After the Catastrophe: Canada’s Position in North America

Published: Spring 2001    |    By: Stephen Clarkson    |    Volume 58, No. 3


Let us begin with Harold Innis’s famous warning from the 1930s that any statement by an economist analyzing a problem with perfect clarity is certain to be wrong. This admonition may be reassuring if, in the aftermath of the terrorist coup against the United States, we find clarity elusive. As we try to understand our own emotional responses and to make sense of the policy developments that have radiated from that disaster, concerned citizens in Canada can surely be excused for being fundamentally confused.

Confusion is rife when diametrically opposed statements can be made about the most basic aspects of the post-catastrophe situation. In the paragraphs that follow I will try to shed some light on the divergent assertions that characterize the debate about North America, Canada, and its place in the world after 11 September. Without expecting to generate perfect clarity, I hope to set down some markers to illuminate both the extremes and the centre of the discussion in which we are engaged so that we may better grasp the significance of events as they continue to unfold. I will address four areas of concern to Canadians. Starting with the putative shifts that have occurred in the global balance of power, I will move on to the resulting stakes for the United States and their implications for Canada and, finally, for North America.

About the Author

Stephen Clarkson is Professor of Political Economy at the University of Toronto. This article is based on remarks made to the panel on ‘Canada and the United States: Inside the Perimeter,’ organized by the Canadian Institute of International Affairs, in Toronto on 25 October 2001.