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Monday Magazine (Victoria, B.C.), July 8-14, 1993

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 Missile systems.

And Captain Henry Walsh, permanently crippled in a tooth-loosening beating in his fight against America's big unions.

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," he said.

"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 it.

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.

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