The New North American Perimeter

Canadians have been angered to discover recently that a deal to create a new US-Canada perimeter security initiative has been going on behind their backs. This plan has been some time in the making, as we uncovered during our current research on border security. In particular, alliances of major corporations and US and Canadian government organisations have been planning together in the Security and Prosperity Partnership (SPP) and the North American Competitiveness Council (NACC) – who back in 2007 produced a document, Building a Secure and Competitive North Anerica (pdf), that seems to prefigure exactly what this ‘new’ soon to be announced plan will contain.

And already the state public relations machines have rumbled into place to prevent dissent. The government clearly has nothing but contempt for the Canadian Charter rights that this deal will damage (most notably those around information and privacy). And there seems to be no doubt that this deal will further embed US security priorities in Canadian-US relations, and effectively add an inner core of security to the economic layer of NAFTA (excluding Mexico, of course… no doubt the perimeter will continue exclude them, even while we exploit their cheap labour and resources). Indeed the ‘success’ of NAFTA (read: the success of NAFTA for business elites) is one of the reasons given for supporting this so-far unseen plan by five former Canadian ambassadors to Washington in an Opinion piece in the Globe and Mail today.

This first volley from the big guns seems to have come straight from the Ottawa PR stategy. There are references to ‘common sense’ and the ‘reassertion of sovereignty’ and attacks on ‘bellyaching’ and ‘knee-jerk anti-Americanism’. Indeed it is worth quoting the final paragraph in full because it is a masterpiece of old-fashioned continentalist propaganda combined with post-9/11 fear-stoking:

“Knee-jerk anti-Americanism is an indulgence without purpose in today’s interconnected, interdependent world. Our future economic prosperity relies on an efficient border, and we should welcome any agreement that smoothes the way for jobs and growth while toughening up our borders to security threats against both our countries.”

In this worldview, asserting sovereignty means giving it up, ‘interconnected and interdependent’ means allied with the USA rather than all the other multiplicity of friendships Canada had carefully crafted around the world prior to the Harper era, and security threats to the USA are seen as one and the same as those to Canada. In other words, we should hitch our wagon more firmly to Washington and prevent any return to that ‘indulgent’ Canadian emphasis on global security, peace-building, human development and human rights – you know, the values that once gained Canada respect around the world.

It’s quite eye-opening in a way to see former representatives of the Canadian state to the USA openly acting as US assets in Canada, clearly trying to educate the Canadian public in how to think and how to behave towards their rulers (sorry, slip of the tongue, of course I meant ‘neighbours’), and trying to preempt and predefine reaction to a plan that we haven’t even seen yet not least because people like this seem to think that Canadians don’t deserve to have a say in something that amounts to nothing less than the future sovereignty of their country.

(thanks to Harrison Smith for the NACC document and David Lyon for pointing out the Opinion piece)

Author: David

I'm David Murakami Wood. I live on Wolfe Island, in Ontario, and am Canada Research Chair (Tier II) in Surveillance Studies and an Associate Professor at Queen's University, Kingston.

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