- "If you return to your home country, would you be persecuted based on being a woman, and would you be subject to the danger of torture, or risk to your life? As a person in need of protection, do you wish to seek asylum in the country of Canada? "
Geography[edit | edit source]
Canada occupies much of North America, sharing land borders with Gilead to the south, and the state of Alaska, which is still controlled by the rump United States government, to the northwest.
Government and society[edit | edit source]
In the Hulu Series[edit | edit source]
Canada remains a democratic and apparently free society despite the rise of the totalitarian-theocratic Gilead to its south. The religious fanaticism and paranoia which engulfed American society at the peak of the infertility epidemic has not seemed to destabilize Canada.
Canadian dollars are shown featuring Queen Elizabeth II's image and there is passing reference to "the Prime Minister's office" by a Canadian diplomat, both suggest that Canada retains its parliamentary democracy. Following the fall of the mainland United States to the autocratic Gilead, Canada's democratic institutions and laws survive intact: Moira visits a gay/lesbian nightclub in Toronto, Emily's marriage to her wife Sylvia is still legal, the series depicts female Canadian politicians and an openly gay diplomat, there are political protests on Canadian streets, Canadian hospitals are shown to have female medical staff, Emily's son has a female schoolteacher, and Canada maintains a free press that has interviewed Americans who have escaped from Gilead (the Toronto Star is mentioned as interviewing an escaped Aunt).
The government of Canada is allied with the remnant United States. The United States government-in-exile still maintains a consulate in the city of Toronto, which is also home to a sizable American refugee population in the "Little America" quarter. The Canadian Armed Forces has also been active in assisting the rump United States in its war with Gilead with news reports of Canadian and British Army units taking up positions on the Canada-Gilead border and conducting exercises.
Government officials[edit | edit source]
- Stuart Williston, PMO
- Claudine Fournier, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs
- Kevin McConnell, Deputy Minister for Immigration, .
In the Novels[edit | edit source]
In The Handmaid's Tale, Canada is not shown but only mentioned by Offred as a place "out there, where normal life continues," and to which she had her family attempted to escape.
In The Testaments, a significant amount of action takes place in and around Toronto. At Daisy/Nicole's school, she and her classmates are taught about the rise of totalitarianism in America/Gilead, and the factors leading up to it, as part of broader lessons on the importance of "democratic freedom" and "thinking for yourself." Teachers escort schoolchildren to anti-Gilead protests where refugees or the families and loved ones of refugees speak about atrocities taking place in Gilead.
At least some elements of Canadian society appear to be apathetic toward the American refugees fleeing the Gilead regime and call for their deportation. Anti-Gilead protestors are met with counter-protestors who dub the surge of American refugees an "invasion." They openly brand escaped handmaids as "sluts" who should return to their country as Canada has enough citizens on welfare ("IV The Clothes Found").
Despite this, there does appear to be widespread sympathy and solidarity with the large American refugee population in Canada amongst the general population, there are organizations such as Sanctu-Care, Save the Women societies, Quaker churches, amongst others, who help protect and shelter those fleeing Gilead, especially women and "National Homelanders" (Black Americans forcibly relocated to Colonies as forced laborers).
Foreign relations[edit | edit source]
In the Hulu Series[edit | edit source]
Canada at present maintains an uneasy peace with the Republic of Gilead, but does not officially recognise it as a legitimate nation or a "sovereign state" (as Commander Waterford puts it). Canada is shown to still have close ties to what remains of the United States government (now based in Anchorage Alaska), owing to the presence of a U.S. Consulate in Toronto and a U.S. embassy (presumably in Canada's capitol of Ottawa).
Canada likely complies with international economic sanctions placed against Gilead by the United Nations (UN), which severely limits Gilead's trade with the outside world.
The influx of American refugees fleeing the Gilead regime is a major political issue in Canada as the country attempts to grapple with the surge of refugees pouring into its territory while also trying to avoid conflict with the treacherous and militarily powerful Gilead, whose leadership demands the return of all "illegal immigrants."
Refugees in Canada
In the episode "Smart Power", Fred and Serena Waterford travel to Canada as part of an attempt at establishing trade between the two countries, both to get desperately needed supplies and seeking legitimization as a country. Fred also wishes to discuss the possibility of having "illegal migrants", (those who fled Gilead), returned to the country as Gilead's population is stagnating.
Under protest from the U.S. Consulate and thousands of American of refugees, the Canadians reluctantly agree to host the two. However, the delegation sent to receive them treats the couple with barely-disguised contempt and disgust and is also largely composed of individuals who would never occupy such positions in Gilead, possibly intended as a dig at Gilead's totalitarian strictures. In particular, Kevin McConnell notes that he and his husband greatly enjoyed visiting the former United States before the war and the rise of the Gilead regime which prohibits same-sex marriages and executes homosexuals, or "gender traitors" in Gilead's word of mouth. He coldly refutes Fred's awkward remark that he hopes they will visit. Serena is treated coldly by the female delegates and is given an itinerary composed of pictures instead of words, another dig at how Gilead refuses to allow women to read. She is also given an attache, Genevieve, who acts as her chaperone whilst Fred talks with the other delegates and is informed by her that she is very much a workaholic but enjoys reading as a pastime, this could be interpreted as a jab at Gilead's laws which prohibit women from reading or writing.
