Fake News: Canada-U.S. Relationship Threatened
British author Sir Arthur Conan Doyle greatly raised the prestige of the lowly detective story with his fictional alter ego Sherlock Holmes. One of Holmes’ most brilliant insights concerned something which was not present. In “Silver Blaze” a dog did not bark.
The crucial evidence in a vexing case was provided by what was absent, what was not heard, what did not happen. In a similar manner, the Canada-United States partnership remains strong despite conflicts.
President Donald Trump criticized Canada’s dairy industry last month during his speech in Kenosha Wisconsin. Canada is accused of providing special support to “ultra-filtered milk,” a distinctive high-protein variety popular in making non-liquid products, including cheese and yogurt. Lumber production is another source of dispute.
Yet our cooperative structures and practices, which span economic and military dimensions, remain intact. Alliance with Canada was established during the enormous global struggle of World War II. Our partnership reflects the enduring “Special Relationship” between Britain and the U.S. forged during the same years. Also highly germane is that farmers represent powerful protectionist lobbies in most countries, including the U.S.
Our history was not always close and cooperative. The Great Lakes were a principal naval battle arena during the War of 1812. Canada provided refuge and sustenance to Confederate saboteurs and spies during our Civil War. The fact that negative history has been so fully overcome testifies to the strength of contemporary bonds.
President John F. Kennedy summed up the Canada-U.S. relationship in an address to the Parliament in Ottawa early in 1961, noting “Geography has made us neighbors, history has made us friends, economics has made us partners, and necessity has made us allies.” Canada’s government professionals traditionally foster cooperation with Britain and the U.S., and are quite heavily represented among the staffs of the United Nations, NATO and the other global intergovernmental and nongovernmental organizations.
Ditchley Park near Oxford is an extremely influential conference center born from that Anglo-American-Canadian tripartite alliance of World War II. When the focus of a meeting is the UN, crisis intervention, humanitarian relief, international law or associated topics, Canada is invariably extremely well represented among participants.
U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill held a summit aboard naval warships off Newfoundland Canada in August 1941, several months before the attack on Pearl Harbor. The result was the Atlantic Charter, which explicitly proposed the United Nations.
A byproduct was British, Canadian and U.S. scientific cooperation during and after the war. Throughout that desperate conflict, the post-war UN structure was planned in detail.
At the end of Kennedy’s 1961 visit to Canada, national security adviser McGeorge Bundy accidentally left behind a memo on which the president had scrawled a note which apparently asked how to deal with “the SOB,” meaning combative nationalist Prime Minister John Diefenbaker. An enraged Diefenbaker threatened to go to the press.
Kennedy pleaded poor penmanship, arguing he had meant the “OAS,” the Organization of American States. At his next press conference, he went out of his way to praise Bundy.
Diefenbaker had a loud bark, but stands out for that reason. Generally, heads of government in Canada have worked effectively to maintain positive ties with the U.S., including Diefenbaker’s immediate successors Lester Pearson and Pierre Trudeau. Trudeau’s son, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, and President Barack Obama became friends.
Canada’s influence is more important than ever given growing U.S. nationalism.
Arthur I. Cyr is Clausen Distinguished Professor at Carthage College in Wisconsin and author of “After the Cold War.” (NYU Press and Palgrave Macmillan). Contact firstname.lastname@example.org