Both sides welcomed the Treaty of GHENT, which brought some settlement of outstanding problems between British North America and the United States. The RUSH-BAGOT AGREEMENT of 1817 limited the presence of armed vessels on the Great Lakes. The CONVENTION OF 1818 provided for continuation of the boundary from Lake of the Woods to the Rocky Mountains. In the east, commissioners appointed under the Treaty of Ghent sorted out boundary problems, except in northern Maine.
In the 1820s and 1830s Upper and Lower Canadians opposed to their governments looked with increasing favour upon American democracy. William Lyon MACKENZIE and Louis-Joseph PAPINEAU sought American support in their REBELLIONS OF 1837. After his defeat Mackenzie fled to the United States, where he fomented border troubles for the following year (see HUNTERS' LODGES). A British show of military force and American official unwillingness to support the rebels ended the threats to British North America. In 1842 the ASHBURTON-WEBSTER TREATY settled the northeastern boundary, but problems west of the Rockies were cleared up in the 1846 OREGON TREATY only after war threatened.
In 1854 fears subsided as British North America and the United States were linked by a RECIPROCITY treaty, but they returned suddenly with the AMERICAN CIVIL WAR, 1861-65. Northern Americans resented what they felt was Britain's pro-Southern sympathy. British North America and the United States managed to avoid military confrontation, but the end of the war led to new tensions because it was thought that the North might take revenge against Britain, and because FENIANS were organizing to invade British North America. The Fenian Raids of 1866 failed, but spurred British North America toward CONFEDERATION the following year.
Confederation, the subsequent withdrawal of British garrisons, and conflicts in Europe impelled Britain and Canada to seek settlement of outstanding differences with the Americans in the 1871 Treaty of WASHINGTON. Prime Minister Sir John A. MACDONALD, a member of the British negotiating team, grumbled about the terms, but the treaty was useful to Canada in that the United States, through its signature, acknowledged the new nation to its north. Thereafter, Canada's concern about the American military threat diminished rapidly. There were fears of American interference as Canada established sovereignty over the North-West, but by the late 1890s both nations looked back at 3 decades of remarkably little conflict.
In 1898-99 a Joint High Commission, reflecting this spirit as well as the Anglo-American desire for rapprochement, sought to remedy remaining discord. The commission broke down, with only minor matters settled. One question on which agreement was not reached was the ALASKA BOUNDARY DISPUTE, for which another tribunal was established 1903 and which led to Canadian anger, more toward Britain than against the United States. It produced a conviction that in the future Canada must rely increasingly on its own resources and less on Britain.
Canada therefore undertook to establish direct institutional links with the United States. Best known was the INTERNATIONAL JOINT COMMISSION, established 1909. In 1911 Prime Minister Wilfrid LAURIER went farther than most Canadians would go when he proposed a reciprocity agreement with the United States. In the 1911 election campaign old animosities reappeared, the Conservatives were elected and reciprocity died. Nevertheless, new Prime Minister Robert BORDEN quickly reassured the Americans that he wanted to maintain good relations. Borden's action probably eased tensions when Canada entered WORLD WAR I in 1914 while the United States remained neutral. When the United States finally entered the war in 1917, the 2 countries recognized their common heritage and interests to an unprecedented extent.
Immediately after World War I, Canadian politicians fancied themselves interpreters between the United States and Britain for example, at the 1921 Imperial Conference when Prime Minister Arthur MEIGHEN dissuaded Britain from renewing the Anglo-Japanese Alliance because it might bring the British Empire into conflict with the United States. With Prime Minister Mackenzie KING's Liberals in power, there was an ever stronger tendency to emphasize Canada's "North American" character and, by implication, its similarity to the United States.
In the 1920s and 1930s Canadians and Americans mingled as never before. Canadian defence plans were altered as planners dismissed the possibility of conflict. Economic and cultural linkages strengthened as suspicion of American influence receded. Canada and the United States established legations in 1926 and no longer dealt with each other through British offices. More important was the impact of American popular culture through radio, motion pictures and the automobile. The Canadian government tried to regulate BROADCASTING and FILM but largely failed. Other organizations such as the Roman CATHOLIC Church in Québec tried moral suasion and political pressure to prevent Canadians from partaking of the most frivolous aspects of American culture.
Through the new media, Canadians became familiar with United States president Franklin Roosevelt. In 1938, as another European war loomed, he publicly promised support if Canada was ever threatened. Roosevelt did co-operate closely after WORLD WAR II erupted in September 1939. Although the United States remained neutral, Roosevelt and King reached 2 important agreements that formalized the American commitment: the Ogdensburg Agreement (1940) established the PERMANENT JOINT BOARD ON DEFENCE and the Hyde Park Agreement (1941) united the 2 economies for wartime purposes (see LEND-LEASE). Both agreements won widespread popular approval.
