ZNET, Tuesday, December 14, 2004
Canada, Nationalism, and Empire Justin Podur interviews David Orchard
by David Orchard and Justin Podur
David Orchard and his colleagues created the "Campaign for Canada." He was co-founder in 1985 of Citizens Concerned About Free Trade and one of the most visible leaders of the fight against the Canada-U.S. Free Trade Agreement (FTA) in the 1980s and its extension to the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) in the 1990s, on the grounds that these agreements would destroy Canadian sovereignty and the chance for Canada to develop differently from the United States. His book, The Fight for Canada: Four Centuries of Resistance to American Expansionism, is a re-interpretation of Canadian history from a unique perspective. David Orchard is a conservative, but not in the sense of George Bush, Ronald Reagan, Margaret Thatcher, Brian Mulroney, Stephen Harper, Mike Harris, or Ralph Klein. He argues that these figures have hijacked the good name of conservatism to enact a reactionary agenda. In 1998 and again in 2003, Orchard ran strong campaigns for the leadership of country’s oldest political party, the Progressive Conservative party of Canada. He is also a Canadian nationalist and a patriot and is on tour all over Canada to raise awareness of the risks to Canada’s sovereignty of the ongoing "deep integration" agenda between Canada and the United States. He makes his living as an organic farmer in Saskatchewan. His farm celebrated its 100th anniversary this year and next year will be his 30th as an organic producer. He’s a busy political campaigner who answers his own phone and email. I interviewed him in Toronto.
Justin Podur: You consider yourself a nationalist and a patriot. I guess you don’t think much of the saying that "Patriotism is the last refuge of scoundrels."
David Orchard: It can be. But it is important to differentiate between different nationalisms. They are not all the same. Most of what people react to when they react against "nationalism" is actually imperialism. If you look at the United States or earlier imperial powers, the flag waving nationalism, the rallying support for invasions and occupations of other countries, that is certainly something that has to be opposed. But if you look at the nationalism of smaller countries you’ll see that historically it has often been a response to imperialism. Canadian nationalism has been largely a reaction of self-defence against American encroachment on our country and it has usually been anti-imperialist in that it has not sought to raise its flag over other countries. We need more patriotism of this type, if Canada is to survive.
JP: Canada is one of the small group of wealthy countries and on an international stage it acts to try to preserve these inequalities with the poor countries. Does protecting national sovereignty imply preserving these inequalities? In this context, shouldn’t Canadians be more internationalist in orientation, rather than nationalist?
DO: Gandhi once made a famous statement on this topic. He said that in order to be an internationalist, one must first be a nationalist. There is no place where that is more relevant than in Canada. If you don’t have a nation, a country of your own, you have no platform from which to act in the world. I am an internationalist. I want Canada to be much more oriented towards the Third World, to countries all around the globe, but these international relations are becoming more restricted now because of our growing integration into the US.
I have opposed all of the American wars since I was old enough to do so. I had a friend, Claire Culhane, a courageous woman who went to Vietnam as a nurse with Canada’s mission during the war. (1) After spending time in Vietnam, she offered to stay there and use her skills as a nurse to help the Vietnamese in their war of independence. The Vietnamese told her that it was more important that she go back to Canada and fight for her own country’s independence from the U.S.
Help or solidarity with other countries is to be applauded. But in order for us to truly live up to our potential in the world, and this includes reducing international inequalities, Canada must have its own sovereignty, its own freedom to move. If not, we will act more and more as a messenger boy for Washington, as for example, we are doing in Haiti today, where the U.S. forcibly "escorted" the democratically elected president out of the country and Canada is supporting and helping consolidate that coup d’état.
JP: But how do you think that the inequality between a rich country like Canada and poor countries could be addressed? Would you be in favour of trade on terms that were more
favourable to the poor countries?
DO: Yes. But it could be favorable to us too. We eat a lot of fruit, for example, and there is no need for it all to come from Florida. I advocate more exchanges between Canada and the rest of the world, including the Third World, but today the opposite is happening. With the FTA and NAFTA Canada is trading less with the rest of the world and more simply with the U.S. Over 85% of our exports now go to the United States. That is a dangerous situation for a business to be in and doubly so for a nation. As the great Latin American patriot José Marti put it: "The nation which is eager to die sells to a single country."
