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Canada Is Preparing for a “Free World” Without a Leader

As US democracy seems to languish, and as the world begins to question the US claim to the label “Leader of the Free World,” Canada is readying itself for a world in which it might have to take the lead in confronting its oldest ally.
Justin Trudeau

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau © Asatur Yesayants /

December 22, 2023 04:08 EDT

Recently, we’ve been given yet another reason why a second term for disgraced ex-President Donald Trump could spell disaster for the United States. On August 18, 2023, Newsweek published an article detailing comments made by Canadian Foreign Minister Melanie Joly publicly admitting to the fact that Canada’s government is fearfully taking steps to prepare for the possibility of Donald Trump’s re-election in 2024. 

Donald Trump makes America’s allies anxious, and in Canada’s case, it is for especially good reason.

When Donald Trump decided to detonate the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and replace it with the present United States–Mexico–Canada Agreement, he did so by aggressively negotiating with — perhaps more accurately, intimidating or bulldozing — Canada and Mexico, without regard for (and at the expense of) pre-existing amicable bilateral relations.

President Trump’s mistreatment and antagonism of our northern ally during these negotiations exploded rather publicly in the summer of 2018. He launched into one of his usual tirades of personal attacks against Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, regarding that year’s G7 summit and the two leaders’ interaction at that conference. Many of the United States’ international allies viewed this puerile behavior on the part of the president as an unacceptable slight and as yet another sign of the US’ unreliability as an ally.

These allies rallied behind Trudeau, decrying President Trump’s shameful behavior. One unnamed European official stated that “The G7 was a forum for friends — democracies with the same value system — to discuss issues of common interest. Now there is a question mark over that. But it did not start with this G7, but with the election of Donald Trump.” German Foreign Minister Heiko Mass concurred, stating, “In a matter of seconds, you can destroy trust with 280 Twitter characters.”

America could go off the rails

This, paired with Donald Trump’s continued attacks on NATO, has left Canada with significant fear for the future. NATO is the world’s most important geopolitical alliance, a cornerstone of Canada’s defense strategy and a guarantor of stability within the present Western-oriented, liberal, human rights-centric world order.

Canada worries that their hegemonic southern neighbor may go off the rails and lurch towards the undemocratic extreme right. In 2020, when it became clear that Trump was considering refusing to accept the results of the election, Trudeau admitted publicly that Canada was preparing for the possibility of “some disruption” and all eventualities, should Trump attempt to remain in power extralegally. A special concern for Canada was the fact that an increasing number of zealous Americans were readily willing to endorse acts of political violence, should the opposing political party win the election.

While it should be extraordinarily concerning, it isn’t especially surprising that Canada’s government is — and has been for a while — taking steps to prepare for the potential consequences of US democratic backsliding, were it to temporarily find itself without the protective umbrella of its hegemonic partner.

This sentiment is expressed well in a piece published by The Hamilton Spectator on January 6, 2022, exactly one year after the horrific attack on our nation’s Capitol. The author writes,

While the attempted insurrection [of January 6, 2021] was quashed — though not before people died and humiliated American lawmakers were forced to flee to safety — the world was left wondering just how close the US had come to political anarchy and civil strife. Or whether another coup would be attempted on another day. Those are among the existential questions Americans of all political stripes need to be asking this January. As for their northern neighbors, we in Canada must prepare for living beside a very different kind of America than we’ve ever known.

The author also chooses to highlight a column written in The Washington Post by several retired US Army generals that warns of the possibility of a breakdown within the US Armed Forces along partisan lines, should Donald Trump attempt another coup in 2024. If this were to occur, the United States could be thrust into a civil war. In this scenario, there is no saying who would come out on top, and if the wrong leader were to ascend to power, it would almost certainly end in bloodshed.

Even more concerningly, if we game this out, should the US Armed Forces break down, would the legitimate US government be able to secure essential military infrastructure? Individual armories may fall to the Trumpian element of the military based upon the ideologies of whichever random staff sergeant is present at the time, without causing a major problem. However, what about helicopters and F-16s — and God-forbid, has anyone checked up on the folks in the nuclear missile silos recently?

These are the questions that the United States’ closest allies have been forced to grapple with since January 2021. These are the concerns which seem especially magnified within Canada, due to its geographic placement, and these are the issues with which Generals Eaton, Anderson and Taguba are urging us to contend when we cast our ballot.

One article, published in The Guardian on January 3, 2022, cites an earnest warning by Thomas Homer-Dixon, a Royal Roads University professor. He has been a “scholar of violent conflict” for nearly half-a-century. Homer-Dixon states, “By 2025, American democracy could collapse, causing extreme domestic political instability, including widespread civil violence. By 2030, if not sooner, the country could be governed by a right-wing dictatorship.” Amongst the professor’s many concerns, he warned that Republican state leadership might refuse to accept a Democrat win in 2024, ostensibly, bolstered by the precedent of domestic terrorism and attempted coup which occurred on January 6, 2021.

