The Question for Canada: Now What?

By: Laura Steiner

The last few weeks have been a chaotic whirlwind for this country.  It started with the Trump administration assessing tariffs on steel and aluminum products because apparently Canada was a national security threat.  Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was as clear as day that Canada would not be pushed around; he found such a move insulting.  It was a line he repeated on numerous US Sunday talk shows, in parliament, in public and in private  to President Trump.  The only way Trudeau could have been clearer would have been if he’d had someone follow him around with some kind of neon sign.

And then came the G7.  What happened inside the summit was summed up in that memorable photo of Angela Merkel telling him off.  The bogus accusations that followed after of Trudeau’s ‘betrayal’, and the comments from his advisers about a special place in hell were puzzling, and even damaging to a relationship built up over a century.  Making things worse was the respect with which Trump treated Dictator, known Human Rights abuser and leader of North Korea Kim Jong Un.  Suddenly, Canada was the bad guy for standing up to Trump, and Un the good guy.  It’s a weird world.

There’s the last week to consider.  A zero tolerance policy adopted at the southern borders.  Images of children ripped from the parents, caged as prisoners in detention centres flowed out.  The resulting condemnation from world leaders, and pressure from his own party was enough to finally stop it.  “What’s going on in the United States is wrong,” Trudeau stated yesterday.  A typically mild-mannered Canadian response.   No poking the bear until necessary.

You can’t blame Trudeau if like many Canadians he wants to stop and ask: “Now What?” Do we continue renegotiating NAFTA? Or do we prepare for life without it as bumpy as that could be? Do we continue considering the United States a “safe third country” and maintain that agreement.  Or do we suspend it?  The decision to suspend brings a lot of other consequences with it. This would not be viewed as a friendly action by Trump, and given his recent patterns, would probably bring swift punishment.  There is also the question of resources, and what it would take to process the increased number of asylum seekers, see them settled and contributing to Canadian society.

It’s one of those questions without easy answers.