Richard Anderson notes the 25th anniversary of an almost forgotten Canadian crisis:
From the perspective of a quarter century the whole thing is almost inexplicable. It isn’t just that everything turned out well. The oddness of that time is how worked up people got about a trade agreement. Seriously. It’s an international trade agreement. The Harper Tories have signed quite a few, including an important deal with the EU. It’s barely headline news. But way back then it was the beginning of the end of Canada, if the good and great of the Canadian Cultural Establishment were to be believed.
Adding more distance to the passage of time is the demographic revolution that has taken place since, a revolution kicked into high gear by Mulroney not Trudeau. The Canada of 1988 was a much whiter and far more WASPish place than it is today. The Canadian WASP is an odd creature. Genial to a fault, decent, hard working and subdued in manner and lifestyle. He does, however, have one terrible weakness: A paranoid fear of the United States.
The Punjabi, the Vietnamese and the Filipino immigrant could not tell a Loyalist from a lolipop. The strange psycho-drama that has consumed the Canadian elite since Simcoe landed is now, mostly, over. The new Canadians have no fear of the old enemy America. There are no intergenerational flashbacks to the Battle of Queenston Heights. The Americans are just the loud neighbour to the south. It is not entirely coincidental that free trade was at last brought to Canada by an Irish Catholic, supported by a phalanx of Quebecois. Neither group ever really feared America. Among them there was never that nagging sense of imminent cultural absorption.