Canada's Emerging Role in Building 'Fortress America': Implications for Sovereignty

Article excerpt

In the first decade of the twenty-first century Canada's friendship with the United States will be severely tested. Canada's refusal to take an active, visible role in the US-led invasion of Iraq, and conflicts between President George Bush and Prime Minister Jean Chrétien created a temporary setback in relations between the two nations, yet since 9/11 the two nations have worked diligently in jointly building a protective wall of security around North America intended to prevent a reoccurrence of the devastating events of 11 September 2001. A major theme of this article is that as a consequence of 9/11, profound, unprecedented questions have arisen regarding security concerns common to Canada and the US: given the profound differences in the financial resources, areas and populations of the two nations, how can they strengthen the effectiveness of their common borders and maximise security against terrorist attacks and biological warfare while maintaining separate government and legal systems and insuring sovereignty without impeding the cross-border flow of people and goods? The first part of this article addresses these questions within the contexts of security and trade integration with the US and employment of new technologies; the second presents a series of recommendations for addressing major security issues, and the third part speculates about the future of US-Canadian relations under Paul Martin, Canada's new Prime Minister.

How can Canada and the United States keep the border open to trade while maximising security for both nations? Can they resolve mutual and competing anti-terrorist concerns while balancing security with accessibility? Canada is America's major trading partner with, in 2004, $500 billion in trade flowing between Canada and the us, a figure that far exceeds all us trade with European nations. Currently, the Ambassador Bridge which links Windsor and Detroit and is the major artery for trade between the two nations, accommodates 3.5 million annual truck crossings, which amount to 9,500 trucks each day or six trucks each minute. Experts describe the traffic on this bridge, which carries 25 per cent of us-Canada trade as 'approaching gridlock'.1 That over 80 per cent of Canada's trade is with the us, and accounts for 40 per cent of Canada's Gross Domestic Product attests to Canada's compelling need to cooperate with the us on border security. The us need for petroleum products, natural gas and electricity are increasingly being filled by Canada. According to economist Mark Kasoff, in the future increased petroleum production from Western Canada's oil sands, new natural gas transmission lines and greater hydroelectric capacity will accelerate American dependence on Canadian trade.2 Michigan plays a key role in this, the world's most extensive trading relationship, with over 60 per cent of all us-Canada border crossings occurring between Michigan and Ontario via the Ambassador Bridge, the Windsor Tunnel and the Blue Water Bridge. Moreover, Michigan ranks first among the 50 states in trade with Canada.

In the dark days following what has become known as '9/11', us trade with Canada plunged. Trucks crossing at major border locations in Michigan and New York experienced delays of 18 to 24 hours, while border crossings between the two nations dropped 90 per cent, then gradually rose as thousands of National Guard troops assisted us customs and immigration officers. Border crossings were down only fifteen per cent for the remaining three months of 2001 and less than ten per cent for the first six months of 2002. By mid-summer of 2002, border traffic had returned to normal.3 Despite this encouraging news, manufacturers of automobile equipment, machinery and suppliers on both sides of the border remain justifiably concerned about border crossing delays, which jeopardise 'just in time' delivery schedules. Such delays threaten production lines in Canada and the us, which seriously undermine both nations' international competitiveness. …

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