child to term rather than aborting it, and give it up for adoption, it will probably be placed very quickly in a very good home. If you can't afford or find yourself to be unsuitable/unready to raise your unborn child, there is an ethical way to dissolve your responsibilities.

    As for your suicidal impulses, I could care less. The laws against euthanasia are to protect those of us who want to die a natural death.

    • What planet are you from??? There are thousands (probably millions?) of children all over the world left parent less by war, starvation, disease, poverty, etc, etc, etc,. What about orphanages in Haiti, China, etc, etc. North America is NOT the ONLY source for adopting children.

      • Adopting from abroad has its own difficulties. Regardless, if you care about your own offspring, there are many people within this country that will give your child a good home. If you largely have no feelings at all that your own blood are worthy of nurturing and protection, you'll probably dismember them and suck them up a vacuum tube no matter what I say.

      • who cares about them?

    • Check out this website to educate yourself on the number of orphan's world wide (http://myorphanage.org/total%20number%20of%20orph… There are two numbers that are very different which could be the result of the researchers definition for orphan. However, both agree that in Russia has an orphan rate is 25%. In 1999 that equates to 637,000 orphaned children in Russia alone. Current estimates for 2010 are 44 million orphaned children worldwide, projected by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). Like I said do your research before commenting. To me 44 million orphans seems to be a HUGE F******ING SURPLUS OF CHILDREN! And read more carefully next time, I have no suicidal impulses, my grandparents do however! Also maybe you'll be lucky enough to spend the rest of your days dying a 'natural death' like of Multiple Sclerosis, or muscular dystrophy, which happen to be some of the most painful ways to die. Then maybe you'll understand why some people want to have assisted suicide. And my only question for you is why legally assisted suicide would threaten your right to die a natural death? If that is what you want, then you don't have to take the option of assisted suicide, DA!!! And I agree with the comment below, and have just one more question, what planet do you spend most of your time on?

      • The problem with "not taking the option of assisted suicide" is that there is no way to trust an institution not to kill you when they have the legal power to kill you. Just ask the Netherlands.

        Oh, and I live in the world, so I'm perfectly aware of dehibilitating and painful conditions. I worked in as an orderly in a pallative care ward, and I saw horrible, horrible conditions of human suffering. I also saw how flexible the notion of consent can be and that pallative care workers are just like everyone else. That is, they try to get through the work day with the least amount of difficulty possible. Not exactly people I'd trust with my life, especially if they have a difference of opinion with me about how valuable my life is.

      • Using expletives to diss parentless children? Are you kidding? How low can you go?

  18. Mr BT.__You need to take a few courses in the philosophy of Nature and read up on Thomistic ethics.__Mclean's view as well as your own are based on Cultural Relativism. The moral ethic derived in ths manner produce laws and morality by popular demand. If the majority in the population in a country think there is nothing wrong with slavery or forced child labour and that it is good idea then no laws would be made condemning it. Thus, no one gets punished or chided for doing these things because society condones it.__Cultural relativism and conventionalism are not in accordance with Natural Law. In a simplie sense Natural Law holds that moral laws are immutable, and unchangeable. If someone tries to take your life, it is not necessary to wait for a vote to decide whether it is right or wrong. You would instictively or naturally know it was wrong.__For many, natural law theory is a theory about the relationship between morality and human nature, the theory that who we are determines how we ought to act.Thomas Aquinas understood human nature to be defined by reason and freedom

    • Salwalski- maybe I was unclear, but I was merely commenting on some of my observations from nature, not commenting on the philosophy of nature or anything like that. I agree with what you are saying though, but the problem seems to be that popular demand no longer runs our laws and morality. Money does, and that is why we have so many special interest groups in every country including your own, that lobby for things that give them some sort of advantage over other people. In addition, most people don't vote for things that help the greater good, they vote for the things that bring them good. Maybe a paradigm shift is in order once mankind realizes that we are all in this together, and that manipulation of true natural processes is probably the end in itself for mankind.

  19. **I have no idea why it posted my comment twice, sry about that…

  20. "Now to comment on some of the comments above, who said that animals don't have the capacity to understand their rights. I am pretty sure that all animals have survival instincts and therefore comprehend to some degree life threatening danger, and therefore the right to live!"

    I am not a very concise writer – but when the core of your argument is this trite, even I can keep myself below a few sentences. You posit that having a survival instinct equals comprehension of rights and responsibilities. Creatures driven by instinct are, by nature, incapable of making choices, or at least complex ones. Without the ability to make choices all of the arguments for liberal democratic rights make no sense whatsoever. This is in addition to the fact that animals are not sentient, have no sense of self-awareness, and cannot comprehend the complex social arrangements that define civilized human life.

