- Politics and Social Issues
Is The US- Canada Relationship In Trouble?
Is The Friendship Headed For The Rocks?
The close relationship between the United States and Canada had it's beginnings soon after the War of 1812. While some animosity continued, especially in the Great Lakes areas, for many years after the war much of the east coast continued on as if the war had never occured which for many, in the eastern seaboard, it hadn't. Since many of the loyalist settlers in eastern Canada were ex-Americans the war seemed more like a disagreement between friends to the people of the two Canadian provinces and the New England States. During the war there were no shots fired in the east. While forts were built in New Brunswick they were never used. Both sides employed privateers but in the east the outcomes were different. While it was true that British and American merchant ships were intercepted and their cargos confisicated in the east it was not unusual for the two "enemies" to meet after dark in an isolated cove somewhere on the coastline and trade the days spoils.
Perhaps the best example of the early friendship, even during war, was what happened in June 1813 in St. Stephen , New Brunswick which is located directly across the river from Calais, Maine. In June of that year a company of British soldiers arrived in St. Stephen to deliver several barrels of gunpowder. The power was to be used by the local militia to defend themselves from the "enemy" across the river. After the soldiers left the town the people of St.Stephen delivered the powder to the citizens of Calais as it seems they had no powder for their 4th of July celebrations.History records that a great time was had by the citizens of both towns on that 4th of July. This kind of behavior proved not uncommon and many examples can be found if one looks at the history of the War of 1812. While the war was brutal and vicious most of the fighting took place in a 1000 mile swath between the states and provinces bordering the western St. Lawrence and the Great Lakes. To the people East and West of that area the war was treated quite differently. A secessionist movement sprung up in the New England area amongst Americans who were bitterly opposed to the war. While we did go to war against each other it is hardly remembered in the history of either country. It is seldom taught in our schools and the average American or Canadian is probably unaware of the war at all.
While Canada would not become an independent nation for another 55 years The citizens of both countries shared a common origin and an unwavering spirit of adventure, discovery and shared hardships. They had forged communities out of the vast wilderness and in time developed friendships and close connections. The small isolated communities were the first to developed trade and form friendships and strong bonds that continue to this day. The British enthusiasm for North America was certainly on the wane. They had lost the Revolutionary War and although they succeeded in keeping the American forces below the 49th parallel during the war of 1812 the British were clearly tired of the commitment and treasure both in men and material the continent was demanding. The long supply lines were impossible for the British Navy to maintain and the wear and tear on the men and equipment were of enormous cost to the Crown. British politicians began calling for a withdrawal from Canada and in those early days of the 19th century Britain began planning for withdrawal from the continent they had dominated for over 300 years. They had come a long way since 1497 when John Cabot discovered Newfoundland and now it was time to go home. As one British politician put it, speaking of Canada, " It is time for us to leave that God forsaken place. There is nothing there but snow and trees anyway". Eventually the British left and Canada became a nation on July 1, 1867. By that time the US and Canada were already close trading partners.
The US/Canada border is nearly 4,000 miles long from the Atlantic ocean to the Pacific ocean. If you add the 2000 miles on the Alaskan border we share a common border that stretches nearly 6000 miles. There are 25 official crossing points and these are manned by a total of about 600 border guards counting both sides together. Although they do not get the credit they deserve the US and Canadian Border Agencies do a terrific job . It is an amazing success story considering the area they must cover and the challenges they face daily.
The relationship between the US and Canada has always been a complex and, to the Canadian point of view, challenging one. It is not easy living and trading with the largest military and financial superpower on earth and maintaining your identity at the same time.In Canada it is likened to an Elephant and a mouse. It is easy to get lost in the clutter of the larger partners dealings. Canada has learned to walked a fine and delicately balanced line and continues to do so with great finesse and success. To be America's premier trading partner and ally Canada has had to acquire a thick skin and maintain a sense of self even in the most trying of times. For most of the relationship, especially in the last 50 years, this has been the case and Canada has grown and prospered not in spite of the US but ,indeed, because of it. No country has benefited as much as Canada has from its relationship with the USA and favorable treatment it has received over the years. While Canada has often times felt unappreciated and ignored by their partner, to the south, the personal connection between two peoples has always been the key to the relationship and it's growth.
As all relationships must change and evolve the US/Canada partnership is changing and moving into areas not before considered. Some of the changes are good and some are beginning to cause friction and resentment. Anti Americanism has always been a part of the Canadian psyche but only in personal reactions to what Canadians perceive as a slight or undeserved criticism towards them by the American Government or Press. Canadians have always been staunch supporters of the US and even when disagreements over issues like Iraq or Trade Policy surface disagreements are usually settled ,at cabinet level, or at least negotiated and discussed with the goal of preventing the incidents from becoming major irritants.