As far back as the 1960s, Robin Hood, the flour company in Western Canada, wanted to sell flour to Cuba. The U.S. parent company wouldn’t let the Canadian subsidiary send Canadian flour to Cuba based on their Trading With the Enemy Act. There are lots of other more recent cases. The point is we have to have our sovereignty in order to act as real internationalists in the world. And when we do, we can make a difference, as I think Canada has in several countries, in Cuba, for example. Canada’s trade with Cuba has helped to reduce the pressure of the U.S. blockade. We could play that kind of role much more effectively if we had greater control of our economy.
However, today, roughly 70% of Canada’s international trade is handled by U.S. corporations and that figure is rising. These corporations trade with countries of their choosing, which may or may not benefit Canada.
Canada is the most foreign owned of any of the industrialized countries and under the FTA and NAFTA we agreed to never screen or restrict U.S. investment. Since signing these agreements well over 10,000 Canadian companies have been taken over by U.S. owners. There are now fewer than a dozen major, widely held, Canadian companies left listed on the Toronto stock exchange. Over $40 billion annually flows out of Canada to pay for this foreign ownership – in service charges, interest and dividends. Some of that money could and should be used to build our nation.
We were promised greater prosperity and secure access to the U.S. market with the FTA and NAFTA. We got neither. Our standard of living has fallen since we signed them. Norway, which has stayed out of the European union, has replaced Canada at the top of the U.N. list of best countries in the world in which to live. It trades widely around the world as it sees fit, yet guards its independence carefully. In spite of all that we gave up in terms of our sovereignty, we have less secure access to the American market than when we traded with the U.S. under the GATT/WTO rules before we signed the FTA/NAFTA.
JP: There are a group of countries that have suffered far worse at the hands of the U.S., have a long history of resistance, and could certainly use the solidarity of people in a country like Canada. Why does it seem that Canada officially, and perhaps Canadians also, are so lukewarm towards movements for independence in Latin America?
DO: One of Canada’s best known writers, Farley Mowat, once said that Canadians are the house slaves of the American empire and Latin Americans are the field slaves. That sums up the relationship of much of official Canada, with its lack of any vision for our nation and its eyes glued to the south. But there is also what Pierre Trudeau called "the other Canada," those Canadians who dream of, and struggle for, something higher and better for their country and who strongly support the right of other nations to be independent as well.
One of Canada’s predominant Conservative philosophers was George Grant, who wrote an important little book called Lament for a Nation. He pointed out that Canada will either follow its own way or it will be the American way. We live next door to the most powerful nation the world has ever seen and if we don’t have our own vision, our sense of direction and national identity, we face assimilation by the sheer centrifugal force of the U.S.
I have never seen a greater disconnect between what you call official Canada with its plans for deeper integration on all fronts – including military – with the U.S. and the desires of the majority of Canadians, French and English speaking, to follow a different path than Washington’s.
JP: Isn’t there another problem with agitating for Canadian sovereignty though, in that Canada, like the United States, is founded on tremendous, and ongoing, injustice against the indigenous?
DO: Aboriginal people themselves see a huge difference between Canada and the United States and always have. The Native leader Tecumseh, who was one of the greatest generals in Canadian history, saw a huge difference, which he described very eloquently and followed with action to repel the American invaders in 1812. He gave his life in defense of the border. Louis Riel had U.S. citizenship but he came back here to fight and spoke often and powerfully about his loyalty to both Canada and the Crown. Without his loyalty all of his western Canada would probably be part of the U.S. today.
Some years ago I was adopted into the Tootoosis family in Saskatchewan and once went with my adopted brother to a convention on nuclear waste in Las Vegas. When we got back to Canada he said he felt so relieved he wanted to kiss the ground. This is not to whitewash the injustices, some of which I set out very clearly in my book. But it is important to recognize the differences.
Anthony Hall, professor of Globalization Studies at the University of Lethbridge, has recently published an enormous book about these issues. (2) He presents the history of the difference in attitude of traditional conservatism toward Aboriginal people, including the conservatives who were defeated in the American Revolution, and the position of the victorious American revolutionaries. The United States became a classical, liberal laissez-faire system. The conservatives came north and contributed to a uniquely Canadian type of conservatism. They, allied with the Aboriginals, played a major role in defeating the U.S. invasion of Canada in 1812-14. The British needed the indigenous people, and Canada’s Tories needed them, and that was reflected in the relationship, whereas the American revolutionary government tried continually to exterminate them. Sitting Bull, who defeated Custer, came north and saw that the relationship was different. He saw no possibility for his people to survive in the United States, but he did see possibilities here, and his descendants still live in Saskatchewan.
