Canada Us Relations Essay Definition

Relations between Canada and the United States of America historically have been extensive, given a shared border and ever-increasing[1][2] close cultural, economical ties and similarities.[3][4] The shared historical and cultural heritage has resulted in one of the most stable and mutually beneficial international relationships in the world. For both countries, the level of trade with the other is at the top of the annual combined import-export total. Tourism and migration between the two nations have increased rapport, but border security was heightened after the terrorist attacks in the United States on September 11, 2001.[5] The U.S. is approximately 9.25 times larger in population and has the dominant cultural and economic influence. Starting with the American Revolution, when anti-American Loyalists fled to Canada, a vocal element in Canada has warned against US dominance or annexation. The War of 1812 saw invasions across the border. In 1815, the war ended with the border unchanged and demilitarized, as were the Great Lakes. The British ceased aiding First Nation attacks on American territory, and the United States never again attempted to invade Canada. Apart from minor raids, it has remained peaceful.[6]

As Britain decided to disengage, fears of an American takeover played a role in the formation of the Dominion of Canada (1867), and Canada's rejection of free trade (1911). Military collaboration was close during World War II and continued throughout the Cold War, bilaterally through NORAD and multilaterally through NATO. A very high volume of trade and migration continues between the two nations, as well as a heavy overlapping of popular and elite culture, a dynamic which has generated closer ties, especially after the signing of the Canada–United States Free Trade Agreement in 1988.

Canada and the United States are the world's largest trading partners.[7] The two nations have the world's longest shared border (8,891 kilometres (5,525 mi)),[8][9] and also have significant interoperability within the defense sphere.[1] Recent difficulties have included repeated trade disputes, environmental concerns, Canadian concern for the future ofoil exports, and issues of illegal immigration and the threat of terrorism. Trade has continued to expand, especially following the 1988 FTA and North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) in 1994 which has further merged the two economies.[10][11] Co-operation on many fronts, such as the ease of the flow of goods, services, and people across borders are to be even more extended, as well as the establishment of joint border inspection agencies, relocation of U.S. food inspectors agents to Canadian plants and vice versa, greater sharing of intelligence, and harmonizing regulations on everything from food to manufactured goods, thus further increasing the American-Canadian assemblage.[12]

The foreign policies of the neighbours have been closely aligned since the Cold War. Canada has disagreed with American policies regarding the Vietnam War, the status of Cuba, the Iraq War, Missile Defense, and the War on Terror. A diplomatic debate has been underway in recent years on whether the Northwest Passage is in international waters or under Canadian sovereignty.

Today there are close cultural ties, many similar and identical traits[13][14][15][16] and according to Gallup's annual public opinion polls, Canada has consistently been Americans' favorite nation, with 96% of Americans viewing Canada favorably in 2012.[17][18] According to a 2013 BBC World Service Poll, 84% of Americans view their northern neighbor's influence positively, with only 5% expressing a negative view, the most favorable perception of Canada in the world. As of spring 2013, 64% of Canadians had a favorable view of the U.S. and 81% expressed confidence in then-US President Obama to do the right thing in international matters. According to the same poll, 30% viewed the U.S. negatively.[19] Also, according to a 2014 BBC World Service Poll, 86% of Americans view Canada's influence positively, with only 5% expressing a negative view. However, according to the same poll, 43% of Canadians view U.S. influence positively, with 52% expressing a negative view.[20] In addition, according to Spring 2017 Global Attitudes Survey, 43% of Canadians view U.S. positively, while 51% hold a negative view.[21]

Country comparison[edit]

United States of AmericaCanada
Populations325,090,579 (March 2017) (3rd)[22]35,151,728 (2016 census) (38th)[23]
Area9,833,634 km2 (3,796,787 sq mi)[24]9,984,670 km2 (3,855,103 sq mi)[25]
Population density35/km2 (87.4/sq mi)3.41/km2 (8.3/sq mi)
Time zones96
CapitalWashington, D.C.Ottawa
Largest cities[26][27]New York City
Los Angeles
constitutional republic
Federalparliamentary democratic
constitutional monarchy
First leaderGeorge WashingtonSir John A. Macdonald
Current leader(s)PresidentDonald Trump
Ruling political partyRepublican PartyLiberal Party
Official languagesNone at federal level, but Englishde factoEnglish and French
Main religions70.6% Christianity, 22.8% non-Religious, 1.9% Judaism, 0.9% Islam, 0.7% Buddhism, 0.7% Hinduism[28]67.3% Christianity, 23.9% Unaffiliated, 3.2% Islam, 1.5% Hinduism, 1.4% Sikhism, 1.1% Buddhism, 1.0% Judaism
Human Development Index (2015)0.920 (very high)0.920 (very high)
GDP (nominal) (2014)[29]$17.416 trillion ($54,390 per capita)$1.793 trillion ($50,577 per capita)
GDP (PPP) (2014)[29]$17.416 trillion ($54,390 per capita)$1.578 trillion ($44,519 per capita)
Military expenditures(2015)$596 billion (3.3% of GDP)$15 billion (1.0% of GDP)

