The free trade debates of the early 1990s are now but a blink on the globalization map. We've travelled long roads since then, not the least of which was a path towards increasing harmonization between the United States and Canada.
Several seemingly radical suggestions were floating around and the more economic-minded amongst us were pushing things like unifying the loonie with the American buck. Indeed, there were even suggestions that Canada should dispose of the 49th entirely, stating it was a nuisance to business and economic globalization--forces that were encompassing the world. We had much to gain from our American neighbours, they claimed. In particular, Alberta was under the magnifying glass, as its oil reserves looked particularly tasty to an energy-hungry United States.
Then September 11 happened.
Now, we're served our daily regimen of possibilities on how to defend ourselves against terrorism. We're sizing up our sovereignty from the United States while violently denying we had anything to do with the terrorist attacks. Unfortunately, it's time we took some responsibility for what happened. Canada's purposefully lax policies, most of which err on the side of individual rights and freedoms, had some effect. It is well-nigh impossible to say exactly when and where our legislation fails, but the pervading rationale is that any such similar attack must be prevented from happening ever again.
So what form should those responsibilities take? And at what costs to our cultural and economic sovereignty?
During the upcoming months, Canada will look closely at our anti-terrorism, immigration and economic harmonization policies. You can bet with complete certainty that Americans will be looking over our shoulders the entire time.
And the sad truth is this: we don't really have a choice.
More than three-quarters of our exports go directly south. When the World Trade Centers fell, Canadians across the country hung dusty American flags at half-staff, and loudly proclaimed: "We are all Americans today." The irony is now upon us as we pull back from such sweeping statements. Harmonization is now the whipping-boy word of the day, and Canadians must ask themselves: Will we also sing "God Bless America?"
In an increasingly global world, we're quickly learning the nation-state system serves fewer purposes when you've got a neighbour like we do.
The American economy will press on as it always has and sadly, Canada will be forced to get on board. A gruff examination of history demonstrates that just as we were once a colony of Britain, we are now a colony of America. America is, quite simply, the new empire and we are chained to their economy, their cultural industries and their terrorist vulnerabilities. Our sovereignty matters little, now that it is apparent that civil liberty legislation in the U.S. is going to get a swift makeover. If we don't follow suit, we will face even tighter border controls and increasing economic disparity between us and them.
Canadians don't want to go it alone. The truth is we couldn't, even if we had to.