10 Little Known Facts About the Relationship Between the United States and Canada

10 Little Known Facts About the Relationship Between the United States and Canada

Larry Holzwarth - June 10, 2018

The United States and Canada have been allies and trading partners for more than two centuries. Together they are the world’s largest trading partners after the US and China, sharing the world’s longest border between two nations. Over the history of the two nations they have shared defense arrangements with each other. Trade and cultural exchanges between the North American countries has grown throughout their history. In area Canada is slightly larger than its southern neighbor, which dwarfs it in terms of population. Both nations are rich in natural resources, and both nations for the most part view the other favorably. In short, the United States and Canada are friends.

But it hasn’t been all sweetness and light between the United States and Canada. In their shared history there have been invasions, border disputes, and problems over fishing rights. Canada strongly opposed American involvement in the Vietnam War and provided asylum to draft dodgers from the United States despite official protests by the American government. Both countries used tariffs and trade barriers against the other. Disputes between Canada and the United States were sent to international arbitration on several occasions, both before Canada became a self-governing dominion and since.

10 Little Known Facts About the Relationship Between the United States and Canada
The Port of Halifax in Nova Scotia in 1917. Library of Congress

Here are ten lesser known facts about the long-standing relationship between the United States and Canada.

10 Little Known Facts About the Relationship Between the United States and Canada
American General Richard Montgomery used this Montreal building as his headquarters during the first invasion of Canada in 1775. Wikimedia

Fear of the Americanization of Canada

In the American Revolution and during the War of 1812, America invaded Canada, then a British colony, though containing a population which was more of French descent than British. In both wars, American leadership believed that the French Canadians and their former allies among the Indians would flock to support the removal of the British. Americans during the Revolutionary War thought Canada would hasten to join the confederation of independent states that they were in the process of creating, and with the support of the population of Canada the British could be removed from all of North America. They were wrong.

The invasion of Canada during the Revolution was a two pronged affair which saw a detachment under Benedict Arnold attack up the Kennebec River through the swamps of Maine to reach Quebec. Bad food, poorly constructed boats, and the difficulties encountered from the harshness of the terrain ensured Arnold’s detachment was depleted in strength when it arrived before Quebec. Arnold began the expedition with 1,100 men, including the hardy woodsmen of Daniel Morgan’s Virginia rifle companies. By the time he arrived at Quebec, privations and desertions had reduced his strength to only 600 men, many of them sick, and all of them near starving.

Montgomery had an easier time marching via Montreal, had some success recruiting Canadians to join the revolutionary cause, and when he arrived at Quebec he and Arnold planned a joint attack. On New Year’s Eve, 1775, the Americans and the Canadian supporters they had recruited assaulted the city. Montgomery was killed, Arnold was wounded, Morgan was taken prisoner, and the attack failed. Arnold attempted to put the city under siege and recruit additional troops from among the Canadians. He lacked the resources for an effective siege, and support for his troops from the Canadians was minimal. By spring the Americans withdrew.

As the American Revolution wore on many Loyalists fled their homes in the 13 states to Halifax in Nova Scotia via British ships. Most of these Loyalists, as many as 75,000, remained hostile to the United States after the war, and a strong anti-American sentiment arose in Canada. It was also present among the French-Canadians, who were largely Catholic, wary of the anti-Papist views of many Americans. To them, American republican values and beliefs conflicted with their views of loyalty to King and Parliament, and ensured resistance to the American invasions during the War of 1812, the earliest of which were disastrous for the invaders.

Canadian growth following the American Revolution and the War of 1812 was considerably smaller than in the United States, and was less likely to arouse conflicts with the Indian tribes north of the US – Canadian border. Economic growth was slower as well. Canada began to develop anti-British sentiment that evolved in the late eighteenth century but never to the level of rebellion. Even today, its head of state is whomever sits on the throne of the United Kingdom, and the Canadians are for the most part content to have it so remain (other than the French-Canadian separatists in Quebec). The War of 1812 was the last attempt to seize land from Canada by military force by the United States, but it later tried again through other means.