Leaders of Canada and the United States from 1950


Colonial wars[edit]

Before the British conquest of French Canada in 1760, there had been a series of wars between the British and the French which were fought out in the colonies as well as in Europe and the high seas. In general, the British heavily relied on American colonial militia units, while the French heavily relied on their First Nation allies. The Iroquois Nation were important allies of the British.[30] Much of the fighting involved ambushes and small-scale warfare in the villages along the border between New England and Quebec. The New England colonies had a much larger population than Quebec, so major invasions came from south to north. The First Nation allies, only loosely controlled by the French, repeatedly raided New England villages to kidnap women and children, and torture and kill the men.[31] Those who survived were brought up as Francophone Catholics. The tension along the border was exacerbated by religion, the French Catholics and English Protestants had a deep mutual distrust.[32] There was a naval dimension as well, involving privateers attacking enemy merchant ships.[33]

England seized Quebec from 1629 to 1632, and Acadia in 1613 and again from 1654 to 1670; These territories were returned to France by the peace treaties. The major wars were (to use American names), King William's War (1689–1697); Queen Anne's War (1702–1713); King George's War (1744–1748), and the French and Indian War (1755–1763). In Canada, as in Europe, this era is known as the Seven Years' War.

New England soldiers and sailors were critical to the successful British campaign to capture the French fortress of Louisbourg in 1745,[34] and (after it had been returned by treaty) to capture it again in 1758.[35]

Mingling of peoples[edit]

From the 1750s to the 21st century, there has been extensive mingling of the Canadian and American populations, with large movements in both directions.[36]

New England Yankees settled large parts of Nova Scotia before 1775, and were neutral during the American Revolution.[37] At the end of the Revolution, about 75,000 Loyalists moved out of the new United States to Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and the lands of Quebec, east and south of Montreal. From 1790 to 1812 many farmers moved from New York and New England into Ontario (mostly to Niagara, and the north shore of Lake Ontario). In the mid and late 19th century gold rushes attracted American prospectors, mostly to British Columbia after the Cariboo Gold Rush, Fraser Canyon Gold Rush, and later to the Yukon. In the early 20th century, the opening of land blocks in the Prairie Provinces attracted many farmers from the American Midwest. Many Mennonites immigrated from Pennsylvania and formed their own colonies. In the 1890s some Mormons went north to form communities in Alberta after The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints rejected plural marriage.[38] The 1960s saw the arrival of about 50,000 draft-dodgers who opposed the Vietnam War.[39]

In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, about 900,000 French Canadians moved to the U.S., with 395,000 residents there in 1900. Two-thirds went to mill towns in New England, where they formed distinctive ethnic communities. By the late 20th century, they had abandoned the French language, but most kept the Catholic religion.[40] About twice as many English Canadians came to the U.S., but they did not form distinctive ethnic settlements.[41]

Canada was a way-station through which immigrants from other lands stopped for a while, ultimately heading to the U.S. In 1851–1951, 7.1 million people arrived in Canada (mostly from Continental Europe), and 6.6 million left Canada, most of them to the U.S.[42]

American Revolutionary War[edit]

At the outset of the American Revolutionary War, the American revolutionaries hoped the French Canadians in Quebec and the Colonists in Nova Scotia would join their rebellion and they were pre-approved for joining the United States in the Articles of Confederation. When Canada was invaded, thousands joined the American cause and formed regiments that fought during the war; however most remained neutral and some joined the British effort. Britain advised the French Canadians that the British Empire already enshrined their rights in the Quebec Act, which the American colonies had viewed as one of the Intolerable Acts. The American invasion was a fiasco and Britain tightened its grip on its northern possessions; in 1777, a major British invasion into New York led to the surrender of the entire British army at Saratoga, and led France to enter the war as an ally of the U.S. The French Canadians largely ignored France's appeals for solidarity.[43] After the war Canada became a refuge for about 75,000 Loyalists who either wanted to leave the U.S., or were compelled by Patriot reprisals to do so.[44]

Among the original Loyalists there were 3,500 free black people. Most went to Nova Scotia and in 1792, 1200 migrated to Sierra Leone. About 2000 black slaves were brought in by Loyalist owners; they remained slaves in Canada until the Empire abolished slavery in 1833. Before 1860, about 30,000–40,000 black people entered Canada; many were already free and others were escaped slaves who came through the Underground Railroad.[45]

War of 1812[edit]

Main article: War of 1812

The Treaty of Paris (1783), which ended the war, called for British forces to vacate all their forts south of the Great Lakes border. Britain refused to do so, citing failure of the United States to provide financial restitution for Loyalists who had lost property in the war. The Jay Treaty in 1795 with Great Britain resolved that lingering issue and the British departed the forts. Thomas Jefferson saw the nearby British imperial presence as a threat to the United States, and so he opposed the Jay Treaty, and it became one of the major political issues in the United States at the time.[46] Thousands of Americans immigrated to Upper Canada (Ontario) from 1785 to 1812 to obtain cheaper land and better tax rates prevalent in that province; despite expectations that they would be loyal to the U.S. if a war broke out, in the event they were largely non-political.[47]