Canadians' admiration for the United States increased after it joined the war in December 1941. Public-opinion polls indicated that many Canadians would have liked to join the United States. This new affection frightened King, but Canada retained and even expanded defence and other relations with the United States after the war. The COLD WAR with the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics convinced most Canadians that the United States was the bulwark defending common values and security. In August 1958 Canada and the United States signed a plan for joint air defence (NORAD), and the following year agreed to the Canada-US Defence Production Sharing Program.
Some deplored the growing links. Vincent MASSEY and Walter GORDON headed royal commissions on culture and economic policy that were critical of American influence in Canada. In Parliament, the 1956 PIPELINE DEBATE and the debate on the SUEZ CRISIS indicated that some parliamentarians also feared American influence upon Canada's government and its attitudes.
Prime Minister John DIEFENBAKER committed Canada to NORAD and the defence-sharing plan and quickly befriended President Dwight Eisenhower. Nevertheless, he lamented Canada's increasing distance from Britain and the extent of American cultural and other influence. This feeling became suspicion of the United States itself when John Kennedy became president in 1961. The leaders disliked each other, and policy differences grew rapidly. Diefenbaker refused nuclear arms for Canada (see BOMARC MISSILE CRISIS) and hesitated to back Kennedy during the 1962 CUBAN MISSILE CRISIS. The Americans openly accused Diefenbaker of failing to carry out commitments. In the 1963 general election, Diefenbaker accused the Americans of gross interference, blaming them for his election loss.
Both countries expected better relations when the Liberals assumed power. By 1965, however, relations had deteriorated significantly as Prime Minister Lester PEARSON and Canadians found it difficult to give the United States the support it demanded during the VIETNAM WAR. By 1967 the Canadian government openly expressed its disagreement with American policies in Southeast Asia. Canadians generally became less sympathetic to American influence and foreign policy. A nationalist movement demanded that American influence be significantly reduced. The first major nationalist initiatives occurred in cultural affairs, but those most offensive to Americans, such as the NATIONAL ENERGY PROGRAM, were economic.
Relations during the first Reagan administration were strained. It was evident that the government of Pierre TRUDEAU and the administration of Ronald Reagan perceived international events from a different perspective. Canada, nevertheless, did permit cruise missile testing despite strong domestic opposition. In 1984 the election of Brian MULRONEY's Conservatives signalled a reconciliation with the United States, one which led to a weakening of nationalistic legislation and agencies such as the FOREIGN INVESTMENT REVIEW AGENCY (FIRA). Canadian public opinion did not reject these initiatives, and polls in 1985 and 1986 even showed strong support for FREE TRADE, though this support
After protracted negotiations, the 2 governments reached a tentative trade agreement on 3 October 1987. This agreement became the central issue of the Canadian general election of 1988 which the Mulroney Conservatives decisively won. The trade agreement quickly came into effect, and Canadian-American economic relations were fundamentally changed. In 1994 the trade agreement was extended to Mexico and became known as the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).
The trade agreement did not end disputes, in part because promised agreements on subsidies and countervail did not materialize. Moreover, the disparity in size between the two partners meant that on truly controversial issues in the United States Congress, such as softwood lumber, the Canadian government had to give way. Nevertheless, trade between the 2 countries grew dramatically with the United States taking 80% of Canada's exports by 1995 and Canada receiving 70% of its imports from the United States. These figures lead many observers to conclude that Canada has cast its fate to North American winds. Some spoke of an inevitable political integration as a result.
Relations worsened again during the presidency of George W. Bush. After the attacks on New York and Washington on 11 September 2001, Canada committed troops to the INTERNATIONAL CAMPAIGN AGAINST TERRORISM IN AFGHANISTAN. When the Americans extended the war to Iraq in 2003, Canada refused to take part in the new campaign. The tensions became public when the United States ambassador publicly rebuked Canada and when some Canadian officials made derogatory remarks about the United States president. The situation further deteriorated when Canada announced in 2005 that it would not participate in the United States program to build a ballistic missile defence system. The inauguration of Barack Obama as United States president in January 2009 encouraged hopes for improved relations between the 2 countries.
The tensions of the Bush years were rooted in specific events, but also reflected the long tradition of Canadian nationalism and the sense of Canadian distinctiveness. Still, it is difficult to imagine a future relationship different from that of 2 proud sovereign nations living peacefully and trading constantly with each other.
See also CANADA AND THE UNITED STATES.