It was the Progressive Conservative (PC) party in Canada under John Diefenbaker that finally gave Aboriginal Canadians full rights of citizenship and the right to vote itself. Canadian Aboriginals retain a strong sense of connection with the British Crown and fight to have the treaties they negotiated with the Crown honoured. Not so long ago, they used that connection effectively in their successful battle to entrench Aboriginal rights when our Constitution was repatriated from England in 1981.
JP: Canada has made a number of very anti-immigrant and anti-refugee moves, most notably the Safe Third Country’ agreement, which means the opposite of what it sounds: that if you are denied asylum in the US you can’t get asylum in Canada and vice-versa. What should Canada’s policy towards immigrants and refugees be?
DO: I’ll tell you what it should not be. It should not be this North American security perimeter they are planning, the NAFTA-Plus agreement that is being discussed behind closed doors, which will put Canada inside the U.S. immigration policy and effectively erase the borders in North America. I strongly oppose people being turned away simply because they have been rejected by the U.S. Canada has historically taken refugees from all countries, but of course the biggest source of refugees has been the United States: loyalists escaping the revolution, slaves who were fleeing, youths escaping the Vietnam War draft. And we now we seem to have a wave fleeing Mr. Bush. This "Safe Third Country" legislation betrays that history, the obligation we have to the rest of the world, and the dream people like Louis Riel had that Canada could be a haven for the worlds oppressed. The Refugee Immigration Board recently ruled that U.S. war resisters seeking asylum in Canada could not argue their case based on the illegality of the war against Iraq. That’s a very bad precedent.
In the mid-1990s I had a chance to visit a hospital in Vietnam for those deformed by the U.S. aerial spraying of Agent Orange and other chemical weapons. The suffering is painful even to describe, but watching President Bush talk about bringing "liberty and democracy" to Iraq with depleted uranium weapons, napalm, helicopter gunships and B-52 bombers brings back the full memory of their agony. In parts of central Vietnam the U.S. dropped nine tones of bombs per square meter. Six million Vietnamese, Laotians and Cambodians were maimed or killed, something almost never spoken about today.
Canada under John Diefenbaker said no to John Kennedy’s request to send troops to Vietnam and he was correct in that decision. Under Jean Chrétien in 2003, Canada also stood for international law, refusing to send troops to invade Iraq in what is a blatantly illegal action. Remember the U.S. and Britain telling us Iraq had weapons of mass destruction? It turns out Iraq had none. It is the U.S. and Britain that are today using their weapons of mass destruction against the population of Iraq — waging a low intensity nuclear war on the ground. The legacy of depleted uranium they are using will be one of death and suffering for generations to come, yet the official response to the slaughter in Iraq is largely a deafening silence.
Under international law a nation is allowed to use force in only two circumstances: self-defence when under direct and ongoing attack or when authorized to do so by the U.N. Neither applies in Iraq. The Nuremberg Tribunal ruled – I believe it was U.S. Justice Robert Jackson speaking – that attacking another country constitutes a crime against the peace, the supreme war crime, he called it. Michael Mandel, the Osgoode Hall law professor in Toronto who was a wonderful, eloquent colleague in our battle against the 1999 bombing of Yugoslavia, has written a powerful book on this subject, How America gets away with murder: illegal wars, collateral damage and crimes against humanity.
If we allow ourselves to become integrated into a "North American" military command which is being negotiated as we speak – it’s called NORTHCOM – and we join a North American security perimeter and the so called U.S. missile defence project, it will be the end of Canada’s ability to take an independent position on the world stage, including our policies on immigration and refugees. This is not what I want for the nation. It betrays the hard won legacy our founders bequeathed to us and what many Canadians fought and gave their lives for in the past.
JP: You are not a "social conservative": there is nothing homophobic or anti-choice or anti-women’s rights in any of your materials, your book, or your public talks. You are not an economic "conservative" — you are in favour of expansive social programs, a strong public sector, environmental protection, and worker’s rights. You are against imperialism and for upholding international law and norms. You are to the left of most "left" politicians. For example you are much more openly against the Iraq war than Jack Layton of the social democratic New Democratic Party (NDP), who refused to mention Iraq during the recent Bush visit to Ottawa. How can you call yourself a conservative?