Tensions mounted again after 1805, erupting into the War of 1812, when the Americans declared war on Britain. The Americans were angered by British harassment of U.S. ships on the high seas and seizure ("Impressment") of 6,000 sailors from American ships, severe restrictions against neutral American trade with France, and British support for hostile Indian tribes in Ohio and territories the U.S. had gained in 1783. American "honor" was an implicit issue. The Americans were outgunned by more than 10 to 1 by the Royal Navy, but could call on an army much larger than the British garrison in Canada, and so a land invasion of Canada was proposed as the only feasible, and most advantegous means of attacking the British Empire. Americans on the western frontier also hoped an invasion would bring an end to British support of Native American resistance to the westward expansion of the United States, typified by Tecumseh's coalition of tribes.[48] Americans may also have wanted to annex Canada.[50][51]

Once war broke out, the American strategy was to seize Canada—perhaps as a means of forcing concessions from the British Empire, or perhaps in order to annex it. There was some hope that settlers in western Canada—most of them recent immigrants from the U.S.—would welcome the chance to overthrow their British rulers. However, the American invasions were defeated primarily by British regulars with support from Native Americans and Upper Canada (Ontario) militia. Aided by the powerful Royal Navy, a series of British raids on the American coast were highly successful, culminating with an attack on Washington that resulted in the British burning of the White House, Capitol, and other public buildings. Major British invasions of New York in 1814 and Louisiana in 1814–15 were fiascoes, with the British retreating from New York and decisively defeated at the Battle of New Orleans. At the end of the war, Britain's American Indian allies had largely been defeated, and the Americans controlled a strip of Western Ontario centered on Fort Malden. However, Britain held much of Maine, and, with the support of their remaining American Indian allies, huge areas of the Old Northwest, including Wisconsin and much of Michigan and Illinois. With the surrender of Napoleon in 1814, Britain ended naval policies that angered Americans; with the defeat of the Indian tribes the threat to American expansion was ended. The upshot was both sides had asserted their honour, Canada was not annexed, and London and Washington had nothing more to fight over. The war was ended by the Treaty of Ghent, which took effect in February 1815.[57] A series of postwar agreements further stabilized peaceful relations along the Canadian-US border. Canada reduced American immigration for fear of undue American influence, and built up the Anglican church as a counterweight to the largely American Methodist and Baptist churches.[58]

In later years, Anglophone Canadians, especially in Ontario, viewed the War of 1812 as a heroic and successful resistance against invasion and as a victory that defined them as a people. The myth that the Canadian militia had defeated the invasion almost single-handed, known logically as the "militia myth", became highly prevalent after the war, having been propounded by John Strachan, Anglican Bishop of York. Meanwhile, the United States celebrated victory in its "Second War of Independence," and war heroes such as Andrew Jackson and William Henry Harrison headed to the White House.[59]

Conservative reaction[edit]

In the aftermath of the War of 1812, pro-imperial conservatives led by Anglican Bishop John Strachan took control in Ontario ("Upper Canada"), and promoted the Anglican religion as opposed to the more republican Methodist and Baptist churches. A small interlocking elite, known as the Family Compact took full political control. Democracy, as practiced in the US, was ridiculed. The policies had the desired effect of deterring immigration from United States. Revolts in favor of democracy in Ontario and Quebec ("Lower Canada") in 1837 were suppressed; many of the leaders fled to the US.[60] The American policy was to largely ignore the rebellions,[61] and indeed ignore Canada generally in favor of westward expansion of the American Frontier.

Alabama claims[edit]

At the end of the American Civil War in 1865, Americans were angry at British support for the Confederacy. One result was toleration of Fenian efforts to use the U.S. as a base to attack Canada. More serious was the demand for a huge payment to cover the damages caused, on the notion that British involvement had lengthened the war. Senator Charles Sumner, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, originally wanted to ask for $2 billion, or alternatively the ceding of all of Canada to the United States.[62] When American Secretary of State William H. Seward negotiated the Alaska Purchase with Russia in 1867, he intended it as the first step in a comprehensive plan to gain control of the entire northwest Pacific Coast. Seward was a firm believer in Manifest Destiny, primarily for its commercial advantages to the U.S. Seward expected British Columbia to seek annexation to the U.S. and thought Britain might accept this in exchange for the Alabama claims. Soon other elements endorsed annexation, Their plan was to annex British Columbia, Red River Colony (Manitoba), and Nova Scotia, in exchange for the dropping the damage claims. The idea reached a peak in the spring and summer of 1870, with American expansionists, Canadian separatists, and British anti-imperialists seemingly combining forces. The plan was dropped for multiple reasons. London continued to stall, American commercial and financial groups pressed Washington for a quick settlement of the dispute on a cash basis, growing Canadian nationalist sentiment in British Columbia called for staying inside the British Empire, Congress became preoccupied with Reconstruction, and most Americans showed little interest in territorial expansion. The "Alabama Claims" dispute went to international arbitration. In one of the first major cases of arbitration, the tribunal in 1872 supported the American claims and ordered Britain to pay $15.5 million. Britain paid and the episode ended in peaceful relations.[63][64]

