British author Sir Arthur Conan Doyle greatly enhanced the prestige of the humble crime novel with his fictional alter ego Sherlock Holmes. One of Holmes’ brightest ideas was about something that wasn’t present. In “Silver Blaze”, a dog didn’t bark.
In a sensitive case, what went unheard, what didn’t happen turned out to be the crucial evidence. Similarly, relations between Canada and the United States remain quietly strong, despite media attention to the current disruptions.
The pandemic has created many problems. Canadian truckers are protesting COVID-19 restrictions, disrupting trade in general. In response, anxious Prime Minister Justin Trudeau launched draconian reprisals, including forced arrests.
Overall, relations between Canada and the United States are far from conflict-free. President Donald Trump has criticized the Canadian dairy industry for encouraging protectionism, and that’s no accident in Wisconsin. Timber production is another source of contention.
Trump exaggerates easily. Nevertheless, he expressed long-standing differences. It is also very relevant that farmers represent powerful protectionist lobbies in most countries.
Yet our cooperative structures and practices remain intact. The Alliance with Canada was established during the enormous global struggle of the Second World War. Our partnership reflects the enduring “special relationship” between Britain and the United States forged by Prime Minister Winston Churchill and President Franklin D. Roosevelt.
Our history has not always been collaborative. The Great Lakes were a primary naval battle arena during the War of 1812. Canada provided refuge and sustenance for Confederate saboteurs and spies during our Civil War. That negative history has been overcome so fully speaks to the strength of contemporary ties.
President John F. Kennedy summed up the relationship between Canada and the United States when he addressed Parliament in Ottawa in early 1961: “Geography has made us neighbours. History has made us friends. The economy has made us partners. And necessity has made us allies.
Canadian government professionals have traditionally encouraged cooperation with Britain and the United States, while being strongly represented on the staff of the United Nations, NATO and other global intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations.
Ditchley Park near Oxford is a hugely influential conference center born out of the Anglo-American-Canadian Tripartite Alliance of World War II. When the subject of a meeting is the UN, crisis response, humanitarian assistance, international law or related topics, Canada is invariably extremely well represented among the attendees.
Roosevelt and 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, the foundation of the United Nations.
A vital by-product was British, Canadian and American scientific cooperation during and after the war. Throughout the war, the Allies planned in detail the structure of the UN. The former helped achieve victory; the latter promotes stability.
At the end of Kennedy’s visit to Canada in 1961, National Security Advisor McGeorge Bundy accidentally left behind a briefcase containing a memo where the President had scribbled a note about dealings with “the SOB”, making apparently referring to the combative nationalist Prime Minister John Diefenbaker. Diefenbaker, furious, threatened embarrassing public revenge.
Kennedy pleaded bad calligraphy, saying he actually wrote “OAS,” the Organization of American States. At his next press conference, he went out of his way to praise Bundy.
Diefenbaker barked loudly, like Trump, but so stood out. In general, Canadian leaders maintained positive ties with the United States, including Diefenbaker’s successors Lester Pearson and Pierre Trudeau.
Pierre’s son, Justin, unfortunately panicked because of the truckers’ protest. During World War II, the Prime Minister of Canada, WL Mackenzie King, avoided such displays. Churchill and Roosevelt too.
We are lucky they did.
Arthur I. Cyr is the author of “After the Cold War”. (NYU Press and Palgrave Macmillan). Contact email@example.com