10 Little Known Facts About the Relationship Between the United States and Canada
William Seward’s purchase of Alaska led to disputes with the British and the Canadians. Library of Congress

The Alaska Purchase

During the American Civil War, Confederate raiding ships, built in Great Britain, did significant damage to Union shipping. One of these and probably the most famous of all of them was CSS Alabama. After the war the United States demanded reparation from Great Britain for the damages done by the ships built in its shipyards. Although Alabama was but one of several such raiders, the dispute over the reparations became known as the Alabama Affair. The Alabama Affair took place at the same time that US Secretary of State William Seward was negotiating the purchase of Alaska from the Russians, a deal which was agreed to in 1867.

Seward was interested in more than just Alaska. He envisioned the United States controlling the Northwest coast all the way to Alaska, including British Columbia and what is now Manitoba. In conjunction with the powerful Senator Charles Sumner, who was driving the demands for British reparation, Seward also wanted Nova Scotia (Sumner wanted to annex all of Canada). Sumner announced his intent to demand $2 billion or the cession of all of Canada. Seward reduced the demands to give the United States the lands in the west, and full fishing rights off the Grand Banks (which at the time the Americans fished under license rather than right).

The British refused and the arguments ran back and forth as the United States Navy began an increased presence in the Northern Pacific waters after the Alaska Purchase. The British used propaganda in both British Columbia and the Dominion of Canada to arouse pro-British sentiment, and its negotiators in the Alabama Affair used delaying tactics as Canadian opposition to becoming part of the United States intensified. In 1871 British Columbia joined the confederation of provinces known as the Dominion of Canada. Meanwhile the United States arranged a commission of six representatives from Great Britain and six from the United States to resolve the Alabama Affair.

The commission met in Suitland, and in March 1871 it presented the Washington Treaty, which provided resolution of several minor disputes between the United States and Great Britain. Among them was the Alabama Affair. The treaty provided for the establishment of a tribunal with representatives from five nations (Britain, the United States, Italy, Switzerland, and Brazil) to arbitrate the dispute, with its findings binding on the opposing parties. Besides presenting this path to resolution of the Alabama Affair the Treaty of Washington declared the United States and Great Britain to be allies in perpetuity.

The tribunal found Great Britain liable for the damage done to the United States by the raiders built in British shipyards, and awarded the United States $15.5 million, which Great Britain paid in 1872. Seward’s attempts to acquire the Northwest Coast came to an end. The attempt added to the wariness of Canadians over American attempts to annex them into the United States. The United States turned its attention to the remaining years of reconstruction and the settlement of the west. In 1903, the United States did acquire a small part of British Columbia through arbitration of the borders of the Alaskan panhandle.

10 Little Known Facts About the Relationship Between the United States and Canada
British troops evacuate San Juan Island after a twelve year dispute which nearly led to armed conflict over a pig. Wikimedia

The Pig War

Another longstanding dispute between Great Britain and the United States over the Canadian border that was settled by the 1871 Treaty of Washington was the Pig War. The Pig War broke out in 1859 in the disputed San Juan Islands, northwest of Whidbey Island and east of Vancouver Island. Ambiguity of wording in the Oregon Treaty of 1846 described the border between the United States and Canada to be the main channel between Vancouver Island and the continent. The problem was that there were and are two bodies of water which could serve as the main channel, and both the United States and Great Britain claimed the San Juan Islands located between them.

As the US and Britain disputed possession, the Hudson Bay company established a sheep raising site on the islands. At the same time American settlers lived on the islands. Many of the British shepherds kept additional livestock, including pigs, which typically roamed freely. In 1858 an American settler named Lyman Cutlar discovered a pig rooting in his potato plants. It was not the first incident and Cutlar shot the pig. Its owner demanded restitution and when the two couldn’t not agree on a fair amount, the pig’s owner threatened to have Cutlar arrested. Cutlar and the other American settlers demanded protection from the US military authorities.

