I thought this post I had writen a while ago was appropriate considering our mutual long weekend of birthdays. Happy Birthday everyone on both sides of the 49th. Lets keep it an open border, eh.
Living next to the United States is a little like sleeping with an elephant. You always wonder if they will roll over on you.
When Pierre Trudeau, then Prime Minister of Canada, made that famous analogy it was during the height of the Viet Nam war. As a government and a country we refused to follow in lockstep with the American policy on suspected communist expansion. We maintained ties to Cuba (still do), the U.S.S.R. and were ahead of the Americans in visiting China. None of these independent foreign policy decisions served to make for the most friendly of relations between the two countries.
I have always been proud of Canada's willingness to steer its own course when it came to world affairs. Up until the first Gulf War we had always managed to represent ourselves as differing from our larger neighbour to the south. The primary role of our military was rescue missions and peacekeeping.
In fact it was a Canadian, Lester Pearson, who invented the concept of impartial troops intervening to separate hostile parties to ensure cease fire compliance. Somehow, somewhere this idea has fallen by the wayside, or at least out of fashion, being replaced by the more ominous sounding peace makers.
In the late eighties and early nineties our independence and integrity took a rather direct hit from a conservative government which idolized the Reagan administration. Under their helm deals were forged which effectively saw the whittling away of our few remaining sticks of sovereignty.
Foreign policy became one of the first victims (to give credit where credit is due, the sole exception to this was our willingness to keep pressure upon South Africa in face of both American and British apathy). When George Bush the 1st ascended and began his family's oil war against Iraq we said yes sir, what can we do sir?
For the first time since the Boer War of the 1900's, we were sending troops to fight someone else's war. Unlike Korea where we were part of a U.N. force, here we were simply party to an American war of aggression.
Aside from the damage this did to our reputation in the developing world, the worst result was that it wiped out the memory of thirty some years of independent foreign policy. Our participation in Gulf War 1 seemed to be the precedent ensuring a no questions asked compliance guarantee on our part in all future American adventures.