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American-Canadian Relations: The Carrot And The Stick

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Uh, oh. We’re in trouble again. Yep, just when you’ve been told how everything is so nice-nice between Ottawa and Washington, along comes a Bush Administration report saying that Canada is home to Islamic terrorist cells due to our liberal immigration and refugee laws.

This has been a rallying point for the political right in America before the dust had even settled in New York City from the destruction of the World Trade Centre. But this is the first time any official document from the administration has been openly critical along these lines. One has to wonder why they would be releasing this report now when, for the first time in over a decade, they actually have a willing puppet sitting in Ottawa as Prime Minister.

Let’s look at the report and see what sort of evidence they’ve prepared to condemn us folk up here north of the 49th parallel. First of all, they complain about the fact that ever since the fiasco surrounding the mistreatment of Canadian citizen Maher Arar (a Canadian who was handed over to the Syrian government to be tortured by the Americans because he was suspected of maybe having links to people who might have been terrorists and in the end has never been charged with anything) our government has been a lot less enthusiastic about sharing information with the Americans.

Could it be possible that, after our government had arranged for a few others to be handed over to foreign governments for torture at the request of the Americans only to find out that none of the men have been found guilty of anything except being middle eastern and knowing each other, they might not have trusted their sources of information? Is it at all possible that perhaps they had decided they didn’t trust the American government with the fate of Canadian citizens anymore?

The fact that our government has proven just as adept as the American’s at depriving citizens of their rights seems to have escaped the Bush administration’s notice. In this report they name five people who they claim are known terrorists living in Canada. The fact that four of them have been under arrest for years under our security certificate program and the fifth is under tight surveillance and reporting conditions so the government knows where he is at all times, seems to have been left out of the report.

What’s even more confusing is this piece of text quoted directly from the report: “With the exception of the United States and Canada, there are no known operational cells of Islamic terrorists in the hemisphere.” So what does that mean? That all the terrorists come from Canada? That Canada has them and does nothing about them? Or is just a general observation meaning there are people in both countries that could possibly be terrorists?

Finally, they get around to mentioning the one man who has been effectively shown to have contacts with terrorist organizations. Instead of mentioning that he’s dead, they say we are home to the Khadr terrorist family. They didn’t seem overly concerned about airlifting Bin-Ladin’s family out of the United States days after the planes were crashed into the World Trade Center, even though they had connections to a known terrorist. So if those family members could be considered innocent, why can’t another man’s family be considered innocent in spite of what he’s done? Khadr, Sr has only been linked to Bin-Ladin, which is more than you can say for Osama’s brothers and sisters.

The key question here is why release such a harsh sounding report about a country that has always been one of your closest allies, has been involved in the war on terror right from the start, and is still suffering casualties? (Remember a country called Afghanistan, which was the country invaded before Iraq? Canadian soldiers are still fighting and dying there.) The current Prime Minister of Canada is so enamoured of President Bush and his policies that he’s even taken to imitating the American way of preventing journalists from being present when the caskets of soldiers come home to Canada from the battlefield. (The father of one of the soldiers who died recently was so incensed by this that at his son’s funeral, he took the time to criticize the policy twice — once during his eulogy and once during a video memorial to his son.)

While it’s true that part of the report was written while the previous government was in power, it wasn’t finalized until well after the change of governments. Perhaps that’s the point. They know they have a sympathetic audience now who are more willing to listen to their complaints. The Conservative Party of Canada, while in opposition, was highly critical of Canada’s immigration policy, for reasons of their own, and in support of the terrorist argument.

I don’t think it’s any coincidence that the Bush administration finally surrendered in the softwood lumber dispute now that there is a government in power that likes them. Up until the change, they were quite willing to defy every court ruling that went against them and couldn’t give a damn about our government’s reaction. All of a sudden, they have a complete change of mind on the subject and even agree to repay the majority of the duty that was collected illegally from Canadian firms.

You don’t think it has anything to with paving the way for Mr. Harper and his Conservative Party to start arguing in favour of being more co-operative when it comes to dealing with issues of security and immigration do you? Mr. Bush and Mr. Harper couldn’t have planned any of this during their meeting prior to the election, could they?

Mr. Bush tells Mr. Harper that he’ll make him look good to the Canadian people by giving him the softwood lumber deal. Mr. Harper has to get tough on immigration and terror in exchange. They agree that issuing a report critical of the previous government’s record would be the perfect thing because that will give Mr. Harper the ammunition he needs to convince the Canadian people that his approach is the right one.

Look, he can say, it’s already yielded us results in the softwood lumber dispute which the Liberal government let drag on for years, but I was able to resolve the dispute after being in office only three months.

Even though it has been reported in the papers that the deal has been in the works for over a year, which means most of it was accomplished before Harper was in power, all people will remember was that he was Prime Minister when it the dispute was resolved.

It’s classic carrot and stick motivational techniques — with one hand you goad the donkey with the stick to the butt to propel him forward and with the other you dangle a carrot in front of his face to entice as promise of a reward. It’s already working wonders. Listen to the response from some Ministry of Foreign Affairs mouthpiece in Ottawa named Rodney Moore.