The United States dispatched about sixty troops to the island, under command of George Pickett, who in few years would lead his division at Gettysburg in a far more serious dispute. The British responded with warships and marines, which landed to confront the Americans. Both sides had commanders level-headed enough to order their men to defend themselves, but not to open fire otherwise. The troops took to taunting each other with insults, but neither side fired upon the other. Still, both sides sent more troops and the possibility of armed conflict remained real. Diplomats in Washington moved to defuse the situation.

As the island calmed down and the diplomats looked for ways to resolve the border issue, the Americans and British agreed to joint occupation of the island with troops of less than 100 on each side. The Americans and British established separate military camps, and as the diplomats wrangled the troops became friendly with each other. Visitation between the camps was frequent. For the Americans stationed on the island the duty was a refuge from the horrors of the American Civil War, which also helped to delay a settlement of the issue. Britain and the United States had other pressing issues to resolve during those years.

The Treaty of Washington established the German Kaiser Wilhelm I as the arbitrator for the issue, which had remained unresolved for twelve years after the shooting of the pig. The Kaiser appointed a three person commission which found in favor of the Americans, and Great Britain removed its remaining troops on the island in 1872. After two years the Americans did likewise. The resolution was opposed by Canadian politicians, who accused Great Britain of being indifferent to Canadian interests and demanded more autonomy over Canadian affairs after the Pig War, a war in which the only casualty was a pig.

10 Little Known Facts About the Relationship Between the United States and Canada
Canadian immigration officers prepare to board a tug to meet an incoming ship in 1924. Wikimedia

Crossing the border both ways.

Throughout the nineteenth century, the border between Canada and the United States existed on paper, but in the woods and on the waterways which divided the two countries there was little in the way of security to suppress crossing the border. The United States advanced in industry and manufacturing at a far greater pace than Canada, and Canadian workers, attracted by the higher wages paid in American cities, crossed the border to find work. Many of these were recent arrivals from Europe, who entered Canadian ports before crossing the border. Most of these arrivals were in New England and New York, though some traveled the lakes and rivers to Ohio and the Midwest.

Seasonal workers from both nations traversed the border to help plant or harvest crops on the farms of both countries. In Michigan, Minnesota, Oregon, and Washington, lumberjacks, many of them of French Canadian descent on both sides of the border, crossed it freely in search of work. Gold, silver, and copper mines in Montana and in the Yukon attracted miners from the United States and Canada. They also led to another border dispute when it became apparent that Canadian gold could not be shipped overseas without resort to an American port.

The Homestead Acts which created much of the farmland across the American West led to a gradual reduction of lands available in the United States. Many farmers turned their eyes to the north. The United States and Canada thus exchanged a large portion of their native born population. The number of Canadian born citizens who moved to the United States greatly exceeded that of Americans who moved to the north. By the end of the nineteenth century more than 1 million Canadian born were living in the United States. At the time a little more than 100,000 American born were living in Canada. The number of transient workers crossing back and forth is impossible to ascertain.

Strengthened by the discovery of the natural riches of Canada in terms of coal, iron ore, gold, silver, copper, and more, by the late nineteenth century Canadian industry grew steadily. Railroads began to crisscross the country as they did in its neighbor to the south, and trade between the two countries grew steadily. Despite the shared language of the Canadians and the Americans, the two nations developed very different cultures and cultural values as they spread to the west. Canadians (and the British) opposed the American manner of dealing with the Indian tribes, for example. The Canadians also grew to resent what they saw as British catering to America.

Anti-American and anti-British resentment developed as a result of the resolution of many of the border disputes between Canadian Dominions and the United States. Canadians gradually grew to believe that Great Britain was more concerned with guarding and strengthening its relationship with the Americans at the cost of Canadian interests. Calls for greater Canadian autonomy grew stronger as the twentieth century opened. Thus the greatest single factor governing American – Canadian relationships was its developing alliance with the British Empire, as the United States took its first steps towards imperial ambitions of its own.