Author JOHN ENGLISH Revised: STEPHEN AZZI
Norman Hillmer and J.L. Granatstein, For Better or For Worse: Canada and the United States into the Twenty-First Century (2007); Robert Bothwell, Canada and the United States: The Politics of Partnership (1992).
Links to Other Sites
The website for the Historica-Dominion Institute, parent organization of The Canadian Encyclopedia and the Encyclopedia of Music in Canada. Check out their extensive online feature about the War of 1812, the "Heritage Minutes" video collection, and many other interactive resources concerning Canadian history, culture, and heritage.
Reciprocity Treaty, 1854
The complete text of the Reciprocity Treaty of 1854. A Library and Archives Canada website.
This Library and Archives Canada website offers an illustrated overview of the Trent Affair.
The Canadian Caper
A Canadian Encyclopedia feature article about the former Canadian ambassador to Iran, Ken Taylor, who led the secret evacuation of six US diplomats from Iran after the American embassy in Tehran was overtaken by militants in 1979.
William Lyon Mackenzie King Diary, 1893-1950
The entire text of William Lyon Mackenzie King's personal diary reveals his unique perspective on six decades of Canadian political and social history. Accompanied by teaching resources and informative essays about the diaries. From Library and Archives Canada.
Records of Old and Their Widows
The Provincial Archives of New Brunswick has within its holdings many highly interesting and valuable historical documents. Among these are records which relate to the soldiers who fought as loyalists in the American Revolution.
Tetley's maritime & admiralty law
Useful online resources about Canadian and international maritime and admiralty law. From William Tetley, Professor, Faculty of Law, McGill University.
Revolution Rejected: Canada and the American Revolution
This illustrated Canadian War Museum website recounts the story of the failed American invasion of Canada in 1775–1776 and the migration of American Loyalists to Canada after 1783.
Fort George National Historic Site of Canada
Take a virtual tour of Fort George National Historic Site, a much fought over location in the War of 1812. From Parks Canada.
Lévis Forts National Historic Site of Canada
This Parks Canada website is dedicated to the Lévis Forts in the Québec city region. Offers a detailed history of the design of the military armaments and fortifications at this site.
Fort Lennox National Historic Site of Canada
The website for Fort Lennox National Historic Site of Canada, located in Québec near the Canada-US border. Includes background notes about the American Revolution, the War of 1812 and related topics.
Online access to "Think Canada!" A biannual publication from ACSUS with in depth coverage of personalities, institutions, and related events in Canada-US academic relations. From the The Association for Canadian Studies in the United States. Note: large PDF files.
The American War of Independence: The Rebels and the Redcoats
A brief historical account of the American Revolution from a British perspective. From the BBC website.
Diplomat & International Canada
The website for “Diplomat & International Canada” features online articles about Canada's role on the international stage. Also provides the latest news about Ottawa’s diplomatic community.
Canada’s G8 Website
This site provides background information about the major international economic, political, and social issues discussed at G8 Summit meetings. From Canada’s Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade.
Treaty of Paris, 1783
Scroll down the page for an overview of the Treaty of Paris (1783.) Click on the “Treaty of Paris” link for more information. From the “Canada in the Making” website.
International Boundary Commission
The official website for the International Boundary Commission.
Canada Treaty Information
This searchable online database provides the full text copies of international treaties in which Canada is a signatory. From the Treaty Section of the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade.
Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum
The official website for the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum.
The Canadian State: Documents & Dialogue
The Canadian State Web exhibition enables students to explore the various aspects of Canadian governance and to use a set of unique "real life" activities to create their own political party. The activities cover a wide variety of Social Science disciplines: History, Civics, Law, Language Arts, World Issues, Communications, and Canada in a North American Perspective. From Library and Archives Canada.
War of 1812 Magazine
The War of 1812 Magazine features online articles, reviews, commentaries, documents, and other material related to the War of 1812. Scroll down to the bottom of the page to access online articles from previous issues of the magazine. From the "Napoleon Series" website.
Connect 2 Canada
Stay connected with the latest developments and research on Canada and Canada-US relations. The blog features stories from a variety of resources on both sides of the border. A Government of Canada website.
BookTV: Eliot Cohen, "Conquered into Liberty"
In this video clip, American author Eliot Cohen offers some interesting details about early American attempts to invade British territory in North America. From YouTube.
Ken Taylor and the Canadian Caper
An account of the heroic actions taken by Ken Taylor and the Canadian embassy in Tehran after the American embassy was overrun during Ayatollah Khomeini’s Iranian Revolution. From the website for Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada.
Watch a video in which American newsman Tom Brokaw highlights numerous examples of Canada-US cooperation in various civilian and military sectors, including the famous 1980 "Canadian Caper." From YouTube.