Today, most Americans see our friendly neighbors to the north as being nothing more than distant relatives we get to see every holiday… we typically run into them somewhere on a four-lane highway behind the wheel of a snowbird mobile.
Canada is our country’s biggest trading partner, fellow ally against the “axis of evil” and has proven herself as a reliable friend time and time again.
Oddly enough, this intracontinental friendship is a relatively new undertaking – for centuries the two governments viewed each other with an incredible level of distrust and downright disdain.
The woes can be traced back to the early days of the Revolutionary War. While the lower thirteen American colonies were in open rebellion to the British Crown, the settlements in what is now Canada proved loyal to the London government, rejecting America’s sovereignty and even going to war against the Continental Army.
This faithfulness to the Crown would eventually lead to dozens of military engagements between the citizens of the two governments, including an unsuccessful American siege on Quebec in1775, as well as a failed attempt to conquer the British dependent during the War of 1812.
Though the two Anglican nations eventually learned to cohabitate on the 9.5 million square mile continent, to say they immediately became the best of friends would illustrate a gross ignorance of the turbulent relationship between the Bald Eagle and the maple leaf.
Even following a joint engagement against imperial Germany during World War I, the United States and British Canada were still extraordinarily distrusting of one another – and for good reason.
In 1974, the United States Defense Department declassified documents from the 1930s that revealed that the United States Army and Navy were devising plans to invade Canada. The plan was known as War Plan Red and was devised out of a fear that war with England, Canada’s protectorate, was inevitable following World War I – turns out England owed the United States, her wartime ally, an incredible amount of money following the Great War and the two nations were in bitter disagreement regarding the terms of payback.
Now before you get too upset with the United States, you should also know that immediately following World War I, nearly a decade before the American plan was hatched, Canada went to work devising its own plan to invade the United States: Defence Scheme No. 1.
In 1921 Canadian plan called for a surprise invasion of the northern United States should relations between the two governments continue to worsen.
In preparing its plan to invade the United States, Canada maintained secret agents in the United States for five years
Historian Pierre Berton noted in his book Marching as to War, the investigation had “a zany flavour about it, reminiscent of the silent comedies of the day.” To illustrate this, Berton quoted from the agent’s reports, in which they recorded, among other things, that in Burlington, Vermont, the people were “affable” and thus unusual for Americans; that Americans drink significantly less alcohol than Canadians (this was during Prohibition). After carefully studying the people of Burlington, Vermont, the Canadian agents concluded that the people of Vermont would be serious soldiers only “if aroused” and that many Americans might be sympathetic to the British cause.
The American plan to invade Canada, put together nearly a decade later, was slightly more serious.
According to the Yankee study, a British invasion into America was likely and in such an event, English forces would use Canada as a staging ground prior to any land invasion of the United States.
In order to take away their staging ground, the report recommended a preemptive and lightning-fast invasion into Canada, occupying and / or destroying Canada’s infrastructure, leaving the ports and airbases unusable to British forces.
Central to this plan was a joint US army-navy attack to capture the port city of Halifax, cutting off the Canadians from their British allies. The next objective would be to “seize Canadian Power Plants near Niagara Falls” This was to be followed by a full-scale invasion on three fronts: From Vermont to take Montreal and Quebec, from North Dakota to take over the railhead at Winnipeg, and from the Midwest to capture the strategic nickel mines of Ontario. In parallel, the U.S. Navy was to seize the Great Lakes and blockade Canada’s Atlantic and Pacific ports.
Fortunately, the savior of American-Canadian relations was none other than one of the most evil men to ever walk the face of the globe, Adolph Hitler.
By the end of the decade, Hitler’s Nazi Germany had begun its tyrannical conquering of Europe and Britain soon found itself in the fight of its life against Germany, as well as needing her American “allies” more than ever.
Thanks to World War II, the Cold War and cooler heads prevailing, the American-Canadian border is the longest international boundary on the planet – the vast majority of which is completely unguarded.
So the next time you see those Ontario plates cruising down the Interstate highway, just keep in mind that it is because of a man named Adolph Hitler that the United States and Canada are BFFs!
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