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Education Forum (OSSTF/FEESO), Summer 1994

The Fight for Canada: Four Centuries of resistance to American Expansionism by David Orchard
(Stoddart Publishing Co., 1993; 292 pages; $17.95)

By Bob Davies

For teachers like me who get depressed about the effects of cutbacks on what teaching materials we can buy these days, here's a suggestion: cut back the number of new materials you ask for, but hone in on a few vital materials and fight like a hyena for those.

Maybe you could consider starting with David Orchard's amazing new book. Get a class set and build a major unit around it. It's not just for history teachers either. For other teachers who accept a broad definition of their subject, it deserves a god checkout: teachers of English (it's a new classic of style and storytelling), of economics (chapters 15 to 25 are about the free trade agreement and the NAFTA), of geography (an ideal special-topic study in world issues and in metropolis-hinterland problems), and of business (its topic being the most far-reaching business issue today).

This book is one of those rarities; it is a clear explanation in layperson's language of these two free trade agreements, and it is a strong storyteller's depiction of how this issue of the threat of US takeover has faced us either militarily or economically since the late 1500s.

Orchard has publicly debated these issues with outspoken conservative critics like John Crosbie and John Crispo, and videotapes of these debates are available for class use. (For details write to Citizens Concerned About Free Trade, PO Box 8052, Saskatoon Sask. SK7 4R7. Telephone (306) 244-5757. Fax (306) 244-3790.) This practice in straightforward public speaking is probably one reason why Orchard has developed such a readable written style. The other factor is probably his passionate commitment to Canada and his conviction that we are presently at a crucial watershed for our future.

For history teachers this passionate relation to the present helps student interest; on reason history has shrunken into a minor option in the last 30 years is that we have abandoned the ‘60s notion that relevance to the preset was a necessity for high school liberal arts courses. For those who feel that the other side of the argument, a passionate devotion to free trade, must also be presented to students, documents by people like Tom D'Aquino and John Crispo — and Brian Mulroney or Kim Campbell for that matter — are readily available.

David Orchard, the book's author, is a fourth-generation Saskatchewan farmer who came to this issue from the bitter experience of US pressure on Canadian farming. "One day when I was a teenager," he says in the preface, "US Air Force jets came suddenly screaming out of the Saskatchewan sky, right over our barn. At barely treetop level they came so fast and so loud as to be from another planet, scattering the livestock in panic. For months they came, without warning. Later I learned they were conducting exercises and were on their way to bomb farmers in a place called Vietnam — farmers struggling to raise their crops and livestock just as we were."

Somehow Orchard, despite his vast and careful research into the history of Canadian/US relations, has managed to write the history of free trade in the same lively and probing style he has used to tell that disturbing incident from his childhood.

Get this book, read it and see whether you don't agree with me that it is urgent to share this story with our students.

Bob Davis is a well-known educator in the Ontario school system, a writer and author of What Our High Schools Could Be: A Teacher's Reflections From the 60s To The 90s, published by Our Schools/Our Selves.

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