10 Little Known Facts About the Relationship Between the United States and Canada
The Alaska Border Dispute was left over from the British-Russian border dispute decades earlier. Wikimedia

The Alaska Panhandle Border Dispute

When the United States purchased Alaska from the Russians in 1867 it acquired more than just territory. It also became a party to a territorial border dispute which had been going on between the British Empire and the Russian Empire since the mid-1820s. The treaty which established the border between the Russian lands and those of British Columbia was vague, and the fact that it was written in French made it even more ambiguous in its description of terms. For many years the dispute was limited to British and Russian diplomats. In 1867 Americans replaced the Russians, but there was little urgency in resolving the issue.

The region in dispute was sparsely populated and Canadian, British, and American officials had little incentive to resolve the issue until 1897, when gold was discovered and the Klondike Gold Rush began. The region in dispute, the Alaskan Panhandle, saw thousands of prospectors and the businesses which supported them pour in, the vast majority of them from the United States. The Canadians wanted a port under Canadian control from which to ship the gold, along with an all Canadian route from the gold fields to the port. Canadian Mounted Police, supported by armed troops, established positions against the pressure of incoming Americans.

With new urgency, Canadian and American diplomats met to resolve the border dispute. While the borderline established by the Canadian Mounted Police largely held in the field, since it was backed up with Gatling guns and the over 200 man Yukon Force, diplomats failed to arrive at a compromise in 1898. At the same time American diplomats were negotiating several other issues with their counterparts from the British Empire. As part of these negotiations the British and Americans established the 1903 Hay-Herbert Treaty, in which the two sides agreed to send the Alaskan border dispute to international arbitration.

The treaty established yet another tribunal, with six members, three selected by King Edward VII and three by President Theodore Roosevelt. Canada was not represented in the tribunal other than through the members selected by Great Britain. The tribunal, with British concurrence, awarded the border in favor of the Americans. The tribunal sat during a period when the British Empire made several concessions to the United States, as part of a policy on the part of Prime Minister Arthur Balfour to enhance relations between the British Empire and the Americans. Canadian nationalists found the British award a betrayal of Canadian interests.

The border dispute over the Alaskan Panhandle, as with earlier disagreements between the United States and Canada, led to an increase in anti-American feeling in Canada, but not as much as it did to anti-British sentiment. The opposition was particularly strong in Quebec, where pro-French sentiment was always high. The nationalists in Canada believed that Britain failed to defend Canada’s borders against America’s aggressive land grab. Calls for increased Canadian autonomy increased, and Canada refused to send delegates to the convention which officially established the new border as ordered by the arbitrators.

10 Little Known Facts About the Relationship Between the United States and Canada
The United States trained thousands of sailors on the Great Lakes during the First World War, and many more during the Second. US Navy

The Waterways Disputes

A significant portion of the border between the United States and Canada is water, and the ports of the Great Lakes are connected to the sea via canals and the St. Lawrence Seaway. During the War of 1812 the Great Lakes and other waterways were the scenes of significant fighting between the British and the Americans, and their strategic importance became obvious. As America grew to the west following the war, several treaties were negotiated and ratified between the British and Americans pertaining to armed vessels on the Great Lakes and other waterways.

Essentially the American and British governments agreed to the demilitarization of the border between the United States and Canada, beginning with the Rush-Bagot Treaty in 1818 (which also agreed to joint occupation of the Oregon Territory). The treaty created the longest demilitarized border in the world. The remains of the British fleet on the Great Lakes were dismantled. The American fleet was withdrawn. Nonetheless both the United States and Canada retained military facilities on the lakes and at other locations, including along the Niagara River. Defense posts just inland remained as well, some still today.

During the First World War the treaty remained in effect. During the Second World War both Canada and the United States worked together to violate its language. It was agreed that warships built along the Great Lakes could be armed, as long as the arms were not ready for use until the ships on which they were installed were no longer on the waters involved. The Americans and Canadians later decided that the treaty did not restrict the presence of armed vessels which were operating in a training capacity. The same philosophy was applied to the presence of shore based guns along the lakes since training was not a hostile violation of the treaty.

