Sovereignty, to believers, has always been an absolute. Defenders of national sovereignty have no time for shades of sovereignty, let alone something as absurd as a sovereignty with which you can be associated, as in ”œsovereignty-association.” The word, after all, defines the authority of a sovereign, an absolute monarch.

An authoritative academic definition is:

A single, unified entity, confined within territorial borders, ruled by an authority that holds supremacy in advancing the interests of the polity. Originally held by kings, later by the people…ruling through a constitution. The modern polity is known as the state, and the funda- mental characteristic of authority within it, sovereignty.

A contemporary definition would add to this that sovereignty is also about the defence of values, or Canadians’ reputed enthusiasm for ”œpeace, order and good govern- ment,” versus the American quest for ”œlife, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”

The Peace of Westphalia, which marked the end of the Thirty Years War, is often seen as the foundation of the pre- vailing national security ”œred lines”: prohibitions on nonintervention and territorial aggression. The treaties that made that peace, the crown jewels of European statecraft, were in fact much more subtle bargains between states, big and small, setting rules that transcended national boundaries and standards of behaviour within them. The treaties were also an early free trade deal, ending the years of military bar- riers to cross-border commerce.

Whether a claim of absolute sovereignty is enforceable and meaningful depends entirely on who is making it. The British Empire’s ability to enforce its claim of sovereign interest in China was amply demonstrated when warships on the Pearl and Huangpu Rivers pounded the symbols of Chinese authority into submission. Nicaraguan screams of protest about the abuse of its sovereign integrity were less successful in response to American-backed Contra rebel raids on its territory.

Sovereignists argue there is a distinction between a volun- tary agreement and one imposed by another state. Yet how genuinely free was North Korea, the ”œdefinition of autarchy,” to abrogate its relationships with Communist China without risking the collapse of the state?

Canadian nationalists trying to ring-fence our sovereignty are engaged in an especially ironic struggle, given their citizenship in the nation that invented the modern, more supple form of sovereignty: federalism. Those who are most determined to draw deeper lines in the ongoing crusade against American encroachment on our national sovereignty are often the strongest advocates of Canada’s leader- ship in the development of global gov- ernance through multilateral institutions. The contradiction reveals less about their convictions
about sovereignty than about their plain vanilla anti- Americanism.

Richard Gwyn, in his groundbreaking biography of Sir John A. Macdonald, traces the roots of this essential gene of the Canadian DNA with great ele- gance and some irony. The unsavoury battle for power between the states, followed by the chaos of the Civil War, the bitter legacy of the Loyalists and the unseemly consequences of unlanded peasants being permit- ted to vote, all contributed to Macdonald’s, and most Canadians’, horror at the messy vulgarity of American democracy.

His political war stories paint a portrait of the hypocrisy that has marked Canadian attitudes toward ”œour American cousins” since long before the nation was born. From Macdonald’s extensive network of American rela- tions, to the fervent nationalist D’Arcy McGee’s bitterness at his career failure in New England, to Maritimers’ great love of empire and greater love of Yankee trade, Gwyn paints a portrait of Canadian ambiguity about the mag- netism of American power and, above all, capital.

Gwyn recounts how powerful American ambition was as a driver of Confederation. From the designs on the Red River colony by Minnesotans, to the ”œFifty-four Forty or Fight” threat to the Vancouver Island and British Columbia settlements and the flank- ing purchase of Alaska in the same year as Confederation, the prospect that British North America would dis- appear into ”œthe inevitability of America’s manifest destiny” was real for much of the 19th century.

Macdonald is distressed to see, dur- ing his triumphal London Confederation visit, how eager the British political establishment was to be rid of the burden of its North American colonies. Gwyn also debunks the prospect that the British navy would have sailed to Canada’s defence in the event of an American military adven- ture against the empire’s Canadian sub- jects. It would have been an impossible military project to defend Toronto, Montreal or Victoria against a deter- mined American attack. By 1867, America’s Civil War armies numbered in the hundreds of thousands, versus the few thousand militia and Indian allies of the British and Canadian forces in 1812.

