Explore the map of US and Canada, The United States and Canada share a long and friendly relationship. They are neighbors, with a long border that is easy for people to cross. Both countries work together in many areas like trade, security, and the environment. They are important trading partners, meaning they buy and sell a lot of goods to each other. This helps both countries' economies. They also work together to keep their people safe and to protect the environment. Their relationship is strong because they have similar values and work on solving problems together. This makes them good friends and partners.
Explore USA Canada map showing iternational political boundaries with internal political boundaries with in the United States and Canada.
United States-Canada Relations
Canada and the United States have a very close relationship. They are like best friends and are part of the same cultural groups, sharing similar Western values. Their history goes back to the American Revolution, when people loyal to Britain moved to Canada. There have been times when Canadians worried about the U.S. having too much influence or taking over. The War of 1812 was a big event where both countries fought, but things didn't really change afterwards. They agreed to keep their border peaceful, especially around the Great Lakes. The U.S. stopped trying to take over Canada, and Britain stopped supporting Native American attacks on the U.S.
In 1867, Canada became its own country partly because of worries about the U.S. They also decided not to have free trade with the U.S. in 1911. However, during World War II and the Cold War, Canada and the U.S. worked closely together in the military. They were both part of NORAD and NATO. They also trade a lot and share many cultural aspects. This relationship got even stronger with trade agreements in 1988, 1994, and 2020, which joined their economies more closely.
Canada and the U.S. have the world's longest border between two countries. They work together in the military too. There have been some problems like trade disagreements, environmental issues, concerns about oil exports, illegal immigration, and terrorism. Trade has grown a lot, especially since the trade agreements. They are working on making it easier to move goods, services, and people across the border. They also plan to work more closely on things like food safety and sharing intelligence.
People in both countries generally like each other a lot and consider each other as favorites.
History of Canada-US Relations
Before Britain took over French Canada in 1760, there were many wars between Britain and France. These wars happened in their colonies, Europe, and on the high seas. The British often used American colonial militia, while the French depended on their First Nation allies, like the Iroquois Nation who were key allies for the British. A lot of the fighting was surprise attacks and small battles near the border of New England and Quebec. New England had more people than Quebec, so big attacks usually started from the south going north. The First Nation allies, who weren't fully controlled by the French, often attacked New England villages. They would take women and children, and harm or kill the men. Survivors were raised as French-speaking Catholics. The tension was also about religion – the French Catholics and English Protestants didn't trust each other. There were also sea battles where private ships attacked the enemy's trade ships.
England took over Quebec from 1629 to 1632 and Acadia in 1613 and again from 1654 to 1670. These places were given back to France in peace deals. The big wars included King William's War (1689–1697), Queen Anne's War (1702–1713), King George's War (1744–1748), and the French and Indian War (1755–1763). In Canada and Europe, this time is called the Seven Years' War.
Soldiers and sailors from New England were very important in the British victory over the French fortress of Louisbourg in 1745. They captured it again in 1758, even after it was given back in a treaty.
American Revolutionary War
When the American Revolutionary War started, the American revolutionaries hoped that the French Canadians in Quebec and the Colonists in Nova Scotia would join them. They even made a rule in the Articles of Confederation that let these areas join the United States if they wanted to. When Americans invaded northeastern Quebec, thousands of people there supported the Americans and formed groups to fight in the war. But most people didn't take sides, and some even helped the British. The British told the French Canadians that they had protected their rights in the Quebec Act. The Americans saw this Act as unfair. The American invasion didn't go well, and Britain took stronger control of its northern lands. In 1777, there was a big British attack in New York, but they were defeated at Saratoga. This defeat made France decide to help the U.S.
In southwestern Quebec, the American forces did better because of George Rogers Clark, a leader from Virginia. In 1778, Clark and 200 men, mostly helped by Virginia, traveled down the Ohio River, crossed southern Illinois, and captured Kaskaskia without any fighting. Some of his men then took Vincennes, but it was soon taken back by the British. Clark recaptured it in February 1779. About half of Clark's group were Canadians who supported the American cause.
