Our border with the USA is both the symbol and the geographic reality of our nearness and our similarities to – and our differences from – the culture of that large and looming giant that 80% of us live within shopping distance of. In spite of recent efforts to integrate Canada, militarily and economically into the USA, we have a unique society and many values worth preserving. That is the crux of Drache’s optimistic presentation.
Integration seemed to be an assured downhill slide after NAFTA was signed seven years ago, but Drache says that September 11, 2001 changed the USA’s perception of its neighbour and supposed friend. We are now just another foreign country to reinforce the border against. USA’s homeland security has forced us to realize we are part of a fortress North America, but we have also been shocked into a new nationalism.
This in itself has made us acknowledge our differences – in health and social programs, in our ability to juggle two languages and our rare but notable independence in foreign policy. If we are just another bunch of foreigners to mistrust, the so-called special relationship is blown away by the security phobia of the USA; all the more opportunity for us to get on with Canada and question privacy issues, the rights of refugees and other concerns that the USA has lined up at the border. There can be no better time than now to demand independent action from our government to develop our self-interest.
Drache goes into detail about the effects of globalization, the imbalance of trade and power, the isolation of USA foreign policy and the Iraq war, not only as a turning point for USA’s world image, but for new possibilities for Canada.
This is a useful addition to our endless national identity debate. Next time you wonder about the validity of Canada or someone else denies it, you’ll find many cogent arguments in “Borders Matter”.