Thursday, October 14, 2010


Ever since the War of 1812 forever sealed our fate as sovereign partners dividing-up just about half of the North American continent; the United-States and Canada have shared a very special relationship: The envy of the rest of the planet.

Through much thick and thin we've had, in modern parlance "each others' backs". I grew-up along the Canada / United States border in the mythical "Republic of Madawaska" astride the Province of New Brunswick and the State of Maine. (You may "Google" that.) I majored in Canadian - American Relations in my Political Science studies; I am fortunate for spending more than 5 months each year at a winter cottage in the American south; and this Blog frequently pays homage to our partnership. I am, some have said: A legend in my own mind!

Having thus established my "bona-fides," and as the week wraps-up again in a rare moment of our modern history when Canada's "loonie" dollar coin is trading "on par" with the American "greenback". It seems a good time to reflect, review the status of our relationship. As it turns out; relationships, partnerships, special friendships, neighbourliness ebb and flow over time. Certainly since the mid-point of the last century; World Wars, the subsequent Cold War and other international flashpoints caused our two nations to become increasingly integrated. The last 60 years saw more than 85% of Canada's exports shipped over our seamless border to the southern economic Juggernaut. At about $2-Billion per day, ours remains the biggest single trading relationship the planet has ever known.

After 1950, Canada vaulted to one of the world's most industrialized economies thanks in no small measure to the neighbour with whom we shared what was then - "the world's longest undefended border." PS: You may have noticed that we spell "neighbour" differently. That's one of our cultural differences.

Maybe that's where I'll start: The savage attack on the United-States in the morning of September 11, 2001 changed everything. Though Canadians rescued thousands of stranded airline passengers from the hundreds of flights forced out of U.S. skies on that day; we've struggled since then to convince our American partners that the radical terrorists did not enter the United States from Canada. It is (was) a myth that is still far too frequently repeated. Concerned for the security of its borders our neighbour has restricted (some say far too much) access to its homeland. Lest it be called "arming" our prideful heretofore "undefended border"; it's been dubbed: "thickening of the border"...the effect has been pretty much the same.

Canada is a Member of the exalted G-7 (now G-8) Group of economic super-powers thanks to the direct intervention of President Gerald Ford at its formation in 1976. Just more than two decades later it was Canada that launched what is now the G-20. G-20 has played a critical role in the efforts to stifle a world financial catastrophe. We share cultures, we share ideas, we share ideals: Here and abroad, on the world's stage as here on North American soil.

Relationships change and history modifies expectations: Ours is not "frosty": Never will be! Though there is anecdotal evidence which leads me to conclude we may have entered a slow but steady 'ebb' period. To wit: Insiders at the U.S. State Department claim that America's Ambassador to the United-Nations, Susan Rice, specifically instructed American diplomats to..."not get involved" in Canada's efforts to regain a seat on the U.N.'s Security Council. In a major diplomatic snub of un-precedented nature, and it seems without its anticipated American support, Canada earlier this week lost a bid for one of the temporary Security Council seats for the first time since our Great White North help found the world's premier organization in the fall of 1945.

Then there's the decidedly unfriendly expulsion of Canada's Air Force from the United Arab Emirates. Canada has been a steadfast supporter of the American intervention in Afghanistan to rid that country of the scourge of terrorists bent on imposing their twisted view of the world on the rest of us. In our own Afghan military effort, Canada has had a secretive armed forces re-supply operation based at Camp Mirage in Dubai. We've been unceremoniously kicked-out because of a dispute over the sheikdom's desire for more commercial (passenger) flights between our two countries. Returning to Canada from celebrating (Canadian) Thanksgiving with the troops last weekend in Afghanistan - The flight with onboard Canada's Defence Minister, Peter MacKay, and the Chief-of-Defence-Staff, General Walter Natynczyk, was refused permission to land at Base Mirage by the United Arab Emirates. Nothing could be clearer. But imagine albeit for a brief moment, if this had been Defence Secretary Robert Gate's flight. It's obviously not up to Washington to determine Canada's sovereignty issues: Under the circumstances an encouraging word from the Obama Administration though would surely have been appreciated.

Relationships have warmed-up and cooled-off since time immemorial. It's the ebb and flow of the human experience. Sometimes it is perceptions that matter most.

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