In the end, America won its independence. The Treaty of Paris made Britain give parts of southwestern Canada to the U.S. After America became independent, Canada became a home for about 70,000 Loyalists, or 15% of them, who left the U.S. or were forced out. Among these Loyalists, 3,500 were free African Americans. Most went to Nova Scotia, and in 1792, 1,200 of them moved to Sierra Leone. Around 2,000 black slaves brought by Loyalist owners stayed slaves in Canada until slavery was ended in 1833. About 85% of the Loyalists stayed in the U.S. and became American citizens.
War of 1812
The Treaty of Paris ended the war and said that British forces had to leave their forts south of the Great Lakes. Britain didn't leave because they said the U.S. hadn't paid back Loyalists who lost property in the war. The Jay Treaty in 1795 fixed this problem, and the British left the forts. Thomas Jefferson thought the British near the U.S. were a threat, so he didn't like the Jay Treaty. This became a big issue in the U.S. politics. From 1785 to 1812, many Americans moved to Upper Canada (now Ontario) for cheaper land and lower taxes. People thought they would support the U.S. in a war, but they mostly stayed out of politics.
Tension grew after 1805, leading to the War of 1812 when the U.S. declared war on Britain. The U.S. was upset about British ships stopping U.S. ships and taking sailors, limits on trade with France, and British support for Native American tribes against U.S. expansion. The U.S. couldn't beat the British navy but had a bigger army than the British in Canada, so they decided to invade Canada. They also wanted to stop British support for Native American resistance.
The U.S. tried to take over Canada, hoping settlers from the U.S. there would help. But the invasions failed, stopped by British soldiers, Native Americans, and Canadian militia. The British navy helped a lot, even attacking Washington D.C. and burning buildings like the White House. By the end of the war, the U.S. controlled some land in Western Ontario, but Britain had parts of Maine and large areas in the Northwest. After Napoleon's defeat in 1814, Britain stopped the sea policies that made the U.S. angry. The Indian tribes' defeat reduced the threat to American expansion. The war ended with the Treaty of Ghent in February 1815. After the war, the U.S. and Canada became more independent, and there was nothing left for Britain and the U.S. to fight over. The war's end led to more peace along the Canada-U.S. border. Canada cut down on American immigration and strengthened the Anglican Church to balance the American Methodist and Baptist churches.
Later, English-speaking Canadians, especially in Ontario, saw the War of 1812 as a brave fight against invasion and a defining victory. The idea that the Canadian militia almost beat the invasion by themselves, called the "militia myth", became popular after the war. This was promoted by John Strachan, the Anglican Bishop of York.
Post War of 1812 and Mid of 19th Century
After the War of 1812, pro-British leaders, led by Anglican Bishop John Strachan, gained power in Ontario, then known as "Upper Canada." They favored the Anglican Church over the Methodist and Baptist churches, which were more popular in the republican United States. A group of powerful people, called the Family Compact, took over the politics. They didn't like the American way of democracy and made policies that stopped people from the U.S. from moving to Canada. In 1837, there were revolts for democracy in Ontario and Quebec ("Lower Canada"), but they were put down, and many leaders ran away to the U.S. The U.S. didn't pay much attention to these revolts or to Canada in general, as they were more focused on expanding westward.
The Webster-Ashburton Treaty set the border between the U.S. and Canada in Maine, preventing a potential conflict called the Aroostook War. During the time of Manifest Destiny, when the U.S. wanted to expand, there was a call for the U.S. to take over what is now Western Canada. But the U.S. and Britain agreed on the 49th parallel as the border. As the U.S. passed stricter laws against escaped slaves, Canada became a safe place for slaves fleeing through the Underground Railroad.
American Civil War
During the American Civil War, Britain stayed neutral. About 40,000 Canadians, many of whom were already living in the U.S., joined the Union Army. A few joined the Confederate Army. Meanwhile, hundreds of Americans who didn't want to be drafted into the war ran away to Canada.
There were a few things that made the relationship between Britain and the U.S. tense. Britain, without officially saying so, helped the Confederacy. Ships carrying weapons from Britain used Canadian ports in the Maritimes to get through the Union's blockades and give weapons to the Confederacy in exchange for cotton. British-built Confederate ships, like the CSS Alabama, attacked American ships.