Yet then, as now, Canada’s eco- nomic destiny lay in north-south trade. At its height, our trade with the empire was overshadowed four to one by our economic ties with the US. While our relations with the dominant continental power have never been as bitter as Mexico’s, they share some of the same hypocrisies and myths.

We lost slivers of territory ”” Maine, the Alaska panhandle headwa- ters, Point Roberts ”” in British deals with the United States. Mexico lost Texas, California and much more. We rage about occasional restrictions on Canadian beef, potato and salmon exports Mexico is humiliated by the export annually of tens of thousands of its young to American farms and domestic service.

We share with Mexico an adolescent sullenness about American power and our necessary bargain with it, how- ever. Mexico allows its oil and gas industry to slowly fade into corruption, decrepitude and national disgrace rather than letting American investment sully its ”œnational sovereignty.” Canada shelters its banking oli- garchy against American com- petition, while encouraging Canadian bankers to acquire US financial assets. Mexico’s oil industry, like Canada’s banks, has slipped into near obscurity as a global player as a result. The inadequacy of sover- eignty as a guarantor of nation- al values and ambitions was starkly obvious to the European victors of the Second World War. Not only could you not eat your national sovereignty in a time of famine, but enforcing its claims against another war-ravaged neighbour was equally meaningless.

For Canadians who wring their hands over further abuse of our sov- ereignty in a North American politi- cal system, consider the postwar graveyard that was western Europe. A mess of cultures, religions, lan- guages and bloody histories, reeling from the second devastating war in two generations. A complex of nations more steeped in hatred and enmity because of the cruelties they had inflicted on one another than any in modern times, on the conti- nent that invented the modern con- cept of sovereignty.

Imagine the vision, the courage and imagination that it took in the harsh winter of European famine of 1947-48 for two powerless French statesmen to sit in a Paris café and begin to plan for a united Europe! Both of them Resistance veterans, Robert Schuman was a camp survivor, Jean Monnet a key intermediary between Charles de Gaulle and Churchill. They reflected grimly on ”œthe success of the victorious Allied powers” in Europe.

The continent was being savaged by Soviet armies in the east and staggered under starvation in the west. The only European unity any rational person could foresee was a shared visceral hatred of Germany and everything it had stood for. The miracle that was the Marshall Plan was still in the future. Germany was a decade away from its economic leap forward. England, torn by its loss of empire, with its special relationship with the United States and its eternal ambivalence about Europe, was unreliable.

Only a few years later, a little more than half a century ago, Finance Minister Monnet and Prime Minister Schuman were instrumental in changing the course of European and world his- tory. With Canadian, British and Belgian support, they helped mould NATO into a genuinely transatlantic partnership. The Marshall Plan became the foundation for the world’s first modern free trade agreement ”” the European Coal and Steel Community.

Only a decade later, NATO had grown into the world’s most formi- dable military and political alliance, and the European Coal and Steel Community had become the European Economic Community (EEC), soon to unite the 12 most powerful economies in Europe.

As Canadians contemplate a world once again cleaving into economic power blocs, we might reflect on the wisdom and guts it took to conceive such a vision from so bitter a starting point. To have persuaded French citi- zens, veterans of two humiliating defeats at the hands of a millennial enemy, that they had to join hands with the despised Germans in rebuild- ing the glory of Europe seems today almost inconceivable.

Canada is not prostrated and vio- lated France. And America is not Germany.

Yet the wisdom of those European fathers should beckon, for our 21st – century reality holds much in common with their postwar nightmare. First, Europe itself is now united, powerful and focused on raising the newest members of its club to the economic success of western Europe. For many years to come its 300-million-strong economic engine will be absorbed by that task and by an increasingly threatening Russia to the east, and by the Maghrib and Africa to the south. They will not soon be open to new trade rela- tionships with Canada, the United States or any other competitor.

Asia may or may not follow Europe’s success in building a regional political and military network of institutions, to match its growing economic integration. The hatreds among Japan, Korea, China and Taiwan remain raw. So far, no Asian Monnet or Schuman is on the horizon. Asians will, however, be united in build- ing their national economic fortresses in developing intra-Asian trade, and in pre- serving access to the American market. Our declining relevance to Asia is docu- mented daily by Canada’s Asia Pacific Foundation, which has for years pleaded with government and industry to build better beachheads in the one booming arena of the global economy, so far to lit- tle avail.

