The StarPhoenix (Saskatoon), Saturday, May
Historical perspective of U.S. domination colors trade plans
By Verne Clemence, SP
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
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,"
That belief convinced him a Liberal-NDP coalition is
essential to defeat the Conservatives and get rid of
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
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
"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
"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.