This agreement between Canadian and American authorities allowed the historically important treaty to remain in effect, though the activities along the lakes were in violation of its terms. Critically important training at the Great Lakes Naval Station on Lake Michigan would not have been legal under the terms of the treaty had not both sides agreed to essentially look the other way. Fully armed combat ready vessels were allowed on the waterways as long as both sides were fully informed in advance. This was critical for allowing combat vessels requiring refits or repairs to have access to the shipyards on the Great Lakes.

Post World War II Canada and the United States agreed to allow warships to be stationed on the Great Lakes for training purposes, which remains in effect in the twenty-first century. Additional co-operation between the two countries is evident in the United States’ decision to arm Coast Guard cutters and patrol boats in 2004, in response to an increase in smuggling and as part of the security requirements of the global war on terror. The Canadian government agreed that the vessels are not military vessels, but are instead part of law enforcement, and announced that some of its patrol vessels may be similarly armed.

10 Little Known Facts About the Relationship Between the United States and Canada
An American editorial cartoon depicts President Cleveland cutting back the protection of tariffs. Library of Congress

Trade Barriers and Tariffs

Free trade, known in nineteenth and twentieth century Canada as reciprocity, was and is a significant issue in Canadian – American relations. Canada has both been desirous of free trade with the United States, particularly in the area of natural resources, and somewhat fearful of American dominance. The anti-American sentiment led Canada into a National Policy, which was the official position of the Canadian government implemented in 1879. Tariffs were placed on manufactured goods from the United States in order to stimulate growth in Canada’s own manufacturing industry, especially in the area of farm machinery.

Farmers in Canada’s plains had access to American made farm machinery, but at much higher prices than for which they could be purchased in the United States. The policy led to an increase in Canada’s manufacturing base, but at the expense of the agricultural industry. The tariffs were also a response to high tariffs imposed on Canadian goods by the United States. Canada at the time had no income tax and customs duties on imports was a large proportion of the national budget. Because of this the Canadians could not completely exclude imports, leading them to impose tariffs which were not as high as those of its neighbor.

The National Policy was well received in the growing manufacturing industry, but steadily drew resistance from the Canadian agricultural industry, and the United States. Supporters of National Policy argued that it was necessary in order to protect Canadian industry from being absorbed into that of the United States, and that its removal would lead to American economic dominance which would eventually lead into American annexation of all Canada. Over the decades of the late nineteenth century and the first half of the twentieth, Canada and the United States negotiated several reductions in tariffs, but free trade remained elusive.

In the 1920s a new industry emerged which was not impacted by borders. Radio boomed in the United States, and Canadian cities were flooded with American entertainment, news, and advertising. Canadians viewed the influx of American culture as an assault on their own, and established the Canadian Radio League. The League pushed for the creation of public broadcasting in Canada. In the 1950s the process repeated itself in the form of television, also viewed as a form of American invasion, and laws were passed defining the minimum amount of Canadian productions which could be broadcast.

Through the first half of the twentieth century Canada built a burgeoning automobile industry, with its products protected from the import of US models via high tariffs. After World War II nearly all of the cars built in Canada were in plants owned by US manufacturers and were copies of American models under different names. Most of the parts to assemble them were imported from the United States. In 1965 the American Big Three (Ford, GM, and Chrysler) lobbied for a treaty known as the Auto Pact, which removed Canadian tariffs on Big 3 products in response to maintaining agreed to production levels, and essentially integrated the Canadian and American automotive industries.

10 Little Known Facts About the Relationship Between the United States and Canada
A notice of some of the losses incurred during the St. Albans Raid. Canada freed the raiders but returned what money it found. National Archives

Canada during the American Civil War

Relations between Canada and the United States during the American Civil War were complex. What is now Canada was then the Province of Canada and the colonies which included British Columbia and Vancouver in the west, and Newfoundland, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, and New Brunswick in the east, all of which comprised British North America. Officially the British and their provinces and colonies did not recognize the Confederacy and were neutral in what was an internal dispute among the Americans. Unofficially the British and many Canadians sympathized with the Confederacy, despite its support of slavery.