Dominion of Canada[edit]

Canada became a self-governing dominion in 1867 in internal affairs while Britain controlled diplomacy and defense policy. Prior to Confederation, there was an Oregon boundary dispute in which the Americans claimed the 54th degree latitude. That issue was resolved by splitting the disputed territory; the northern half became British Columbia, and the southern half the states of Washington and Oregon. Strained relations with America continued, however, due to a series of small-scale armed incursions named the Fenian raids by Irish-American Civil War veterans across the border from 1866 to 1871 in an attempt to trade Canada for Irish independence.[65] The American government, angry at Canadian tolerance of Confederate raiders during the American Civil War, moved very slowly to disarm the Fenians. The British government, in charge of diplomatic relations, protested cautiously, as Anglo-American relations were tense. Much of the tension was relieved as the Fenians faded away and in 1872 by the settlement of the Alabama Claims, when Britain paid the U.S. $15.5 million for war losses caused by warships built in Britain and sold to the Confederacy.

Disputes over ocean boundaries on Georges Bank and over fishing, whaling, and sealing rights in the Pacific were settled by international arbitration, setting an important precedent.[66]

Emigration to and from the United States of America[edit]

Further information: French American

After 1850, the pace of industrialization and urbanization was much faster in the United States, drawing a wide range of immigrants from the North. By 1870, 1/6 of all the people born in Canada had moved to the United States, with the highest concentrations in New England, which was the destination of Francophone emigrants from Quebec and Anglophone emigrants from the Maritimes. It was common for people to move back and forth across the border, such as seasonal lumberjacks, entrepreneurs looking for larger markets, and families looking for jobs in the textile mills that paid much higher wages than in Canada.[67]

The southward migration slacked off after 1890, as Canadian industry began a growth spurt. By then, the American frontier was closing, and thousands of farmers looking for fresh land moved from the United States north into the Prairie Provinces. The net result of the flows were that in 1901 there were 128,000 American-born residents in Canada (3.5% of the Canadian population) and 1.18 million Canadian-born residents in the United States (1.6% of the U.S. population).[68]

Alaska boundary[edit]

A short-lived controversy was the Alaska boundary dispute, settled in favor of the United States in 1903. No one cared until a gold rush brought tens of thousands of men to Canada's Yukon, and they had to arrive through American ports. Canada needed its port and claimed that it had a legal right to a port near the present American town of Haines, Alaska. It would provide an all-Canadian route to the rich goldfields. The dispute was settled by arbitration, and the British delegate voted with the Americans—to the astonishment and disgust of Canadians who suddenly realized that Britain considered its relations with the United States paramount compared to those with Canada. The arbitrartion validated the status quo, but made Canada angry at Britain.[69]

1907 saw a minor controversy over USS Nashville sailing into the Great Lakes via Canada without Canadian permission. To head off future embarrassments, in 1909 the two sides signed the International Boundary Waters Treaty and the International Joint Commission was established to manage the Great Lakes and keep them disarmed. It was amended in World War II to allow the building and training of warships.[70]

Reciprocal trade with U.S.[edit]

Anti-Americanism reached a shrill peak in 1911 in Canada.[71] The Liberal government in 1911 negotiated a Reciprocity treaty with the U.S. that would lower trade barriers. Canadian manufacturing interests were alarmed that free trade would allow the bigger and more efficient American factories to take their markets. The Conservatives made it a central campaign issue in the 1911 election, warning that it would be a "sell out" to the United States with economic annexation a special danger.[72] Conservative slogan was "No truck or trade with the Yankees", as they appealed to Canadian nationalism and nostalgia for the British Empire to win a major victory.[73]

Canadian autonomy[edit]

Canada demanded and received permission from London to send its own delegation to the Versailles Peace Talks in 1919, with the proviso that it sign the treaty under the British Empire. Canada subsequently took responsibility for its own foreign and military affairs in the 1920s. Its first ambassador to the United States, Vincent Massey, was named in 1927. The United States first ambassador to Canada was William Phillips. Canada became an active member of the British Commonwealth, the League of Nations, and the World Court, none of which included the U.S.