  21. In order to judge the goodness or badness of a human action a person must think about it in the context of both their own world view and where applicable the world view of the opposite. The old saying of not understanding a man until you walk a mile in their shoes should never be forgotten. Taking the time to actively explore the duality of an important issue is the best way to make fair judgments and is evidence that you are thinking with an open mind. Nothing is ever as straight forward as we would sometimes like, which is good because sometimes being forced to think about something a little more can prevent significant mistakes from occurring.

    So when you are arguing about abortion take a minute to think about the circumstances a woman is in when faced with that choice. I think in all but a very few instances is the choice to have an abortion easily made and without consequence. And let's be honest, guys, we will never be able to understand what a woman feels or thinks when it comes to terminating a pregnancy, ever.

    If you are ill enough that death is a certainty then it is more than likely you have decided on a DNR (do not resuscitate) status for yourself. This is a legal, personal, and logical status to instill upon yourself in the event you body decides to shut down. How much further down the moral pathway is assisted euthanasia? Again, what mental and physical extremes is a person at and how are they feeling emotionally and spiritually to reach the point of choosing death over a questionable life? Very difficult to imagine until you are in that position.

    And if you think animals have no rights, take note of a comment mentioned above, do you really know how an animal feels or thinks in any given situation? Do horses run away from potential danger? They do, so why is that? Is holding a dying person different from a dying chimpanzee?

    Finally, the comments about how our morality or humanistic ways are degrading in my opinion are not realistic. Humans have been raping, killing, torturing, abusing, enslaving, and taking advantage of others since the dawn of time. The fact that politicians now speak in terms of human rights and more of the world is out of abject poverty than ever before are a few examples to the contrary.

    • why do you write so much?!

  22. The only number that shocks me is the abortion one. Only 22 percent – barely one in five – of Canadians think killing an unborn child is morally wrong? Unreal. This is incredibly saddening.

    • What's shocking to me is that 22% of people think it's the government's right to require someone provide their organ's to keep something else alive against their will.

      • It must be such a sad and lonely existence to not consider the life of your own flesh and blood to be worth a 9 months of inconvenience.

        • Significant behavioral restrictions
          Signficant dietary restrictions
          Significant hormonal and emotional changes, often lasting well past pregnancy.
          Significant discomfort for a several week period, to say nothing of the birth itself.
          Inability to work for several weeks
          Risk of permanent physiological injury
          Risk of death

          "inconvenience" hardly begins to cover it, and the point still stands, you're arguing the government have the right to require we undergo this to allow something else to live.

          You're also completely ignoring the practicalities. Anybody who says they have a reverence for life should be on the side of pro-choice.. because restricted or not, abortions will happen. The only difference is in the odds that the mother will survive the process.

  23. Sorry, ran out of space…

    If I may, I would suggest you reread your comments regarding the rights of animals thinking about this issue. You will probably find that you have already reasoned out, quite perfectly, why a fetus is entitled to life.

  24. A couple problems with your logic, B T. First, as far as the fetus is concerned, well, if it is, medically speaking, a parasite, then it must also be, by definition, both alive and a separate entity from the host. This definition actually provides you little ground to move on, because all living persons are entitled to their fundamental rights–ie. the right to live. If you accept the proposition that the fetus is a parasite, you are only left to argue that it is not a person. This is a more complicated philosophical question, but it is difficult to argue that the mother has any bearing in such a discussion. How is a baby born at 21 weeks (youngest surviving pre-mature baby to date) any more of a person than a fetus 21 weeks in gestation? This is a very tricky definition, since we're ultimately talking about the right for someone to unilaterally destroy the organism, and can have wide-ranging consequences if chosen poorly. Technology will further obscure this line of reasoning: what happens in 10 years when we produce an artificial womb? One that can gestate a baby through the entire development process independent of the mother entirely? At what point can you pull the plug on such an organism?

  25. Abortion
    It is always and forever will be the murder or killing of the most innocent or vulnerable of human lives. We do whats convenient so often, not whats the responsible thing. There is no such thing as an unwanted child. Somebody wants that child. Men need to stand up and take responsibility. It's worth all the effort!

    Sexuality
    Every individuals actions affect society. Monogamy is still the safest way to live.

    Prostitution
    Are we asleep, preoccupied distracted or what?? As if sexually transmitted diseases aren't high enough in Canada! Can you imagine how out-of-control it will get when men go home to their wives after secretly visiting a prostitute and pass on all these disgusting germs to their wives and girlfriends. Self-control is the highest form of pleasure!