Confederate agents operated in Canada throughout the war. Much of the press in the Eastern cities of Canada decried the war as being an aggression of the north, and supported the argument of the southern states that they had the right to secede from the Union. The diplomatic crisis over the Trent Affair, in which Union officials removed Confederate diplomats from a British ship, led to the deployment of 14,000 British troops to eastern Canada. The expense of the deployment in turn helped lead to the unification of the British possessions in North America. Unification would defray the cost of defending each colony individually.

Confederate blockade runners used Halifax as both a place to sell their cargoes of cotton and rice and to repair their ships, a clear violation of the neutrality laws which the government in London ignored. CSS Tallahassee, a ship commissioned in the Confederate Navy, entered Halifax Harbor on one commerce raiding cruise. Tallahassee had captured or destroyed 33 ships and was pursued by Union Navy vessels. Using a local harbor pilot, Tallahassee escaped through a little used channel, evaded capture, and returned to Wilmington, North Carolina. Diplomatic protests over the incident – Tallahassee had been allowed to remain in Halifax twelve hours longer than neutrality law allowed – were dismissed on a technicality.

The St. Albans raid was planned by Confederate agents in Montreal. Twenty-one Confederate cavalry troops checked into hotels in St. Albans before robbing three of the town’s banks and attempting to burn the town (their pyrotechnic devices failed) They then fled back to Canada. Canadian officials arrested them at the demands of US authorities but a judge refused to extradite them back to the United States. The judge decided that they were soldiers acting under orders of their superiors and not criminals. They were set free.

Not all of the actions by Canadians were in support of the Confederacy, up to 55,000 Canadians served in the Union Army, many of them recruited in Canada, while others had already taken up residence in the United States. More than two dozen won the Medal of Honor. In a precursor to a much later war, Canada offered refuge to draft dodgers and deserters from the Union Army, despite US protests. Canada also provided refuge to escaped Confederate prisoners of war, which was legal under the Neutrality Law. The overall perception of the Union was that British North America, like Britain itself, aided the Confederacy, and the Union demand for reparations following the war dominated Anglo- American relations for years.

10 Little Known Facts About the Relationship Between the United States and Canada
Fort Drum in the 1930s. Located near Watertown, New York, Fort Drum was critical to War Plan Red. Library of Congress

Defense Scheme 1 and War Plan Red

In the 1920s both Canada and the United States developed elaborate plans for the invasion of each other. The Canadian plan, Defense Scheme 1, was a plan in which the Canadian Army would invade the United States to forestall an American invasion, and was designed around reinforcement from Britain and the empire. The American plan, developed by the US Army and Navy’s War Plans departments, was part of an overall plan of war against the British Empire. The Americans had similar plans for war against other nations, such as War Plan Orange in the Pacific against the Empire of Japan.

Defense Scheme 1 was largely the plan of a single Canadian officer, Lt. Col. James Sutherland Brown, known as Buster to his contemporaries. Brown served as the Director of Military Operations and Intelligence. In that capacity he made several visits to the United States to acquire first hand military intelligence and assess American defense capabilities. In developing the plan Brown did not coordinate with the British Military command, upon which the entire operation was dependent. The Royal Navy had considered the defense of Canada an impossibility so near the home bases of the US Navy, and Britain did not have viable plans for Canada’s defense.

Defense Scheme 1 called for a simultaneous invasion of the United States, with troops of the Canadian Western Command striking at Seattle and other cities of the Northwest. The cities of Minneapolis-St. Paul would be taken by troops from the Prairie Command, which would attack through Fargo. Troops from Quebec would strike Albany, just as they had in the days of the Revolutionary War and before, using the Hudson Valley as a highway into New York. The plan was to then execute a fighting withdrawal, destroying American infrastructure as the Canadians retreated to the support of arriving British troops.

War Plan Red described war against the British Empire, and another version of the plan had the United States at war with Britain and Japan simultaneously, called War Plan Orange – Red. In either case the capture of Halifax by American forces was critical, since it was the primary point from which Canada could be supported by the British Navy. The United States planned a three pronged invasion of Canada, again similar to the invasion during the Revolutionary War, capturing Montreal and Quebec, militarizing the Great Lakes and the St. Lawrence, and capturing Winnipeg and Vancouver. Canadian ports were to be blockaded.