For better or for worse, our economic future is bound increasingly tightly to our access to and competitiveness in the United States. Such a mutual eco- nomic dependency ”” especially one grounded in strategic commodities such as oil and gas ”” brings with it a political intimacy we have not developed the institutions to manage. The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) panels demonstrate how far we have yet to go. Endless victories in the softwood lumber dispute could not deliver a politi- cal solution that even a cooperative US administration might want.

How then does Canada preserve what we treasure about ourselves while guaranteeing access? How do we move to a new level of shared decision-mak- ing on the continent? How do we manage mounting tensions with an increasingly security-anxious, trade- irritated America? By transforming the relationship into one anchored in an ongoing dialogue between partners in mature political institutions.

A review of this global regional inte- gration process and the path oth- ers have followed is instructive. Scholars of the shifting landscape of sovereignty in the second half of the 20th century identify three distinct phases in the shape-shift from nation-state to continental partner.

The first is ”œdomestic preference formation,” or national policy demands. Social interest groups, the media, academe and/or governments appeal for cross-border integration to battle acid rain, drugs and guns, or refugees. This voluntary curtailment of absolute sovereignty often elicits protest from the right, as with the col- lapse of the Bush initiative to harmo- nize and humanize flows of illegal Mexican immigrants. To the chagrin of nationalist critics on the left, it is usual- ly businesses and their champions who call for integration of transportation, border access and commerce standards.

The second phase is dubbed ”œinterstate bargaining.” The European integration process and our own free trade agreements demonstrate that regional cooperation deals are usually the result of ”œasymmetrical interde- pendence” because, as in the defences of traditional sovereignty, power and scale matter in economic negotiations. The outcomes of this bargaining are shaped by the power of the states involved. But a smaller partner who brings to the table assets that are essen- tial to the stronger player can shift the balance. As the Canadian veterans of the Free Trade Agreement (FTA) negoti- ations have recorded in detail (in Policy Options and elsewhere), there are usu- ally only three determinants of inter- state bargaining power:

  • The threat of the consequences of failure: The European partners’ acquiescence to the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) ”” a pol- icy that has always delivered greater benefits to inefficient French farmers ”” was driven by fear of a stillborn EEC. American acceptance of Canadian FTA nego- tiating brinkmanship was similarly conditioned by the value of the Canadian market and its strategic commodities, as well as the politi- cal costs of failure to the Reagan administration.

  • Alternative partners and deals: The threat of exclusion or deals with different partners also disci- plines the parties. Britain swal- lowed the CAP, even more repugnant to its public and to pol- icy-makers than it was to its signa- tories, as the price of admission. Canada is in the unfortunate posi- tion of not being able to credibly cite an alternative partner or deal. Even something so improbable as a Canada-China trade deal, for example, would provoke only yawns in Washington.

  • Trade-offs and issue linkage: Crudely put ”” ”œYou want our oil, we want open access for our cars and capital.” America is disad- vantaged here as secure alterna- tive suppliers of oil and gas are non-existent.

The third phase of integration is the creation of supranational institutions, bodies that, once established, tend to make cooperation and further integra- tion more likely, because they deliver:

  • Reduced negotiation transaction costs: Once the procedures for negotiations and dispute resolu- tion are in place, they make future deals cheaper and faster. Building on the foundation of precedent and familiarity eases the path to greater integration.

  • Public credibility and political comfort: Though Canadians and Americans are not yet at the stage where integration is inevitable, as Europeans are, we have made large advances in recent years. Selling the idea of cross-border security standards, for example, will not be easy, but it is possible today. It would not have been pre-FTA.

If the process of European integra- tion is any guide to our own, and clearly it is, then the next chapter in our travel down this road is entitled ”œdemocracy.” The European Council of Ministers, made up of ministers from the member governments, formed their first inter- governmental decision-making body. It was quickly supplemented by a ”œcivil service,” the European Commission, and the first deputed national bureaucrats soon morphed into the transnational Eurocrats of today.

A European Parliament of deputed national MPs was similarly replaced by directly elected European parliamen- tarians. A rubber-stamp institution for many years, it has recently become a genuinely empowered supranational parliament, with control over large budgets and a large slice of formerly national regulatory powers.