    Same-sex
    Hasn't anybody noticed that pedophilia rose with the prominence and promotion of the gay lifestyle?? Am I wrong about this or is it just me? Also, since when has anyone had the right to marry whomever they wanted. . I cannot marry my son, brother, father, sister etc. Society must have acceptable, safe social norms to thrive. We are not thriving as a society. We are suffering from our poor moral choices.

    • "Hasn't anybody noticed that pedophilia rose with the prominence and promotion of the gay lifestyle?? Am I wrong about this or is it just me?"

      It is just you. The vast majority of homosexuals prefer other consenting adults… just like us straight folk do.

      • It's just you. Both homosexuality and pedoshilia have existed throughout human history. What changes is our tolerance of it.

    • abortion – doesn't sound like a pleasant thing but why force your views on others, this isn't the 19th century

      sexuality – while you may praise monogomy your spouse may have different ideas ..check out the stats on extramarital affairs

      prostitution – is already more or less legal ..should be fully legal and taxed like nevada

      same sex – go for it ..i haven't heard of gay people being the pedophiles ..sounds more like the catholic church you are talking about.

  26. Walkuprightly,
    I truly do not believe that this is a causal between pedophilia and the gay lifestyle, my friend. I could just as easily say that there is a stonger correlation between "pedophilia and men of the cloth" or "pedophilia and married men involving underage girls" than "ped and gay men", specifically. I could say that but i wont because truthfully i don't know the facts. I'm drawing this crude logical map to make the point that we are all guilty of misconception (or selective perception) and unfortunately become set in these ungrounded beliefs (to the detriment of "society"). In your defense, you did express some fallibility by admitting that you're uncertain "is it just me?" I hope that instead of stopping there you went out in search of facts that corroborate your beliefs – if not then it is my opinion that you too have made a poor moral choice. I think that its important that we start being critical of the underpinnings of our deepest beliefs in the pursuit of the truth instead of interpreting the world based on these ungrounded half-baked notions (no disrespect intended).

    Im not suggesting you have to accept anything that you feel run aground with your moral beliefs – if you're not accepting of the gay "lifestyle" then so be it. I would caution you in making generalizations based on fluff though because we can only get so far on feelings. Im gay. I don't condone pedophilia and neither does a single one of my friends (for what we percieve to be logical reasons grounded grounded in "morality"). So how does your theory account for that? This is not an attack at all, im just curious to hear your response.

    You are entitled to your opinions and I commend you for expressing them. Honestly you would be surprised at how few people even HAVE opinions on matters like this. Reasonable and intelligent people should be able to have conversations like these without getting offended or freaking out because there is typically no resolution if we don't listen to each others points of view. Aside from that I agreed with the vast majority of your post – thanks for that!

  27. Canadian Birth rate < 2.1 children per female — We're dying as a society because we're too selfish to grow up and take responsibility for the future.

    Our selfishness explains most of the items in this survey. We value "what's good for me" more than what's good for our society, and we are paying for it with slow decline.

    And yes, abortion is murder. Based on numerous studies, it has been found that a significant portion of women (a majority in some studies) exhibit post-traumatic stress. If abortion were just ridding the body of a piece of tissue that is "Just a part of your body" as pro-abortion groups claim, I doubt they'd have PTS. (google: abortion post-traumic stress study)

    Deep down, we all know the truth and our society is amazingly adept at brainwashing itself with comfortable lies and self-interested crusades.

    • I used to live for 3 years in Canada, and i recognized your society as materialistic society. So many people around me at that time had only one great "Value". O yes, it's money. So, if you know how to get money, you're on top. Sometimes it was too boring watching people around me. Why? Generally, money was the main formula how people looked and understood their neighbours or some values. O yes, Canada "celebrates varieties", as great value. For example, Your society celebrates variety of races, beliefs, and that is good. But some "values" can't defend themselves for they do not have money. For example, unborn children can't make found raising dinner, or demonstrate for they reason, or they can't convince their mothers that they will be good children. They can't vote against politicians whose political campaigns include legal abortion as "something good".
      Eventhough Canada is not a perfect society I still like that wild, north country. greetings from europe to M Gartner

    • Jeebus M Gartner – first of all you are conflating PTS with something called Post-Abortion Stress. Secondly, if you look a little into those studies (and I guess you haven't looked at all), you'll find there is precious little proof of this phenomenon although it is a favoured talking point of anti-abortionists.

