On Monday, April 6th, it was reported that the United States had decided to block the transport of three million N95 face masks into Canada. With demand at an all-time high in the U.S., U.S. President Donald Trump pressured the manufacturing giant 3M to halt supply exports into Canada. Last Sunday, Ontario’s Premier Doug Ford affirmed that a shipment of 500,000 masks was stopped by U.S. authorities; even with Ontario’s nearing mask shortage. Nonetheless, Canadians were quick to disapprove of this step backward. In a poll conducted by Ipsos, an estimated 16 per cent of Canadians were supportive of Trump’s decision. From the 1006 respondents surveyed, a mere 5 per cent claimed that they heavily approved of this handling. Mr. Ford has also reprimanded this barrier to Canadian security in deeming it “absolutely unacceptable”.
Only a few days prior, Mr. Ford blasted Trump for considering these drastic, protectionist measures. “When the cards are down, you see who your friends are,” he warned. Perhaps he has a point; one that Trump should take into account with his loss of leadership credibility during this pandemic. Remarkably, even 3M argued that engaging in such an act would encroach on humanitarian standards. Essential standards needed to prevent retaliation from other states.
Despite Trump’s questionable behaviour, Canada has maintained its integrity in enforcing a peaceful response. When asked publicly about the matter, Trudeau assured reporters that constructive dialogue was in play with U.S. officials and that Canada would receive shipments irrespectively. “We’re working with the American administration to ensure that they understand the goods and services that are essential to both our countries flow in both directions across the border, and it is not in any of our interests to actually limit that flow,” he stated. “It is in both of our interests to maintain this extraordinary close relationship.” Trudeau then added “[we] are not looking at retaliatory measures or measures that are punitive. We know it is in both our countries interests to cooperate.”
Trudeau’s calm and collected demeanor has revealed the resilience of the Canadian spirit. Canada will most certainly not let its guard down by disappointing its people during this difficult time. When push comes to shove, people’s health and living conditions will be met. However, as a leader, Canada will not allow a self-preservationist mentality to dictate its course of action.
Canada has continued to ship testing kits and medical gloves to the States. It has also been integral in supplying the materials needed for the production of N95 masks. Trudeau has also confirmed the mobilization of Canadian health practitioners. On a day to day basis, Canadian nurses are crossing the border to help the Detroit medical system. With glowing hearts, Canada will see the rise of all, and not just itself. Its motto remains blatantly clear: we are in this pandemic together, and together we will rise forward. Even if it demands holding your friend accountable for childish antics, and pushing them to abandon harmful diplomatic practices.
According to The Globe and Mail, Canadians were informed Monday afternoon that “[an] Ontario order of 500,000 protective N95 masks, which had been sitting in a 3M warehouse in Illinois because the company could not get approval to ship it across the border, had been cleared to go.” Better news yet was received Monday night, when it was announced that 3M struck a deal that allowed the White House to receive masks from Chinese manufacturing facilities for transport to Canada. This deal undoubtedly was essential in meeting the U.S.’s expected acquirement of 55.5 million masks per month. While this does not imply that Canada will be free from restrictions imposed on medical equipment, 3M’s announcement has averted a potential crisis.
With the U.S. hitting 395 011 cases of coronavirus, it is evident that as a state, it is struggling. This is probing its leader to take irrational measures. The U.S. must respond to the pandemic differently to alleviate the effects it is currently experiencing. First, the U.S. needs to stop prioritizing economic activity over the guidance of health experts. It is crucial that Trump begins to trust scientists and their recommendations to maximize effective decision-making; decision-making that solidifies the security of the state and its people. Second, local authorities need a well-developed advisory guide from national-level agencies to heighten efficacy with regard to time management and coordination between working experts. This would present to the world that political commitment has been reached within the U.S., instead of polarization between the head of state, scientists, engineers, and agencies. As the director general of the World Health Organization, Tedros Ghebreyesus has informed, the W.H.O. remains “concerned that in some countries the level of political commitment and the actions that demonstrate that commitment don’t match the level of the threat we all face.”
From this uncertain situation, the U.S. needs to work heavily with Canada in negotiating peaceful solutions that benefit both parties equally. There is an urgent need for trust, and reassurance in the midst of chaos.