The source of the latest and perhaps the greatest divisive issue to be raised between the US and Canada is the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative. This was proposed and passed during the Bush administration and is continuing to evolve with the Obama administration. This one bill has the power to change the relationship between the US and Canada in such a fundamental way that we may never recover fully from it.
The free movement of people and commerce between the countries has always been an important component to the relationship. It cannot be overstated that any hindrance to that flow will impact both countries negatively and have consequences we can only, at this point, speculate on.
Canada has been fighting and losing the PR war in the US for a long time now. The American Press, politicians, and the special interest groups continue to perpetuate the urban myths about Canada being a haven for terrorists and the Canadian border being the conduit that the terrorists use to enter the US and carry out their attacks. The fact that none of these myths are true doesn't seem to matter they continue to be reported. In June of 2009 the Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano repeated these myths in an interview with Canadian TV. After the uproar in Canada did not subside quickly her office sent out a press release stating that her words were misinterpreted. Goggle the interview and see why the Canadians are so upset. She stated that the 9-11 terrorists, among others, had crossed the border to carry out their mission. Totally wrong. The 9-11 commission clearly stated in their findings that all 19 terrorists were already in the US months before the attack, most legally, and none of them came across the Canadian border. In fact there has never been a successful terrorist crossing of the US/Canada border not one. There was an attempt made by a Algerian national by the name of Ahmed Ressam.He became known as the Millennium Bomber as his target was LAX Airport. Because of his activities and associations he had been placed under surveillance by the Canadian Authorities for nearly two years. In early December 1999 he disappeared. A Canada wide alert was issued. They discovered that on December 12 he had stayed at a motel in British Columbia. The Mounties searched his room and discovered what could be bomb making chemicals. They immediately notified the US customs officials of the potential threat. On Dec 14, 1999 Ahmed Ressam was apprehended by US Customs officer Diana Dean in Port Angeles , Washington with a truck load of explosive materials. The system worked as it was designed to do. As it always has.
Canadians are slow to anger but they are getting there. As of June 09 All persons crossing the US border must have a Passport or Nextus Card. Canadians have, for the last year, been applying for their Passports, at one hundred dollars a piece, before the imposed deadline is reached. Fully 70% of Canadians now have their passports. There is a lot of resentment about this new requirement. For over 200 years people have been crossing the borders with very little impediments. Americans and Canadians have lived and worked on both sides of the border for generations and the border communities have felt almost like two sides of the same town.Millions of people have relatives on either side of the line and as such thought of the US or Canada as their second home. That is now over and Candians do not appreciate being held up as the weak sister as it pertains to Security. Not only is it not true but It is important to note here that if you are planning a trip to Canada you do NOT need a passport, as an American, to enter Canada. You need a passport to return to the US. Recently it was reported in Canada that the US is now employing Predator Drones to watch the border from above. These are the same type of drones as are used in Afghanistan and Iraq. The Canadians are not amused. Most of them do not know that the US has been using 5 drones to watch the US/Canada border since last year.
Most Americans don't know much about Canada and ,in all honestly, are really not interested but you might want to start. Canadians are fine with keeping a low profile and letting the US get all the press. It doesn't bother them to play second fiddle, in fact, I think they prefer to be in the background. The problems and dangers arising from these new security policies are changing a friendly relationship nearly as old as the USA itself. Canada's dynamic is changing and nobody seems to be noticing. For those who don't know how important Canada is to the economy of the US here are a few thing all Americans should be aware of.
Canada and the US form the largest trading partnership in the world.The total trade between the two countries is approaching two billion dollars a day .Their economies are so intertwined that any serious disruption in the flow by either side could be devastating to both countries. What might come as a surprise to many is the fact that Canada is the #1 supplier to the US in the following areas
Oil, Natural Gas, Tourism, Potash, Beef, Gold, Steel, Lumber, Hydro Electric Power. There are many more areas where they are either number 1 or 2. For those who believe that the US could find other countries to supply these imports and replace Canada's supply think again. It would be a lot harder that you think. Especially Oil, Gas, and Electric Power and lumber .Remember this is a two way trade partnership it is not just the imports.
Above all these facts and figures one, in particular, is simply amazing. According to the latest figures from the US Department of State website Canada buys 25% of all US exports. Put it into context and this is startling. Canada buys more American goods that all 27 European countries combined who, in fact, have 15 times the Canadian population. Canada with it's tiny population is directly or indirectly responsible for creating millions of American jobs. I think it is time we paid more attention to this country. Economically the future of both countries may depend on it. We need each other and while every Canadians know how important America is to their economy maybe it's time we learned just how important Canada is to ours.