David Orchard
Articles by David Orchard
  Contacts Schedule What You Can Do ! Home Français

Ottawa Citizen, Thursday, October 11, 2001

Sovereignty - this land is our land

By David Orchard

Sept. 11 should not be an excuse to give up our country and to blindly
follow the U.S. into battle. It's time Canada stood up for its principles.

In the aftermath of the World Trade Center attack in New York we are witnessing some very disturbing developments in Canada. Prominent politicians, academics and media spokespersons are demanding that Canadians, as evidence of their solidarity with the United States, give up their border and their sovereignty, give up Canada in effect. Newspapers announce "the end of Canadian nationalism." We are all Americans now, we are told.

Canada was not responsible for the terrorist attacks in the U.S. and no Canadian link has been established for those involved. Yet Canada is being implicated and Canada's immigration policy is singled out. Canada is being requested, by no less a figure than the U.S. ambassador, to consider a North American perimeter, meaning one North American power centre, or in other words a Greater U.S.A.

At the same time a form of McCarthyism appears to be sweeping the continent. Almost overnight, only certain things are safe to say. Even defending our own existence as a nation has now become almost subversive.

My mother gave several years of her life overseas during World War II; as an officer and nurse she tended the wounds of those brave enough to fight fascism and defend this country and its freedom. A million Canadians joined her in uniform in a six year war that took some fifty million lives. Now an horrific event in New York is enough for some to tell us their efforts were in vain, that we no longer even deserve a country. This is also a betrayal of all those who fought to keep the border there and preserve our sovereignty, from Isaac Brock, Tecumseh and de Salaberry in 1812 on down through the years.

Along with our country it appears we are being asked to give up critical thought. In the U.S., journalists who dare to raise questions are being fired, casualties of an atmosphere which has prompted Walter Cronkite to urge his fellow Americans to wake up to this danger. "When [the Germans] yielded up their free speech so easily [to Hitler], they became responsible for what their government did in their name," he warned recently.

In Canada, those saying "wait a minute, let's think this through," are instantly labelled anti-American. Two theories predominate concerning the New York/Washington events. One that they were the acts of madmen, incapable of comprehension, or alternatively, that they were a reaction to U.S. foreign policies. Those who examine the latter are being quickly attacked and silenced, even their patriotism questioned.

Yet the very logic that is unleashing bombs and cruise missiles on Afghanistan presupposes a rationality to the terrorist attack. Why would we bombard Afghanistan if the hijackers were merely madmen?

There are serious questions that need to be debated and answered before our forces attack a foreign country. The first is the issue of legality. A nation can ask another country for the extradition of a suspected criminal. It can not bomb it if it asks for evidence, or if it insists on certain conditions before compliance. Canada's Supreme Court recentl upheld Canada's own right to impose conditions before extraditing suspected criminals to the U.S.

Furthermore, the U.S. has informed the Uited Nations that it reserves the right to widen this war, to attack any country suspected of condoning or harbouring terrorists. This declaration falls far outside any possible interpretation of Article 51 of the U.N. Charter. A nation's right to self-defence in international law is little different from the right of the individual in Canadian law. If my neighbour threatens to kill me, or if I suspect he may do so, the law does not allow me to shoot him first.

Law, domestic and international, is in place to prevent vigilante action. The Afghans, many starving and huddled in their cellars through these nights of terror, never elected the Taliban as their government and should not be made collectively responsible for its actions. Did not the U.S., Pakistan and Saudi Arabia impose and maintain the Taliban's rule upon the long suffering people of Afghanistan? Did the U.S. government not train, sponsor, and finance the same terrorists we are now condemning, when it was using them against the Soviet Union?

Most Americans have no idea what actions their government has taken around the world, including in the Middle East, where some of the most iron fisted dictatorships in existence retain their grip over their populations only with U.S. and British support. (Most Americans also do not know that their government and that of Britain have been bombing Iraq on a virtually weekly basis since 1991, also in flagrant violation of international law.)

Canadians pride themselves on being better informed, and Canada, as a close friend of the United States, with a proud tradition as a peacemaker, has a responsibility to its own citizens and to the world to examine all these questions. Our law makers must do so before we join an action which pits West versus East, rich versus poor in an unpredictable, open ended war we may live to profoundly regret. The bombing of war torn Afghanistan is already creating new victims and no doubt a new generation of martyrs.

David Orchard is the author of The Fight for Canada -- Four Centuries of Resistance to American Expansionism and was runner-up to Joe Clark in the 1998 federal Progressive Conservative leadership contest. He farms in Borden, SK and can be reached at tel (306) 664-8443 or by e-mail at davidorchard@sasktel.net

Back Top