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American Canadian Relations: The Carrot And The Stick

Oh, oh. We're in trouble again. Yep just when you've been told how everything is so nice-nice between Ottawa and Washington along comes a Bush Administration report saying that Canada is home to Islamic terrorist cells due to our liberal immigration and refugee laws.

Now this has been a rallying point for the political right in America before the dust had even settled in New York City from the destruction of the World Trade Centre. But this is the first time that any official document from the administration has been openly critical along these lines. One has to wonder why they would be releasing this report now when for the first time in over a decade they actually have a willing puppet sitting in Ottawa as Prime Minister.

But lets look at the report and see what sort of evidence they've prepared to condemn us folk up here north of the 49th parallel. First of all they complain about the fact that ever since the fiasco surrounding the mistreatment of Canadian citizen Maher Arar (a Canadian who was handed over to the Syrian government to be tortured by the Americans because he was suspected of maybe having links to people who might have been terrorists and in the end has never been charged with anything) our government has been a lot less enthusiastic about sharing information with the Americans.

Could it be possible, that after our government had arranged for a few others to be handed over to foreign governments for torture at the request of the Americans, only to find out that none of the men have been guilty of anything except being middle eastern and knowing each other, they might not have trusted their sources of information? Is it at all possible that perhaps they had decided they didn't trust the American government with the fate of Canadian citizens anymore?

The fact that our government has proven just as adept as the American's at depriving citizens of their rights seems to have escaped the Bush administration's notice. In this report they name five people who they claim are known terrorists living in Canada. The fact that four of them have been under arrest for years under our security certificate program and the fifth is under tight surveillance and reporting conditions so the government knows where he is at all times seems to have been left out of the report.

What's even more confusing is this piece of text that is quoted directly from the report: “With the exception of the United States and Canada, there are no known operational cells of Islamic terrorists in the hemisphere.” So what does that mean? That all the terrorists come from Canada? That Canada has them and does nothing about them? Or is just a general observation meaning that there are people in both countries that could possibly be terrorists?

Finally they get around to mentioning the one man who has been effectively shown to having contacts with terrorist organizations, but instead of mentioning that he's dead they say we are home to the Khadr terrorist family. Well they didn't seem overly concerned about airlifting Bin-Landin's family out of the United States days after the planes were crashed into the buildings, even though they had connections to a known terrorist. So if those family members could be considered innocent, why can't another man's family, in spite of what he's done? Only Khadr senior has ever been linked to Bin-Landin, which is more than you can say for Osama's brothers and sisters.

But the key question here is why release such a harsh sounding report about a country that has always been one of your closest allies, has been involved in the war on terror right from the start, and is still suffering casualties. (Remember a country called Afghanistan, which was the country invaded before Iraq. Canadian soldiers are still fighting and dying there) The current Prime Minister of Canada is so enamoured of President Bush and his policies that he's even taken to imitating the American way of preventing journalists from being present when the caskets of soldiers come home to Canada from the battlefield. (The father of one of the soldiers who died recently was so incensed by this that at his son's funeral he took the time to criticize the policy twice, once during his eulogy, and once during a video memorial to his son)

While it's true that part of the report was written while the previous government was in power, it wasn't finalized until well after the change of governments. Perhaps that's the point. They know they have a sympathetic audience now who will be more willing to listen to their complaints. The Conservative Party of Canada while in opposition was highly critical of Canada's immigration policy, for reasons of their own, and in support of the terrorist argument.

I don't think it's any coincidence that the Bush administration finally surrendered in the soft wood lumber dispute now that there is a government in power that likes them. Up until the change they were quite willing to defy every court ruling that went against them, and couldn't give a damn about our government's reaction. All of a sudden they have a complete change of mind on the subject and even agree to repay the majority of the duty that was collected illegally from Canadian firms.

You don't think it has anything to with paving the way for Mr. Harper and his Conservative Party to start arguing in favour of being more co-operative when it comes to dealing with issues of security and immigration do you? Mr. Bush and Mr. Harper couldn't have planned any of this during their meeting prior to the election could they?

Mr. Bush tells Mr. Harper that he'll make him look good to the Canadian people by giving him the softwood lumber deal, and Mr. Harper has to get tough on immigration and terror in exchange. They agree that issuing a report critical of the previous government's record would be the perfect thing, because that will give Mr. Harper the ammunition he needs to convince the Canadian people that his approach is the right one.

Look he can say, it's already yielded us results in the softwood lumber dispute which the Liberal government let drag on for years, but I was able to solve after only in three months in office. Even though it has been reported in the papers that the deal has been in the works for over a year, which means most of it was accomplished before Harper was in power, all people will remember was that he was Prime Minister when it the dispute was resolved.

It's classic carrot and stick motivational techniques, with one hand you goad the donkey with the stick to the butt to propel him forward, with the other you dangle a carrot in front of his face to entice as promise of a reward. It's already working wonders, listen to the response from some Ministry of Foreign Affairs mouthpiece in Ottawa named Rodney Moore.

“Canada's new government believes in maintaining a vigorous counterintelligence program to safeguard our national security. The government does not tolerate inappropriate activities and will restore our reputation as a leader and dependable partner in defending freedom and democracy in the world.” The Globe and Mail April 28th/2006

In other words those other guys might have been willing to let all sorts of terrorists run rampant throughout our country, but not us. It's funny you know, because I could have sworn it was the previous government that brought in all the controversial laws that suspended people's right to a trial, or even of being told why they were being arrested. It wasn't until the opposition party protested that they weren't doing enough to protect the rights of Canadian citizens that they reviewed the case of Mr. Arar and began to reconsider some of the harsher measures.

Ten points if you can guess who the opposition party was that was so desperate to defend the rights of Canadian citizens. Isn't political expediency fun?

I wouldn't be surprised if in the next little while we see the Conservative government trying to force through new laws governing the application process for refugees. It's already difficult enough as it is for someone to gain admission to Canada as a refugee. Unless you're from a country designated by the United Nations as a nation in need you or can supply proof of some sort that your life is in physical danger, or that your liberty would be constrained if you were to continue living in your country of origin, you won't be allowed admission into Canada.

I wonder how hard it is to get the people threatening to kill or torture you to put it in writing: "To Whom This May Concern. We are planning on torturing the bearer of this note on Wednesday and all being well putting him to death on Friday. Yours Sincerely etc. etc"

If you are proven to be any sort of threat to society, or there is sufficient evidence to suggest you are a potential threat through either previous associations or behaviour you won't be allowed in either. Sure some people sneak through the cracks, but they will no matter what anybody does. The only way to prevent that is by forbidding people to come and visit your country completely, or implanting tracking devices in all tourists.

In the end it really doesn't matter how the government responds. It's all about sending messages to each other anyway. The American government is simply reminding the Canadian government of Steven Harper that they have to live up to their end of the deal and get Canada back in line with American foreign policy, instead of being independent of thought like the previous government was.

Issuing this report a day or two after agreeing to a new lumber deal was no coincidence. If you don't give the donkey the stick soon after the carrot he might start thinking for himself. And we can't have that, now can we?

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