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Tuesday, October 20 2020 @ 12:35 AM CDT

U.S. a theocratic state (and Hypocritic)

Whited Sepulchers

says former Canadian ambassador

by Juliet O’Neill

Frank McKenna, Canada’s former ambassador to Washington, referred to the United States on Friday as "a theocratic state" in which Christian evangelicalism plays a big role in the Republican administration.

“Right now the United States is in many ways a theocratic state, not dissimilar to some of the other religious states in the world where religion has a huge part to play in government."

He referred to a current congressional investigation in Washington into whether partisan political and religious loyalties were used in the hiring and firing of U.S. attorneys and immigration judges. He also alluded to a report that 150 graduates of a Christian evangelical school have worked at the White House in recent years.

By contrast, he said in a speech to a business audience hosted by the Ottawa Chamber of Commerce, "Canada is truly a secular state. Religion and politics do not mix in this country.”

McKenna was outlining differences between the two countries and urged Canadians to be more confident about their different "mind set" on social issues, their economic clout, and their grip on national sovereignty in relation to the United States.

McKenna, deputy chairman of the Toronto-Dominion bank, served as Canadian ambassador to Washington 2005-2006. A prominent Liberal and former New Brunswick premier, he resigned from his diplomatic post after Stephen Harper’s Conservatives won the last election.

"It’s just a dramatically different mindset in the United States," McKenna said, contrasting U.S. and Canadian views on public health care, gun control, capital punishment, same-sex rights, abortion and relations with Cuba. Despite the differences, McKenna said Canadians need not feel threatened.

"Canadians often say the Americans want us to change our socially progressive programs and we just don’t want to go there," he said. "We don’t have to go there. We don’t have to give up any sovereignty with respect to our social programs. Right now it’s hard to imagine a time in our history when we’ve been more divergent in terms of our culture and social programs."

He noted that Canada’s record on foreign policy diverges from that of the United States, but that has not hurt the trading relationship.

"We chose not to go into Iraq and most Americans would say we were right. We chose not to go to Vietnam. Most Americans would say that we were right. We did choose to go into the First World War and the Second World War, in both cases two years before the Americans. We did go into Korea. We did go into Serbia. We have been able to pick our spots based on our own set of criteria and that has not affected our relationship."

He said it is natural to obsess about a country that is Canada’s biggest customer, in which the state of California alone has a bigger population than all of Canada’s.

"What concerns me is when we start trying to make the argument that our sovereignty is at risk vis-a-vis the United States of America," he said. "And I think it’s a fig leaf that hides a lot of Canadian insecurity.

"This is a country that should not be insecure. It’s a country that should be confident and assertive. We have a relationship that works to our advantage, nine times out of 10."

Canada is the biggest supplier to the United States of oil, natural gas, uranium and electricity. Many other U.S. suppliers are unstable countries, he noted.

“We’re sitting in this extraordinarily strong position with respect to energy, next to the largest consumer of energy in the entire world,” he said.

To illustrate the scale of the Canada-U.S. economic relationship — the source of 40 per cent of Canada’s gross domestic product — McKenna cited the fact that Canada does more business with the U.S.-based Home Depot than with the entire country of Japan.

Canadian and American military personnel, meanwhile, work together at Norad, the North American Aerospace Defence Command at Cheyenne Springs Mountain in Colorado, he noted.

“People forget that when 9/11 happened, the person who scrambled the jets was a Canadian in that bunker in Cheyenne Springs,” he said, referring to the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington on Sept. 11, 2001. “A Canadian was at the head of that program because we share a binational command.”

McKenna made only one indirect reference to his decision last year against entering the federal Liberal leadership race, despite polls showing him front-runner.

His light-hearted reference provoked laughter: “Canadians have this Irish mentality — ‘Here comes our leader, pass us a rock.’”

Ottawa Citizen

© CanWest News Service 2007

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