Relations between Canada and the United States span more than two centuries, sharing British colonial heritage, conflict during the early years of the United States, and the eventual development of one of the most successful international relationships in the modern world. Each is the other's chief economic partner, and indeed the two economies have increasingly merged since the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) of 1994. In addition, there has always been large scale immigration between the two nations, and since 1900 large-scale tourism as well.
The most serious breach in the relationship was the War of 1812, which saw an American invasion of then British North America and counter invasions from British-Canadian forces. The border was demilitarized after the war and, apart from minor raids, has remained peaceful. Military collaboration began during the World Wars and continued throughout the Cold War, though with Canadian doubts about certain American policies. A high volume of trade and migration between the United States and Canada has generated closer ties, despite continued Canadian fears of being overwhelmed by its neighbor, which is ten times larger in terms of population and economy. James Tagg reports that Canadian university students have a profound fear that "Canadian culture, and likely Canadian sovereignty, will be overwhelmed."
Canada and the United States are currently the world's largest trading partners, share the world's longest unmilitarized border, and have significant interoperability within the defense sphere. Recent difficulties have included repeated trade disputes (despite a continental trade agreement), environmental concerns, Canadian concern for the future of oil exports, and issues of illegal immigration and the threat of terrorism. The foreign policies of the neighbors have been closely aligned for the Cold War and after, though Canada has disagreed with American policies regarding the Vietnam War, the status of Cuba, the Iraq War, Missile Defense, and the War on Terrorism. A minor diplomatic debate is whether the Northwest Passage is in international waters or under Canadian jurisdiction.
Canada remains Americans' favorite foreign nation and the U.S. is high on the Canadian international agenda. An undercurrent of anti-American sentiment is fueled by Canadian fears of American cultural hegemony and the weakening of a distinctive Canadian culture.
|Area||9,984,670 km2 (3,854,085 sq mi)||9,629,091 km2 (3,717,813sq mi)|
|Population Density||3.4/km2 (8.3/sq mi)||31/km2 (80/sq mi)|
|Capital||Ottawa, Ontario||Washington, D.C.|
|Largest City||Toronto – 2,503,281 (5,555,912 Metro)||New York City – 8,363,710 (19,006,798 Metro)|
|Government||Federal parliamentary constitutional monarchy||Federal presidential constitutional republic|
|Official languages||English and French||None at federal level |
|Main religions||63.6% Christianity, 30.5% non-Religious or unstated, 2% Islam, 1.1% Judaism, 1% Buddhism, 1% Hinduism||78.4% Christianity, 16.1% non-Religious, 1.7% Judaism, 1.2% Other, 0.7% Buddhism, 0.6% Islam, 0.4% Hinduism|
|Ethnic groups||75% White/European, 5.5% Aboriginal, 4.6% South Asian, 4.3% Chinese,||74% White American, 14.8% Hispanic and Latino Americans (of any race), 13.4% African American,
6.5% Some other race, 4.4% Asian American, 2.0% Two or more races,
0.68% American Indian or Alaska Native, 0.14% Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander
|GDP (nominal)||2008 IMF estimates: US$1.499 trillion ($45,085 per capita) ||2008 IMF estimates: US$14.441 trillion ($47,440 per capita) |
|Military expenditures||$18.28 billion (FY 2009-10) ||$663.7 billion (FY 2010) |
From the 1750s to the 21st century, there has been extensive mingling of the Canadian and American populations, with large movements in both directions.
New England Yankees settled large parts of Nova Scotia before 1775, and were neutral during the American Revolution. At the end of the Revolution, about 75,000 Loyalists moved out of the new United States to Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and the lands of Quebec west and south of Montreal. From 1790 to 1812 many farmers moved from New York and New England into Ontario. In the early 20th century, the opening of the Prairie Provinces attracted many farmers from the American Midwest. Two distinctive groups were "Pennsylvania Dutch" Mennonites, and Mormons who went from Utah to form communities in Alberta after the Mormon Church rejected plural marriage in the 1890s. The 1960s saw the arrival of about 50,000 draft-dodgers who opposed the Vietnam War.
In the late 19th and early 20th century about 900,000 French Canadians moved to the U.S., with 395,000 residents there in 1900. Two-thirds went to mill towns in New England, where they formed distinctive ethnic communities. By the late 20th century they had dispersed more widely, and abandoned the French language, but most kept the Catholic religion. About twice as many English Canadians came to the U.S., but they did not form distinctive ethnic settlements.