On December 7, 1863, people in Canada who supported the Confederacy took over an American ship near Cape Cod, Massachusetts. They harmed a crew member and used the ship, which was meant to break blockades, to escape back to the Maritimes. From Canada, they managed to avoid being punished for their crimes. Confederate agents also used Canada as a place to plan attacks on American towns. For example, in St. Albans, Vermont, on October 19, 1864, they killed an American, robbed three banks of over $200,000, and then ran away to Canada. They were caught in Canada but were let go by a Canadian court, which made many Americans very upset. They even thought the Canadian government might have known about the attack before it happened. The American Secretary of State, William H. Seward, told the British government that these acts were not legal, fair, or friendly towards the U.S.
During the American Civil War, many Americans were upset because they thought Britain was supporting the Confederacy. Some American leaders wanted Britain to pay a lot of money because they believed Britain's actions made the war last two years longer. Historians and experts after the war agreed with this. Senator Charles Sumner, head of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, at first wanted either $2 billion from Britain or for Britain to give all of Canada to the U.S.
In 1867, when American Secretary of State William H. Seward bought Alaska from Russia, he saw it as just the start of a plan to take over the whole northwest Pacific Coast. He believed in Manifest Destiny, mainly for the trade benefits for the U.S. Seward thought British Columbia would want to join the U.S. and that Britain might agree to this in return for settling the Alabama claims. There was a plan to take over British Columbia, Red River Colony (Manitoba), and Nova Scotia, and forget about the war damages. In 1870, this idea seemed possible with support from American expansionists, Canadian separatists, and some English people who liked the U.S. But the plan was dropped for several reasons. Britain kept delaying, American business and financial groups wanted a quick cash settlement, people in British Columbia wanted to stay with Britain, the U.S. Congress was busy with Reconstruction, and most Americans weren't interested in getting more land.
The Alabama claims issue was decided by international arbitration. In 1872, the tribunal said the U.S. couldn't get money for the problems caused by the British blockade. But they did order Britain to pay $15.5 million for damage caused by British-built Confederate ships. Britain paid, and this helped make the relationship between Britain and the U.S. peaceful again.
Late 19th Century
In 1867, Canada became a self-governing country, controlling its internal affairs while Britain kept control of foreign relations and defense. Before this, there was a dispute with the U.S. about the Oregon border where the U.S. wanted land up to the 54th degree latitude. The Oregon Treaty in 1846 mostly solved this by dividing the area: the north part became British Columbia, and the south part became Washington and Oregon in the U.S.
However, tensions with America continued because of the "Fenian raids" from 1866 to 1871. These were small attacks by Irish-American veterans of the Civil War. They wanted to use Canada to get Irish independence. The U.S. government, still upset about Canadian support for Confederate raiders during the Civil War, was slow to stop the Fenians. The Fenian Brotherhood, an Irish group in the U.S., attacked British army forts and other places near the border. These attacks in 1866 and again from 1870 to 1871 were small and unsuccessful. They wanted to pressure Britain to leave Ireland, but they didn't achieve this and were quickly beaten by Canadian forces.
The British government, which handled foreign matters, protested but carefully because relations with the U.S. were tense. Things got better when the Fenians stopped being active and in 1872 when Britain paid the U.S. $15.5 million for the Alabama Claims. This was for damage caused by ships built in Britain and used by the Confederacy during the Civil War.
Disagreements about ocean borders at Georges Bank and about fishing and hunting rights in the Pacific were solved by international arbitration. This set an important example for solving such problems.
Early 20th Century
The Alaska boundary dispute in 1903 was a brief but significant issue, resolved in favor of the United States. This dispute became important during the Klondike Gold Rush, as thousands of people headed to Canada's Yukon region, entering through American ports. Canada claimed it had a right to a port near what is now Haines, Alaska, to provide a direct route to the goldfields. The matter was decided by arbitration, and to Canada's surprise and upset, the British delegate sided with the Americans. This showed Canada that Britain valued its relationship with the U.S. more than with Canada. The decision kept things as they were, but left Canada feeling betrayed by Britain.
In 1907, there was a small issue when the USS Nashville sailed into the Great Lakes through Canada without permission. To avoid such problems in the future, the U.S. and Canada signed the International Boundary Waters Treaty in 1909. They also set up the International Joint Commission to manage the Great Lakes and ensure they remained without military forces. This agreement was later changed in World War II to allow building and training warships.
