Canada Kicks Ass

Why the PM is Right
Date: Sunday, April 13 2003
Topic: Canadian Politics

Allan Gotlieb's March 31 essay -- arguing that Canada should have joined
the coalition against Iraq -- generated a large response, for and against. One
dissenter is Adam Zimmerman, one of Canada's most distinguished business
figures. Zimmerman, 76, is retired chairman and CEO of Noranda Forest Inc., a
former director of many companies, and Officer of the Order of Canada. His

UNLIKE ALLAN GOTLIEB, I was proud of Prime Minister Jean Chretien's decision
on Iraq. It was a reasoned, popular move which showed Canada as its own self.
It's notable that the other U.S. neighbour, Mexico, made the same decision (a
fact that Canadian continentalists sweep under the rug).

I could argue that my experience with and in the United States (excepting only the Washington stratosphere) is as profound as that of almost any Canadian. I know that Americans, as individuals, are fine, wonderful, generous people. But collectively, their national game is hardball -- and winning is everything. Thus, notwithstanding the North American Free Trade Agreement, Canada is punished by the U.S. in trade in lumber, steel, wheat and fish, to name the big ones, because Americans won't accept our rules. These items are usually ignored when Americans think or talk of Canada. Ambassador Cellucci might address them while he is rattling his sabre.

To return to Chretien's decision, it was as reasonable as the American one, which arguably was an undemocratic action in a democratic state. Remember the September vote that gave George W. Bush approval from the U.S. Congress to disarm Saddam Hussein with force if necessary? That result was influenced by what is now known to be a falsehood: a report that Iraq was attempting to acquire a 500-ton shipment of uranium oxide from Africa. It seems clear that Britain and the U.S. were spreading false information to influence public opinion.

One can criticize the United Nations, but the world is a better place with it than without. Canada has always been a strong player in UN affairs, particularly in humanitarian and peacekeeping roles. So it was logical that the Prime Minister would ally Canada with the UN. If the UN had sanctioned military action against Iraq, Canada would have taken part, as opposed to supporting unilateral action by a minority. And Canada does have as many as 2,000 troops committed to relieve International Security Assistance Force troops in Afghanistan, as well as three ships operating in the Persian Gulf.

Those people to whom trade, growth and profit count most make the point that economic reprisals are inevitable. Yes, economic security is vitally important, but the reverse is also true: perhaps we should put a value on what we mean to the U.S. Our power, hydrocarbons, auto-parts manufacturing and materials like lumber, steel, newsprint and aluminium are as vital to the U.S. economy as their market is to ours. We just haven't played that card.

For a proper perspective, one has only to leave Canada and look at how we're perceived by others. If noticed at all, we're seen to be miniscule and nice. By standing up for what we believe in, our image is, if anything, strengthened. Being our own self cannot diminish us in Washington or elsewhere. As for influencing Washington, we do so best if we stand firmly behind our interests and beliefs. If we avoid twisted PR and country-bashing, we're more likely to be admired, and even emulated. It isn't worth adjusting our beliefs in the naive notion that we really will influence the U.S. -- against its will.


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