The professor also cautioned that, if re-elected in 2024, Donald Trump would “have only two objectives: vindication and vengeance,” which he would exact in the same way as any other right-wing totalitarian. Trump, Homer-Dixon warns, if allowed to return to the White House will be “the wrecking ball that demolishes democracy.”

An article published in The Conversation, on February 13, 2022, states that “The United States is on the precipice of becoming a failed democratic state.” The author of this article, University of Waterloo professor Robert Danisch, highlights a Zogby poll, one “that showed 46% of Americans believe that the United States is headed towards another civil war. “ Yikes! Danisch warned “violent rhetoric tends to fuel violent actions,” and he stated that “the more violent, extremist rhetoric becomes the norm, the more danger and violence we’re likely to see.”

Danisch expressed his fears that, “The combination of media outlets like Fox News that have far-reaching impact and anti-democratic, authoritarian rhetoric is exactly a recipe for the contagious spread of the kinds of behaviors that can threaten our own [Canada’s] democracy.” He urged the global community, and Canada more specifically, to pursue “systematic and dispassionate analyses of what will happen if or when the American experiment with democracy ends.” Danisch asks Canada, and the world, what it will do to counter actions by the United States if it becomes “a government pretending to be democratic while enacting fascism.”

What means might Canada have at its disposal?

Whether he comes to power by legal means or not, another term with Trump at the helm would require a Canadian action plan. A November 2021 article published in The Globe and Mail proposes some measures that Canada can take to prepare for a Trump redux, “that awful menace the world barely survived the first time.”

First, the authors proposed that Canada establish close relations with individual US governors, legislators and officials, in order to “buttress [Canada’s] trade access to the United States.” An excellent example of the execution of this policy occurred during Trump’s re-negotiation of NAFTA, when the Canadian government engaged in a diplomatic campaign to drum up support for the agreement within individual US state governments. Another such example is the recent plan for economic cooperation independently negotiated between the state government of Michigan and the provincial government of Ontario.

The authors also suggested that Canada “prioritize diplomacy with key allies” other than the US in all regions of the world, to develop a coalition willing and able to stand up to an undemocratic government in the United States “when our shared commitments come under threat.” Some of those commitments, which the authors believe may need protecting from the United States, include “our multilateral commitments to environmental protection and sustainability, disarmament and nonproliferation, and the integrity of international financial institutions.” 

Canada’s efforts in this regard are witnessed by Trudeau’s attempts to develop trade deals that are separate from and less dependent upon the United States — such as his recently announced “whirlwind tour” of several key Asian states: Indonesia, Singapore and India.

A report published by the European Council of Foreign Relations includes a list of necessary steps to be taken by Europe, in preparation for the United States’ potential “Authoritarian Experiment,” most of which are in the same tack as those listed in the Globe and Mail article.

The danger is real

Donald Trump’s re-election would lead to an unparalleled damaging of the global order and US international leadership. However, many folks have to be wondering whether or not all of these warnings amount to little more than doom-saying, whether or not Canada — and the rest of the key US allies — are overreacting and partaking in more than a little bit of melodrama.

Yet, Donald Trump’s acolytes are hardly hiding their sinister intentions. A recent news item illustrates their desire to remake the United States in a Trumpian image, thereby transforming the United States’ remarkable democratic experiment, into an authoritarian failure. This news item is, of course, Project 2025’s recent publication, “Mandate for Leadership.” The document includes a number of policies that would all but reverse recent progress towards stemming the tide of climate destruction, including by drastically increasing our dependency on fossil fuels, and by decimating the EPA’s regulatory power.

Additionally, the Project 2025 “Mandate” declares the GOP’s intent to work towards replacing policies that work to attain LGBTQ+ equality “with those encouraging marriage, work, motherhood, fatherhood, and nuclear families.” The mandate is essentially a roadmap for destroying existing anti-discrimination protections, effectively institutionalizing prejudice against members of the LGBTQ+ community. It also declares that children should not be allowed to be raised in homes with parents of the same sex, based upon ludicrous and outdated theories of “family science,” and essentially advocating for the potential destruction of existing homosexual families. As a proud gay man myself, I find this a particularly terrifying prospect.

Finally, Project 2025 declares its intent to lay siege to the very institutions which make the United States a democracy. Its mandate seems not to recognize the foundational democratic principle of checks and balances — as evidenced, of course, by the statement of former Trump official Russell Vought, who stated that any new Republican presidential administration needed to “Identify the pockets of independence [within the US government] and seize them.” This news segment by Rachel Maddow, adequately summarizes the concerning nature of this report, for those who haven’t the time to read the near 1000-page original document.

While the possibility of an alt-right authoritarian United States may seem to be something straight out of Vonnegut, it’s not fiction, as Project 2025 has proven. Of course, Canada should be afraid.

[Will Sherriff edited this piece.]

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Fair Observer’s editorial policy.


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