Free Trade Rejected
In 1911, feelings against America were very strong in Canada. That year, the Canadian Liberal government made a deal with the U.S. called the Reciprocity Treaty, which would reduce trade barriers. Canadian companies that made things were worried. They thought this free trade would let bigger, more efficient American factories take over their market. The Conservative party used this fear in the 1911 election. They told people that the treaty would be like giving in to the U.S. and could lead to Canada being economically taken over by America. The Conservatives' campaign message was "No truck or trade with the Yankees." They used Canadian pride and fondness for the British Empire to win a big victory in the election.
World War I
In 1914-1916, British Canadians were upset because the United States chose to stay neutral during World War I and seemed to be making a lot of money, while Canada was losing its wealth and many young people. But when the U.S. joined the war against Germany in April 1917, the two countries started working together well. They shared resources like grain, fuel, power, and transportation, and New York bankers helped with a loan for Canada. This cooperation made people think more positively.
Canadian recruiting groups were allowed in the U.S., and there was an agreement to help people who didn't want to join the army return to their countries. Canada set up a War Mission in Washington, D.C., and in many other ways, the U.S. and Canada worked together to be more effective. They made immigration rules easier, and thousands of American farm workers went to Canada to help with the harvest. Officially and in the eyes of the public, the two countries had better relations than ever before. In the U.S., people from almost all parts of society shared this friendly attitude.
Post World War I
In 1919, Canada asked and got permission from London to send its own group to the Versailles Peace Talks. They had to sign the treaty as part of the British Empire. After that, Canada started handling its own foreign and military affairs in the 1920s. They appointed Vincent Massey as their first ambassador to the United States in 1927, and the U.S. sent their first ambassador to Canada, William Phillips. Canada played an active role in the British Commonwealth, the League of Nations, and the World Court, none of which included the U.S.
In July 1923, U.S. President Warren Harding visited Vancouver, becoming the first U.S. president to visit Canada after it formed its confederation. British Columbia's Premier John Oliver and Vancouver's Mayor Charles Tisdall hosted a lunch for him at the Hotel Vancouver. Over 50,000 people heard Harding speak in Stanley Park, and in 1925, a monument designed by Charles Marega was put up there to honor him.
The relationship with the U.S. was good until 1930. Canada was very upset about the U.S.'s new Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act, which raised taxes on goods imported from Canada. Canada responded with higher taxes on American products and started trading more with the British Commonwealth. Trade between the U.S. and Canada dropped 75% during the Great Depression.
Until the 1920s, both countries' war and navy departments made up war game scenarios against each other for training. They were never actually planning for a real war. In 1921, Canada made Defence Scheme No. 1, a plan for attacking American cities and stopping an American invasion until Britain could help. In the late 1920s and 1930s, the United States Army War College made a plan for a war against the British Empire, called War Plan Red.
In 1927, U.S. President Herbert Hoover and British Ambassador Sir Esme Howard agreed it was silly to think of a war between the U.S. and the British Empire.
In 1938, as World War II was starting, U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt said in a speech at Queen's University in Ontario that the U.S. would not ignore it if another country tried to take over Canada. Diplomats took this as a warning to Germany not to attack Canada.
Second World War
During World War II, the United States and Canada worked together very closely. They both wanted to beat the Axis powers and experienced increased prosperity. Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie King of Canada and President Franklin D. Roosevelt of the U.S. were focused on not making the same mistakes as past leaders. They met in August 1940 at Ogdensburg and agreed to cooperate closely. They set up the Permanent Joint Board on Defense (PJBD).
In August 1943, King hosted the Quadrant conference in Quebec to talk about military and political strategy. He was a good host but was left out of the major discussions by Winston Churchill and Roosevelt.
Canada allowed the building of the Alaska Highway and helped with the creation of the atomic bomb. 49,000 Americans joined the Canadian (RCAF) or British (RAF) air forces through the Clayton Knight Committee from 1940 to 1942. This committee had Roosevelt's permission to recruit in the U.S.
In the mid-1930s, the U.S. wanted to include British Columbia in a unified West Coast military command, but Canada was against this. The U.S. was worried about a possible Japanese attack on Canada's exposed British Columbia Coast. They suggested a single military command for the eastern Pacific Ocean area. However, Canadian leaders were more worried about American control and losing their independence than a Japanese invasion. In 1941, Canada argued within the PJBD for working together instead of having a unified command for the West Coast.