In October 2007, European leaders agreed to the creation of a president of Europe for the first time, as part of a new set of treaty agreements further binding the largest assembly of nation- al power, spread across more territory, into one supranational entity since the Roman Empire. As any visitor to Europe today can attest, national cul- tural identities continue to prevail. Most would choose France as having the best food in the world, but not so many as a home for a venture capital start-up. Italians continue to exhibit the most beguiling lifestyle choices on the planet, but you wouldn’t want to be a foreigner in a legal battle there.

North American integration is stuck somewhere between the forma- tion of the European Coal and Steel Community and the early six-nation Common Market stage of political development. It would be suicide for any politician in Canada or the United States to suggest for North America a common mock legislature, such as the European Parliament was for decades, let alone a common currency or a shared central bank or legal system.

It will not be easy to persuade America that it needs to extend its view of nationhood to one of partnership, not dominance. Yet nearly half a centu- ry ago, a cabinet-level Canada-US joint committee was struck to address mutu- al issues. It met in the early part of the Cold War in Washington and Ottawa. It brought politicians from each side, usually cabinet members, to the table to consider security and trade issues that had ramifications beyond bureau- cratic regulation. Allan MacEachen and George Shultz created quarterly foreign minister summits. Brian Mulroney cre- ated annual summits between presi- dent and prime minister. Sadly, none survived the anti-American tilt of the Chrétien years.

Canada’s ”œscreen space” in Washington has shrunk so badly that we now compete with all of Europe for attention in the State Department, where Canada was folded into the Latin American division some years ago. The efforts of the Canadian Embassy, our many of consulates, provincial representatives and business groups rarely impinge on American political decision-making. As Brian Mulroney made clear in his memoirs, absent any other forum, endless nagging phone calls and visits are the only means a Canadian prime minister has to move an American administration. He was notably suc- cessful on free trade and acid rain, but most other Canadian initiatives simply disappear in the vast complex machin- ery of legislation, lobbying and executive power that is the US government.

Most Canadians are unaware of the binational NAFTA panels that rule, however feebly, on softwood lumber and dozens of other trade disputes. Even fewer have heard of the Canada- US International Joint Commission, which for nearly a century has man- aged our shared rivers, lakes and other water boundaries. Yet in these forums, and in some even more obscure ones, an increasingly wide web of decisions and precedents is being generated entirely outside of Canadian or American democratic oversight. Would not some democratic access to this process of integration be in the interests of Canadians?

There is no Canadian input into many decision-making processes that have a huge impact here. Among the most significant is the burgeoning role of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). Since the onset of the Sarbanes-Oxley regime on corporate governance, Canadian public compa- nies have basically governed themselves by the same rules that govern compa- nies listed on American exchanges. The reason is simple: US investors, highly valued by Canadian companies, demand it.

The unearned bonus for many Canadian businesses ”” the weakness of our dollar ”” is now biting those same firms badly. As Tom Courchene, one of the sages of Canadian and Canada-US governance issues, asks, ”œHow long do we think the US is going to accept the prospect of another 35 cent gain ”” or collapse ”” in the relative values of our two currencies?”A long-time advocate of a pegged or shared currency, Courchene also wonders why we would want to endure such volatility ourselves.

To paraphrase the foolishly jingoistic ChaptersIndigo slo- gan, most Canadians would agree that ”œAmerica needs more Canada.” Our collective sancti- mony is that more Canadian content in American life would be a civilizing tonic for our neighbours. Yet our same Canadian xenophobes would be horrified at the suggestion that the reverse is also true.

The FunctionaryThere’s a lot going on in the public service.

Stay in the know with veteran reporter Kathryn May. Sign up for routine and out-of-the-ordinary news about the public service with The Functionary, our new newsletter.

Yet surely it is the case. Like many countries that are neigh- bours and have similar cultures and his- tories, the US and Canada fill the gaps in each other’s stories. Americans’ mythology values individual preroga- tive to the detriment of community; ours restricts personal achievement as a requirement of community. They have always granted force too large a role in dispute resolution; we exalt the weakest peaceful compromise as necessarily bet- ter. Their mythology disparages govern- ment, ours wealth. And so on, ad tedium.

