Canada + U.S. = 1 (country)?

You may not like what you’re going to read here. Maybe you should stop reading. And that’s OK. Not sure that I fully like it myself. But what is going to happen is unstoppable. That’s why I’ve written a response to Tony Wilson’s recent column “492,529 reasons to say no to merging with the U.S.”

If you’re still with me on this, try me out. You see, I take a certain simple view of the world: As a lawyer, I know past client history is a predictive element in future client action (if the last time, the lawyer-client called Supreme Advocacy two or three days before a Supreme Court deadline, and we still meet the deadline, chances are he’ll do it again). Same goes for judges, at a higher evolutionary scale if you will — their past decisions give you some idea of future decisions; that’s why we check them out pre-hearing; that’s why (I think) fundamentally we have this thing called stare decisis.

In other words, the study of history helps us predict the future (myself, I read a lot about the Second World War because my dad fought in that war).

Let’s go now from the practice of law, the job of judging, the study of history — to what some call “geopolitics.” Me, I think it’s just basic human nature, with group dynamics thrown in.

Let me explain it simply this way, and also ask you a few questions along the way.

Europe (then)

My dad fought in the Second World War, where people shot and shelled you from over there, and you reciprocated because they were indeed over there. After the war, Europe was a complete mess in just about every way. Eisenhower wrote home to his wife: “I never dreamed that such cruelty, bestiality, and savagery could really exist in this world,” (quoted in the just-published book Year Zero: A History of 1945) and my dad is still alive and remembers what Europe was like.

Arizona (then)

My wife Giovanna and I have a house in Arizona, just north of Phoenix in Cave Creek. In the century before last, there was what many refer to as “The Indian Wars,” and in Cave Creek there are local roads called Stagecoach Pass, Bloody Basin Road, and Riflemans’ Pass. These are real names, I’m not making them up.

On the other side of the creek was an Indian encampment, and if you walk slowly and carefully there today you can pick up significant pieces of pottery dropped on the way to/from the creek. Older folks in the area still remember Cavalry versus Indian war stories their grandparents told them. In other words, it’s history I suppose, but recent history, within living memory.

Europe (now)

Europe is now one country, a federal country (Treaty of Rome, the founding constitutional document). A federal country with internal frictions of course — just like Canada — but a country nevertheless.

Arizona (now)

Indian wars, yes they happened, but for Giovanna, me, and the kids Arizona has become a good place to spend a warm week or two during a cold Canadian winter.

Do we have what the U.S. wants?

Some things Canada has that the U.S. wants: water, wood, oil, gas, space, and security. Anything incoming has a long way to travel before it gets across the 49th parallel.

And does the U.S. have what we want?

Here are some things Canada wants: access to the U.S. market, American know-how, investment, possible access to their dollar (continues to get talked about by economists whether we should be using the U.S. dollar as a standard — and you noticed our coins match, the quarter, the dime, the nickel?), and security (nobody will screw with us with them sitting close by).

The big question?

If Canada has what the U.S. wants and the U.S. has what Canada wants and given countries “come together” for two main reasons, conquest or collegiality (i.e. Europe: “We are stronger as a single block”), how long will it take for Canada and the U.S. to become one country?

I know the answer: two to three generations max. Because of Sept. 11, 2001, you can take a generation off (my cousin Damian Meehan was killed in one of those towers).

The name

I even know the name, can’t you guess? The United States of North America.

We add one word and half-a-dozen stars (maybe a maple leaf or two) and we’re in. And how would we as a country divide up into states? That’s pretty obvious: British Columbia, the Prairie Provinces, Ontario, Quebec, the Maritimes, and the North.

Bottom line

Will it happen? Absolutely. It’s a historical inevitability.

Will it be universally popular? Absolutely not. But will it happen, yes, after referenda on both sides of the previous border.

Your kids or probably grandkids will have different passports from you. You can’t stop it.

You heard it here first. You can tell me years from now “I told you so.” I’ll be dead but feel free to tell my kids Naomi, Marc, Mélanie, and Morgan.

Eugene Meehan is a partner at Supreme Advocacy LLP, a boutique law firm in Ottawa specializing in SCC matters.

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