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The StarPhoenix (Saskatoon), Saturday, May 15, 1993

Historical perspective of U.S. domination colors trade plans

By Verne Clemence, SP books editor

The message in David Orchard's new book The Fight for Canada is the same one he has been trying to spread since the mid-1980s, a rallying cry against growing United States domination.

Orchard watchers of the past few years may experience déjà vu in parts of this book. But they'll also find a new and powerful impact from the careful historical record which the Saskatchewan area farmer activist and now author started compiling eight years ago.

From the 1613 looting of Port Royal in an attack launched against the Acadians by the governor of Virginia, through the heroics of Isaac Brock and Chief Tecumseh in repelling a vastly superior American invasion in 1812, the "Fifty-four forty or fight" presidential campaign of James Polk in 1844 to the Bomarc missile debacle of the 1960s, United States continental aspirations have always been facts of Canadian life.

Orchard devotes the first half of the book to that early history, then traces contemporary American actions, such as meddling to help defeat the unfriendly Diefenbaker government in the 1960s and American outrage when Lester Pearson dared to oppose the Vietnam war.

In the second half, he writes about ill-fated Canadian attempts in the early ‘80s to re-establish control over a resource and industrial base that was by then largely in U.S. hands. He then assesses the Mulroney years, claiming the Tory agenda all along has been to deliver Canada into American hands.

The free trade debate is reported through Orchard's own journal entries, which follow him from Oct. 1, 1987, through a hectic year of anti-free trade campaigning as principal spokesperson for the group which sprung up in Saskatoon, Citizens Concerned About Free Trade (CCAFT). He goes on to analyse the devastating impact of the FTA on employment and the economy as a whole.

As for the proposed Canada-Mexico-U.S. deal now on the table, Orchard's conclusion is that the only way for Canada to remain independent is to get out and stay out of trade pacts with its huge southern neighbour.

After seeing a strident Orchard in full cry on the front lines of the free trade fray, we now meet the quiet, cerebral version in this book; the one-time law student and the researcher who won't stop digging until he gets to the bottom of an issue.

We are also invited, though the thought is not spoken, to switch our attention from the man to the message. It's a point well taken.

Orchard writes and speaks with awe about the way the citizens' group, of which he is now national chairman, came together as a purely grassroots movement.

"It was the people who came to those meetings — 1,200 in Vancouver, 1,000 in Edmonton, 700 in Prince Albert — who voted no to free trade. They were in the majority," Orchard says.

That belief convinced him a Liberal-NDP coalition is essential to defeat the Conservatives and get rid of free trade.

Orchard has no personal political ambitions. He has turned down invitations from four political parties to run under their banners.

"We've built a non-partisan organization and that's its strength. We weren't following labor's tune, or a business tune, or the Tories, the Liberals, the NDP or the Reformers."

He shrugs off attempts to discredit him and his organization by RCMP security forces in a report leaked after Orchard was temporarily confined by police for yelling at Mulroney on a Saskatoon street. But he obviously finds it upsetting to be described as violence-prone.

"I'm just trying to make the political system work to the benefit of the country," he says. He has no history of any kind of violence and thinks part of the problem is that a 1984 run-in with Saskatoon police over an erroneous accusation that he hadn't paid a parking ticket was blown out of proportion.

He later received a $2,450 settlement from the city, but the security report didn't reflect that fact.

He also disputes claims he's anti-American. "I don't know of any other country in the world where, if you promote your own nation you are immediately labeled anti-something."

"Nationalism in Canada is essentially a defensive mechanism," he bluntly asserts. "If we don't have more nationalism, we're soon not going to have a country."

This book raises issues and expresses opinions that will be challenged. But just as the CCAFT itself stimulated debate — including some that was not universally welcomed — so will this book be a catalyst for more public discourse. Hopefully, it might even lead to a wider understanding of Canada's position as the mouse sleeping next to the elephant.

It also underscores something about the role of the country's media. The CCAFT, and particularly Orchard, do not neatly fit the political models journalists have come to depend upon for the hand-out news that is the main fare today.

As a result, coverage of this grassroots group was grudging and mainly aimed at discrediting those who dared to challenge established ways of doing things. The real story, as this book suggests, is both interesting and reminiscent of earlier agrarian reform movements that are now spoken of with near reverence.

The Fight for Canada is published by Stoddart and sells for $17.95 in softcover.

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