DO: This business of left and right is not so clear-cut. It depends on what issues you are talking about. I appreciate the NDP taking a strong position today against missile defence, but in the 1980s, when Brian Mulroney was preparing to implement the FTA, I went to Ottawa and knocked on the doors of the NDP. Nothing moved. I couldn’t understand why the "party of the Left" wouldn’t come out publicly against the FTA. Then a senior advisor to the NDP told me why. One of the NDP’s main donors at that time was the United Steelworkers of America (USWA), which is a union of both Canadian and American workers, dominated by the Americans, and USWA wanted to avoid what it called the "Bob White syndrome." Bob White was the union leader who broke off the Canadian Auto Workers (CAW) from the United Auto Workers of America (UAW), arguing the need for a national, Canadian union. The Steelworkers didn’t want the same thing to happen to their union. These large American controlled unions were not against the Canada-U.S. FTA in the 1980s. They changed their tune when NAFTA was being negotiated in the 1990s, and the NDP followed suit. So in the end the 1988 FTA fight for Canadian sovereignty was led by someone who rarely gets the credit he deserves, a corporate Bay St. lawyer, the Leader of the Liberal Party, John Turner — not the NDP. So, left-right labels are not that helpful. I take a practical, rather than an ideological, approach to issues.
Traditionally it was the Conservatives who fought against our integration into the United States — including in the free trade elections of 1891 and 1911. The Bank of Canada, the Canadian Wheat Board, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, the national railways -- all these important national institutions, were built before the CCF (3) existed, and they were built by Conservative governments. A good book, readable book on this is by Charles Taylor — journalist and the son of prominent Canadian industrialist E.P. Taylor — called Radical Tories: the Conservative tradition in Canada. He documents his journey, starting out in 1978, wondering why liberalism went astray and was unable to solve the nation’s problems. He was surprised to discover the conservative heritage in our country and how different it is from the so-called conservatism of today that seeks to dismantle the very institutions built by earlier Conservative leaders. Stephen Leacock was a Conservative writer and economist and a leader in the successful battle against the free trade agreement of 1911. Diefenbaker, the Prime Minister who took a strong stand against the U.S. invasion of Cuba, probably the strongest of any of the western leaders, was a Progressive Conservative.
JP: Diefenbaker got "regime-changed."
DO: He said later that JFK sent hundreds of CIA agents to intervene on Lester Pearson’s behalf in the 1963 election that defeated Diefenbaker after the Cuban missile crisis.
JP: To be honest, it sounds to me that your definition of conservatism" is unlike what most everyone thinks "conservatism" is. When I read your book I read it with great skepticism and suspicion because you say you are "conservative." Maybe it would help if you could describe how you see conservatism, liberalism, and radicalism or leftism.
DO: If words mean anything, "conservatism" means to conserve – our environment, our sovereignty, and the institutions that have been built to serve society over the years. Edmund Burke coined the classic definition of conservatism in the late 1700s as "a disposition to preserve and an ability to improve."
The father of modern conservatism was a Jewish writer in Victorian England, named Benjamin Disraeli. His party, the British Conservative party, campaigned in the mid-1840s against free trade and once in power reversed itself. Disraeli split with his leader on this issue and rebuilt the party. He said that power has only one duty – to secure the social welfare of the people. And the duty of Conservatives, he said, was two-fold: "to elevate the condition of the people" and "maintain the institutions of the country."
Disraeli was a contemporary and very much an inspiration for the founders of both Canada and our Conservative party, John A. Macdonald and Georges-Etienne Cartier. It was a Progressive Conservative Prime Minister, John Diefenbaker, another admirer of Disraeli, who took the Saskatchewan CCF model of universal medicare and made it a national programme. Saskatchewan voted for the CCF provincially and the Diefenbaker Conservatives federally, and saw no contradiction. This conservatism is a far cry from the Thatcher-Reagan-Klein-Harris model of cutting infrastructure, slashing institutions and throwing people on the street. It is this usurping of traditional conservatism that has given the word "conservative" the odour that makes you suspicious, and for good reason. Now the question is, are we going to allow the legacy of Disraeli, Macdonald, Cartier, Borden and Diefenbaker to be simply usurped or will we restore the original meaning of conservatism and put it back on its feet?