Canada was a way-station through which immigrants from other lands stopped for a while while ultimately heading to the U.S. In 1851-1951, 7.1 million people arrived in Canada (mostly from Europe), and 6.6 million left Canada, mostly to the U.S.
At the outset of the American Revolution, the American revolutionaries hoped the French Canadians in Quebec and the Colonists in Nova Scotia would join their rebellion and they were pre-approved for joining the United States in the Articles of Confederation. When Canada was invaded during the American Revolutionary War, thousands joined the American cause and formed regiments that fought during the war; however most remained neutral and some joined the British effort. The British advised the French Canadians that the British Empire already enshrined their rights in the Quebec Act, which the American colonies had viewed as one of the Intolerable Acts. The American invasion was a fiasco and Britain tightened its grip on its northern possessions; in 1777 a major British invasion into New York led to the surrender of the entire British army at Saratoga, and led France to enter the war as an ally of the U.S. The French Canadians largely ignored France's appeals for solidarity. After the war Canada became a refuge for about 75,000 Loyalists who either wanted to leave the U.S., or were compelled by Patriot reprisals to do so. Among the original Loyalists, who were of many ethnic backgrounds, there were 3500 free blacks. Most went to Nova Scotia and in 1792, 1200 migrated to Sierra Leone. About 2000 black slaves were brought in by Loyalist owners; they remained slaves in Canada until the Empire abolished slavery in 1833. Before 1860, about 30,000-40,000 escaped slaves used the Underground Railroad to escape to British North America.
The Treaty of Paris (1783), which ended the war, called for the British to vacate all their forts south of the Great Lakes border. The British refused to do so, citing failure of the United States to provide financial restitution for Loyalists who had lost property in the war. The Jay Treaty in 1795 with Great Britain resolved that lingering issue and the British departed the forts. Thomas Jefferson saw the nearby British imperial presence as a threat to republicanism in the United States, and so he opposed the Jay Treaty, and it became one of the major political issues in the United States at the time.
Tensions mounted again after 1805, erupting into the War of 1812, when the Americans declared war on Britain. The Americans were angered by British harassment of U.S. ships on the high seas and seizure ("Impressment") of 6,000 sailors from American ships, severe restrictions against neutral American trade with France, and British support for hostile Indian tribes in Ohio and territories the U.S. had gained in 1783. American "honor" was an implicit issue. The Americans were outgunned by more than 10 to 1 by the Royal Navy, and so a land invasion of Canada was proposed as the only feasible means of attacking the British Empire. Americans on the western frontier also hoped an invasion would bring an end to British support of Native American resistance to the westward expansion of the United States, typified by Tecumseh's coalition of tribes. The U.S. strategy in 1812 was to temporarily seize Canada as a means of forcing concessions from the British. There was some hope that settlers in western Canada—most of them recent immigrants from the U.S. --would welcome the chance to overthrow their British rulers. However, the American invasions were incompetent and were defeated primarily by British regulars with support from Indians and Upper Canada (Ontario) militia. Major British invasions of New York in 1814 and Louisiana in 1814-15 were poorly handled and the British retreated, leaving both sides about where they were in 1812. With the collapse of Napoleon, the British ended naval policies that angered Americans; with the defeat of the Indian tribes that threat to American expansion was ended. The upshot was neither side had anything to fight over, and the war ended by a treaty that took effect in February 1815.
In later years, Canadians, who remain loyal to the Empire well into the 20th century, viewed the War of 1812 as a successful resistance against invasion and as a victory that defined them as a people. A common theme in Canadian political rhetoric ever since has been the protection of Canadian culture from American influence and possible integration into the American political, cultural and economic realm.
Canada became a self-governing dominion in 1867 in internal affairs while Britain controlled diplomacy and defense policy. Prior to Confederation, there was an Oregon boundary dispute in which the Americans claimed the 54th degree latitude. That issue was resolved by splitting the disputed territory; the northern half became British Columbia, and the southern half the states of Washington and Oregon. Strained relations with America continued, however, due to a series of small-scale armed incursions named the Fenian raids by Irish-American Civil War veterans across the border from 1866 to 1871 in an attempt to trade Canada for Irish independence. The American government, angry at Canadian tolerance of Confederate raiders during the American Civil War, moved very slowly to disarm the Fenians. The British government, in charge of diplomatic relations, protested cautiously, as Anglo-American relations were tense. Much of the tension was relieved as the Fenians faded away and in 1872 by the settlement of the Alabama Claims, when Britain paid the U.S. $15.5 million for war losses caused by warships built in Britain and sold to the Confederacy.
