The following post is the fourth in a series that features collaboration between the Acadiensis blog and the students in Jerry Bannister’s undergraduate and graduate Canadian Studies and History classes at Dalhousie University.
by Aaron Clark
John Mack Faragher published A Great and Noble Scheme in 2006. It is now 11 years later, and I believe this book makes some important points for us to consider today; particularly, in light of recent events and trends in politics. The point I find most relevant today is made explicitly in his conclusion where he claims that we must understand Acadian history as a mix of Acadian, French, British, Canadian, and American influences. Even a traditionally Canadian event, like the Deportation, had American involvement at the heart of it. Considering we are now facing the reality of President Trump, the question becomes how will that affect Canada. Our two nations are closely linked together, and this provides Canada with an opportunity and obligation to try to mediate American policy in whatever way we can. As America’s closest neighbour, we have had generally good relations with the United States. Through this relationship, Canada must try to do what it can to prevent or curb some of Trump’s more destructive campaign promises. At the same time, we will be trying to walk a tightrope between mediation and maintaining good relations.
It may be comforting to act like ostriches with our heads in the sand, and say that because we are Canadian, American events are not our problem. However, this ignores how closely we are tied to our American neighbours. Faragher’s narrative reinforces how this has been true for longer than there has been a United States or a Canada. For as long as Europeans have settled in North America, the various colonies had interconnected relationships. In a sense, they can be considered one big family, but not always a happy one. As with most families, there was sporadic fighting and sometimes bloodshed. English privateers were responsible for the destruction of some early Acadian settlements. Events came full circle when Massachusetts Governor Shirley helped plan and orchestrate the Deportation. In the aftermath of the Deportation, some Acadians settled in American colonies; most notably those who became today’s Cajuns. Canada and America have been too closely linked for too long for us to simply ignore our neighbours to the South. Our countries are like siblings; we may have our differences, and even have trouble understanding each others motivations, but we still have to get along and live in the same house. This is an important point to remember as we as a country figure out how to come to grips with the election of Donald Trump.
Trade with America is a crucial part of the Canadian economy, and some of Trump’s campaign promises threaten this relationship. We cannot simply write off America as a lost cause; we will have to work with them through this time of uncertainty. Even if we had the option to isolate ourselves from the United States during this presidency, we have an obligation to maintain our relationship with them due to our interconnectedness. Justin Trudeau highlighted this in a recent speech where he promised that Canada would work with the Trump government for our own good, as well as that of the rest of the world. Trudeau’s offer to reopen talks about NAFTA came as a direct response to Trump’s campaign promise that he would dismantle this agreement. Fear of this promise becoming a reality, combined with uncertainty over Trump’s many disparaging remarks about Mexicans, have contributed to a large drop in the Mexican currency. Canada’s proposed talks will be aimed at saving NAFTA for the sake of everyone involved. Our proximity in geography and culture to the Americans, and the long relationship between our nations, place Canada in the position of acting as a voice of reason to the United States.
American environmental policy is another area where Canada has an obligation to prevent, or limit, the impact of Trump’s campaign promises. Again, this is not simply for our own sake, but for that other nations around the world too. As an unprecedented international environmental conference was taking place in Morocco, a man was elected in the United States who has said he will withdraw from the recent Paris accord. If any progress is to be made in limiting the damage of climate change, we have to work together as an international community. The participation of the United States is not central to this accord, but their withdrawal would be a huge blow to its chances for success. As the closest neighbour with good relations with the United States, Canada must engage with the American government and convince them to keep their existing commitments. If we can think of Canada and America as siblings, then the rest of the world powers can be thought of as our cousins. When there is a disagreement between family members, it often falls on siblings to play moderator and smooth things over. This is the situation Canada finds itself in now. We must help preserve the integrity of our international community by engaging with both sides of the argument. We need unified action to mitigate the damage of climate change. Canada has an important role to play in convincing the Americans to stay in step with the rest of the international community.
In short, Canadians must engage with Americans throughout Trump’s time as president, and we need to do so for the good of everyone. We are their geographic neighbours, major trading partners, and have the closest relationship with them among the international community. In addition to this, Canada and America have influenced each other so much over the course of our respective development that we are like siblings. We do have our differences, but we also have far more in common. Although we bicker from time to time, the relationship is beneficial for both countries. North America is our house, and we will be sharing it for the foreseeable future, so we must work together.
Aaron Clarke is a graduate student at Dalhousie University.
- Faragher, John Mack. A Great and Noble Scheme: The Tragic Story of the Expulsion of the French Acadians from Their American Homeland. New York: Norton, 2005.
John Mack Faragher, A Great and Noble Scheme: The Tragic Story of the Expulsion of the French Acadians from Their American Homeland (New York: Norton, 2005), 479-80.