Canada is important American ally
British author Sir Arthur Conan Doyle raised the prestige of the lowly detective story with his fictional alter ego Sherlock Holmes. One of Holmes’ most brilliant insights concerned something which was not present. In “Silver Blaze,” a dog’s failure to bark in the night provided the crucial evidence.
Nonstop global media focus on conflict, but elements of stability significantly define our modern world. Evidence is provided by Canada Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s visit to the U.S., where he met with President Barack Obama on March 9.
The leaders emphasized agreement on climate challenges. Canada is extremely influential in international organizations.
They also traded quips regarding professional sports. Trudeau lamented the move by baseball’s Montreal Expos to Washington in 2005 to become the Nationals. Obama emphasized the National Hockey League’s Stanley Cup is held by the Chicago Blackhawks, though Trudeau quickly noted Canadian players on U.S. teams.
The close relationship with Canada was established during the enormous global struggle of World War II. Our alliance reflects the enduring “Special Relationship” between Britain and the U.S. forged during the same years.
Our history was not always close and cooperative. The Great Lakes were a principal naval battle arena during the War of 1812. Canada provided refuge and support to Confederate agents and spies during our Civil War. The fact that negative history has been so fully overcome testifies to the strength of contemporary bonds.
President John F. Kennedy summed up the Canada-U.S. relationship in an address to the Parliament in Ottawa early in 1961, noting, “Geography has made us neighbors, history has made us friends, economics has made us partners, and necessity has made us allies.” Canada’s government professionals traditionally foster cooperation with Britain and the U.S., and are heavily represented among the staffs of the United Nations, NATO and the other global intergovernmental and nongovernmental organizations.
Ditchley Park near Oxford is an extremely influential conference center born from that Anglo-American-Canadian tripartite alliance of World War II. When the focus of a meeting is the U.N., crisis intervention, economic development, international law or associated topics, Canada is invariably extremely well represented among participants.
U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill held a summit aboard naval warships off the coast of Newfoundland, Canada, in August 1941, several months before the attack on Pearl Harbor. The result was the Atlantic Charter, which explicitly proposed the United Nations.
A byproduct was vital continuous British, Canadian and U.S. scientific cooperation during and after the war. Throughout the remainder of the conflict, the post-war U.N. structure was planned in detail.
At the end of Kennedy’s 1961 visit to Canada, national security adviser McGeorge Bundy accidentally left behind a memo on which the president had scrawled a note that apparently asked how to deal with “the SOB,” meaning combative nationalist Prime Minister John Diefenbaker. An enraged Diefenbaker threatened to go to the press.
Kennedy pleaded poor penmanship, arguing he actually had meant the “OAS,” the Organization of American States. At his next press conference, he went out of his way to praise Bundy.
Diefenbaker had a loud bark, but stands out partly for that reason. Generally, heads of government in Canada have worked hard and effectively to maintain positive ties with the U.S. They include Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, Justin’s father.
Canada’s positive influence is more important than ever given growing U.S. nationalism.
Arthur I. Cyr is Clausen Distinguished Professor at Carthage College in Wisconsin and author of “After the Cold War.”