Disputes over ocean boundaries on Georges Bank and over fishing, whaling, and sealing rights in the Pacific were settled by international arbitration, setting an important precedent.
Much more controversial was the Alaska boundary dispute, settled in favor of the United States in 1903. At issue was the exact boundary between Alaska and Canada, specifically whether Canada would have a port near the present American town of Haines that would give access to the new Yukon goldfields. The dispute was settled by arbitration, and the British delegate voted with the Americans—to the astonishment and anti-British disgust of Canadians who suddenly realized that Britain considered its relations with the United States paramount compared to those with Canada.
1907 saw a minor controversy over USS Nashville sailing into the Great Lakes via Canada without Canadian permission. Partly in response, in 1909 the two sides signed the International Boundary Waters Treaty and the International Joint Commission was established to manage the Great Lakes.
Economic ties and migration had deepened by this era, but were not equal. In 1901 there were 128,000 American-born residents in Canada (3.5% of the Canadian population) and 1.18 million Canadian-born residents in the United States (1.6% of the U.S. population).
Canada demanded and received permission to send its own delegation to the Versailles Peace Talks in 1919, with the proviso that it sign the treaty under the British Empire. Canada subsequently took responsibility for its own foreign and military affairs in the 1920s. Its first ambassador to the United States, Vincent Massey, was named in 1927. Relations with the United States were cordial, except in the matter of tariffs in the 1930-32 period of the Great Depression.
In the 1930s, the United States Army War College developed hypothetical war plans for a possible war with Canada; they featured an invasion in War Plan Red; it was merely an academic exercise. Similarly, Canada developed Defence Scheme No. 1 to counteract an American invasion. Canadian defence was organized against an American invasion until the onset of World War II.
Following co-operation in the two World Wars, Canada and the United States lost much of their previous animosity. As Britain's influence as a global imperial power declined, Canada and the United States became extremely close partners. Canada was a close ally of the United States during the Cold War.
In World War II, the United States built large military bases in the Dominion of Newfoundland (which did not join Canada until 1949 and was under direct British rule at the time), and the business community there sought closer ties with the United States as expressed by the Economic Union Party. Ottawa took notice and wanted Newfoundland to join Canada, which it did after hotly contested referenda. There was little demand in the United States for the acquisition of Newfoundland, so the United States did not protest the British decision not to allow an American option on the Newfoundland referendum.
The United States had become Canada's largest market, and after the war the Canadian economy became dependent on smooth trade flows with the United States so much that in 1971 when the United States enacted the "Nixon Shock" economic policies (including a 10% tariff on all imports) it put the Canadian government into a panic. This led in a large part to the articulation of Prime Minister Trudeau's "Third Option" policy of diversifying Canada's trade and downgrading the importance of Canada – United States relations. In a 1972 speech in Ottawa, Nixon declared the "special relationship" between Canada and the United States dead.
The Canadian military, like forces of other NATO countries, fought along side the United States in most major conflicts since World War II, including the Korean War, the Gulf War, the Kosovo War, and most recently the war in Afghanistan. The main exceptions to this were the Canadian government's opposition to the Vietnam War and the Iraq War, which caused some brief diplomatic tensions. Despite these issues, military relations have remained close.
American defense arrangements with Canada are more extensive than with any other country. The Permanent Joint Board of Defense, established in 1940, provides policy-level consultation on bilateral defense matters. The United States and Canada share North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) mutual security commitments. In addition, American and Canadian military forces have cooperated since 1958 on continental air defense within the framework of the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD). There is also an active military exchange program between the two countries under which Canadian Forces personnel have been involved in Iraq. Moreover, interoperability with the American armed forces has been a guiding principle of Canadian military force structuring and doctrine since the end of the Cold War. Canadian navy frigates, for instance, integrate seamlessly into American carrier battle groups.
