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
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
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 email@example.com