Like most countries that have long shared a border, culture and history, we resemble an aging couple, celebrating our endless squabbles over trivia. Canadians rarely champion our joint achievements or our common values, preferring to pick at the scars of old battles, grinding our teeth as the clichéd narcissists of the small difference.

This cruel exchange, allegedly between two American blacks driving north, by a Canadian comedy writer, sums up our fears of Americans’ view of us: ”œHow do you know when you’ve crossed the Canadian border? When all of a sudden you’re surrounded by nothing but boring white guys!” Most Americans would be surprised to learn that Canada is one of the most success- ful multiracial societies in the world.

And this joke, a favourite of an American friend, deliciously sums up our mutual stereotypes: ”œAn American aircraft carrier commander spots an alien vessel in his path and orders it to give way. The Canadian commander politely declines, saying he regrets he cannot comply. The American threatens to run right over him if he doesn’t move immediately. The foreigner says deferentially, ”œI wouldn’t recommend that, sir. We’re a lighthouse, on an island…”

It has been less than a decade since the long-anticipated explosion of Asian economic power finally became a reali- ty. The threat that many thought Japan represented in the 1980s is trivial com- pared with the wrenching global eco- nomic transformation that China, India and the tiger economies of East Asia are requiring us to adjust to. The dislocation to Europe that America’s manufacturing ascendancy imposed took decades to absorb. Canada and the United States now face many difficult years trying to adjust to a world domi- nated by Asian economic advance.

A second reality that Canada did not adequately digest when it hit, and is already foolishly overconfident about its ability to manage, is American paranoia over security issues. Many Canadians failed to understand the trauma that 9/11 represented for America as it unfolded, and they still discount today its ongoing power over that country’s psyche. It is not only the loss of life or even the hor- ror of a real-time televised attack that continues to reverberate in American consciousness. It is the rape victim’s sense of violation, the fragile hope by the brutalized survivor of a vicious home invasion that there won’t be a repetition.

It is a cliché that such traumas are more devastating for the powerful than for the pow- erless. When a secure self-image and confidence of one’s prima- cy in the world are shattered so suddenly, without forewarning, recovering a stable equilibrium can take years and is interrupt- ed by regular aftershocks.

Canadians have never endured the horror of a bloody civilian attack and the massive loss of life. We should be more careful about judging that our virtue pro- tects us, or in ascribing responsibility or blame to another victim.

Thorvald Stoltenberg, a veteran Nordic statesman, once said dismis- sively: ”œYou North Americans are never serious about international power, the use of force, and its obliga- tions. No nation is, until it has been bombed or invaded.” I used to protest that we Canadians and Americans had our own battle scars. Now every Amer- ican understands Stoltenberg’s distinc- tion. Canadians, in their development of security policy partnerships with the United States, need to try harder to understand his point.

What to us seem like ridiculous and even insulting suggestions about border security need to be viewed through this lens of personal violation and humiliation. The Americans’ obsession with anti-missile defence will not abate, as long as the image of airliners as missiles is seared in their memory.

These twin realities, Asian eco- nomic pressure and American security angst, have changed the relationship between Canada and the United States, if not permanently, then for most of our lifetimes. The comfortable, shared postwar mythology about two benign neighbours, united rather than divided ”œby the world’s longest unde- fended border,” is gone.

Even the relatively happy ”œnew normal” of the years of the FTA and NAFTA is coming to an end. We will move forward into new forms of wider, deeper partnership or we will slide inexorably backwards into a more typ- ical fractious trade and political rela- tionship. This is also one of the lessons of the European unity experiment of the past half-century. The tendency to parochialism, to return to the comfort of ”œLittle England” protectionism, can be successfully challenged only by constantly broadening, deepening and opening barriers.

As the American-owned auto sec- tor slides further and further behind its Asian competitors, we would be fool- ish to think that even NAFTA will keep protectionist sclerosis from setting in once more. Canadian plant closures will inevitably outpace those in America ”” Canadian workers don’t elect American politicians. As good blue-collar jobs continue to dribble away from this continent, Canada would be foolish to think that some American anger won’t sideswipe Canadian steel, textile or telecommu- nication-jobs.

