What has just happened to Canada?
Bewilderment. Fear. Anger. Hurt. Canadians today are struggling to understand what Donald Trump has just done to us.
We know the United States can be a bit strange at times and we have had our tricky moments. In the 19th century we didn’t much like the loud annexationist voices south of the border, or American support for Sinn Féin adventurers who thought by seizing the Canadian colonies they could force Britain out of Ireland. More recently our relations during the Vietnam war were strained because many Canadians opposed it, and said so, and Canada sheltered draft dodgers. President Lyndon Johnson once took our much smaller prime minister Lester Pearson by the lapels and shook him after the Canadian made a mildly critical speech at Temple University. President Nixon famously did not like Pierre Trudeau, whom he saw as a quiche-eating, sandal-wearing liberal.
But, until now, we have got on pretty well. There was a temporary coolness when our government declined the invitation to join the coalition that invaded and occupied Iraq, but we did send troops to Afghanistan.
Trudeau the elder, who had to deal with a bruised and truculent US during the 1970s, once said that Canada slept next to an elephant. Managing the relationship with a giant neighbour has been central to our foreign policy for more than a century. Trade and investment as well as people have flowed back and forth across the border, and the US is by far our biggest trading partner. And we are the Americans’, although most of them don’t know it. We welcomed the free trade agreement of the 1990s and its successor, Nafta.
During the second world war, and then the cold war, the two countries worked closely together. Canada was a founding member of Nato and a strong supporter of the new international institutions such as the United Nations, the IMF and the World Bank the Americans were setting up. Canadians fought in Korea alongside Americans. The early warning line for Soviet bombers and rockets was in the Canadian Arctic, and Norad, for the air and maritime defence of North America, is a completely integrated operation.
There is much more to the relationship than security and trade. Canadians see the Americans as cousins. We love the same sports: Canadians are crazy about baseball and basketball, and our beloved game of hockey is played all over the US. For generations, Canadians have moved south in search of jobs, education and fame. A large part of Canada heads for Florida, California and Hawaii in the winter to get away from the snow. When the US endures disasters we sympathize. In the immediate aftermath of 9/11 Canadians opened their airfields and homes to the thousands of American planes and travellers who were stranded here. (In what seems to have been a vain attempt to win over the Trumps, Justin Trudeau took Ivanka and Jared to a cheery, feelgood musical…