Column: Strained relationship with northern neighbor

Canada is the home and native land to some 31 million people. Over 90 percent of those millions are nestled snuggly up against the American border. The rest of their enormous country is kept pristine for a few Indian tribes, elk, salmon, and, yes, polar bears.

Canada is America’s largest trading partner. Most of their imports are American and most of their exports come here. Canadians have benefited nicely from the North Atlantic Free Trade Association (NAFTA), an alliance between Canada, Mexico and the United States that since the early 1990s, has been responsible for serious and sustained economic growth in that country. Assessed at US $750 billion, their GDP today is the eighth largest in the world

So what’s their problem with Uncle Sam?

Robin Williams joked in his Live From New York broadcast last year that Canada, “is like a loft over a great party. Keep it down, eh?” That joke seems very true these days.

Canada is going through a rough patch in her relations with America. Most Americans, save those who do business in Canada or live near the border, are oblivious of what peeves our Northerly neighbors.

Canada and America are facing off in the World Trade Organization over a trade dispute over “soft-wood” (sounds paradoxical somehow). Canada is confident that the tariffs that America has levied on Canadian timber are illegal and that the U.S. will be sanctioned. Most Canadians believe that some tens of thousands of workers have been laid off in British Columbia as a direct result of unfair tariffs.

According to the Economist, most Canadians believe that the whole timber tariff issue could be fixed at the sweep of George W. Bush’s pen. They are probably right. However, Mr. Bush doubtless realizes that the Canadian timber industry is partially state subsidized. This would give the Canadians a totally unfair advantage over American timber companies.

Troubling our relationship even further has been the war in Iraq. Most Canadians, save a few Tories, saw the war as “illegal.” Prime Minister Jean Chretien had stated that if any Canadian warship based in the Persian Gulf were to encounter fleeing Iraqi officials, they are ordered not to immediately hand them over to the Americans. A vain stance to be sure, but the measure is seen more as an affront to the Bush administration.

Adding the accidental killing of a team of Canadian soldiers by an American bomber, plus the perennial feeling of being in the shadow of the boisterous USA, they have every right to be angry with America. However, unlike some skeptics here who feel that this will permanently damage Canada-U.S. relations, I feel that it will not. We do share so much in common. We are tied together like no other two countries in the world in terms of trade. And we have a long history of taking care of each other when faced by an enemy.

Yes, our friendship with Canada shall endure, and with a little sunshine and good will from our side, it will blossom again.

-The writer is a junior majoring in political science.

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