A Running Family Feud - Canada and the United States Share a Common Border and Similar Problems. They Have Also Come to Each Other's Assistance, as Exemplified by an Unforgettable Story from the Iran Hostage Crisis

By Herschensohn, Bruce | The World and I, May 2003 | Go to article overview

A Running Family Feud - Canada and the United States Share a Common Border and Similar Problems. They Have Also Come to Each Other's Assistance, as Exemplified by an Unforgettable Story from the Iran Hostage Crisis


Herschensohn, Bruce, The World and I


There was a time when most citizens of the United States thought that Canada was the country where Nelson Eddy wore the striking red uniform of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, had a great hat, and sat on a horse singing love songs to Jeanette MacDonald. That was a long time ago.

Since those days, our feelings about Canada have moved beyond Hollywood's perception of the country situated above the expansive northern border of the United States. In the years that have passed since then, we have recognized Canada as a magnificent companion on the North American continent, building a relationship that is probably the closest in the world between two countries.

In most years, more than 200 million citizens of the two countries pass through the common border. The equivalent of $1.4 billion a day is traded between us. For the past 45 years, we have cooperated on air defense through the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD). We are both members of NATO, the Organization of American States, the North American Free Trade Agreement, and the annual G-8 Summit. We share hydropower facilities, and Canada provides some 16 percent of U.S. oil imports. In short, the United States and Canada have massive bonds.

Aches and pains

Like families, both nations have aches and pains they share. Before getting to the major pains, we should mention some of the minor aches we have in common: disputes over environmental issues (because the air can't help but travel over borders) and fishing rights (because we share the ocean's rim). Over past years, those kinds of disputes have come and gone again and again, with most of them being settled with treaties or other agreements.

The major pains have been quite different. They are described here.

* Canada has a policy of economic engagement with Castro's government, while the United States maintains an economic embargo of Cuba. In 1996 the U.S. Helms-Burton Act was passed, barring anyone from doing business with Cuba. Canada then passed the Foreign Extraterritorial Measures Act, which prohibited its citizens from observing the Helms- Burton Act. Although the issue has never been resolved, neither the United States nor Canada has enforced its laws against the other nation's practices.

* Canada supports the United Nations' International Criminal Court (ICC). The U.S. government argues that giving such power to the ICC could be a threat to the national sovereignty of any country. The United States will not become a party to the court because it could be placed before the court for politically motivated accusations if it were a member.

* Canada advocates the Mine Ban Treaty, which the United Sates endorses in philosophy but not in practice, as it would further endanger South Korea and its 37,000 U.S. troops.

* The largest current dispute is over border security. Our common border has been so porous that it is of little consequence. Since September 11, 2001, U.S. officials have become more concerned that foreigners can easily enter Canada through its inviting immigration laws and then can cross that porous border into the United States.

These disputes are not like environmental or fishing quarrels. They are not easily solved by drawing a line on a map, signing an agreement, or shaking hands. These more serious disagreements involve international philosophy. Some may be solved by future events or even the passage of time. Let's consider the four just mentioned.

* Castro can't live forever. Cuba can go the way of eastern Europe into freedom if its citizens recognize that their pauperization is a result of the communist system Castro enforced, made worse by the death of their old benefactor, the Soviet Union.

* The United Nations is losing U.S. and international credibility. The ICC may be rejected by many if a decision is based on political partiality rather than the purity of a judicial foundation. …

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