Canada Takes Another 'Shot' in the Cross-Border Culture War

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This is a partial transcript of The Big Story With John Gibson, July 1, 2003, that has been edited for clarity. Click here to order the complete transcript.

JOHN GIBSON, HOST: Canada fires another shot across the border in the culture war, announcing the opening of a "shooting" gallery in Vancouver. A place for junkies to shoot up without the dangers of dying in a darkened alley. This follows Canada's pot decriminalization initiative and, of course, the gay marriage law.

Pam Wallin is the Canadian consulate general to New York. And that is today's big question Ms. Wallace — Should we be taking lessons from Canada, as Canada evidently thinks we should?

PAM WALLIN, CANADA'S NY CONSUL GENERAL: Well, I don't know that we think you should take lessons from us. We have a unique and a very separate approach to social policy and public policy issues, no question about that. From Medicare on up and down the system, we approach things differently. You can look and see how we do it and see whether it works for you. We've had rulings, for example, on same-sex marriage (search). Your Supreme Court was saying similar things to our Supreme Court, which is recognizing reality. Same-sex couples exist. They live as families.

GIBSON: Look, this is Canada Day and your happy 136th birthday.

WALLIN: So you're going to be nice. Is that what you are going to do?

GIBSON: Of course I am going to be nice to you.

WALLIN: Great.

GIBSON: But one of the little secrets that is finally starting to leak out is that Canadians up there sit and watch America and they say, “You're bigger, but we're better.” It's this notion that we've-got-it-figured-out-and-you-don't...

WALLIN: No, I don't think that's it. There is sometimes a smugness. There was a great historian who said that Americans are benevolently misinformed or ill-informed about Canada, where Canadians are malevolently well-informed about Americans. There is a little bit of truth to that. We have a little bit of a chip on our shoulder. There is a smugness to us from time to time. But we're not trying to impose. We really just see the border as a border, and there is a different country up there and we do think differently.

GIBSON: Wait a minute. The mayor of Vancouver, when he opened his shooting gallery or safe, drug-free ...

WALLIN: Let's be careful. This is a safe injection site.

GIBSON: Safe injection site.

WALLIN: It's a local project. The feds are going to put a little bit of money in to see if it works.

GIBSON: The mayor went to one of these hearings and up came the new drug czar, who's kept such a low profile, I hardly remember his name — and I'll get a call about that right after the show — who said, “This is not good for us and we don't want you to do this.” And the mayor said, “Oh, this is very good. Americans will be emulating us this time next year.”

WALLIN: I know that you have similar programs in some of your West Coast cities. Vancouver has a drug problem and they're trying to fix it. And they're experimenting with a whole lot of different things, a safe injection site is one. They have needle exchange programs (search). They're doing that. The east side of the city is troubled, and so they're trying to solve their problem. Lots of other cities do it differently. Lots of other countries do it differently. It's a project. It's a pilot project. They're going to take a look. If it doesn't work, they're not going to do it. If it works, maybe other people will want to do it.

GIBSON: Now is it true that Canada figures that with this gay marriage law, you can kind of back-door policy to America? If gay marriages are legal in Canada, gays are going to run up there and get married, then they're going to come back to the United States?

WALLIN: We are not trying to change your laws.

GIBSON: You do all time.

WALLIN: We have a country. We have a Supreme Court in our country that said, “This is the reality, boys and girls. This is the new way we're going to deal with this. We're going to recognize the ability of these couples to live as families and to live as couples with the same benefits that apply to” ...

GIBSON: And how does that affect life down here? So what if you run across the border from New Hampshire and get married in Canada?

WALLIN: A, people aren't running up there. If they do, there is no question there is going to be some pressure on your court system here. But your own court system ...

GIBSON: Don't you have treaties with us that say you've got to recognize ...

WALLIN: Yes. Canadian marriages are recognized here. And some of your states do the same thing.

GIBSON: So, aren't Americans going to be running over to the counsel general, that would be you, to say, “I got married in Canada and I can't get my town to recognize that.”

WALLIN: No, they are not going to be coming to me. They are going to be having that political fight where they should have that political fight, in the United States of America, and either they can change minds or they can't change minds. But that's your political fight to have. We've had this discussion in our country. This is what the courts ruled. The politicians have said okay. The Supreme Court ruling here on sodomy is the same thing, which is it's a recognition of the fact that this is a reality. Whether you like it or not, it's a reality and so the system has to deal with it in one way or another.

GIBSON: Okay. Let's talk generally, during the late, lamented war, Canada was [adopting the stance that] “We've thought this through better than you. We invented peacekeeping. What is the matter with you guys?” They kept shouting at us. Why do Canadians feel that they must...

WALLIN: I don't think anybody was shouting. And our prime minister has said this repeatedly. We are an independent country and we get to make up our own minds. Sometimes that makes people mad. There is no question. We understand that. I live here. I know it made some people mad. Believe me. But it wasn't about, “This is what we want and you must do that.” We come from a different historical perspective on this. We don't have the military might of your country. We help where we can. We have 2,000 soldiers on the way to Afghanistan. We are there for the war on terror. We have always been there for the war on terror. We just have to pick our spots. We are not as big as you guys.

GIBSON: Pam Wallin, the Canadian consulate general, happy birthday, Canada.

WALLIN: Can I give you this little pin?

GIBSON: You certainly can.

WALLIN: There it is. Canadian-U.S. flag together, just like you and I, right here.

GIBSON: Oh, Canadian flag. We'll be right back.

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