I'm glad you've decided to get over your fit of pique and venture north to
visit your closest neighbor. It's a chance to learn a thing or two. Maybe more.
I know it seems improbable to your divinely guided master in the White House
that mere mortals might disagree with participating in a missile-defense system
that has failed in its last three tests, even though the tests themselves were
carefully rigged to show results.
But, gosh, we folks above the 49th parallel are somewhat cautious types who
can't quite see laying down billions of dollars in a three-dud poker game.
As our erstwhile Prairie-born and bred (and therefore prudent) finance minister
pointed out in presenting his recent budget, we've had eight years of balanced
or surplus financial accounts. If we're going to spend money, Mr. Goodale added,
it will be on day-care and health programs, and even on more foreign aid and
Sure, that doesn't match the gargantuan, multi-billion-dollar deficits that
your government blithely runs up fighting a "liberation war" in Iraq,
laying out more than half of all weapons expenditures in the world, and giving
massive tax breaks to the top one per cent of your population while cutting
food programs for poor children.
Just chalk that up to a different sense of priorities about what a national
government's role should be when there isn't a prevailing mood of manifest destiny.
Coming to Ottawa might also expose you to a parliamentary system that has a
thing called question period every day, where those in the executive are held
accountable by an opposition for their actions, and where demands for public
debate on important topics such a missile defense can be made openly.
You might also notice that it's a system in which the governing party's caucus
members are not afraid to tell their leader that their constituents don't want
to follow the ideological, perhaps teleological, fantasies of Canada's continental
co-inhabitant. And that this leader actually listens to such representations.
Your boss did not avail himself of a similar opportunity to visit our House
of Commons during his visit, fearing, it seems, that there might be some signs
of dissent. He preferred to issue his diktat on missile defense in front of
a highly controlled, pre-selected audience.
Such control-freak antics may work in the virtual one-party state that now
prevails in Washington. But in Canada we have a residual belief that politicians
should be subject to a few checks and balances, an idea that your country once
espoused before the days of empire.
If you want to have us consider your proposals and positions, present them
in a proper way, through serious discussion across the table in our cabinet
room, as your previous president did when he visited Ottawa. And don't embarrass
our prime minister by lobbing a verbal missile at him while he sits on a public
stage, with no chance to respond.
Now, I understand that there may have been some miscalculations in Washington
based on faulty advice from your resident governor of the "northern territories,"
Ambassador Cellucci. But you should know by now that he hasn't really won the
hearts and minds of most Canadians through his attempts to browbeat and command
our allegiance to U.S. policies.
Sadly, Mr. Cellucci has been far too closeted with exclusive groups of 'experts'
from Calgary think-tanks and neo-con lobbyists at cross-border conferences to
remotely grasp a cross-section of Canadian attitudes (nor American ones, for
I invite you to expand the narrow perspective that seems to inform your opinions
of Canada by ranging far wider in your reach of contacts and discussions. You
would find that what is rising in Canada is not so much anti-Americanism, as
claimed by your and our right-wing commentators, but fundamental disagreements
with certain policies of your government. You would see that rather than just
reacting to events by drawing on old conventional wisdoms, many Canadians are
trying to think our way through to some ideas that can be helpful in building
a more secure world.
These Canadians believe that security can be achieved through well-modulated
efforts to protect the rights of people, not just nation-states.
To encourage and advance international co-operation on managing the risk of
climate change, they believe that we need agreements like Kyoto.
To protect people against international crimes like genocide and ethnic cleansing,
they support new institutions like the International Criminal Court -- which,
by the way, you might strongly consider using to hold accountable those committing
atrocities today in Darfur, Sudan.
And these Canadians believe that the United Nations should indeed be reformed
-- beginning with an agreement to get rid of the veto held by the major powers
over humanitarian interventions to stop violence and predatory practices.
On this score, you might want to explore the concept of the 'Responsibility
to Protect' while you're in Ottawa. It's a Canadian idea born out of the recent
experience of Kosovo and informed by the many horrific examples of inhumanity
over the last half-century. Many Canadians feel it has a lot more relevance
to providing real human security in the world than missile defense ever will.
This is not just some quirky notion concocted in our long winter nights, by
the way. It seems to have appeal for many in your own country, if not the editorialists
at the Wall Street Journal or Rush Limbaugh. As I discovered recently while
giving a series of lectures in southern California, there is keen interest in
how the U.S. can offer real leadership in managing global challenges of disease,
natural calamities and conflict, other than by military means.
There is also a very strong awareness on both sides of the border of how vital
Canada is to the U.S. as a partner in North America. We supply copious amounts
of oil and natural gas to your country, our respective trade is the world's
largest in volume, and we are increasingly bound together by common concerns
over depletion of resources, especially very scarce fresh water.
Why not discuss these issues with Canadians who understand them, and seek out
ways to better cooperate in areas where we agree -- and agree to respect each
other's views when we disagree.
Above all, ignore the Cassandras who deride the state of our relations because
of one missile-defense decision. Accept that, as a friend on your border, we
will offer a different, independent point of view. And that there are times
when truth must speak to power.
Lloyd Axworthy is president of the University of Winnipeg and a former Canadian