War Plan Red did not contain any attacks against the British Empire outside of the North American continent and the waters surrounding it. The planners were specific in what would happen to the seized Canadian territories, they were to, “…prepare the provinces and territories of CRIMSON and RED to become states and territories of the BLUE union upon the declaration of peace.” CRIMSON was the code name for Canada; RED for the United Kingdom; and BLUE for the United States. As late as 1935 War Plan Red was being updated and bases established for its support. It even designated the best roads to use between targets in Canada.

10 Little Known Facts About the Relationship Between the United States and Canada
A camp for the workers building the Alaska Highway during the Second World War. Wikimedia

Relations after the Second World War

During the Second World War the Canadian government and the United States government worked closely together, including the building of the Alaska Highway by the United States Army Corps of Engineers. Following the war the United States transferred the portion of the highway traversing Canada to the Canadian government, which has maintained it ever since, rebuilding several portions to improve its route, which was originally laid out for military purposes. The paving of the entire highway was completed in the 1980s. The road was not needed for the purpose for which it was built – supplying war materiel to Alaska – most of since most was delivered by sea and air.

The end of the Second World War meant the end of the British Empire, and as British influence over world affairs waned that of the United States grew. Canada and the United States became ever closer as allies and trading partners, though numerous disputes regarding trade continued in the decades following the war, some into the twenty-first century. American and Canadian cultural and social values have blended in some areas since the war, and grown distant in others. Differences of opinion regarding health care, for example, arose in the late twentieth century, particularly the differences in the cost borne by the consumer.

Canada opposed American involvement in the Vietnam War during the 1960s, and the invasion of Iraq in 2003, but it remained a supporter in anti-terror operations. A brief burst of American enthusiasm for its northern neighbor occurred in 1980 when it was revealed that the Canadian embassy in Tehran had sheltered and helped six American diplomats escape from Iran during the 1979-80 hostage crisis. American gratitude towards the Canadians was shown throughout the United States with billboards exclaiming thanks, and Canadian flags were flown nationwide. Later treatments of the story by filmmakers limited the Canadian efforts somewhat.

Joint military training exercises between the United States and Canada have continued since World War II, with Canada an active member of NATO. Canadian warships work with US Navy task groups, and American and Canadian anti-submarine warfare operations include mutual efforts. They also work together in anti-smuggling operations, and anti-piracy efforts. Despite these considerable improvements in Canadian and American relations since the end of the Second World War, there are still several areas of dispute between the two nations which diplomats have worked on resolving. One of these is the Northwest Passage, which Canada claims as an internal waterway, and the United States claims is an international passage.

The Northwest Passage is a waterway through the Arctic Archipelago connecting the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. With the decline of the polar ice, portions of the passage are now more readily navigable through the use of ice breakers. Ships which are too large to use the Panama Canal can traverse the Passage, shaving thousands of miles from voyages, with the resulting savings in fuel costs. European and Asian nations, as well as the United States contend that the passage is an international waterway open to free navigation. The Canadian government claims it as territorial waters. It is just one more in a long history of disputes between the United States and Canada.


Where do we find this stuff? Here are our sources:

“Liberty or Death: Wars that Forged a Nation”, by Carl Benn and Daniel Marston, 2006

“Seward’s Folly: A New Look at the Alaska Purchase”, by Lee A. Farrow, 2016

“How a pig nearly changed U.S. history”, by Chuck Woodbury, RV Travel.

“Alaska Boundary Dispute”, by D. M. L. Farr, entry, The Canadian Encyclopedia, February 6, 2006

“A People and a Nation”, by Mary Beth Norton, 2014

“Raiding the Ice Box”, by Peter Carlson, The Washington Post, December 30, 2005

“Plain Sailing on the Northwest Passage”, by Kathryn Westcott, BBC News, September 19, 2007