JP: And you see liberalism as being "free markets."
DO: Classical liberalism stood for wide-open markets. Governments should be reduced, should stand aside and let the market rule. When Disraeli and his friend Lord Shaftesbury fought for the 10-hour working day in industrial England, there were no restrictions on the hours and conditions of work. They were opposed by the free-trade Liberals who argued that restricting the hours of work would hurt the work ethic. The work ethic of eight-year old kids!
JP: So you view the "social conservatism" of the United States, with its homophobia and its anti-women’s rights agenda, as being a usurpation?
DO: It is out of keeping with the Canadian tradition. Canada was early to abolish slavery — in 1793. Diefenbaker was a leader internationally against apartheid in South Africa. Joe Clark — the last leader of the PC party before it was destroyed last year in what PC Senator Lowell Murray called a "coup d’état" — supported a woman’s right to choose. He took a strong stand, and it was really a consensus in the PC party. The PC party was the most progressive of the major parties on the environment in the 2000 election. That so called "social" conservatism, the attempt to bring the church back into politics hurt Stephen Harper in the last election, because Canadians won’t go there. Everyone was saying that if the Conservative Party and the Alliance Party merge, add up the votes, they will beat the Liberals. They didn’t. Because Canadians don’t want that attitude, nationally the extreme right has never been electable. The Progressive Conservative party did well when it was progressive.
JP: John Ralston Saul, the husband of Canada’s governor-general, I believe sees himself as a liberal. What did you think of his book on Canada, Reflections of a Siamese Twin? It has some analysis that is similar to yours.
DO: I enjoyed and was inspired by Reflections. It is an important book for all Canadians to read to better understand our country and its history, how we have developed one of the world’s oldest democracies — older in many ways than the U.S. and with far different roots. It always comes as a revelation that more of our history took place before 1867 than since. The process leading to Confederation, how it was accomplished, and without civil war or violence — that’s no small achievement. Doubly so given the sabre rattling and threats of annexation coming at the same time from south of the border.
Saul also wrote a piece about a year ago about the need for people to get involved in political parties and in the electoral process. He took on groups that condemn partisan political activity. Maude Barlow, of the Council of Canadians for example, denounced me for going into the Progressive Conservative party. She said she opposed partisan political activity. When we succeeded in getting the party to do a review of the FTA and NAFTA, it was she, from the left, and Tom d’Aquino, head of the Canadian Council of Chief Executives, from the right, who attacked me the next morning in the national media. I would never denounce people for being out on the streets, brave people getting out and making their message heard. But Martin and Bush aren’t only, or even mainly, afraid of thousands of people on the streets. They have plenty of tear gas. However, Martin is afraid of a couple of opposition seats in the House of Commons. Those who discourage people from political activity are in my view demobilizing the population and leaving the political stage open for the status quo and those who would govern in their own interests.
JP: But people are disillusioned with the political process.
DO: Apathy is usually a product of bad leadership. People become apathetic when all the options seem the same. If real leadership emerges, people get interested and things can change. No party is more righteous than the others in Canadian politics. All of our parties have done good things and all have made major mistakes. You have to look at the specifics of the programme and the context.
It’s true that some people, and some young people are disillusioned, and with good cause, but they are certainly not disinterested. I just spoke at Caledon College in Toronto and took questions for almost an hour. The students complained to their teachers afterwards that it wasn’t long enough. They were hungry for information on these topics and they asked very good questions. That has been my experience on campuses across the country.
One of my disagreements with the left is that it often acts as if we are already Americans. In the US it is very difficult to get a different voice heard in the political process. But Canada has a different system, and many of the leaders on the left don’t seem to recognize that. Participation is more open and more possible in Canadian politics than in the United States where the two-party system is so strongly entrenched. In Canada we have a law that no corporate or union donations can be made to political parties. That too makes a big difference. The role of money is greatly reduced.
It costs $5 for a young person to join a political party. In many countries you take your life in your hands when you engage in political activity. Here you can pay $5 and participate. Roughly 12,000 people joined the Progressive Conservative party to support my leadership bids and we had a major impact on party policy. We could have won with 40 or 50, 000 participating actively and we would have an alternative that, in my view, could change things for the better in the country. So, becoming disillusioned or apathetic, is not, in my opinion, an option.
