Skip to main content
opinion

A protester holds an anti-vaccination sign at a rally to reopen California on May 16, 2020 in Woodland Hills.David McNew/Getty Images

On Aug. 9, Americans will once again be able to visit Canada, provided they are fully vaccinated. In the 16 months since the border closed, much has happened, little of it good.

Political discord in the United States remains dangerously deep. And although Canada-U.S. relations are improving, now that Donald Trump is no longer president, it will be a long time before things return to normal, if they ever do.

“The American people have to show the people of Canada, and people around the world, that we’ve got our act together,” said David Jacobson, who was American ambassador to Canada during Barack Obama’s presidency. “And until we do that, I expect there will be frayed relations.”

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Americans once again demonstrated their ingenuity, developing vaccines that now protect many millions of people around the world, including millions of Canadians.

The U.S.-Canada border will open soon. But why would Canadians want to cross it?

But in that time we have also witnessed America unravelling. The protests over the killing of George Floyd. Mr. Trump claiming that the presidential election was rigged, which is untrue. The storming of the Capitol building on Jan. 6.

A sizable minority of the American people – many of them white, conservative, evangelical and rural – have lost faith in the rest of America, and the rest of America has lost faith in them. This breach has deadly consequences, with many Trump supporters refusing to be vaccinated against COVD-19, even as the Delta variant of the disease races through the unvaccinated population.

A Research Co. poll released Tuesday showed that 88 per cent of Canadians are either vaccinated or willing to be as soon as a shot becomes available. (Online panel conducted July 9-11, sample size 1,000, margin of error 3.1 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.)

Meanwhile, in the United States, 30 per cent of Americans are resisting vaccination, according to an Axios-Ipsos poll. (Online panel conducted July 16-19, sample size 1,048, margin of error 3.3 percentage points at a 95-per-cent confidence level.)

“If ever there was a time when the difference between the adage of ‘peace, order and good government’ and ‘life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness’ was underscored, it’s now,” said Senator Peter Boehm, who served in Canada’s embassy in Washington and who was deputy minister in charge of the Group of 7 meeting in 2018 in Charlevoix, Que.

How divided is the United States? In their new book, I Alone Can Fix It, Washington Post reporters Carol Leonnig and Philip Rucker reveal that in the weeks after the Nov. 3 presidential election, senior officials in Congress and in the administration feared Mr. Trump would attempt a coup. General Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, assured them the military would stand by the constitution. “The institutions are bending, but they won’t break,” he predicted. He was right. But it was close.

The Biden administration has done impressive work at patching up the Western alliance that was so badly weakened by Mr. Trump.

On Monday, all the key members of that alliance, including the U.S., Canada and other Western allies, condemned China’s cyberattack on Microsoft, an impressive display of solidarity.

But at home, ideological tensions remain dangerously high. “We are in a culture war,” Representative Jim Banks, chairman of the Republican Study Committee, wrote to members of the committee. ”My encouragement to you is lean into it. Lean into the culture war.”

Mr. Jacobson believes that “the elections of 2022 and particularly the 2024 election are going to have a lasting impact.” One of three things will happen: The Republicans will nominate a presidential candidate within the mainstream of the conservative movement, putting the country’s politics on a safer path; they will nominate a Trumpian antidemocratic populist who will lose; or they will nominate a Trumpian antidemocratic populist who, God help us, will win. In the meantime, the rest of us can only watch.

Although Canada will soon begin letting Americans come here, Canadians not on essential business remain barred from entering the United States via the land border until at least Aug. 21.

That’s okay. Some of us don’t feel like visiting, right now.

Our Morning Update and Evening Update newsletters are written by Globe editors, giving you a concise summary of the day’s most important headlines. Sign up today.