A current member of the Canadian Parliament and former Canadian Minister of National Defence, Art Eggleton, spoke this past Friday in Goldwin Smith Hall’s H.E.C. Auditorium on Canadian-U.S. Relations since Sept. 11.
The talk was sponsored by the Canadians at Cornell Club, the largest Canadian student organization in the Ivy League.
Eggleton said that he wished to “debunk sad myths” that seemed to develop after the terrorist attacks. These myths include “Canada [being] portrayed as a haven of terrorists” and concerns over the Canadian-U.S. border, the longest undefended border in the world.
Eggleton said that Sept. 11 “awakened us all to new dangers [and] ushered in new challenges for Canadians and Americans alike.”
The president of the Canadians at Cornell Club, Daniel Braun ’04 — a Canadian citizen — said, “When Sept. 11 hit, I didn’t feel like a foreign citizen and it hit close to home … I’m sure other Canadian students felt the same way.”
Eggleton said that Canada was the “first country outside of the U.S. to respond” to Sept. 11 and “among the first countries to offer assistance for what would eventually become Operation Enduring Freedom.” Eggleton noted that the “Canadian contribution [is] going largely unreported.”
Just three months after Sept. 11 the Canadian government finished work on their budget, with nearly “seven billion dollars [reserved for] all initiatives.” These initiatives include the Smart Border Initiative, which is an attempt to “create a seamless yet secure border” with the U.S.
According to Eggleton, “more than one hundred billion dollars U.S. cross the border everyday” which is more than the U.S. trades with all of the European Union countries combined.
Though Canadian military assistance was provided for Operation Enduring Freedom during Eggleton’s term as Minister of National Defence, he noted the existence of “growing discomfort with American unilateralism.”
Referring to an explanation given to him by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld for American unilateralism, Eggleton said, “It is the mission that will define the coalition and not the coalition that will define the mission.”
“The principle of multilateralism is still valid” so that the entire international community has a voice, Eggleton said. He added that the “very rules we now seek to circumvent may be the same rules we wish to evoke.”
Eggleton also said “as a general principle preemptive action is fraught with dangers … the U.S. or other Western nations [do not] have an unblemished record [and] the solution we sought often [becomes] a problem later.”
However, Eggleton noted that Canada is “not neutral when liberty and human rights are at threat” and that “we seek the same outcomes [as the US]: freedom and justice and peace.”
“We in Canada are not a militaristic nation, nor do we spend a lot of money on the military,” Eggleton said.
He also stated that “perhaps it is because we share so much with you [Americans] and think so much of you that we expect so much of you,” adding that “if war is being inflicted on our friends we rise to the occasion.”
Audience members had the opportunity to ask questions after the lecture. One member asked about Canada’s involvement in the United State’s alleged violation of Geneva convention resolutions concerning the treatment of prisoners.
Canada passed custody of prisoners they captured in Afghanistan to the U.S. with “assurances the U.S. would follow Geneva conventions,” Eggleton said. He noted that the main issues over prisoner treatment centered on whether the captives were prisoners of war or unlawful combatants.
Organizers said they felt lucky to have such a prominent speaker come to Cornell.
“Eggleton’s lecture was informative and insightful,” Braun said. “He is at the forefront of Canadian decision making.”
Archived article by Brian Kaviar