Canada’s Enduring Problems

by John Delach

God has a plan; the information is not available to the mortal man. This line from “Slip Sliding Away” was written by Paul Simon and I believe it may help us to understand the Canadian / Canadien dilemma. These gentle and kind people inhabit a huge country of infinite beauty and substantial natural resources. Canadians / Canadiens love their land. They appreciate their burden to protect it, conserve it and nurture it. To this end they are vigilant and, …Oh Canada, we stand on guard for thee.

But they suffer dilemmas that neither God nor government can cure. Canadians / Canadiens never had a proper separation from their motherlands be it England, (Canadians,) or France, (Canadiens) or the civil war needed to reconcile this self-made and inordinately vital issue of sovereignty and identity.  

Had Canada struggled through a nasty civil war, the tediousness of Canadian / Canadien would have been eviscerated in the ferocity of cannons and the wanton spilling of blood. Without such carnage, Canada has been unable to achieve domestic national consensus and the English / French debate diverts vital interest and resources from more important issues. Consider the savings in time, money and psyche if they were just Canadian. Fortunately, the very idea of the French separatist movement remains dormant. Obviously, this obsession by a hard core of separatists is insane, but, though it sleeps, it lives on awaiting the day of resurrection.

So too is the ultimate Canadian paranoia, their fear of the monster that sleeps under their collective beds, the monster to the south. Canadians / Canadiens are like Adam and Eve this time given a second chance. “You may remain in the Garden of Eden, but you will be isolated from all others save one. The monster is powerful and is my eyes and ears. Screw up again and I shall cast it upon you.”

Canadians / Canadiens believe that someday, some way, the USA will annex them. I wish I could assure them that this fear is mistaken. The USA does not look at Canada with ambition, jealousy or envy. I believe we do not covet their nation or their wives, but, then again, I’ve been wrong before.

Years ago, on a business trip to Montreal, one of my Canadian colleagues handed me an unremarkable novel with a knowing look. It was political science fiction, that culminated with these United States declaring Canada to be part of the USA while allowing the provinces the opportunity to apply for statehood. It was a best seller in Canada!

Ridiculous, but still…what if?

The COVID-19 pandemic successfully tested our relationship. When the USA was hit hard, our neighbors to the north closed their border to all but essential traffic. Seems to me, neither one of us considered this closure to be an issue, much less a subject for controversy. Today, it’s Canada that has a COVID-19 problem. Borders remain closed, again without controversy.

Logic, logistics and National ambitions should make the case that the big, bad USA enjoys our relationship with the closest international neighbor and only seeks to enhance our strengthen and friendship.

Please notice that I have absolutely refrained throughout this piece from using the terms, America or American. Terry Manning, my Canadian friend, hated that term. Terry declared that we were all Americans. We could call them Canadians, but he would call us, Yanks.  

Still, Terry believed in the paranoia of the beast which he couldn’t always contain. For several years, our Managing Directors  gathered together for five days at the Greenbrier Resort in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia for a management boondoggle. Late one afternoon, I decided to join Terry and his fellow Canadians on the porch of a cabin they were sharing for our meeting.

Terry decided to call me out in front of his mates: “You know, Delach, the problem with you f***ing Yanks is you think that Canada is the 51st f***ing state!”

“No, Terry,” I replied, “ Israel is the 51st  f***ing state; Canada is the 52nd

F***ing state!” 

Still, I get it. I understand that if our economy catches a cold, Canada faces pneumonia.

Thinking it through, I’ll admit that if I were living in the north country and being constantly forced to look south to see what those Yanks will do next to interfere with my well-being, Je serais avissi nerueux / I too would be nervous.