For over two centuries Canada has enjoyed an excellent relationship with the United States. Each year, without fail, Gallup polls put us at the top of the list of countries that Americans view most favorably. There have been some bumps along the way, but for the most part we've remained trusted allies.
In response to my recent blog about some of America's most vehement critics of President Obama, one commentator legitimately asked why as head of the Association for Canadian Studies I felt the need to write about it. "In Canada", the commentator added, "we have far too much of an obsession with American domestic issues."
When some may think it's best to mind their own business when a very close friend is about to make a really bad decision, I believe it's important to let them know. With the strong possibility that the highly divisive Donald Trump will be the Republican candidate for the United States presidency, it is often out of friendship that many Canadians feel compelled to share their concerns with their neighbours to the south. After all, as friends, we don't want walls between us.
Canadian uneasiness over Trump is reflected in a recent Angus Reid Foundation survey which reveals that some 55% support the removal of Trump's name from buildings in Toronto and Vancouver.
Residents of those cities are considerably more favorable to dropping his name. In the same survey, some two-thirds of Canadians disagree with Trump's statement calling for a "total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States" These same Canadians contend that Trump's statement is "bad for society" because it encourages fear and hatred of Muslims. Sadly, about one-third of Canadians take the opposite view saying Trump is good for society because he's bringing "politically incorrect" topics into public discourse. (http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/dump-trump-name-from-towers-canadians-tell-pollsters-1.3371299).
It's wise for elected officials to be prudent when it comes to relations with their US counterparts. It is not surprising that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says he'll avoid commenting on the candidacy of Trump during his forthcoming visit to the White House. Apparently, the Prime Minister doesn't like to get involved in other's domestic politics. When asked last year about the idea of suspending Muslim travel, Trudeau said he didn't want to comment on American politics, but stands against the politics of fear, division, intolerance and hatred. Should Trudeau reiterate the comment during the State visit it will inevitably be seen as a criticism of Trump.
The same restraint was not practiced recently when representatives of the US Congress held hearings about Canada's resettlement plan for 25,000 Syrian refugees. The committee's top Republican, Ron Johnson, described the plan as a "...a pretty significant ramp-up" and wondered whether short cuts might be taken. Leading US Democrat Tom Carper countered that "... we should support our ally Canada in doing the right thing in the most secure manner possible." The Canadian government was invited to participate in the hearing, but declined, citing the historical precedent of avoiding that partisan chamber. Still, Canadian Ambassador the United States, Gary Doer issued a note to the committee asking them to "rest assured that no corners, including security screening, are being cut in order to achieve the government's objectives."
As regards certain political decisions made by one's neighbors, sometimes your business is their business.
America's choice of President has important global ramifications and as their northern neighbor and closest friend it might be irresponsible to be indifferent to such fundamental choices. Sure it is a decision to be made by American voters and the consequences are mostly theirs to bear. As repugnant as many of us might find Trump we'll need to respect their choice. But, in the interim, it doesn't mean that Canadians should be prevented, if they so desire, from forcefully giving their opinion.
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