In July 1923, as part of his Pacific Northwest tour and a week before his death, US President Warren Harding visited Vancouver, making him the first head of state of the United States to visit Canada. The then Premier of British Columbia, John Oliver, and then mayor of Vancouver, Charles Tisdall, hosted a lunch in his honor at the Hotel Vancouver. Over 50,000 people heard Harding speak in Stanley Park. A monument to Harding designed by Charles Marega was unveiled in Stanley Park in 1925.[74]

Relations with the United States were cordial until 1930, when Canada vehemently protested the new Smoot–Hawley Tariff Act by which the U.S. raised tariffs (taxes) on products imported from Canada. Canada retaliated with higher tariffs of its own against American products, and moved toward more trade within the British Commonwealth. U.S.–Canadian trade fell 75% as the Great Depression dragged both countries down.[75][76]

Down to the 1920s the war and naval departments of both nations designed hypothetical war game scenarios with the other as an enemy. These were primarily exercises; the departments were never told to get ready for a real war. In 1921, Canada developed Defence Scheme No. 1 for an attack on American cities and for forestalling invasion by the United States until Imperial reinforcements arrived. Through the later 1920s and 1930s, the United States Army War College developed a plan for a war with the British Empire waged largely on North American territory, in War Plan Red.[77]

Herbert Hoover meeting in 1927 with British Ambassador Sir Esme Howard agreed on the "absurdity of contemplating the possibility of war between the United States and the British Empire."[78]

In 1938, as the roots of World War II were set in motion, U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt gave a public speech at Queens University in Kingston, Ontario, declaring that the United States would not sit idly by if another power tried to dominate Canada. Diplomats saw it as a clear warning to Germany not to attack Canada.[79]

World War II[edit]

The two nations cooperated closely in World War II,[80] as both nations saw new levels of prosperity and a determination to defeat the Axis powers. Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie King and President Franklin D. Roosevelt were determined not to repeat the mistakes of their predecessors.[81] They met in August 1940 at Ogdensburg, issuing a declaration calling for close cooperation, and formed the Permanent Joint Board on Defense (PJBD).

King sought to raise Canada's international visibility by hosting the August 1943 Quadrant conference in Quebec on military and political strategy; he was a gracious host but was kept out of the important meetings by Winston Churchill and Roosevelt.

Canada allowed the construction of the Alaska Highway and participated in the building of the atomic bomb. 49,000 Americans joined the RCAF (Canadian) or RAF (British) air forces through the Clayton Knight Committee, which had Roosevelt's permission to recruit in the U.S. in 1940–42.[82]

American attempts in the mid-1930s to integrate British Columbia into a united West Coast military command had aroused Canadian opposition. Fearing a Japanese invasion of Canada's vulnerable coast, American officials urged the creation of a united military command for an eastern Pacific Ocean theater of war. Canadian leaders feared American imperialism and the loss of autonomy more than a Japanese invasion. In 1941, Canadians successfully argued within the PJBD for mutual cooperation rather than unified command for the West Coast.[83]


The United States built large military bases in Newfoundland, at the time, a British dominion. The American involvement ended the depression and brought new prosperity; Newfoundland's business community sought closer ties with the United States as expressed by the Economic Union Party. Ottawa took notice and wanted Newfoundland to join Canada, which it did after hotly contested referenda. There was little demand in the United States for the acquisition of Newfoundland, so the United States did not protest the British decision not to allow an American option on the Newfoundland referendum.[84]

Cold War[edit]

Following co-operation in the two World Wars, Canada and the United States lost much of their previous animosity. As Britain's influence as a global imperial power declined, Canada and the United States became extremely close partners. Canada was a close ally of the United States during the Cold War.

Nixon Shock 1971[edit]

The United States had become Canada's largest market, and after the war the Canadian economy became dependent on smooth trade flows with the United States so much that in 1971 when the United States enacted the "Nixon Shock" economic policies (including a 10% tariff on all imports) it put the Canadian government into a panic. This led in a large part to the articulation of Prime Minister Trudeau's "Third Option" policy of diversifying Canada's trade and downgrading the importance of Canada – United States relations. In a 1972 speech in Ottawa, Nixon declared the "special relationship" between Canada and the United States dead.[85]


The main issues in Canada–U.S. relations in the 1990s focused on the NAFTA agreement, which was signed in 1994. It created a common market that by 2014 was worth $19 trillion, encompassed 470 million people, and had created millions of jobs.[86] Wilson says, "Few dispute that NAFTA has produced large and measurable gains for Canadian consumers, workers, and businesses." However, he adds, "NAFTA has fallen well short of expectations."[87]


Further information: Anti-Americanism § Canada

Since the arrival of the Loyalists as refugees from the American Revolution in the 1780s, historians have identified a constant theme of Canadian fear of the United States and of "Americanization" or a cultural takeover. In the War of 1812, for example, the enthusiastic response by French militia to defend Lower Canada reflected, according to Heidler and Heidler (2004), "the fear of Americanization."[88] Scholars have traced this attitude over time in Ontario and Quebec.[89]