And then there is energy. It is the sector that fuses American anxieties about security and economic compet- itiveness. It’s clear that the next American president, whoever it might be, will have energy independence as a high policy priority. This is a mixed blessing for Canada. Sure, we are pumping out billions in revenues from booming oil sands projects. Newfoundland and the Northwest Territories have huge oil and gas futures. But America’s energy hunger is one of the few political and eco- nomic aces we hold.

If we openly threaten to close the oil tap, or even hint at using it as a bar- gaining chip in other disputes, the con- sequences would be profound. We would move from having the status of a trusted ally to having that of a Vladimir Putin, from the status of energy partner to one akin to that represented by Hugo Chavez. We need a political framework in which to combine energy decisions, along with the environment and trade and security managed together, as a shared agenda between nations joined in a common institution.

Despite the wide-ranging NAFTA- led integration of standards and regulations on investment, food and pharmaceutical products, safety and the tens of thousands of other rules that govern a modern economy, Canada and the US have a long way to go to create the seamless economic space that Europeans have built for their traders. We have barely started to give our businesses the political pro- tection that economic space requires to be secure.

Each of these arenas ”” the economy, monetary policy, energy, security policy, the environment, and standards and regulations ”” needs an injection of political will, probably from the Canadian side first, to avoid a slow slide back into debilitating squabbles. For Canada to maximize its negotiating leverage, the files need to be considered as parts of a single ongoing agenda. We usually lose when we fight single bilater- al battles with US special interests.

The quality of air, water and food in our two countries is impossible to guarantee without high lev- els of agreed standards and enforcement. Those tasks today, whether they are car- bon emissions standards, food labelling and inspec- tion or even liability assess- ment, are the responsibility of the usual patchwork of policies and agencies. Again, a shared institution with offi- cials nominated by each partner, oper- ating under common political management, would surely serve both nations.

Then there are the areas where we could bring our greater expertise to American benefit and they bring theirs to us. Our venture capital markets are notoriously weak; theirs are the most productive in the world. Imagine a generation of Canadian entrepreneurs with equivalent access to that capital and expertise, under an integrated set of investment and taxation treatments.

Where we jointly benefit by coop- eration, we need to strengthen the institutions to deliver it. Where we have differences and serious divisions over values ”” refugee policy, for exam- ple ”” we need decision-making struc- tures that are open to the scrutiny of all our citizens.

What do we bring to the table as the smaller, weaker partner in such a bold vision of continental partner- ship? Not surprisingly, at the top of the list are our resources. Some Canadian nationalists may wince at the prospect of using our patrimony of ”œrocks and trees” as a political lever. Why is it more prudent to simply sell them at commodity prices as opposed to gain- ing future political and economic secu- rity from them?

If American capital and, yes, a per- centage of equity ownership as part of the price would permit the develop- ment of new hydro facilities in Manitoba, on the Albany River in Ontario and on the Lower Churchill in Labrador, generating billions in long- term revenue for Canadians and secure electricity for Canadians and Americans for a generation, why not?

There is a missing partner here, of course. It is economically and political- ly the weakest of the three North American states. Mexico City’s rela- tions with Washington today remain closer to suppressed hostility than to partnership. American-Mexican fric- tion over drugs, immigration, invest- ment and culture rules out the kind of high-level political integration being advocated here. But a two-tier partner- ship between the three partners is not impractical. The European Union (EU) has had an inner and outer circle of integration from inception. Today its Euro currency members make up less than half of the EU as a whole.

Advocates of Canada’s very differ- ent view of international relations might be appalled at the suggestion that our sovereignty on global issues would be submerged by American interests. They need not worry. Canada’s sharply different stance on Cuba, the ”œresponsibility to protect,” the ban on the use of land mines, the Law of the Sea, the International Court and a dozen other areas of for- eign policy means that our distinctive- ness is not at risk in a more integrated political relationship with the world’s superpower.

France refused to allow American military facilities on its soil; Germany, Italy and the UK welcomed them. Germany refused to permit American investment in the finance sector; the UK welcomed it. Spain has always had the closest relations with Cuba outside the Communist world; the rest of the EU has been much cooler. Even after 50 years of partnership, the core members of the EU continue to conduct very different foreign policies.