Canada's elite JTF2 unit joined American special forces in Afghanistan shortly after the al-Qaida attacks on September 11, 2001. Canadian forces joined the multinational coalition in Operation Anaconda in January 2002. On April 18, 2002, an American pilot accidentally bombed Canadian forces involved in a training exercise, killing four and wounding eight Canadians. A joint American-Canadian inquiry determined the cause of the incident to be pilot error, in which the pilot interpreted ground fire as an attack; the pilot ignored orders that he felt were "second-guessing" his field tactical decision. Canadian forces assumed a six-month command rotation of the International Security Assistance Force in 2003; in 2005, Canadians assumed operational command of the multi-national Brigade in Kandahar, with 2,300 troops, and supervises the Provincial Reconstruction Team in Kandahar, where al-Qaida forces are most active. Canada has also deployed naval forces in the Persian Gulf since 1991 in support of the UN Gulf Multinational Interdiction Force.
The Canadian Embassy in Washington, DC maintains a public relations web site named CanadianAlly.com, which is intended "to give American citizens a better sense of the scope of Canada's role in North American and Global Security and the War on Terror".
The New Democratic Party and some recent Liberal leadership candidates have expressed opposition to Canada's expanded role in the Afghan conflict on the ground that it is inconsistent with Canada's historic role (since the Second World War) of peacekeeping operations.
According to contemporary polls, the majority of Canadians were opposed to the 2003 invasion of Iraq. Many Canadians, and the former Liberal government of Paul Martin (as well as many Americans such as Bill Clinton and Barack Obama), made a policy distinction between conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq, unlike the Bush Doctrine, which linked these together in a "Global war on terror".
Canada and the United States have the world's largest trading relationship, with huge quantities of goods and people flowing across the border each year. Since the 1987 Canadian–American Free Trade Agreement, there have been no tariffs on most goods passed between the two countries.
With such a massive trading relationship, trade disputes between the two countries are frequent and inevitable. In the course of the softwood lumber dispute, the U.S. has placed tariffs on Canadian softwood lumber because of what it argues is an unfair Canadian government subsidy, a claim which Canada disputes. The dispute has cycled through several agreements and arbitration cases. Other notable disputes include the Canadian Wheat Board, and Canadian cultural "restrictions" on magazines and television (See CRTC, CBC, and National Film Board of Canada). Canadians have been criticized about such things as the ban on beef since a case of Mad Cow disease was discovered in 2003 in cows from the United States (and a few subsequent cases) and the high American agricultural subsidies. Concerns in Canada also run high over aspects of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) such as Chapter 11.
One ongoing and complex trade issue involves the importation of cheaper prescription drugs from Canada to the United States. Due to the Canadian government's price controls as part of their state-run medical system, prices for prescription drugs can be a fraction of the price paid by consumers in the unregulated American market. While laws in the United States have been passed at the national level against such sales, specific state and local governments have passed their own legislation to allow the trade to continue. American drug companies—often supporters of political campaigns—have come out against the practice.
According to a 2007 study commissioned by the Canadian Embassy in the United States, Canadian–American trade supported 7.1 million American jobs.
|U.S. State||U.S. Jobs Supported||Rank|
|District of Columbia||29,000||38|
The two countries work closely to resolve trans-border environmental issues, an area of increasing importance in the bilateral relationship. A principal instrument of this cooperation is the International Joint Commission (IJC), established as part of the Boundary Waters Treaty of 1909 to resolve differences and promote international cooperation on boundary waters. The Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement of 1972 is another historic example of joint cooperation in controlling trans-border water pollution. However, there have been some disputes. Most recently, the Devil's Lake Outlet, a project instituted by North Dakota, has angered Manitobans who fear that their water may soon become polluted as a result of this project. The two governments also consult semi-annually on trans-border air pollution. Under the Air Quality Agreement of 1991, both countries have made substantial progress in coordinating and implementing their acid rain control programs and signed an annex on ground level ozone in 2000. Despite this trans-border air pollution remains an issue, particularly in the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence watershed during the summer. The main source of this trans-border pollution results from coal fired power stations, most of them located in the Midwestern United States.
Currently neither of the countries' governments support the Kyoto Protocol, which set out time scheduled curbing of greenhouse gas emissions. Unlike the United States, Canada has ratified the agreement. Yet after ratification, due to internal political conflict within Canada, the Canadian government does not enforce the Kyoto Protocol, and has received criticism from environmental groups and from other governments for its climate change positions.
In 2003 the American government became concerned when members of the Canadian government announced plans to decriminalize marijuana. David Murray, an assistant to U.S. Drug Czar John P. Walters, said in a CBC interview that, "We would have to respond. We would be forced to respond." However the election of the Conservative Party in early 2006 halted the liberalization of marijuana laws for the foreseeable future. The Canadian government currently grows marijuana for medicinal purposes only in former copper mines.