Canadian intellectuals who wrote about the U.S. in the first half of the 20th century identified America as the world center of modernity, and deplored it. Imperialists (who admired the British Empire) explained that Canadians had narrowly escaped American conquest with its rejection of tradition, its worship of "progress" and technology, and its mass culture; they explained that Canada was much better because of its commitment to orderly government and societal harmony. There were a few ardent defenders of the nation to the south, notably liberal and socialist intellectuals such as F. R. Scott and Jean-Charles Harvey (1891–1967).[90]

Looking at television, Collins (1990) finds that it is in English Canada that fear of cultural Americanization is most powerful, for there the attractions of the U.S. are strongest.[91] Meren (2009) argues that after 1945, the emergence of Quebec nationalism and the desire to preserve French-Canadian cultural heritage led to growing anxiety regarding American cultural imperialism and Americanization.[92] In 2006 surveys showed that 60 percent of Quebecers had a fear of Americanization, while other surveys showed they preferred their current situation to that of the Americans in the realms of health care, quality of life as seniors, environmental quality, poverty, educational system, racism and standard of living. While agreeing that job opportunities are greater in America, 89 percent disagreed with the notion that they would rather be in the United States, and they were more likely to feel closer to English Canadians than to Americans.[93] However, there is evidence that the elites and Quebec are much less fearful of Americanization, and much more open to economic integration than the general public.[93]

The history has been traced in detail by a leading Canadian historian J.L. Granatstein in Yankee Go Home: Canadians and Anti-Americanism (1997). Current studies report the phenomenon persists. Two scholars report, "Anti-Americanism is alive and well in Canada today, strengthened by, among other things, disputes related to NAFTA, American involvement in the Middle East, and the ever-increasing Americanization of Canadian culture."[94] Jamie Glazov writes, "More than anything else, Diefenbaker became the tragic victim of Canadian anti-Americanism, a sentiment the prime minister had fully embraced by 1962. [He was] unable to imagine himself (or his foreign policy) without enemies."[95] Historian J. M. Bumsted says, "In its most extreme form, Canadian suspicion of the United States has led to outbreaks of overt anti-Americanism, usually spilling over against American residents in Canada."[96] John R. Wennersten writes, "But at the heart of Canadian anti-Americanism lies a cultural bitterness that takes an American expatriate unaware. Canadians fear the American media's influence on their culture and talk critically about how Americans are exporting a culture of violence in its television programming and movies."[97] However Kim Nossal points out that the Canadian variety is much milder than anti-Americanism in some other countries.[98] By contrast Americans show very little knowledge or interest one way or the other regarding Canadian affairs.[99] Canadian historian Frank Underhill, quoting Canadian playwright Merrill Denison summed it up: "Americans are benevolently ignorant about Canada, whereas Canadians are malevolently informed about the United States."[100]

Relations between political executives[edit]

The executive of each country is represented differently. The President of the United States serves as both the head of state and head of government, and his "administration" is the executive, while the Prime Minister of Canada is head of government only, and his or her "government" or "ministry" directs the executive.

W.L. Mackenzie King and Franklin D. Roosevelt (October 1935 – April 1945)[edit]

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W.L. Mackenzie King and Harry S. Truman (April 1945 – November 1948)[edit]

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Louis St. Laurent and Harry S. Truman (November 1948 – January 1953)[edit]

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Louis St. Laurent and Dwight D. Eisenhower (January 1953 – June 1957)[edit]

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John G. Diefenbaker and Dwight D. Eisenhower (June 1957 – January 1961)[edit]

An editorial cartoon on Canada–United States relations, 1886. It reads: Mrs. Britannia.—"Is it possible, my dear, that you have ever given your cousin Jonathan any encouragement?" Miss Canada.—"Encouragement! Certainly not, Mamma. I have told him that we can never be united."
A 1911 Conservative campaign poster warns that the big American companies ("trusts") will hog all the benefits of reciprocity as proposed by Liberals, leaving little left over for Canadian interests

Canada and the United States have one of the world's unique relationships: two sovereign states, occupying the bulk of North America and sharing the world's longest undefended border, each reliant on the other for trade, continental security and prosperity.

Canada and the United States have one of the world's unique relationships: two sovereign states, occupying the bulk of North America and sharing the world's longest undefended border, each reliant on the other for trade, continental security and prosperity. Despite radically different beginnings, as well as a history of war, conflict and cultural suspicion, the two countries — one more powerful than the other — stand as a modern example of inter-dependence and co-operation that is a model to the world.

Revolutionary Fallout

Canada's nationhood was in many ways a by-product of the American Revolution, when the victory of the Thirteen Colonies led to the exodus of Loyalist Americans to British North America. Many brought with them a deep distrust of the United States and its political system. Many American revolutionaries thought the revolution incomplete while Britain retained a North American presence. Conflict seemed inevitable, and the Napoleonic Wars spilled over into North America in 1812. The War of 1812 was fought defensively by the British and half-heartedly by the Americans.

