Monday Magazine (Victoria, B.C.), July 8-14,
Fight for Canada: David Orchard unleashes his anti-free trade manifesto
By James MacKinnon
A police memo printed in David Orchard's book, The
Fight for Canada, warned me of "a manipulative,
argumentative, scheming and self-centred individual,
interested in only personal recognition and gain."
On May 7, 1987 in Saskatoon, Orchard (6'0, 180 lbs,
brown hair, hazel eyes, no criminal record) was pulled
into an unmarked police car, driven away, held for 25
minutes and ended up with his own police file. His
crime? Shouting a question at Brian Mulroney during a
visit to Saskatoon.
Naturally, I was on my guard when I met the author —
in town for the west coast release of the book—but the
wily dog slipped past my defences. By the end of the
interview, I found myself plotting 101 ways to reclaim
Canada from the U.S. of A.
But credit for bringing out my subversive side goes
not to Orchard's sneaky dealings — I found him polite
and straight-speaking—but to his book, a
thought-provoking travelogue through his discoveries as
national chair of Citizens Concerned About Free Trade, a
non-partisan, grass-roots group that has headed the
fight against free trade since the mid-'80s.
The book is a Canadian social history, journal of the
Canada–U.S. Free Trade Agreement's (FTA) development,
point by point handbook to the FTA and NAFTA deals, and
blue print for the erasure of them from the law books.
But heaviest criticism for the work should be
reserved for its title. It should have been shortened to
simply Fight for Canada — in the imperative.
The first half of the book is a carefully researched,
concisely readable history of Canadians' unrelenting
fight against annexation wit the U.S., and bristles with
little-known Canadian heroes.
Here is the story of Shawnee Chief Tecumseh and
British General Isaac Brock, who successfully turned
back an overwhelming American invasion in the 1812 war,
which claimed both their lives. Were British negotiators
as fair to Tecumseh's memory as Orchard is, the abuse of
Canada's First Nations might have been halted.
Here too is the story of the AVRO aircraft company,
whose innovative fighter jet — almost certain to break
world speed records — was literally cut to pieces on
defence ministry orders to make room for American
And Captain Henry Walsh, permanently crippled in a
tooth-loosening beating in his fight against America's
The list goes on — from the hanging of patriot Louis
Riel for treason, to U.S. president Lyndon Johnson's
verbal abuse of Prime Minister Lester Pearson following
his opposition to the Vietnam War — with the litany of
heartening and often preposterously courageous feats
that ensured "the Yankee to the south of us, shall south
of us remain."
History lesson complete, the book moves on to show
evidence that Canadians were betrayed by their
politicians in the drive to pass trade deals which sell
out the interests of Canadians.
Orchard seems almost wide-eyed with wonder at what he
has uncovered about history and the impact of the Free
Trade Agreement. Even his home town of Borden,
Saskatchewan, where he still runs a small farm, plays a
role in the fight for Canada. Once called Baltimore, the
town dumped its American-flavoured label to honour Prime
Minister Robert Borden, who was swept to power for his
opposition to free trade in 1911.
"I grew up learning that the U.S. was our best
friend, and that we needed to have them to protect us,"
"But they [Americans] were barely off the boating
Virginia and they were attacking us."
Those of us raised in the strongly
American-influenced era of Mulroney, Reagan, and Bush
will take particular interest in this aspect.
Orchard once asked one youth what part of the book
was most interesting and was told. "I'm mostly amazed
that I knew none of it."
The numbers add to the shock. In the four years
following the signing of the FTA, 1.4 million jobs were
lost, and 24% of the manufacturing sector had died, with
97 plant closures in Ontario alone.
Over 100,000 jobs are expected to be lost in the agri-food
industry, and all the while, Orchard argues, Canadian
energy, water, and the freedom to resolve First Nations'
claims or implement new social programs are threatened.
A brief section on the NAFTA leaves one thinking we
let the snake bite into us, and now we're squeezing it
for extra venom.
Orchard suspects perhaps one in 1,000 Canadians has
any idea what is in the NAFTA, an 1,100 page document
that Ottawa charges Canadians $200 a copy to read. He
refers Canadians to a Florida radio station that sells
copies of the deal for $27.
The final chapters of The Fight for Canada call
Canadians to action. Orchard suggests Canadians pressure
the federal Liberals and New Democrats to form a
coalition and run only one, anti-free trader per riding,
then, with a majority coalition government in power,
tear up the deals.
A hundred thousand letters might do it, he says.
"The coalition is a long shot, but in '87 they told
us it was a long shot to get the Liberals to oppose it
[the FTA]," he said.
As an alternative to this plan, Orchard now says
Canadians should pressure the Grits to drop their
commitment to "renegotiate" the FTA and agree to cancel
With so much information rarely, if ever, so easily
accessible before, the book's pages are haunted by
questions, the greatest being, "Why would any Canadian
sign the free trade agreement?"
Orchard: "There has always been a stream of a small
number of Canadians who'd rather be Americans . . . and
they've always been a minority.
"And then in 1984, they finally got a Prime Minister
who was of that stream.
"What's really badly needed is an in-depth study of
how Mulroney took over the Conservative Party," he
added. Orchard's next project perhaps.
The book is essential fare for anyone interested in
defining who Canadians are, and what we may be losing.
The 8,000 first and 2,500 second runs are selling out
quickly with very little advertising, after only six
weeks on bookshelves.
Buy one, borrow one, reserve it at the library. Hell
— if you lost your job to free trade, get a copy and
send the bill for $17.95 to Brian Mulroney.