      If you are so torn up about the potential for emotional distress in women post-abortion then unless you are just as concerned about the emotional and social outcomes of unwanted children – outcomes for the women, the children themselves and all of us. I suggest you read Freakonomics – they report a relation between access to abortion and an enormous drop in crime rates.

      Because in reality, abortion will continue to happen as it always has. When it's illegal, then only the wealthy will have access to safe procedures in hospital but the poor will resort to aborting themselves or – almost as dangerous – back-alley butchers, or become struggling to raise kids they cannot support. Any one of these outcomes is much worse than your spurious PTS.

      • Freakonomics is not real science. Both criminal rates and birthrates fell dramatically throughout the Victorian Era, particularly in it’s second half, as PERSONAL SELF CONTROL and RESPECT FOR WOMEN increased, even as actual population and urban crowding increased and irrespective of poverty rates. Social scientiests also note that crime began to rise irrespective of population as we left the Victorian Era and it began to skyrocket after the 60s, despite rising standards of living.

  28. It is not surprising that a person would condone capital punishment but oppose killing animals for testing. It is not valuing human life less. A person facing capital punishment made a choice to take another life knowing the legal ramifications. It is just to remove that person.
    Animals do not have choices. Of course, we are sympathetic. It is not that we value a rat over a human.

  29. I agree with the justification for viewing animal life in a more protective light than that of criminals. One is a creature that is defenseless against people, so I think there's some ethical obligation to treat it with respect. The other is an individual who systematically targets others to do harm to them. Until bears and deer go around plotting to attack people, I'll side with the animal any day of the week.

  30. It's not "paradoxical" to oppose testing on animals while accepting abortion, euthanasia and stem cell research. The latter increse the enjoyment of life by humans while the former harm the lives of animals.

  31. I'm delighted that you used my concept of "networked individualism", and agree that it has become core in Canada (and elsewhere). I am surprised and saddened that you didn't attribute it me — and our NetLab research group — as both the concept and the research supported it were made in Canada at the University of Toronto over a decade ago. See my "Physical Space and Cyber Place" for example.

  32. 1 in 5 are opposed to abortions, eh? Well that number is going down. Personal I don't care, a woman's body is here own business. (but i don't think it's a good idea for birth control)

    I think capital punishment should be allowed, except the death should be by a bullet. It gives the cops or other law enforcements something to do. Prisons are to crowded anyways. (with all the technology, they have a good idea if you are guilty or not anyways.)

    For the whole fur thing, I think they should be fighting over who looks hotter in clothes made from 100% recycled garbage and recycle. (watch that one episode on Dragons Den) Way better for everybody.

    I'm all for Stem Cell research, I think with technology nowadays, they can do wonders.

    Oh by the way, I know this isn't in this blog, but go out and donate blood today, especially if you have AB+, or 0-.

  33. Some people get the idea that those in favour of legalized abortion think that abortions are no big deal. This is not the case, ideally there would be no abortions, however in certain situations it is the best choice, and in the end it is the womans right to choose.

    Raising animals to kill for their fur so that we can have fancy clothing is wrong and I oppose it. I am not in favour of making it illegal, hopefully at some point people will choose not to wear fur and there will be no market for it.

    The death penalty is morally wrong, its essence is revenge. Criminals who are guilty of the most haenous crimes should be imprisoned with no chance of parole but not killed.

    Assisted suicide for critcally ill and suffering patients is a no brainer and of course should be legal and provided for.

    I do care if drugs are tested on animals, however animal testing is essential. After all we are animals right? and the drugs will be used on us so are humans supposed to be the first animals a drug is tested on?

    Medical research and treatment using human embryos is another no brainer. Of course we should do this and do it responsibly.

  34. what is it that tells us we have full control over our existance here?
    Who decides where the moral standards begin and end?
    Whoever actually found out that we humans have the ability to determine our own beginning and end?
    Also consider if you will, where did your soul and mind come from???? Finally, what if you are wrong????????

  35. The article says
    "the BC Supreme Court will decide if laws prohibiting polygamy can still be enforced".
    Each province will decide for themselves which Federal Criminal Code laws to prosecute . For example, polygamy may be illegal in some provinces yet be sanctioned in others. i.e Saskaatchewan actually sanctions and assists with the creation of multiple conjugal unions in clear violation of Federal criminal code. They use a conflicting law (provincial statute) that allows polygamy.
    The NY prediction is that all Federal criminal code laws will be unenforcable and that individual provinces will hence decide which Criminal Code laws they will enforce..or not enforce.

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