U.S.-Canada relations

From Academic Kids

Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau famously described Canada-United States relations as being like "sleeping with an elephant," meaning that Canada is overshadowed by its much larger neighbour and must constantly be on guard lest it be crushed. Canada and the US have long been close allies, and Canada is still of great importance to the United States, in that it is that country's largest trading partner and its guarantor of security on the long and largely undefended and indefensible border.



Relations between Canada and the United States started poorly with the American Revolution, which caused many British Loyalists in the US to flee north, and then with the US invasion, in the War of 1812, of colonial territories which would eventually form part the future country of Canada. British forces, in turn, set fire to the White House with the participation of some British North Americans (Canadians), forcing the government to paint it its current white. Americans saw Canada as territory that should and would join their union and abandon Britain, even though Canada became the new home to many United Empire Loyalists who opposed the American Revolution. In the Articles of Confederation there is an open invitation to Canada to join the United States. Most of the animosity disappeared over the 19th century, although as late as the 1930s, the United States studied plans to invade Canada in War Plan Red, albeit as a largely academic exercise.

Following co-operation in the two World Wars, Canada and the United States lost much of their previous animosity. As Britain's influence as a global superpower declined, Canada and the US became extremely close partners. Canada was a close ally of the United States during the Cold War.

The Canadian military supported the US in most major wars, including the Korean War, the Gulf War, the Kosovo War, and the War on Terror. The main exceptions to this were the Canadian government's opposition to the Vietnam War and the 2003 invasion of Iraq, which caused some brief diplomatic tensions. Despite these issues military relations have remained close.


U.S. defense arrangements with Canada are more extensive than with any other country. The Permanent Joint Board on Defense, established in 1940, provides policy-level consultation on bilateral defense matters. The United States and Canada share NATO mutual security commitments. In addition, U.S. and Canadian military forces have cooperated since 1958 on continental air defense within the framework of the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD).


Canada and the United States have the world's largest trading relationship with huge quantities of goods and people flowing across the border each year. Since the 1988 Canadian-American Free Trade Agreement there have been no tariffs on most goods passed between the two countries.

With such a massive trading relationship, trade disputes between the two countries are frequent and inevitable. American firms have complained about Canadian softwood lumber stumpage, the Canadian Wheat Board, and Canadian cultural "restrictions" on magazines and television (See CRTC, CBC and National Film Board of Canada). Canadians have complained about such things as the ban on beef since a single case of Mad Cow disease was discovered in 2003 and the high American agricultural subsidies. Concerns in Canada also run high over aspects of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) such as Chapter 11, which many worry makes it difficult for the Canadian government to protect Canada's environment.

Environmental issues

Frequently, in US-Canadian relations, environmental relations have served as the lynchpin for all other relations. This fact is due to in part to differing cultural and political emphases. The Canadian government places a higher premium on energy and the environment than the U.S. government. The two countries also work closely to resolve transboundary environmental issues, an area of increasing importance in the bilateral relationship. A principal instrument of this cooperation is the International Joint Commission (IJC), established as part of the Boundary Waters Treaty of 1909 to resolve differences and promote international cooperation on boundary waters. The Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement of 1972 is another historic example of joint cooperation in controlling transboundary water pollution. The two governments also consult semiannually on transboundary air pollution. Under the Air Quality Agreement of 1991, both countries have made substantial progress in coordinating and implementing their acid rain control programs and signed an annex on ground level ozone in 2000.

Illicit drugs

The U.S. has expressed concern that Canada is an illicit producer of cannabis for the domestic drug market; the use of hydroponics technology permits growers to plant large quantities of high-quality marijuana indoors.

In 2003 the American government became quite irate when the Canadian government announced plans to decriminalize marijuana. David Murray, an assistant to U.S. Drug Czar John P. Walters, said in a CBC interview that, "We would have to respond. We would be forced to respond." [1] (http://www.cbc.ca/story/canada/national/2003/05/02/us_pot_rxn030502.html)

Territorial Disputes

These include maritime boundary disputes with the US (Dixon Entrance, Beaufort Sea, Strait of Juan de Fuca, Machias Seal Island)

Arar affair

On September 26, 2002, U.S. officials detained on suspicion of terrorist links a Syrian-Canadian citizen named Maher Arar who had been travelling through in New York as part of a trip home to Canada from vacation in Tunisia.

Despite travelling on Canadian passport, Arar was deported to Syria, a country he had not visited since his teenage years. He was imprisoned there for over a year, during which he claims he was frequently tortured. The decision by U.S. officials to deport him to Syria, his imprisonment and torture there, and the extent of collboration between U.S. and Canadian officials became a major political issue in Canada at the time.

2003 Invasion of Iraq

According to contemporary polls, the vast majority of Canadians were opposed to the 2003 invasion of Iraq. The Canadian government under Prime Minister Jean Chrétien maintained a wait-and-see position with emphasis on UN authority, while moving military planners and ships into positions of readiness for the war against Iraq, as well as freeing US forces by sending troops to Afghanistan. It is in fact doing what it is asked by the US government in military terms, while maintaining a public stance toward the Canadian people that assumes a position of non-participation. To date 11,000 Canadian personnel have served in the War on Terror. 18 Warships have been deployed so far and Canada has led the International Security Assistance Force in Kabul by providing the largest contribution of troops and its Commander.

The Canadian Embassy in Washington, DC maintains a public relations web site named CanadianAlly.com (http://www.canadianally.com), which is intended "to give American citizens a better sense of the scope of Canada's role in North American and Global Security and the War on Terror."


Canada has been frequently criticized in U.S. media and by some U.S. politicians for its allegedly weak immigration laws, often with the implication that terrorists might succeed in entering the U.S. through Canada, as the Canada-U.S. border is more open than other entry points to the U.S.

On an April 19, 2005 airing of Hannity and Colmes, guest Newt Gingrich claimed that "far more of the 9/11 terrorists came across from Canada than from Mexico." As this was false (none of the 19 hijackers had come through Canada or Mexico) Gingrich later apologized to Canadian ambassador Frank McKenna, saying that he deeply regretted perpetuating what had become a "widespread inaccuracy."

See also


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