Ross Murray's Border Report
Ross Murray
Ross Murray
is a freelance writer living in Stanstead, Quebec. You can reach him at
Posted 01.06.06
Stanstead, Quebec


Paranoid along the US border

The U.S. is Canada's best friend. It's always there for us, ready to tell us what to think. We listen - politely - even though we suspect we're so much better, yet we're still happy to hang out for some laughs and to keep from getting beat up.

It's a good relationship: they supply the muscle and the sit-coms, we supply the resources and comedians.

So I find the recent animosity between our two countries a little disturbing. It's not the deep animosity of, say, sleeping with your best friend's wife. It's more like one of us owes the other money.

First, there was Prime Minister Paul Martin telling American officials to do their bit to combat global warming…please.

In reply, U.S. Ambassador David Wilkins said they'd already done tons and warned us not to get too big for our britches, or maybe it was just something that sounded like "tons" and "britches."

The spat resulted in some tremendous hand-wringing on this side of the border about whether we should dare to criticize our best friends, what with them keeping us from getting our lunch money stolen in the cafeteria and all.

On the other side of the border, Martin's comments generated criticism such as pundit Tucker Carlson's line about Canada being the U.S.A.'s "retarded cousin."

This comment prompted many Canadians to fire off angry letters to Carlson explaining that the correct term was "cousin with special needs."

This was merely the most public aspect of a spat that has included conflicts over softwood lumber and beef. But there are more subtle elements afoot.

Last month, Stephen Harper promised that a Conservative government would bolster Canada's northern defenses to better protect our sovereignty. Harper was not specific about who we'd be protecting our sovereignty from but it was pretty clear he was talking about the Americans, just in case the U.S. tried to take advantage of a sudden world demand for tundra.

Then, just before New Year's, Harper talked about placing military units in Canadian cities.

"Obviously, we would anticipate that its domestic need would be in case of disaster," Harper told reporters.

What kind of disasters? Again, he wasn't specific but I think he meant visits by chest-poking U.S. ambassadors.

Subtler still is the demand for guns by the union representing Canada Customs officers. It's a perennial request; when the union launches contract negotiations, its wish list usually goes something like "We want better wages, guns, more job security, less picky uniforms, some guns, cool hats, more personnel, bullets, and - oh yes - guns."

The argument is that only an armed border presence can effectively stop criminals from crossing the border. But I think there's something else going on - like creating a backup armed unit to protect us against U.S. invasion and to collect duty on bazookas.

Paranoid? Then how do you explain a December 30 Washington Post feature entitled "Raiding the Icebox" that discussed secret U.S. plans to invade Canada?

Of course, these plans were drawn up in 1935, but check out this comment from a Pentagon spokesman about whether an invasion strategy exists today: "We don't acknowledge which countries we have contingency plans for."

That's like asking your best friend if he plans to sleep with your wife and he says, "I'd really rather not say. By the way, you still owe me 50 bucks."

The Post story also refers to a website called that sets out the whys and hows of taking over Canada. Yes, it's all tongue-in-cheek but it plants the seed, in an "it's so crazy it just might work" kind of way, like wiretapping your own citizens or voting NDP.

Perhaps it is all pre-election rhetoric. I say we cool our jets and bring the two best friends together over a big barbecue so we can reminisce about the good times. Like remember that time we burned down the White House…? Oh... sorry.