JP: I’ve given a few talks on Canadian foreign policy to audiences of young people and to immigrant communities. When I argue that Canada should take an independent, anti-imperialist foreign policy, people inevitably ask: "Won’t that get us in trouble? Can we afford to anger the US?" I answer that if a country like Venezuela, with fewer options, resources, wealth, and privileges can be independent; it is craven of us to make those arguments.
DO: That is the moral side and it is of course true. The practical side is also important. We can get into just as much trouble by being a doormat. Historically, Canada has never gotten much out of trying to be "nice." This "Harper party" (4) is arguing that we have to be nice to the U.S., that one outspoken backbencher, Carolyn Parrish (a Liberal MP who criticized the U.S. foreign policy and was expelled from the Liberal caucus) has upset the mighty U.S. and now they won’t want to buy our beef. Well that’s just not true. Superpowers do not have friends. They have interests. They don’t trade with countries because they are nice. They follow their interests and we should follow ours. Diefenbaker did not join in the blockade of Cuba. Lester Pearson questioned the bombing of Vietnam. Trudeau condemned the invasion of Grenada. Trade continued with the U.S., which buys because it needs our goods and resources. If anything, Canada does better when we stand up for ourselves. We’ve lost more in the bargaining after the battles than we have in the battles themselves. Who could have been nicer to the U.S. than Brian Mulroney? The U.S. imposed its tariffs on our softwood lumber under Mulroney.
JP: What do you think of militant tactics, like those used by the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty (OCAP)? They do "direct action casework," where they will do things like occupying an office or picketing a workplace to ensure that someone gets his or her welfare check or back pay or housing.
DO: Direct action is often an effective course and, depending on the circumstances, by and large I support it. I don’t want people to die in the streets. But I do have a problem with leaders who say that is all you can do. I believe that change can and must also be made through the political process. If the NDP had a few more seats in Parliament they could derail this missile defence, which is really connected with putting the entire Canadian military under US command.
JP: But elected politicians don’t use the power that they do have.
DO: If people are de-mobilized, politicians will do what they can get away with, or follow the line of least resistance. They can plead helplessness, because of "our trade obligations." But that’s not something fixed. For example, Mulroney in 1983 said "don’t talk to me about free trade, that’s a threat to Canadian sovereignty." Then in power he negotiated and passed the FTA. It went to the Senate. The Senate said they would pass it as a piece of ordinary legislation. We put out a call asking everyone to phone the senators to ask them to block the deal. I went on the radio open line shows and we put the Senate’s toll free phone number out everywhere. The left said, Orchard, you’re crazy, those fat cats in the Senate won’t do anything, they aren’t even elected, it’s the house of privilege. The NDP chose that exact moment to call for the abolition of the Senate — the one institution left that could stop the deal at that time. Some prominent Canadian nationalists pointed out that the Senate had never blocked an important piece of legislation in the past, so they wouldn’t support our campaign. We persevered and the people responded. The senators got thousands of calls and went on to block the legislation forcing the issue to a general election in which the majority of Canadians voted for parties opposed to the FTA. We got it anyway – even though Mulroney had said the vote would be a referendum on free trade — because our antiquated first-past-the-post voting system allowed him to impose a deal most Canadians opposed. But the point I’m making here is, the senators responded to the public. Citizen participation can work.
JP: Leftist strategy isn’t oriented towards the parliamentary system but towards increasing agitation and eventually some kind of general strike followed by collective, democratic control of the economy. It’s clear that you’re against imperialism, but many radicals see capitalism itself as the problem and wouldn’t be satisfied with a country that was independent but capitalist.
DO: For Canadians, the battle right now is, as it has been so often in the past, to keep the border between the U.S. and us. Once that is gone we are inside the U.S. and we will have no chance to decide what we want for the future. Traditionally we have had a mixed economy, with public and private sectors coexisting. All of those possibilities are foreclosed if we become part of the U.S. Graham Spry and the leaders of the fight for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation in the 1930s had a slogan: "The State or the United States." They knew that without the state, there would be no national railways, no Trans-Canada highway, no national airline or public broadcaster. In a country like Canada the state has to be involved. You can’t open your arms to your neighbour when your neighbour is the world’s only superpower. Unless Canada has a different vision, the center of power will just drift south by the very force of that superpower and its economic strength. By design or inertia, we will drift. Our system of public health care, the vital east-west lines of communication in a far-flung country like Canada, a viable public sector, will all disappear when up against the reach of private U.S. corporations, backed of course by these trade agreements and the U.S. state itself. First we have to make sure we have a future as a nation, and then we can decide and debate what that future should be.