Both sides welcomed the Treaty of Ghent, which brought some settlement of outstanding problems between British North America and the United States. The Rush-Bagot Agreement of 1817 limited the presence of armed vessels on the Great Lakes. The Convention of 1818 provided for continuation of the boundary from Lake of the Woods to the Rocky Mountains. In the east, commissioners appointed under the Treaty of Ghent sorted out boundary problems, except in northern Maine.

In the 1820s and 1830s Upper and Lower Canadians opposed to their governments looked with increasing favour upon American democracy. William Lyon Mackenzie and Louis-Joseph Papineau sought American support in their Rebellions of 1837. After his defeat Mackenzie fled to the United States, where he fomented border troubles for the following year (see Hunters' Lodges). A British show of military force and American official unwillingness to support the rebels ended the threats to British North America. In 1842 the Ashburton-Webster Treaty settled the northeastern boundary, but problems west of the Rockies were cleared up in the 1846 Oregon Treaty only after war threatened.

In 1854 fears subsided as British North America and the United States were linked by a reciprocity treaty, but they returned suddenly with the American Civil War of 1861-65. Northern Americans resented what they felt was Britain's pro-Southern sympathy. British North America and the United States managed to avoid military confrontation, but the end of the war led to new tensions because it was thought that the North might take revenge against Britain, and because Fenians were organizing to invade British North America. The Fenian Raids of 1866 failed, but spurred British North America toward Confederation the following year.

Diplomacy and Accommodation

Confederation, the subsequent withdrawal of British garrisons, and conflicts in Europe impelled Britain and Canada to seek settlement of outstanding differences with the Americans in the 1871 Treaty of Washington. Prime Minister Sir John A. Macdonald, a member of the British negotiating team, grumbled about the terms, but the treaty was useful to Canada in that the United States, through its signature, acknowledged the new nation to its north. Thereafter, Canada's concern about the American military threat diminished rapidly. There were fears of American interference as Canada established sovereignty over the North-West, but by the late 1890s both nations looked back at three decades of remarkably little conflict.

In 1898-99 a Joint High Commission, reflecting this spirit as well as the Anglo-American desire for rapprochement, sought to remedy remaining discord. The commission broke down, with only minor matters settled. One question on which agreement was not reached was the Alaska Boundary Dispute, for which another tribunal was established 1903 and which led to Canadian anger, more toward Britain than against the United States. It produced a conviction that in the future Canada must rely increasingly on its own resources and less on Britain.

Canada therefore undertook to establish direct institutional links with the United States. Best known was the International Joint Commission, established in 1909. In 1911 Prime Minister Wilfrid Laurier went farther than most Canadians would go when he proposed a reciprocity agreement with the United States. In the 1911 Canadian election campaign old animosities reappeared, the Conservatives were elected and reciprocity died.

Nevertheless, the new Prime Minister Robert Borden quickly reassured the Americans that he wanted to maintain good relations. That message probably eased tensions, particularly after Canada entered the First World War (automatically under Britain) in 1914, while the United States remained neutral. When the US itself finally entered the war in 1917, the two countries recognized their common heritage and interests to an unprecedented extent.

An Emerging Friendship

Immediately after the war, Canadian politicians fancied themselves interpreters between the US and Britain. For example, at the 1921 Imperial Conference Prime Minister Arthur Meighen dissuaded Britain from renewing the Anglo-Japanese Alliance because it might bring the British Empire into conflict with the United States. Later, with Prime Minister Mackenzie King's Liberals in power, there was an ever stronger tendency to emphasize Canada's "North American" character and, by implication, its similarity to the US.

In the 1920s and 1930s Canadians and Americans mingled as never before. Canadian defence strategy was altered as planners dismissed the possibility of cross-border conflict. Economic and cultural linkages strengthened as suspicions of American influence receded. Canada and the US established legations in 1926 and no longer dealt with each other through British offices. More important was the impact of American popular culture through radio, motion pictures and the automobile. The Canadian government tried to regulate broadcasting and film but largely failed. Other organizations such as the Roman Catholic Church in Québec tried moral suasion and political pressure to prevent Canadians from partaking of the most frivolous aspects of American culture.

Through the new media, Canadians became familiar with US president Franklin Roosevelt. In 1938, as another European war loomed, Roosevelt publicly promised support if Canada was ever threatened. Roosevelt did co-operate closely after the Second World War erupted in September 1939. Although the US remained neutral, Roosevelt and King reached two important agreements that formalized the American commitment: the Ogdensburg Agreement (1940) established the Permanent Joint Board on Defence, and the Hyde Park Agreement (1941) united the two economies for wartime purposes (see lend-lease). Both agreements won widespread popular approval.

Canadians' admiration for the US increased after it entered the Second World War in December 1941. Public-opinion polls indicated that many Canadians wanted to join the US. This new affection frightened King, but Canada retained and even expanded defence and other relations with the US after the war.

Co-operation and Caution

The Cold War with the Soviet Union convinced most Canadians that the US was the bulwark defending common values and security. In August 1958 Canada and the US signed a plan for joint continental air defence (NORAD), and the following year agreed to the Canada-US Defence Production Sharing Program.