Canadian confusion over security sovereignty has long verged on rank hypocrisy in the eyes of our other NATO partners. In the early 1960s, Washington asked Canada to accept nuclear missiles on our territory as part of the quick response strategy of nuclear deterrence against the Soviet Union. John Diefenbaker exploded in nationalist indignation. When Lester Pearson called Dief’s bluff, he was right. He knew that we had long ago ceded much sovereignty to NORAD where defence of the continent was concerned. American B-52 bombers loaded with nuclear weapons had been patrolling Canadian airspace 24 hours a day for more than a decade. The DEW line, American-controlled radar stations strung across northern Canada, where Canadian and US com- manders could track and call for an attack on incoming Soviet bombers, represented a loss of security sover- eignty that was at least equivalent to that represented by the dual-control Bomarc missiles that the US suggested should supplement the existing defence system.

Today nationalists’ anxiety about American security doctrine is about missile defence. Consider the practical limitations on our ability to forestall such an American deployment under the existing terms of partnership. First, the US has already deployed the first generation of a missile defence system in Alaska, only a few kilometres from Canadian waters. The ”œStar Wars” engineers successfully shot down a simulated enemy missile in September, and declared the first-generation system operational a few days later. It will be deployed even if, like inter- continental ballistic missile technology, it takes decades to perfect.

Following the deployment of the next systems in eastern Europe, the US has signalled it wants a similar anti-ballistic missile (ABM) base in the eastern Arctic. If Canada says no, the base would likely end up in Thule, Greenland, again only a few kilometres off our coast. In which case, American commanders alone will make the decision about which missiles to attack over Canada. Evidently this is preferable to Canada having a political and military voice in such a decision. Why?

If we accepted the logic of jointly controlled radar tracking of missile attacks on our soil 50 years ago, with the necessary corollary that a counter- attack over our territory was likely, why would we respond differently to today’s security threats? How is it preferable to deprive our commanders and political leadership of a say ”” admittedly, a limited and unequal say ”” in decisions over the use of nuclear force over Canada?

Many security analysts are philo- sophically opposed to the very con- cept of anti-missile defence, arguing it relaunches a strategic arms race that the end of the Cold War put to rest. Even if one were of that convic- tion, how could a deeper political integration between our countries deliver a more humiliating decision- making process about security policy than the one the Chrétien-Martin governments inflicted on our bilater- al relations? Having hinted for more than a decade that Canada would agree to some limited form of ABM participation, having permitted high- level defence negotiations to move forward for all those years and encouraged Canadian aerospace com- panies to negotiate their roles as sup- pliers, the Canadian government then almost stealthily announced it was backing out. The Americans were blindsided and furious.

Sympathetic insiders say the problem was that there was no forum in which politicians could openly discuss the Canadian public’s strong opposition to anti-missile defence, except at the presidential and prime ministerial level, and successive lead- ers were hesitant to establish such a forum for fear of appearing weak. There is no guarantee that a forum that regularly brought together Canadian ministers or members of Parliament expert in security affairs with their peers in the US govern- ment and Congress would produce a common understanding of domestic political risk or security doctrine.

Recent American obduracy on securi- ty policy issues could make even the optimist hesitant about the impact of even a joint cabinet-level dia- logue, but what is the downside?

The next security policy collision will be about the use of our Arctic waters by American submarines and commercial vessels. All the elements of another humiliation similar to that of the hapless Martin government’s han- dling of missile defence are in place. Americans are not sensitive to our deep conviction that these are Canadian waters and territory. Privately, they point out that we have turned a blind eye for more than 30 years to the secret passage of American and Soviet subs, so why are we being so hypocritical now? If we are security partners, why should the US need permission to secure these waters, when the Canadian Navy patently cannot secure them?

Absent a higher-level political dialogue, this potentially highly damag- ing test of our relationship will have only one outcome ”” a highly damag- ing one for Canadian pride not to mention Canadian sovereignty: the US will send a ship through the Northwest Passage openly and without permis- sion, just as it did with the USS Manhattan two decades ago. From an American security policy perspective, it cannot permit Canada to prohibit US passage when the Russians have demonstrated they will make use of these waters, Canadian permission be damned. Now add American liquefied natural gas tankers moving Alaskan offshore gas through Canadian Arctic water to the policy stew!