During World War II, the United States set up big military bases in Newfoundland, which was then a British crown colony, not a dominion. The money spent by the Americans ended the economic depression there and brought wealth. This made Newfoundland's business people want to have a closer relationship with the United States, as shown by the Economic Union Party. Canada noticed this and wanted Newfoundland to become a part of Canada. After intense debates and votes, Newfoundland joined Canada. There wasn't much interest in the United States in taking over Newfoundland, so the U.S. didn't object when Britain decided not to let an American option be part of the Newfoundland referendums.
After World War II, from 1945 to 1948, Canada's Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie King and his Foreign Minister Louis St. Laurent were very careful in handling foreign relations. Canada gave money to the United Kingdom to help it rebuild after the war, was chosen for the UN Security Council, and was involved in creating NATO. However, Mackenzie King did not agree to free trade with the United States and chose not to be part of the Berlin airlift. Canada had previously been active in the League of Nations, mainly because it could act independently from Britain. It played a small role in forming the United Nations and the International Monetary Fund. In 1947, Canada was more involved in setting up the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade.
From the mid-20th century, Canada and the United States became very close allies, especially during the Cold War.
Vietnam War Resisters
Canada welcomed people from the United States who avoided the draft and those who deserted later. This didn't lead to any big international problems between Canada and the U.S. Meanwhile, when Sweden did the same thing, the U.S. strongly criticized them. In Canada, the topic of taking in Americans who left the U.S. became a debate about Canada's independence in making its own immigration laws. The United States didn't get involved in this issue because American leaders saw Canada as a close ally and didn't want to cause any trouble with them.
Nixon Shock 1971
The United States became Canada's biggest market, and after World War II, Canada's economy relied heavily on smooth trade with the U.S. In 1971, when the U.S. introduced the "Nixon Shock" economic policies, including a 10% tariff on all imports, it caused a big worry in Canada. The U.S. didn't make an exception for Canada in these policies, so Prime Minister Trudeau thought about building closer economic ties with Europe. He suggested a "Third Option" to diversify Canada's trade and reduce reliance on the U.S. market. In a 1972 speech in Ottawa, President Nixon said that the special relationship between Canada and the U.S. was over.
During Nixon's presidency (1969–74), the relationship between Canada and the U.S. got worse over trade, defense, energy, fishing, the environment, cultural issues, and foreign policy. Things improved when Trudeau and President Jimmy Carter (1977–1981) had a better connection. The late 1970s saw the U.S. being more understanding of Canada's political and economic needs, pardoning draft evaders who had moved to Canada, and moving past issues like the Watergate scandal and the Vietnam War. During this period of "stagflation," which affected both countries, Canada was more open to American investments.
In the 1990s, the main topic between Canada and the U.S. was the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), which they signed in 1994. This agreement made a big market that, by 2014, was valued at $19 trillion and included 470 million people. It also created millions of jobs. Most people agree that NAFTA has brought big benefits for Canadian consumers, workers, and businesses. But some say it didn't meet all the expectations people had for it.
Since the 1750s up to the 21st century, there has been a lot of movement of people between Canada and the United States. People moved in both directions for various reasons.
Before 1775, settlers from New England, known as Yankees, moved to large parts of Nova Scotia and stayed neutral during the American Revolution. After the revolution, about 75,000 United Empire Loyalists left the new United States for places like Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and Quebec areas east and south of Montreal. Between 1790 and 1812, many farmers from New York and New England moved into Upper Canada, especially around Niagara and the north shore of Lake Ontario. The gold rushes in the mid to late 19th century brought American prospectors to British Columbia and later the Yukon Territory. Early in the 20th century, the opening of lands in the Prairie Provinces attracted farmers from the American Midwest. Many Mennonites from Pennsylvania also settled there. In the 1890s, some Mormons moved to Alberta to form communities after the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints rejected plural marriage. During the 1960s, around 50,000 people who opposed the Vietnam War, known as draft-dodgers, moved to Canada.
Canada was also a temporary stop for many immigrants who eventually moved to the U.S. From 1851 to 1951, about 7.1 million people came to Canada, mostly from Europe, and 6.6 million left, mostly to the U.S. After 1850, the U.S. industrialized and urbanized faster, attracting immigrants from the North. By 1870, one-sixth of all Canadian-born people had moved to the U.S., especially to New England. It was common for people to frequently move across the border for work or business.
