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The Link (Concordia), Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Still fighting for Canada

David Orchard says mobilization is possible despite Canadian disenchantment

by Jonathan Pearce

David Orchard is a distinctive voice in the wilderness of Canada's political sphere. Although he ran for leadership of the Progressive Conservative party against Peter MacKay in 2003, his views on Canadian sovereignty are more aptly aligned with those on the left-wing of Canadian politics, and his opinion on international trade fall squarely in-line with many in the anti-globalization camp.

In terms of his official party status, David Orchard is a bit of a political enigma. But when it comes to fighting for Canadian independence against continuous U.S. encroachment, Orchard is unwavering.

Orchard was in town last week to give a lecture at Concordia. He took time to speak with The Link at his hotel over coffee and orange juice.

There is an increasing sense that Canadians want their country to be more independent on all kinds of issues. But in the political realm it seems like more and more people are in fear of saying 'boo,' said Orchard.

The only reason the Liberals won the last federal election, some argue, was because of a fear about where the new, so-called Conservatives were heading. Most Canadians saw the merging of the Progressive Conservative party and the Canadian Alliance as simply an Alliance takeover, and many were by worried this rightward shift.

During the campaign, Harper and the new Conservatives advocated closer ties with U.S. on such issues as participation in the war on Iraq and increased privatization of health care.

Throughout the campaign Martin spoke up against this kind of increased integration with the U.S.; but since coming to power, the Liberals have been pursuing an agenda that is even more right-wing than the one advocated by Harper and company.

We have this missile defence system which will see our armed forces merged with the U.S. and even under U.S. command, said Orchard. And there's this proposal now for NAFTA plus—co-chaired by John Manley—essentially to remove the borders in North America.

Although he thinks that the Canadian armed forces must be refurbished, he cringes at proposals to restore our forces, only to further place them under U.S. command. Right now our air force is already under U.S. control on the NORAD agreement, and now they [are] proposing to put army and navy under U.S. command, he said. How can any nation do that?

Orchard has been an outspoken opponent of the original free trade agreement with the U.S. and the subsequent NAFTA agreement. In 1985, Orchard founded Citizens Concerned About Free Trade (CCAFT), a non-partisan citizen's coalition concerned about the effects these arrangements might have on Canadian sovereignty.

Since the signing of the free trade agreements, well over 10,000 Canadian companies have been taken over by American corporations, said Orchard.

According to Orchard, we could have strong national industries in Canada but unfortunately there is lack of political will to pursue this line of economic development.

Going further down this route of simply handing economic matters over to the Americans is not going to benefit Canadians—it's going to leave us less free to move on the world stage in an independent way.

He noted that Canadian politicians are so afraid of upsetting the U.S. for fear of disrupting economic interests that they are increasingly taking the country in a direction that is counter to the interests of all Canadians.

Some Canadian politicians thought that we should also drop some bombs on Iraq simply for the reason that Americans buy a lot from us, and the U.S. might get angry at us, said Orchard. Now that is no way to run a foreign policy.

There is a growing sense that Canadians are disenchanted with the policies of their elected representatives, said Orchard. Moving forward along a route that is more congruent with the needs of all Canadians is possible, noted Orchard, but will take some serious mobilization.

This idea now that we can't do anything except assemble U.S. products, buy foreign products and ship raw logs south—it's a denigration of our capacity as a nation.

Check out David Orchard's book The Fight for Canada: Four Centuries of Resistance to American Expansionism (Stoddart, 1993; 2nd ed. Robert Davies, 1999). For more information, go to

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