Calgary Herald, Saturday, June 19, 1993
Fight for Canada rings bell of alarm
By George Melnyk
Up to now Western Canada has had only one outstanding
Canadian nationalist, Mel Hurtig of Edmonton. With this
book David Orchard of Saskatoon has become the region's
second leading nationalist.
Orchard has written a powerful polemic about Canada's
"four centuries of resistance to American expansionism."
As the national chairman of Citizens Concerned About
Free Trade, he uses this book to launch an all-out
attack on the American empire and its latest expression
of continentalism — the free trade agreement (FTA).
While Hurtig's books focus on economic issues and are
full of statistical information, Orchard's book offers a
lively historical account. At least, the first half of
The remaining half is a rather tiresome account of
the 1988 anti-free trade campaign and of the negative
impact of FTA on Canada since then.
The first half of the text is hot and heavy with
drama and slogans as defiant Canadians, starting in the
days of New France, repulse one wave after another of
The pages drip patriotic fervor and make a delightful
read as they appeal to political emotions. This would be
the stuff of movies, if we had a film industry that had
the courage to produce historical epics with an
Orchard also deals extensively with the Reciprocity
Treaty of 1854 that was a form of free trade and lasted
until 1866. His account of later attempts to reintroduce
free trade, including the failed attempt of 1911,
provide good background material for our understanding
of the current situation.
The period around Confederation and the acquisition
of the West are particularly fascinating.
The treatment of Riel is exceedingly positive, and
Orchard makes a great deal of Riel's resistance in
1869/70 to American overtures for Red River joining the
Besides describing American invasions of Canada, the
author deals with boundary disputes and such sad
incidents as the closing of the Avro Arrow project in
the late 1950s, which ensured Canada's subservience in
He writes about these issues with great passion and a
The second half of the book is a dud. In the first
half history masks the tone of propaganda, but there is
no such mask in the second half. It is out and out
Orchard, like Hurtig before him, is full of alarm. He
concludes that "Canada has gone from being a colony of
France, to being a colony of Britain, to being a colony
of the United States. It is time now to become a
Since it is relatively easy to abrogate the current
FTA treaty if there exists the political will to do so,
Orchard — who is convinced that free trade will mean the
end of the nation if allowed to continue — calls for a
Liberal-New Democrat alliance in the forthcoming federal
election to throw out the Tories and end the treaty.
At one time, Hurtig pushed this line, but then he
realized it was a hopeless prospect. As a result he
formed his own political party, which has just received
$4 million in start-up funds from a Manitoba
This is a timely book written for popular
consumption. For true believers, it is a wonderful call
to the barricades; for those with a different
perspective, it is not quite as appealing.
Wherever one stands on the issue of Canadian
nationalism, one must admit that Orchard's text belongs
to the great canon of passionate Canadian nationalism.
It is a proud achievement for this fourth-generation
Melnyk's latest book is Riel to Reform.