This southward movement decreased after 1890 as Canadian industry started growing. With the American frontier closing, many U.S. farmers moved to the Canadian Prairie Provinces. In 1901, there were 128,000 American-born people in Canada (3.5% of its population) and 1.18 million Canadian-born people in the U.S. (1.6% of its population).
In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, around 900,000 French Canadians moved to the U.S., with many settling in New England mill towns and forming ethnic communities. By the late 20th century, most had stopped speaking French but kept their Catholic faith. About twice as many English Canadians came to the U.S., but they didn't form separate ethnic communities.
Relations Between Canada Government Executives
In each country, the leader's role is different. In the United States, the President is both the head of state and the head of government. The President's team is known as the "administration." In Canada, the Prime Minister is only the head of government, not the head of state. The Prime Minister's team is referred to as the "government" or "ministry," and they manage the executive branch.
Franklin D. Roosevelt and W. L. Mackenzie King (October 1935 - April 1945)
In 1940, W. L. Mackenzie King, the Canadian leader, and Franklin D. Roosevelt, the President of the United States, made a defense agreement called the Ogdensburg Agreement. King organized meetings for Churchill and Roosevelt, but he wasn't part of their discussions.
Harry S. Truman and Louis St. Laurent (November 1948 - January 1953)
During the early part of the Cold War, Prime Minister Laurent of Canada and President Truman of the United States both did not support communism.
Dwight Eisenhower and John G. Diefenbaker (June 1957 - January 1961)
President Dwight Eisenhower, who was in office from 1952 to 1961, worked hard to maintain good relations with John Diefenbaker, the Progressive Conservative leader of Canada from 1957 to 1963. Their efforts resulted in the approval of joining NORAD, a combined air defense system, in mid-1957. However, relations with President John Kennedy were not as friendly. Diefenbaker was against apartheid in South Africa and played a role in removing it from the Commonwealth of Nations. His hesitation over whether to accept Bomarc nuclear missiles from the United States contributed to the end of his government's time in power.
John F. Kennedy and John G. Diefenbaker (January 1961 - April 1963)
John Diefenbaker, the Canadian leader, and President John F. Kennedy of the United States did not have a good personal relationship. This became clear during the Cuban Missile Crisis when Diefenbaker was slow to show support for the United States. However, Diefenbaker's Defence Minister acted without his approval and put Canada's military on high alert. This was done to meet Canada's legal treaty commitments and to try to make Kennedy happy.
Lyndon B. Johnson and Lester B. Pearson (November 1963 - April 1968)
In 1965, Canadian Prime Minister Lester B. Pearson gave a talk in Philadelphia where he spoke against the United States' role in the Vietnam War. This made Lyndon B. Johnson, the U.S. President, very angry. Johnson strongly expressed his displeasure to Pearson, using the phrase "You don't come here and piss on my rug" to show his upset feelings.
Ronald Reagan and Brian Mulroney (September 1984 - January 1989)
Brian Mulroney, the Canadian leader, and Ronald Reagan, the U.S. President, had a famously strong relationship. This led to talks about the Canada–United States Free Trade Agreement and an agreement to cut down on emissions causing acid rain. These were both important policies for Mulroney and were completed during George H. W. Bush's time as President. Mulroney gave speeches at the funerals of both Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush.
Bill Clinton and Jean Chrétien (November 1993 - January 2001)
Jean Chrétien, the Canadian Prime Minister, was careful not to seem too close to Bill Clinton, the U.S. President. However, both of them enjoyed playing golf. In an April 1997 press conference with Prime Minister Chrétien, President Clinton joked, saying, "I don't know if any two world leaders have played golf together more than we have, but we meant to break a record." Their governments had some minor trade disagreements about things like the Canadian content in American magazines and softwood lumber. Overall, though, their relationship was quite good. Both leaders had campaigned on changing or getting rid of NAFTA, but the agreement continued with added environmental and labor side agreements. Importantly, the Clinton administration voiced support for Canada staying united during the 1995 Quebec referendum on separating from Canada.
