Canada's missile crisis

By Julia Scott
Published February 26, 2005 2:51AM (EST)

On Tuesday, after months of political rancor, Canada announced it would not take part in a U.S. missile defense system being designed to protect North America. Since then, however, Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin has managed to please no one. Canadians who applauded the withdrawal are now mad at him for saying Canada would continue to share military information with the United States. And the U.S. itself just seems baffled by the decision.

"We really don't get it," U.S. Ambassador to Canada, Paul Cellucci, told the Canadian Press. "I personally don't think it's in Canada's sovereign interest to be outside the room when a decision is made about a missile that might be coming toward Canada."

Still, Cellucci said, the U.S. would not hesitate to deploy weapons to intercept an incoming missile over Canada. But maybe that's what Canada's counting on. With a military budget a fraction of that of the U.S., Canada has always -- at least tacitly -- depended on its brawny neighbor to the south for protection.

Some Canadians also worry that the withdrawal will endanger diplomatic relations with the U.S. at a vulnerable time. Canada's "federal government may have more difficulties dealing with the U.S. government now," Tory Party member Gordon O'Connor told the Washington Post. "How many times can we turn the U.S. down?"

Julia Scott

San Francisco-based freelance journalist Julia Scott writes about water and energy issues for various publications. She also covers the environment for Bay Area News Group, a chain of newspapers in Northern California.

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