U.S.-Canada Friendship in Time of Need

Point of View by Christophe Leroy, Program Associate, Canada Institute

Apr 08, 2005

Relations between Canada and the United States have fluctuated between warmth and frostiness as a result of changing administrations, various trade issues, and genuine differences of opinion and policy. Yet the fundamental elements that bind the two countries together remain intact and vibrant.

Nobody doubts the magnitude of the trade flows or the successful economic integration wrought by decades of close cross-border business activity. Every so often, however, the countries should remember the value of their friendship. Looking past the immediate media headlines and the most recent policy disagreements, it is worth pondering the value of having an excellent friend as a neighbor-and this is true for both countries.

Last month saw just such an opportunity to celebrate the bilateral friendship. Ambassador Ken Taylor, who was the Canadian ambassador to Iran at the time of the hostage crisis of 1979-1980, came to Washington to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the Congressional Gold Medal Award he received for his role in providing safe haven to six Americans during the crisis and planning their successful evacuation from Tehran.

Canadians earned our heartfelt gratitude then by demonstrating unconditional support in a time of crisis, as they would again in 2001 during the 9/11 attacks. In 1979, the Canadian government did not hesitate to issue passports to the six Americans who found refuge with Canadian diplomats in Tehran, thus providing them a reliable cover for their evacuation. Years later, Canadians opened their airspace and their homes to thousands of travelers whose flights were diverted in the immediate aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attacks in New York and Washington four years ago.

The conference the Wilson Center's Canada Institute and Middle East Program hosted on March 1 intended to revisit, remember, and renew our appreciation for Canada's assistance to the United States during the Iranian hostage crisis. Such swift and decisive assistance to a friend-regardless of the potential political costs, diplomatic reverberations, or security concerns-must be celebrated and remembered.

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