George W. Bush and Jean Chrétien (January 2001 - December 2003)
During their time in office, the relationship between Jean Chrétien, the Canadian Prime Minister, and George W. Bush, the U.S. President, was not very good. However, when the September 11 attacks happened, Canada was quick to offer help to the U.S. A major act of support was Operation Yellow Ribbon, where Canada welcomed over 200 flights headed for the U.S. after American airspace was closed. Later on, Chrétien suggested that U.S. foreign policy might have contributed to the reasons for terrorism. This comment led to some criticism from Americans, who didn't like his approach. Chrétien's decision not to support the Iraq war in 2003 also received negative reactions in the U.S., particularly from conservative groups.
George W. Bush and Stephen Harper (February 2006 - January 2009)
Stephen Harper, the Canadian leader, and George W. Bush, the U.S. President, were believed to have a friendly personal relationship and their administrations were also closely connected. However, since Bush was not popular among Canadian liberals, especially in the media, Harper's government did not highlight this relationship much.
After winning the election in February 2006, Harper quickly responded to criticism from David Wilkins, the U.S. ambassador to Canada. Wilkins had criticized the Conservative party's plans to use military force to maintain Canada's control over the Arctic Ocean waters. Harper made it clear that he didn't agree with Wilkins' comments right after Bush congratulated him on his victory.
Barack Obama and Stephen Harper (January 2009 - November 2015)
President Barack Obama's first trip abroad after taking office was to Canada on February 19, 2009. This visit was seen as a strong sign of friendship and cooperation between the two countries. Except for Canada's objections to the "Buy American" parts of the U.S. economic stimulus package, the relationship between the two governments was smooth.
They also playfully wagered on hockey games during the Winter Olympics. At the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, Canada, the Canadian teams won the gold medals in both men's and women's hockey against the U.S. As a result, Stephen Harper won a case of Molson Canadian beer from Barack Obama. If Canada had lost, Harper would have sent a case of Yuengling beer to Obama. In the 2014 Winter Olympics, after Canada's victories over the U.S. in women's hockey and the men's hockey semi-finals, Stephen Harper received a case of Samuel Adams beer from Obama. This friendly exchange also involved U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Canadian Minister of Foreign Affairs John Baird.
United States-Canada Regulatory Cooperation Council (RCC) (2011)
On February 4, 2011, Harper and Obama released a "Declaration on a Shared Vision for Perimeter Security and Economic Competitiveness." They also announced the start of the Canada–United States Regulatory Cooperation Council (RCC), which aims to improve regulatory transparency and coordination between the two countries.
As part of the RCC's work, Health Canada and the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) began a unique project. They chose to align their regulations on certain over-the-counter antihistamines used for common colds as their first joint initiative.
On December 7, 2011, Harper visited Washington, met with Obama, and signed an agreement to put into action the plans they had developed since their February meeting. These plans included spending more on border infrastructure, sharing more information about people crossing the border, and accepting each other’s safety and security checks on traffic from third countries. An editorial in The Globe and Mail commended the agreement for allowing Canada to track if failed refugee claimants have left the country via the U.S. and for removing repeated baggage screenings on connecting flights.
This agreement is not a formal legal treaty but depends on the willingness and ability of both governments to carry out the agreed terms. Such executive agreements are common in Canada–U.S. relations.
Barack Obama and Justin Trudeau (November 2015 – January 2017)
President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau first formally met at the APEC summit in Manila, Philippines in November 2015, just a week after Trudeau took office. Both leaders looked forward to better cooperation and coordination between their countries, with Trudeau promising an "enhanced Canada–U.S. partnership."
On November 6, 2015, Obama announced that the U.S. State Department would not approve the Keystone XL pipeline, a part of the oil pipeline system running between Canada and the U.S. Trudeau was disappointed but believed this would not harm Canada–U.S. relations. Instead, he saw it as a "fresh start" to strengthen ties through cooperation, emphasizing that the relationship between the two countries was about more than just one project. Obama later commended Trudeau's commitment to addressing climate change, calling it very helpful for global efforts on the issue.
Trudeau informed Obama about his decision to withdraw Canada's CF-18 Hornet jets from the American-led intervention against ISIL, but he assured that Canada would still "do more than its part." Canada planned to increase its special forces in Iraq and Syria to fight the terrorist group.
Trudeau visited the White House for an official visit and state dinner on March 10, 2016. The visit was marked by warm personal relations between the two leaders, with lighthearted jokes about hockey and beer. Obama praised Trudeau's 2015 election campaign for its hopeful and optimistic approach. They had productive talks about climate change and bilateral relations, and Trudeau invited Obama to address the Canadian parliament in Ottawa later that year.