What is little diplomatic relations exist between Canada and Gilead are then severed entirely when a series of letters written by Handmaids and other women are released to the Canadian public, who react with unrestrained outrage. A massive protest composed of both Canadian citizens and American refugees gathers outside the hotel where the Waterfords are staying and the delegation immediately calls off all further negotiations as the leak of handmaids' letter leads to international outrage, with McConnell specifically telling the Waterfords that they are no longer welcome in Canada. Fred attempts to dismiss the letters as slander, but Stuart Williston firmly retorts that Canada "believe[s] the women" and orders them to leave, for which he is insulted by Fred as he walks past. Serena is then accosted by Claudine Fournier, the fourth member of the delegation, who regards her with a mixture of pity and contempt for what Gilead has done to her and asks how she can possibly live with herself after what she's done. The Waterfords then depart Canada under a hail of protests and insults that nearly become violent.
Though the previous negotiations fell through, Gilead is attempting to pressure Canada to help prevent escapees from crossing the border and to forcibly decorate/repatriate refugees from Gilead, particularly June Osborne's second daughter, Nichole Osborne. Canada's response is still unclear, but it is mentioned that they do not want to provoke Gilead in a way that puts Canadian citizens and American refugees at risk, since Gilead is quite strong militarily, Canada is "eager to avoid conflict," as a Swiss diplomat puts it. Initially, it appears that Canada is willing to consider the extradition of Nichole, as Kevin McConnell states that June Osborne "surrendered her rights" as a mother. However, Canada's supposed willingness to negotiate is likely to have been a ruse, as Fred Waterford was arrested upon returning to Canada in order to personally negotiate the extradition of their forcibly adopted daughter while Serena Waterford was detained as part of an immunity agreement for her part in her husband's arrest. It is now likely that the agreement was voided and the extradition talks regarding Nichole were permanently ceased upon Serena's own arrest on the serious charges of sexual slavery and rape.
In the Novels[edit | edit source]
In the novels, Canada has normalized but tense diplomatic relations with the Republic of Gilead. Unlike the Hulu adaptation, in the novel's universe Canada (and likely most of the world) has recognized the Republic of Gilead as a sovereign nation. A Gilead embassy and consulate both operate in Toronto. Missionaries from Gilead--the Pearl Girls--are even allowed to prosthelytize on Canadian streets and take converts across the border to Gilead--from which no one has ever returned.
Characters in The Testaments imply that the Canadian government is eager to avoid conflict with Gilead, whose military leadership is described as "trigger-happy."
It would seem that most Canada caves into Gilead's request to return Nicole, but when it is agreed, Nicole has disappeared into the general public - raised by adoptive parents Neil and Melanie as a girl called Daisy.
Aunt Lydia, in turn, transforms the "abduction" of "Baby Nicole" into an international media sensation, with Gilead diplomats regularly making televised demands and pleas for the child's return. Meanwhile, anti-Gilead activists in Canada, the American refugee community and elsewhere, use Nicole as a sign of liberation and freedom. The Pearl Girls also begin entering Canada, young female missionaries from Gilead who try and convert foreign women--usually at-risk youth, the homeless, prostitutes, etc.--and lure them into Gilead, through any means necessary. The Canadian government has stepped up security at border crossings to prevent underage girls from being smuggled into Gilead although it would appear that the Pearl Girls and the Gilead Consulate actively help undermine this process.
Canada's other foreign relations remain largely unknown, though they do have friendly relations with at least one other Commonwealth member, the United Kingdom. Both Canadian and British forces have been mentioned to be taking up positions on the border between Canada and Gilead, hinting at a military alliance between them and the remnants of the U.S. military, for the purposes of protection against possibility hostilities with Gilead.
Military[edit | edit source]
The Canadian Armed Forces is mentioned to be involved with training exercises with the British military along the border. They are firmly allied with the Anchorage government, as shown when the Canadian Army performs an arrest in conjunction with American agents on the Waterfords at the Canadian border.
References[edit | edit source]
- As documented e.g. in Commander Lawrence's Bookshelf
- Episode 2.9, Smart Power
- In Episode 4, "Nolite Te Bastardes Carborundorum," it is mentioned that an Aunt from the red center in Needham (a suburb of Boston) escaped to Canada and gave an interview about the handmaid program to the Toronto Star.
- Episode 7, "The Other Side."
- IV The Clothes Found
- Episode 2.3, Baggage