March 26, 2017

From FDR to Trump

The intertwining history of the United States and Queen's has a large impact for many dual-citizen students 

President Franklin D. Roosevelt visits Queen's in 1938.
Credit: 
via WikiCommons

“It was very interesting when the election happened and for some people here it wasn’t real for them, when it was real for me.”

Myriam Bouti, ConEd and Music ’18, is a Canada-born citizen but spent most of her life in Vermont. “It was interesting to see how involved on Facebook my Canadian friends were,” she added.

Bouti’s father and his wife are practicing Muslims and initially, Bouti said, she was very worried for them to be in the United States following the election.

 Attending school in Canada, separate from and yet a part of American politics, Bouti is one of many Queen’s students who feel personally involved in the future relationship between Canada and the United States.

 “I think it makes people more aware of their actions,” she said. “It has an impact in the sense that people are thinking more about politics and racism and inclusion and all that stuff, maybe we will see a rise in international students?”

As Donald Trump takes his first days in office and the Doomsday Clock clicks closer to midnight, it may be comforting to many Canadians that at least we’re on the other side of the border. But this isn’t the first time that Queen’s students have had a front row seat to American politics.

Due to Queen’s close proximity to the American border — 50.6 km to be exact — Queen’s historically has had its fair share of involvement in American politics.

 “We’re probably the closest university to the States — we’re on the doorstep of the United States which has made us very conscious of what goes on there,” Duncan McDowall, Queen’s Historian told The Journal.

Most notable in Queen’s historical involvement in American politics was President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s 1938 speech at Richardson field.

“The Dominion of Canada is part of the sisterhood of the British Empire. I give to you assurance that the people of the United States will not stand idly by if domination of Canadian soil is threatened by any other empire,” Roosevelt stated on that August day in 1938.

Prior to World War II, the United States had a solid non-entanglement mentality. The country was founded on the idea that because they were surrounded by two relatively non-confrontational states, Canada and Mexico they didn’t have the obligation or desire to get involved in the constant conflicts in Europe.

“But she goes not abroad, in search of monsters to destroy. She is the well-wisher to the freedom and independence of all. She is the champion and vindicator only of her own,” John Quincy Adams, one of the United States’ founding fathers, proclaimed in an 1812 speech entitled “Warning Against the Search of ‘Monsters to Destroy’”. Adams’ attitude is one of the many examples of the non-entanglement ideals America was founded upon. 

But in 1938, when FDR stood on Queen’s campus, World War II and Adolf Hitler were looming, and the United States could no longer justify non-involvement.

FDR’s speech at Queen’s was one of the first times that the American government followed this new found idea of needing to help spread democracy through out the world to eliminate potential for disaster.

Since that moment, the relationship between Queen’s and the United States has continued. Five years ago in 2012, former President Jimmy Carter received an honorary degree from Queen's.  According to McDowall, the United States was always the number one international student rate, and when graduate programs opened up, a lot of American came over.

While that’s in the past, the real question is what is yet to come for the relationship between Canada and the United States.

Under former President Barack Obama’s administration, Canada and the United States worked harmoniously together on many issues and had a very co-operative relationship. 

Obama and Trudeau, in the short time they were both in office, agreed on many issues that are important in future, one of which was the US-Canada Joint Statement on Climate, Energy and Artic Leadership which highlighted specific plans to reduce carbon emissions and develop clean energy sources. Climate change and the importance of reducing carbon emissions is something that President Trump in the past has dismissed so the future of that plan is uncertain.

Other joint plans they worked on was the continuation of NAFTA, and plans to support and empower adolescence girls in Canada and around the world to reduce teen pregnancy and spread of HIV/AIDS.        

President Trump and Prime Minister Trudeau have agreed on one thing so far — implementing the Keystone XL Pipeline. Whether that’s an indication for willingness to cooperate in the future or not, only time will tell.

For Queen’s mining engineering student Ryan Kealy, Trump’s relationship with Canada has a lot to do with the future of his own field.

“In the long run for the biggest issues, it’s going to change oil a lot with the pipeline,” Kealy, Sci’18 said. “Whether that’s a negative or positive in the long run, Canada’s resource economy is going to change with more pipelines, more oil and more mining in the energy sector.” Kealy is a dual American-Canadian citizen from Rochester, New York with a vested interest in politics.

While Kealy recognizes that there’ve been and always will be connections between the two countries, he said the effects of Trump’s presidency might not be as detrimental as people think.

“I think there are a lot of ties between the US and Canada but I think the biggest thing that Canadians have a hard time understanding is that the Prime Minister of Canada is a lot more powerful than the President of the United States.”

In terms of checks and balance, President Trump has a much more thorough system facing him than Trudeau who has the majority party in the House of Commons.

On the other hand, Professor Emeritus Geoffery Smith believes that the real effects that President Donald Trump could have on Canada all depend on the stance that Justin Trudeau is going to take. Smith is a former history professor and a current health and physical education professor from San Francisco, California — a part of the country he joked was no longer part of the United States due to the large proportion of Democrat voters.

“It’s going to be a real struggle for Justin Trudeau to stand in the room with this man and get anything done… essentially Justin Trudeau is going to have to stand up,” Smith added.

Canada and America are different countries and there isn’t any type of requirement of what their relationship needs to be.

For Queen’s students nervous about what’s going to happen in the next four years, Kealy argues that Canada is it’s own strong country and students in Canada should have a positive outlook on the future that his country can have.

“Focus more on issues happening here where we can actually make a change that is helpful to Canadians instead of paying attention to a country that doesn’t give a shit about us, for lack of better words,” Kealy said.

“But at the end of the day, we just need to have hope.”

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