JP: You just came back from doing a CBC program called "What’s next for David Orchard?" What’s the answer?
DO: It was an Alberta wide programme. People phoned in. Some said the Orchard forces should form a new party. Others advocated joining an existing party, like the Liberals, NDP or Greens. A third group said we should continue with the new Conservative Party and make the case for Canadian conservatism rather than let those now in charge redefine and remake conservatism on a right-wing U.S. Republican model. Some said we should eschew partisan politics and concentrate on speaking, writing and touring. Not many said we should create a new party. Without proportional representation, creating a new party would be very difficult.
JP: The Harperites are just part of a global right-wing onslaught that includes Australia, Israel, Europe, the Islamic world, India, and of course the United States. Do you think your brand of conservatism can help in the fight against that?
DO: Yes, because it is based on conserving the best of what our ancestors have bequeathed us though their blood, sweat and tears. But the only way we will get anywhere is if thousands of people help to make it happen, with their presence, their support, financial and otherwise – and in any other way they can. I am in politics because I don’t want my country to cease to exist – to be assimilated into our neighbour. I have a vision for what Canada could be, a vision inspired by our founders, who created the world’s second largest nation and saw our potential as boundless. I want Canada to be a powerful nation that stands on its own two feet and is a force for good in the world.
Our country is one of miracles, the greatest of which, as someone put it, is that we exist at all. My work is dedicated to keeping it so. However, most of us in Canada don’t know our history. That is why I wrote my book, The Fight for Canada: Four Centuries of Resistance to American Expansionism. It has become a bestseller, despite being largely ignored by the mainstream press. Readers, however, have responded in wonderful and moving ways. The acclaimed U.S. historian Howard Zinn, who I believe is a friend of yours, generously referred to it as "devastatingly accurate…a fine piece of research and written with the kind of clarity that makes it accessible to a large public, which it deserves." Pierre Trudeau called it "a masterful treatment" of Canada’s early history. But we have not had as much success as we need. We have moved thousands of people, but we need to do much more. Things can be transformed. The world is not a static place.
Very few English speaking Canadians are aware that Canada was the very first country in the world to be invaded by the new United States of America in 1775. Benjamin Franklin arrived in Montreal after the Americans troops occupied the city and declared that Canada was to be the "14th American colony." He set up his printing press and told Canadians, "you have been conquered into Liberty if you act as you ought." When the American soldiers stormed the stone walls of Quebec City on New Year’s Eve of that year, they wore the slogan "Liberty or Death" pinned to their hats. The walls held however, and a combination of Aboriginals, French-Canadians and British soldiers drove the Americans out at a cost to them of over 5,000 men.
The same thing happened when the U.S. invaded in 1812-14. Canada was outnumbered in population 16 to 1 then and in military terms even more than that – although many American soldiers and residents refused to participate in their government’s attack on our country. Nevertheless it seemed impossible that we could survive, but thanks to good leadership and brave citizens we did. But now we are just outnumbered 10 to 1! So there’s no need or excuse for Canadians to give up today.
Justin Podur is a writer and activist based in Toronto. His blog is www.killingtrain.com
David Orchard is the author of the bestseller, The Fight for Canada - Four Centuries of Resistance to American Expansionism, and ran for the leadership of the federal Progressive Conservative Party in 1998 and 2003. He farms at Borden, SK and can be reached at tel (306) 652-7095, E-mail: email@example.com www.davidorchard.com
1) Culhane is the author of a very important book from 1972 called 'Why is Canada in Vietnam?' She was instrumental in documenting and agitating against Canada’s real role there, which was to help the U.S. commit horrific atrocities.
2) This is a very important book, called American Empire and the Fourth World, 2003.
3) The CCF was social democratic precursor of the NDP.
4) David could not bring himself to call Canada’s new Conservative Alliance party "conservative"