Canada’s new government believes in maintaining a vigorous counterintelligence program to safeguard our national security. The government does not tolerate inappropriate activities and will restore our reputation as a leader and dependable partner in defending freedom and democracy in the world. The Globe and Mail April 28th/2006

In other words those other guys might have been willing to let all sorts of terrorists run rampant throughout our country, but not us. It’s funny you know, because I could have sworn it was the previous government that brought in all the controversial laws that suspended people’s right to a trial or even of being told why they were being arrested. It wasn’t until the opposition party protested that they weren’t doing enough to protect the rights of Canadian citizens that they reviewed the case of Mr. Arar and began to reconsider some of the harsher measures.

Ten points if you can guess who the opposition party was that was so desperate to defend the rights of Canadian citizens. Isn’t political expediency fun?

I wouldn’t be surprised if, in the next little while, we see the Conservative government trying to force through new laws governing the application process for refugees. It’s already difficult enough as it is for someone to gain admission to Canada as a refugee. Unless you’re from a country designated by the United Nations as a nation in need you or can supply proof of some sort that your life is in physical danger or that your liberty would be constrained if you were to continue living in your country of origin, you won’t be allowed admission into Canada.

I wonder how hard it is to get the people threatening to kill or torture you to put it in writing: “To Whom This May Concern. We are planning on torturing the bearer of this note on Wednesday and all being well putting him to death on Friday. Yours Sincerely etc. etc”

If you are proven to be any sort of threat to society or there is sufficient evidence to suggest you are a potential threat through either previous associations or behaviour, you won’t be allowed in either. Sure, some people sneak through the cracks, but they will no matter what anybody does. The only way to prevent this is by forbidding people to come and visit your country completely or implanting tracking devices in all tourists.

In the end, it really doesn’t matter how the government responds. It’s all about sending messages to each other anyway. The American government is simply reminding the Canadian government of Steven Harper that they have to live up to their end of the deal and get Canada back in line with American foreign policy instead of being independent of thought like the previous government had been.

Issuing this report a day or two after agreeing to a new lumber deal was no coincidence. If you don’t give the donkey the stick soon after the carrot, he might start thinking for himself. And we can’t have that, now can we?

About Richard Marcus

Richard Marcus is the author of two books commissioned by Ulysses Press, "What Will Happen In Eragon IV?" (2009) and "The Unofficial Heroes Of Olympus Companion". Aside from Blogcritics his work has appeared around the world in publications like the German edition of Rolling Stone Magazine and the multilingual web site Qantara.de. He has been writing for Blogcritics.org since 2005 and has published around 1900 articles at the site.
  • http://nightdragon.diaryland.com Mark Edward Manning

    Richard, given that Canadian citizens rant against America in a way that would make Al Jazeera proud, it’s not surprising that some Americans may feel as if Canada is not willing to do what it takes to prevent atrocities on American territory.

    After all, you didn’t even want to be protected by the U.S. missile shield. (So, break out the bows and arrows, eh, and good luck. You’ll need it.)

    Yes, you guys fought in Afghanistan, and that is appreciated, but Iraq has caused such bad blood between these two cousins – America and Canada – that it’s going to take much time and effort to heal wounds that are still festering.

  • http://ruvysroost.blogspot.com Ruvy in Jerusalem

    Truth is, Mark, that most Americans are blithely unaware that there is a huge country to their north, one bigger than the United States. They tend to take for granted that Canada is a mere extension of the US with a different flag.

    I’m telling you this as someone who lived for several decades in the States watching others who were in blissful ignorance of the other English speaking country on the continent.

  • Steve

    It’s my understanding that the Liberals postponed making a deal on softwood lumber for their own (in retrospect) misguided political reasons. That’s why Harper chose David Emerson for his cabinet, he was close to a deal before the election and needed someone familiar with the file to resolve it quickly after the election.

  • http://jeliel3.blogspot.com JELIEL³

    MEM, not FAUGHT but still FIGHTING and Canada is also in charge of all operations in Afghanistan.

    Missile defense againts what? The Russians? gimme a break. Besides missle defense wont help a bit because your “enemy” is using gorilla tactics. Not high end war technology (And the war games played by your military showed how weak all that tech was against gorilla warfare). Also we don’t occupy countries and impose our way of life on them nor do we declare war on imaginary enemies so we’re pretty safe for now.

    We don’t need oil from anyone, we have more than the entire mid-east all to ourselves.

    We don’t see an axis of evil working to destroy democracy like in some James Bond movie either.

    But enjoy the conservative minority government red carpet while it lasts. They’ll slip up somewhere, they’ll lose confidence and we’ll go back to the polls and get, sadly, the liberals back in power.

    and I AM CANADIAN…

  • http://jeliel3.blogspot.com JELIEL³

    Actually Steve, its more that Bush and Martin hated each other more than Bush and Chrétien did. With a conservative government in power and a potential new lapdog, the deal was struck. The liberals would have holded out for all the monies that were due to us, not 80%. Harper and his cons will ass-kiss America’s admin while they can stay in power.

  • serge

    i just finish reading your comment policy you guys suck the big one youre just as bad as the goverment we have is this site funded by harper?