The Globe and Mail story sets the date for November 30. It will “mark a thaw in bilateral relations, though his policies remain highly unpopular with Canadians.” He may even speak at Parliament, which “raises the spectre of protests. Polls show that many Canadians were against his re-election, oppose his invasion of Iraq and disapprove of his plan to create a missile defence system. Mr. Bush has not indicated whether he will accept the invitation to speak.”
It is imperative that the “spectre of protests” become a reality. Unfortunately, NDP leader Jack Layton’s initial statements don’t offer much: “NDP Leader Jack Layton said he hopes the President will meet with party leaders as well as the Prime Minister. He said he would congratulate the President for doing a better job of controlling emissions and air pollution than Canada has. He added he would raise concerns about missile defence.”
I hope that the rest of us who meet Bush in Ottawa can think of a few other things to raise. Perhaps mass murder in Iraq?
Canada has a long history of complicity in US crimes. The Vietnam war was the worst example, though Haiti and Afghanistan are more recent and ongoing. Since 9/11, though, as United States foreign policy has gotten more aggressive and blatant in its violations of human rights and international law, it has forced other countries to decide whether they wanted to be vassals or pay some unspecified price. Most of the rich countries have looked on in uncomfortable silence, looking for cheap opportunities to make peace with the US on the bones of helpless peoples like the Palestinians or Haitians. The Iraq war, however, and the crazy nuclear schemes, are less popular even with elites.
Canada’s elite has always been split between a really craven bunch who want to become part of the US (they have a daily newspaper and a political party) and a more ambivalent group who thought they could do better on their own. The Liberals in power now are much more the representatives of the latter group, though they have strains of the former as well.
The point is when elites are divided and unsure, protests can make a big difference. We don’t have a lot of time to mobilize, but the bigger and more spirited the protests, the better. The United States is the most dangerous force in the world right now. Canadians know that, and will be sympathetic to protesters on this, as they were during the anti-globalization protests in the late 1990s. Canada signing on to the US project publicly and unconditionally, as Bush will try to get Martin to do, will strengthen US ambitions and help break the international isolation that is one of the only things that can weaken the US onslaught against the world. Canada moving away from its cozy complicity, on the other hand, and publicly distancing itself from the US, would be a significant help to beleaguered people in Iraq, Palestine, Haiti, Afghanistan…
Bush and Martin have handed us an opportunity. There’s not a lot of time, but there are a lot of people within a few hours of Ottawa who don’t want Canada participating in massacres and imperial adventures. Be there.
Of course, any American friends who want to come up to help us stop this “cross-border terrorism” (perhaps even arrest Bush as Thomas Walkom suggested in yesterday’s Toronto Star) are welcome! Everyone knows that if we can prevent terrorists from crossing borders, half the battle is won.