Old friends are the best friends. You can disagree with an old friend and know that it’s not going to harm your relationship. An old friend understands you well enough that explanations aren’t usually necessary. An old friend forgives your mistakes and celebrates your triumphs. There is no greater treasure then having an old friend.
The United States of America is one of Canada’s oldest friends. We’ve been side by side since before both countries were born. When we were both British colonies we fought together to unify the continent under one flag. After you seceded we fought to stay friends.
For the past 138 years we have lived a peaceful coexistence. Once our sovereignty was assured you have supported our independence and helped us find our feet. If you look at the history of other countries who share a common border our record is exemplary. We have never had a war between our two countries. (There was no Canada in 1812-1814, that was a colony in the British empire not us)
What too many of us on both sides of the border forget too often are the amazing things that we have accomplished together. For the longest time we have maintained the longest undefended border in the world, where our citizens have been able to freely cross over into each other’s countries and visit. The world being what it is I think it a testimony to our two peoples that we have been able to maintain this as long as we have.
The realities of our current world situation have forced changes upon us. No one may like them, but longer lines at the border are a minor inconvenience if they save lives. The fact that we are still trying to make the system work better, without either side behaving in an arbitrary manner over the issue, only proves the strength of our friendship.
We may do this differently on either side of the 49th parallel but we each have the same goal. To make our citizens as happy and comfortable as possible. Sometimes this will cause a dispute because our means will come into conflict, but we always seem to be able to work out our differences.
Once in a while we feel slighted because we think our feelings our being ignored. But the reality is that your concerns are not always the same as ours. But if you don’t think of us first, you always remember us in the end. Besides we always say that we are independent nations, so if you act that way, it only sounds petulant to complain.
Like any smaller friend with a larger buddy we have a bit of an inferiority complex when it comes to you. If a Canadian wants to become truly famous he or she has to go south with a treasured green card and then we will claim them as our own. Our small stature also explains the perverse pride we take in anything we best you in. Even if it is in something the majority of you have never heard of or understand like curling (frankly most Canadians have no understanding of it either, but let’s keep that a secret)
Some of our rituals must seem strange to you. Saturday night hockey games, three down professional football, the aforementioned curling, and the fact that every five years or so one of our provinces tries to separate. The simple fact of the matter is that we have really long winters where there is nothing else to do. We drink our stronger beer and come up with these idiotic ideas.
Sometimes it feels like you see us as a rather idealistic younger sibling who’s eyes need to be opened to the harsh realities of the world. While we in turn look on you as our big strong brother who needs to lighten up a bit. We poke fun at your lack of knowledge of our country, while deep down we realize that since we’ve never done anything of real consequence why should you care.
There are some Canadians who feel we should scrape and bow to you. When you say jump we say how high. But that’s not been our history with each other. Like all good friends we’ve always respected the other’s right to independent thought.
If sometimes we sound harshly critical, either us of you, or you of us, it’s only because of disappointment. Oh there are those on either side of the border who may feel otherwise, who would stir up bad feelings between us, but they are such a small minority that they are insignificant. Even in times of major disagreement it’s about the current political situation not the countries themselves.
Looking back through the history of man, I don’t think it would be possible to find two other countries who have created the unique situation our two have. Existing as long as we have as neighbours without conflict is a remarkable achievement that should never be taken for granted. Neither of us give ourselves the credit we deserve for being able to make this work even in the most difficult of circumstances.
The friendship between our two countries is something that should always be treasured and fought for. As with any good relationship to continue working we need to always be open and honest about the issues that are bothering us. We need to have the faith that our friendship can withstand any disagreement. It has done so in the past so there is no reason to doubt it will in the future.
At this time in our mutual history, when we seem to be having a more difficult time of it, I think it behoves us all to go that extra mile in ensuring the hand of friendship stays extended. On that note I would like to take this opportunity to wish Canada’s oldest friend and ally a happy 229th birthday. May you have many more.