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Authors

Ken Holmes

Document Type

Article

Abstract

Canada and the United States enjoy an intimate relationship like few countries in the world experience. However, both nations had many serious misunderstandings over domestic and world situations, largely due to their philosophical beginnings, the cornerstone of social and political bias. Canada’s foundation originates from the British Empire based on the tradition of “peace, order, and good government,” while the U.S. is built on individualism as expressed by “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” Consequently, both nations experienced varied disputes, all while engaging in extensive cooperation. This paper traces historical development of the Canadian cognitive bias toward the U.S. from the 1860s through to the 21st Century, with a focus on a key election held in 1891. In this election, the two parties presented opposing views of the nation’s destiny; a Canada tied to continental North America through free trade with the U.S., or a Canada connected to Britain and eventually Europe. These conflicting views moved through the 19th Century and forward, generating Canada’s national bias and suspicion of the U.S. The issues behind the free trade debate 1891 repeated itself in the elections of 1911, 1988, and in a range of smaller but significant issues such as water diversion. The paper concludes that Canadian policymakers need to understand and manage this bias to ensure that both nations can engage in long-term cooperation on critical issues such as national security.