Counting the blessings of the U.S.-Canada relationship


November 21, 2023 – Thanksgiving is almost here. For those of us here at the Canadian American Business Council, it’s a time to count our blessings – as the Canadians among us did in October during their own Thanksgiving celebrations.

With the world in a state of turmoil, the Canada-United States relationship seems an even bigger blessing than usual this year. As North Americans, we’re not just neighbors living peacefully side by side, but close friends, and have been for generations.

On a personal level, we may have loved ones living on the other side of the border. We may travel back and forth frequently, spending our hard-earned vacation time in one another’s countries. And when we do so, we can almost always count on a warm welcome as we cross the longest unmilitarized border in the world.

This friendship was on full display when President Joe Biden travelled to Ottawa for an official visit earlier this year, and during Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s recent visit to Washington, D.C., to participate in the inaugural Americas Partnership for Economic Prosperity (APEP) Leaders’ Summit.

On the sidelines of the summit, the two leaders discussed shared priorities that included creating well-paying middle-class jobs while fighting climate change, as well as support for democracies, including Ukraine, and working to address foreign interference.

It is not just here in the North American sphere where Canada-U.S. harmony on critical issues is evident. Just last week, our countries participated together in the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) meeting in San Francisco.

While President Biden’s meeting with China’s Xi Jinping was the marquee event of the summit, important discussions took place among all participants about the Israel-Hamas war, the effect of the war in Ukraine on global food supplies, the threats posed by climate change and the need to expand opportunities for international trade and economic growth throughout the Indo-Pacific. On these and a multitude of other issues, Canada and the U.S. are in synch.

These types of harmonious ties — aimed at the best interests of citizens while upholding democratic principles — are crucial as the North American neighborhood expands to include other like-minded friends and partners in the Americas and across the Pacific and the Atlantic.

As is necessary in all neighborhoods, ensuring the health and resilience of these emerging friendships will require care, nurturing and attention of the type demonstrated in recent bilateral visits and multi-national summits.

We all know how important it is to forge and tend to peaceful partnerships right now as we watch the horrendous events unfolding in the Middle East and continuing in Ukraine. That’s why both Canada and the U.S. have been stalwart supporters of the people of Ukraine and Israel as they fight tyranny and terrorism. Prime Minister Trudeau has travelled to Kyiv, while President Biden recently travelled to Tel Aviv.

As ongoing global turmoil is making clear, some regimes refuse to play by the rules, repeatedly violating international law and trouncing on human rights and environmental protections, causing chaos and confusion around the world.

In times of upheaval and uncertainty, it’s easy to focus on the negatives. But it’s often more helpful to focus on the positives, and they’re abundant in the Canada-U.S. relationship.

They include our commitment to playing by the same rules on everything from co-operating on measures against people and drug smuggling to conserving protected areas and ensuring the success of the USMCA, which has expanded trade, investment and jobs for workers across Canada, the U.S. and Mexico.

It also easy to take peaceful relationships for granted. The seamless flow of commerce and people across the Canada-U.S. border every day is something most Canadians and American rarely think about, but that people in other parts of the world would consider a true gift.

None of this is to suggest that Canada and the U.S. aren’t different. There is an array of differences between Canadians and Americans that go far beyond when we celebrate Thanksgiving. That we respect and understand one another’s differences is part of the strength of the relationship.

And as Americans gather around the Thanksgiving table on Thursday, among our most precious blessings is that Canada is our neighbor. In these trying times, our enduring friendship can and should serve as a model to the rest of the world.

Beth Burke is the Acting CEO of the Canadian American Business Council.  She looks forward to celebrating Canada/US relations in Ottawa at the CABC’s 29th Annual State of the Relationship on Monday, November 27.