A sour relationship

By Kirstin Morrell

Canada-U.S. relations have changed in the past three- and-a-half years. As the U.S. grows more conservative, even reactionary, we continue on toward liberalism.

In the midst of this increasing divide, a group calling itself the “Independent Task Force on the Future of North America” is proposing a drastic integration of many key aspects of national policy. The task force does have several admirable goals, such as Mexican economic development and the elimination of trade disputes, which have hampered Canada’s resource and agriculture sectors.

Other questionable suggestions are an integrated energy policy and a joint terrorism watch list. But Canadians should not fool themselves into thinking we would be anything other than the tail being wagged by an over-anxious dog. Nor should we want to have any part of the U.S.’s current approach to terrorism. Moreover, the larger issues of fresh water and missile defense still loom.

In light of CSIS’s deputy chief of counter-terrorism’s testimony this week that the American war on terrorism has only made al-Qaeda more dangerous, America’s foreign policy seems dangerously misguided.

Another possibility suggested by the task force is one of a common North American dollar. Why would we want to tie ourselves to the mismanaged greenback? Their spiraling debt on a federal and individual level have contributed to U.S. dollar losses against the Euro and even against our own dollar.

We have different philosophies of national defense. The task force’s call for a “North American security perimeter… incorporating air, land and sea boundaries” could be an attempt to sneak missile defense in the back door. If not, Canada’s approach focuses more on aid than intervention.

The solution? If an economic alliance is necessary, Canada could petition to join the European Union. Yes, it may seem drastic, but we have far more in common with our neighbours across the pond than we do with those along our only shared border. From an environmental standpoint, shipping by sea is more efficient than the endless lines of tractor trailers that ferry goods and resources north and south. Besides, does Canada really need more consumer goods from Mexico, a country that produces without the same environmental protections we uphold? The trade diversification that would result from stronger ties to the EU could only help our economy. A common external tariff could further isolate us from the world community by chaining us to American trade, and therefore to American policy.

The larger problem is that where the money leads, our culture follows. Defence, the environment, international relations–these are areas of cultural and government policy discrepancies between the U.S., Mexico and Canada. As sovereign and wholly independent nations, we are allowed to have these differences. Lately, these differences have opened a rift between Canada and the U.S.

Canadians and Americans alike are quick to blame our country’s attitude and occasional assertion of sovereign rights for the deterioration of Canada-U.S. relations. Many want to make up for that perception by accommodating American desires at the cost of our own. However, it took President Bush four years to pay an official visit to our nation. That was beyond unusual; it was a deliberate message of disapproval, aimed at us for our refusal to participate in the Iraq invasion. It was within his rights to do and within our rights to be disappointed, but more importantly it highlights the essential differences between our two nations.

The majority of Canadian people love and respect the American people. Disagreement is not dislike, but we have to acknowledge that these are two different countries, with different cultures and different views on how to be a part of the global community.

‘We should let this natural distancing continue and find our own uniquely Canadian path in the world.

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