Some Canadians deplored the growing links. Vincent Massey and Walter Gordon headed royal commissions on culture and economic policy that were critical of American influence in Canada. In Parliament, the 1956 Pipeline Debate and the debate on the Suez Crisis indicated that some parliamentarians also feared American influence upon Canada's government and its attitudes.

Prime Minister John Diefenbaker committed Canada to NORAD and the defence-sharing plan and quickly befriended President Dwight Eisenhower. Nevertheless, he lamented Canada's increasing distance from Britain and the extent of American cultural and other influence. This feeling turned into suspicion of the US itself when John Kennedy became president in 1961. The leaders disliked each other, and policy differences grew rapidly. Diefenbaker refused nuclear arms for Canada (see Bomarc Missile Crisis) and hesitated to back Kennedy during the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis. The Americans openly accused Diefenbaker of failing to carry out commitments. In the 1963 general election, Diefenbaker accused the Americans of gross interference, blaming them for his election loss.

The Relationship Strains

Both countries expected better relations when the Liberals assumed power. By 1965, however, relations had deteriorated significantly as Prime Minister Lester Pearson and Canadians found it difficult to give the US the support it demanded during the Vietnam War. By 1967 the Canadian government openly expressed its disagreement with American policies in Southeast Asia. Canadians generally became less sympathetic to American influence and foreign policy. A nationalist movement demanded that American influence be significantly reduced. The first major nationalist initiatives occurred in cultural affairs, but those most offensive to Americans, such as the National Energy Program, were economic.

Relations during the first Reagan administration were strained. It was evident that the government of Pierre Trudeau and the administration of Ronald Reagan perceived international events from a different perspective. Canada, nevertheless, did permit cruise missile testing despite strong domestic opposition. In 1984 the election of Brian Mulroney's Conservatives signalled a reconciliation with the US, one which led to a weakening of nationalistic legislation and agencies such as the Foreign Investment Review Agency(FIRA). Canadian public opinion did not reject these initiatives, and polls in 1985 and 1986 even showed strong support for Free Trade, though this support declined in 1987.

Free Trade Transformation

After protracted negotiations, the two governments reached a tentative trade agreement on 3 October 1987. This agreement became the central issue of the Canadian general election of 1988 which the Mulroney Conservatives decisively won. The trade agreement quickly came into effect, and Canadian-American economic relations were fundamentally changed. In 1994 the trade agreement was extended to Mexico and became known as the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

The trade agreement did not end disputes, in part because promised agreements on subsidies and countervailing actions did not materialize. Moreover, the disparity in size between the two partners meant that on truly controversial issues in the US Congress, such as softwood lumber, the Canadian government had to give way. Nevertheless, trade between the two countries grew dramatically with the US taking 80 per cent of Canada's exports by 1995 and Canada receiving 70 per cent of its imports from the United States. These figures lead many observers to conclude that Canada has cast its fate to North American winds. Some spoke of an inevitable political integration as a result.

Bush and Obama

Relations worsened again during the presidency of George W. Bush. After the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington on 11 September 2001, Canada committed troops to the International Campaign against Terrorism in Afghanistan. When the Americans extended the war to Iraq in 2003, Canada, under Prime Minister Jean Chretien, refused to take part in the new campaign. The tensions became public when the US ambassador publicly rebuked Canada, and when some Canadian officials made derogatory remarks about the US president. The situation further deteriorated when Canada announced in 2005 that it would not participate in the US program to build a ballistic missile defence shield.

Bush's departure from office and the inauguration of Barack Obama as president in January 2009 marked the beginning of improved relations between the two countries. In recent years, the two sides have worked to improve border security by sharing more information, and have improved infrastructure (including the building of a new bridge between Windsor and Detroit, the busiest of the border’s many crossing points). The goal remains to stop criminals and terrorists without hindering trade or tourism.

The government of Prime Minister Stephen Harper has placed a high priority on energy exports, particularly the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline, a controversial project that would transport oil from the Alberta oil sands to American markets. Environmentalists and some members of the US Congress have criticized the pipeline, which is also unpopular in some of the communities it would pass through in the western US. President Barack Obama rejected the original proposal from the TransCanada Corporation, and has hesitated about approving a revised version. Frustrated at this delay, Harper declared in October 2013 that Canada “won’t take ‘no’ for an answer” on Keystone XL.

The Canada-US relationship has been marked by many tensions rooted in specific events, but also reflecting the long tradition of Canadian nationalism and the sense of Canadian distinctiveness. Still, it is difficult to imagine a future relationship different from that of two proud sovereign nations living peacefully and trading constantly with each other.

Suggested Reading

  • Robert Bothwell, Canada and the United States: The Politics of Partnership (1992)

  • Norman Hillmer and J.L. Granatstein, For Better or For Worse: Canada and the United States into the Twenty-First Century (2007)

  • Stephen Azzi, Reconcilable Differences: A History of Canada-US Relations (2014)

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