Canadian Border: Current Political Issues the United Term Paper

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Canadian Border: Current Political Issues

The United States and Canada have shared a long and friendly history together. Next door neighbors on a geographic scale, these two countries share one of the longest borders in the world. While this border is guarded at certain points, it does not have guards at every point, making it also one of the longest unguarded borders in the world. For most of their history together, the United States and Canada have had few, if any, problems concerning their shared border. However, the September 11 terrorist attacks on the United States have complicated the border issues somewhat between the two countries. Things are now different than they used to be, but people are not certain in just what direction things are going regarding the border. This paper explores the issues that the United States and Canada share regarding their common border and how these issues are being dealt with.

The original European settlers of Canada were French. French exploration and colonization of Canada actually began back in the sixteenth century, nearly one hundred years before the English began their colonization of the North American continent. However, once the English arrived, they soon realized that the French, in their occupation of the Canadian territory, were in a prime position to claim great wealth in the fur trade. The English wanted in on this trade, and small wars and skirmishes began to break out in Canada between the English and the French. The English succeeded in capturing certain areas of Canada during these outbreaks of violence. Eventually, the English decided that they wanted the whole of Canada for themselves, and a major war broke out as a result. This war came to be known as the French and Indian War. At the end of this war, the English made a final defeat of the French at the French stronghold of Quebec, thus finally becoming masters of the Canadian territory.

Once in control of Canada, the British had to figure out how to rule it. There were over 60,000 French speaking citizens in Canada at this time, and hostile Indians surrounded the area. The British proved innovative in their ruling and soon won the admiration of the Canadians. The Quebec Act was passed in 1774, which extended the border of Quebec as far South as the Ohio River Valley. Things went smoothly for only a short period, however, as the American colonies soon rebelled, and the colonies viewed Canada as the "fourteenth colony." Soon, the colonies sent armies north to capture Canada. However, the efforts of these armies to capture Canada were unsuccessful, and the armies retreated to the south to concentrate their efforts on freeing the existing colonies.

Canada's relationship with the United States originally started out with it as a haven for Tories -- those people who sided with Great Britain during the American Revolution. Those who lived in the American colonies at the time of the American Revolution and who supported Great Britain soon found out that their presence was not welcome in the colonies, and that they and their families were very likely in danger. Canada, however, was firmly in the British camp, and the frightened and displaced Tories found Canada to be warm and welcoming to them. After the Revolution ended, most of the Tories who had fled there during the war stayed there. Canada began taking on an identity separate from the United States. It remained under British control, while the United States began an entirely independent existence.

After the American Revolution, the Canadians began their westward expansion across the territory, thus expanding the existing border of the country. Much of the westward areas of Canada were nearly impenetrable wilderness at this time, and progress in settling these areas were slow. However, the Canadians did press forward, expanding their nation and making new discoveries. The Americans in the newly formed United States, however, had in mind to drive the British entirely from the North American continent and to take Canada for itself, as it had hoped to do during the Revolution. The War of 1812 brought this ambition of the United States to a head. The United States fought strongly, and it seemed at times that the armies of the United States were certain to capture Canada. Canadians, however, successfully repulsed enough invasions of United States forces to prevent this from happening. When the war ended in 1814, the United States and Great Britain returned all territories and forts that each had captured from the other. Canadians had experienced a great swelling of national pride at their defense of their country against the Americans during this war, so much so that Canada really came together as a nation for the first time. There was no longer any chance of a union between the United States and Canada at this time, as Canada had firmly established its own identity.

Despite the firm creation of Canada as its own entity after the War of 1812, its border issues with the United States were far from being completely resolved. Border issues continued to arise between the two countries as both countries experienced a steady westward expansion. The boundary between the United States and Canada was the least clear on the west coast. For a long time, both British and American fur traders had used the territory of Oregon as a common outpost by common agreement, and this meant that the Canadian traders were using Oregon, too. In 1846, the Oregon Boundary Treaty was enacted between the United States and Canada. This treaty determined that the border between the two countries should follow the forty-ninth parallel, but that Vancouver should remain British. At this time, British and Canadian meant essentially the same thing. This treaty had the effect of establishing Vancouver as the premier western city of Canada.

Though there have been minor border issues between the United States and Canada since the Oregon Boundary Treaty, relations between the two nations have been relatively peaceful throughout the years. The biggest border issues to come up between the United States and Canada since this treaty was signed happened during the Vietnam War. At this time, the United States was involved in a highly controversial conflict with communist forces in Vietnam. Young men were being drafted into the military in large numbers, and many of them did not want to go, for various reasons. However, if they refused to go into the military and stayed in the United States, these young men faced jail. Going to Canada was a viable option to avoid military service and jail. Canada's prime minister openly welcomed these young men to Canada, allowing them to flow freely across the border between the two countries. The government of the United States was understandably upset by this, and tensions between the two nations heated up for a while. Talk was made of beefing up security at the border in order to keep people from crossing to dodge the draft. However, nothing was ultimately done, and the young men who escaped to Canada during the Vietnam War were eventually offered an unconditional pardon and allowed to return home if they wished. This whole scale acceptance by Canada of young men avoiding the draft in the United States was one of the first indications to many that the United States and Canada were culturally two separate counties, as well as geographically.

Of course, there are now more complicated issues involving the border between the United States and Canada than there have ever been in the past. These new, complicated issues have arisen as a result of the September 11 terrorist attacks on the United States. All of a sudden, that vast, undefended border between the two nations has become of great concern to the United States. The concern that terrorists could come into Canada and then easily cross the border into the United States has caused some changes to be made in the way crossings and other activities at the U.S. -- Canadian border are now handled. However, the fact that these changes have been made mainly on the side of the United States is causing friction between the two countries that has not been seen since the issues surrounding the Vietnam War. While both sides agree that changes need to be made, they are having a hard time coming to an agreement on just what these changes should be.

Both Canadian and United States terrorism experts agree that terrorists have been able to find an entry point to the United States from Canada (Clayton, 2001). Some reports indicate that as many as five of the nineteen terrorists who hijacked airplanes in the United States on September 11, 2001 had sneaked into the United States from Canada. The reason that these terrorists were able to get so easily into Canada is that Canada has much more loose immigration laws than does the United States. It is easy for people to get into Canada, and easy…

Sources Used in Document:


Canadian History on the Internet." (2002). Oh Canada! Retrieved on December 3, 2003 at

Clayton, Mark and Chaddock, Gail Russell. "Terrorists Aided by a Leaky U.S. -- Canada Line." (September 19, 2001). Christian Science Monitor.

Connelly, Joel. "In the Northwest: Congress Must Act to Plug Porous Canadian Border." (October 5, 2001). Seattle P.I.

Day, Julie Finnin. "Canadians Dismayed as U.S. Beefs Up Border Security." (December 7, 2001). Christian Science Monitor.

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