Surely a policy process that involves Canadian and American politicians sen- sitized to each other’s domestic political realities, personally committed by years of shared decision-making, capable of assessing the broad range of interests and risks impacted by each choice is preferable. Today, the issues are debated at moments of crisis, in brief high-stress encounters, between leaders anxious not to appear weak to their own publics.

Our current disingenuousness about security issues is not part of our tradition. As the Allies plotted strategy in the Second World War, Canada was a near- peer, with Winston Churchill and Franklin Roosevelt meeting Prime Minister W.L. Mackenzie King in Quebec City in August 1943 and September 1944. Charles Ritchie and Lester Pearson played key roles in pushing the United States into a more genuine transatlantic security treaty when NATO was formed. Canada was among those that convinced the United States that it would create greater stability internally if military and political roles were separated and if decision- mak- ing were shared more widely. The United States still had a veto, but others won greater voice and restraining power.

A commitment to shared responsi- bility for the governance of the conti- nent must be the foundation. It would be a change in our view of ourselves and our neighbours no less jarring than the decision by the Italians and the English to drop their mutual sneers as the price of prosperity. New political institutions capable of fostering this new ethic must lay the groundwork. The outlines of the task on economic and security policy have been well defined in the work by John Manley and a team of Canadians and Americans at the Council on Foreign Relations. Their 2005 report was unfairly dismissed by most of the Canadian political establishment.

A jointly elected assembly may be a distant institutional project, but the Europeans managed with a body con- sisting of designated members of national parliaments for more than a decade before creating the European Parliament, combined with high-level ministerial meetings on a quarterly basis. Even a return to that practice between Ottawa and Washington would be better than the current acquiescence to ever thicker borders.

As that veteran of global negotia- tions the Norwegian Thorvald Stoltenberg observed on another occa- sion, serious international change takes at least a decade. Recalling his experience with the Conference on Security and Co-operation in Europe, which led to the Helsinki Accords, he said that for the first two to three years people make fun of your crazy idea; then they try to ignore you for three or four more; then when it appears you may be winning, they take the credit. That process, which paved the way to the peaceful end to the Cold War, began with academics and retired pol- icy-makers meeting to discuss new approaches to Soviet intransigence over human rights.

Perhaps a similar group could begin the dialogue: a former cabinet minister from each country, senior retired diplo- mats, some academics and thoughtful business and community leaders. Retirement is probably an important requirement for the group leaders, if the discussions are not to be impeded from day one by furious institutions on both sides of the border. If the study group leaders were named as ”œspecial envoys” by their respective governments, that would be ideal. Failing that, private sponsorship of sufficiently eminent ”œwise persons” would be a start.

Canadians are good at this. Right now a high-level private team has come close to delivering a detailed work plan on how one could manage a Jerusalem that is the capital of two sovereign nations. In the months ahead, their painstaking work on the details of security policy, access to religious sites, labour mobility and hundreds of other details will inform the ongoing Middle East peace process partners at the highest level. That project, sneered at for years by experts, is Canadian.

If the push cannot come from government initially, if the political risk is judged too high, funding and commitment will have to be found elsewhere. Two founda- tions with a demonstrated track record and interest in Canada-US relations might step up to the challenge and underwrite a small staff and research effort. Organizations like the Donner Foundation here and the Wilson Center in Washington have the resources and the reputation to interest serious people and to be seen as supportive but disinterested sponsors.

If Sir John A. is watching, I suspect he would approve. He constructed Canada and the National Policy as tough barriers to American dominance of the continent, designed to direct trade to the empire and away from dependence on the Yankee trade.

He saw each project as, in part, a tool to manage the Americans. More than 125 years later, he would be shocked to learn that more than two- thirds of our economic lifeblood still flows north-south. A visionary, he would probably endorse a strong Canadian voice in new institutions tasked to man- age our only essential relationship.

You are welcome to republish this Policy Options article online or in print periodicals, under a Creative Commons/No Derivatives licence.

Creative Commons License

More like this