On September 26, 2002, U.S. officials, acting upon a tip from Canadian law enforcement, detained Maher Arar on suspicion of terrorist links. Arar is a dual citizen of Canada and Syria and was traveling through New York as part of a trip from Tunisia to Canada.
Despite traveling on a Canadian passport, Arar was deported to Syria, his country of birth. He was imprisoned there for over a year and tortured repeatedly. The decision by U.S. officials to deport him to Syria, his imprisonment and torture there, and the extent of collaboration between U.S. and Canadian officials became a political issue in Canada at the time.
Canadian officials have since said that Arar was not linked in any way to terrorism, and the Canadian Prime Minister, Stephen Harper, has issued a formal apology and a $10.5 million (CAD) settlement to Arar, who nonetheless remains on an American terrorist watchlist.
These include maritime boundary disputes:
Territorial land disputes:
and disputes over the international status of the:
A long-simmering dispute between Canada and the U.S. involves the issue of Canadian sovereignty over the Northwest Passage (the sea passages in the Arctic). Canada’s assertion that the Northwest Passage represents internal (territorial) waters has been challenged by other countries, especially the U.S., which argue that these waters constitute an international strait (international waters). Canadians were incensed when Americans drove the reinforced oil tanker Manhattan through the Northwest Passage in 1969, followed by the icebreaker Polar Sea in 1985, both without asking for Canadian permission. In 1970, the Canadian government enacted the Arctic Waters Pollution Prevention Act, which asserts Canadian regulatory control over pollution within a 100-mile zone. In response, the United States in 1970 stated, "We cannot accept the assertion of a Canadian claim that the Arctic waters are internal waters of Canada…. Such acceptance would jeopardize the freedom of navigation essential for United States naval activities worldwide." A compromise of sorts was reached in 1988, by an agreement on "Arctic Cooperation," which pledges that voyages of American icebreakers "will be undertaken with the consent of the Government of Canada." However the agreement did not alter either country's basic legal position. In January 2006 David Wilkins, the American ambassador to Canada, said his government opposes Stephen Harper's proposed plan to deploy military icebreakers in the Arctic to detect interlopers and assert Canadian sovereignty over those waters. In August 2007, former US ambassador to Canada, Paul Cellucci, stated that in 2005 he informed his government that it should re-evaluate its assertion that the Northwest Passage is an international sea body, and that it should belong to Canada. His advice was rejected and in 2007 Bush and Harper took opposite positions.
Canada and the United States both hold membership in a number of multinational organizations such as:
Shortly after being congratulated by U.S. President George W. Bush for his victory in February 2006, Prime Minister of Canada, Stephen Harper rebuked U.S. Ambassador to Canada David Wilkins for criticizing the Conservatives' plans to assert Canada's sovereignty over the Arctic Ocean waters with armed forces. Harper's first meeting with the U.S. President occurred at the end of March 2006; and while little was achieved in the way of solid agreements, the trip was described in the media as signaling a trend of closer relations between the two nations.
Prime Minister Harper called and congratulated the then President-elect, Barack Obama, on his victory over John McCain, and he assured the President-elect that the two countries will become the greatest of allies. After he was inaugurated, on January 20, 2009, as President of the United States, it was announced that Mr. Obama's first international trip would be to Canada, which took place on February 19, 2009.
Canada's chief diplomatic mission to the United States is the Canadian Embassy in Washington, D.C.. It is further supported by many Consulates located through America. The Canadian Government supports Consulates in several major U.S. cities including: Anchorage, Atlanta‡, Boston‡, Buffalo‡, Chicago‡, Dallas‡, Denver‡, Detroit‡, Houston, Los Angeles‡, Miami‡, Minneapolis‡, New York City‡, Philadelphia, Phoenix, Raleigh, San Diego, San Francisco/Silicon Valley‡ and Seattle‡
The United States's chief diplomatic mission to Canada is the United States Embassy in Ottawa. It is further supported by many consulates located through Canada. The American government supports consulates in several major Canadian cities/regions including: Calgary, Halifax, Northwest Territories‡, Nunavut‡, Montreal, Quebec City, Southwestern Ontario‡, Toronto, Vancouver, Winnipeg, and Yukon‡.