Another Voice on Cross-border relations
By Kerry Mitchell
Posted July 12th, 2021 on Niagara At Large
After a career with the Consulate General of Canada in Buffalo, where I regularly wrote speeches, op-eds, etc., on the Canada-U.S. relationship for the consuls general under which I served, it is time again to put pen to paper on this theme – but this time as a concerned citizen, and under my own name.
Born American, but with the privilege of spending summers on the Canadian shores of Lake Erie, I always felt a special connection to Canada. That feeling amplified when working at the Canadian Consulate, where border issues were the lifeblood of our work.
Shared interests would bring folks together, but the personal relationships that formed provided the sustaining spirit.
These networks regularly gave voice (while generating some good fun) to the many ways that Canada and the U.S. were “in it together” – a framing of interest that would ultimately serve both countries. I am worried that we – at the national, regional and individual level – are losing that feel of “in it together.
” In the past, this natural orientation for some has led to finding creative ways to work some things out for our friends and neighbors – because we cared and because we could. In recent years, we’ve heard more strident comments coming from both sides over controversial issues and individuals, and seen more rigid lines drawn around policy and positions. And now the pandemic has created new situations that have raised the heat on the relationship.
I am cognizant of the fraughtness of the time that we have all been living under the pandemic.
But still I ask: Why didn’t we – Americans and Canadians – try to do more where we could? If liability issues prevented the U.S. from being able to send more vaccine to Canada, why didn’t we find creative ways to get some Canadians the shot right at the U.S. border?
Such a gesture would have touched many hearts, even if only a few arms. And why couldn’t both countries find more workable arrangements for children, parents and dedicated lovers to meet during this time?
And why after more than a year of the border being closed is it still politic in Canada to prevent fully vaccinated property owners from visiting their properties across the border? It’s not that these issues have not been given voice – but rather, it is the seeming lack of interest to try to ease these situations for our friends and neighbors where we could that suggests a widening rift.
We in the border regions have a natural role and an important stake in the people-to-people relations between our countries, as well as the larger relationship as a whole. Where we can, let’s keep it special.
Kerry Mitchell is former manager of the Political/Economic Affairs Section of the Consulate General Canada, Buffalo.
A Brief Footnote from Niagara At Large reporter and publisher Doug Draper –
I came to follow the work of Kerry Mitchell more than two decades ago, while I will still employed as an environment reporter at The St. Catharines Standard.
I was immediately impressed with her full-hearted determination to address the concerns of Canadians and Americans alike over any threat to the health of our shared boundary waters in the Great Lakes.
Kerry Mitchell and her colleagues at the Canadian Consulate office in Buffalo, New York had a great deal to do with celebrating, in 2009, the 100th anniversary of the Canada/U.S. Boundary Waters Treaty – the first treaty of its kind in the world to protect waters shared by two or more nations. The celebrations brought citizens and political leaders on both sides of the border together in a raising awareness of how much the fresh waters of the Great Lakes mean to the health of people and communities in both countries.
Then, a few years later, Canada’s Conservative Harper government shut down the Consulate office in Buffalo, which helped Canadians in so many other ways around cross-border business. One of the supporters of killing this great office was then Niagara Falls MP and Harper Cabinet minister, Rob Nicholson – just one more act of shameless cowtailing to Harper that Nicholson should never be forgiven for.
Think of how much of a role this Consulate office could be playing today as neighbouring Canadian and American communities work to find ways of trying to bring family and friends back together during this COVID nightmare.
So thank you to Kerry Mitchell for still carrying enough to speak out about the special relationship our neighbouring communities have and hope to keep.
Doug Draper, Niagara At Large
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