Insightful, prescient and often funny, The Border explores what it means to be Canadian and what Canada means to the giant to our south.
If good fences make good neighbours, do we have the sort of fence that will allow us to maintain neighbourly relations with the world’s only superpower?
In The Border, well-known political scientist and journalist James Laxer explores this question by taking the reader on a compelling 5000-mile journey into culture, politics, history, and the future of Canadian sovereignty.
Long ignored (or celebrated) as “the world’s longest undefended border,” the line between us and the US is now a stress point. The attacks on the World Trade Center announced to the world that North America is no longer a quiet neighbourhood and made our relationship with the US one of the most pressing questions facing Canadians.
The porousness of the border is sure to be more problematic as the world becomes more troubled. Canadian officials complain of American pornography, drugs, untaxed cigarettes and, especially, guns moving northwards. For their part, the FBI and US Customs Service blame Canada for the infiltration of Chinese gangs smuggling immigrants and, more urgently, third-world terrorist cells based north of the border.
Drawing deeply from history and anecdote, Laxer shows that for all our neighbourly good will, the Canada-US border has been contentious since the American War of Independence. In the mid-1800s the Americans tried to seize the west coast up to the 54th parallel. On the other hand, until 1931 the Canadian Army’s “Defence Scheme Number One” was to launch a surprise attack on the US with Mexico and Japan as allies.
But beyond the fraught politics of the border, Laxer discovers another legacy as well. Travelling the country from Campobello island in the east to Richmond BC in the west all the way up to the Alaska panhandle in the north, Laxer meets people who live within a stone’s throw of the foreigners on the other side, and who share with him tales of friendship and rivalry, smuggling and trade that have shaped the character of their communities.