Donald Trump and Justin Trudeau (January 2017 - January 2021)
After Donald Trump won the 2016 U.S. presidential election, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau congratulated him and invited him to visit Canada soon. Trudeau and President Trump met for the first time at the White House on February 13, 2017, about a month after Trump took office. Trump's decision to impose tariffs on Canadian softwood lumber strained relations. Trump also mentioned Diafiltered Milk as a topic for negotiation.
In 2018, Trump and Trudeau were part of negotiating the United States–Mexico–Canada Agreement (USMCA), a trade deal between Canada, Mexico, and the United States that replaced the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). This new agreement, often called "NAFTA 2.0" or "New NAFTA," kept many parts of NAFTA and made some small changes. The USMCA started on July 1, 2020.
In June 2018, after Trudeau said Canadians wouldn't be bullied by Trump's tariffs on aluminum and steel, Trump called Trudeau "dishonest" and "meek" and accused him of making false statements, though it wasn't clear which statements he meant. Trump's trade adviser, Peter Navarro, harshly criticized Trudeau, accusing him of dishonest diplomacy. A few days later, Trump said Trudeau's comments would be costly for Canadians.
In June 2019, U.S. State Department spokesperson Morgan Ortagus stated the U.S. disagreed with Canada's claim that the waters of the Northwest Passage are Canada's internal waters, saying this claim goes against international law.
Joe Biden and Justin Trudeau (January 2021 – Present)
After Joe Biden won the 2020 U.S. presidential election, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau congratulated him. This marked a hopeful sign for better Canada–U.S. relations, which had been tense during Donald Trump's presidency.
On January 22, 2021, Biden and Trudeau had their first phone conversation. Trudeau was the first international leader to speak with Biden after he became President.
Then, on February 23, 2021, Biden and Trudeau had their first official meeting, although it was conducted virtually. This was Biden's first such meeting as President. During this meeting, they talked about several important topics, including COVID-19, economic recovery, climate change, refugees, and migration.
Military and Security Relations between US and Canda
The Canadian military has fought with the United States in many big conflicts since World War II, like the Korean War, the Gulf War, the Kosovo War, and the war in Afghanistan. The notable exceptions were Canada's opposition to the Vietnam War and the Iraq War, which caused some short-term diplomatic tensions. Despite these differences, the military relationship between the two countries has stayed strong.
Canada and the United States have more detailed defense agreements than the U.S. has with any other country. The Permanent Joint Board of Defense, set up in 1940, discusses defense policies. Both countries are committed to each other's security through the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). Since 1958, they have worked together on air defense in North America through the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD). Canadian forces indirectly supported the U.S. invasion of Iraq that began in 2003. Canada's military planning and structure have been designed to work well with American forces since the end of the Cold War. For example, Canadian navy frigates can easily join American carrier battle groups.
In 2012, to mark 200 years since the War of 1812, ambassadors and naval officers from both countries met at the Pritzker Military Library for a panel discussion on Canada-U.S. relations, focusing on security. They also sailed together in the Great Lakes region as part of the commemoration.
In February 2023, a U.S. fighter jet, under orders from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and coordinated by NORAD, shot down an unidentified object over Canada. Trudeau said they were looking for debris from the object. This action followed a discussion between Biden and Trudeau.
The foreign policies of Canada and the U.S. have been closely linked but independent since the Cold War. There is also a debate over whether the Northwest Passage is international waters or under Canadian control.
Iran Hostage Crisis
During the 1979 revolution in Iran, protesters took over the US embassy and held many people hostage. Six Americans managed to avoid capture and were given refuge by the British and Canadian embassies. After an attempt by the US military to rescue them failed, Ken Taylor, a Canadian diplomat, Flora MacDonald, the Secretary of State for External Affairs, and Prime Minister Joe Clark of Canada planned to secretly get the six Americans out of Iran on an international flight. They did this by using Canadian passports.
The Canadian government created an Order in Council, which allowed them to issue several official Canadian passports with fake names for the American diplomats staying in the Canadian embassy. These passports also had fake Iranian visas, which were made by the US Central Intelligence Agency.
After the al-Qaeda attacks on September 11, 2001, Canada's elite JTF2 unit joined American special forces in Afghanistan. Canadian forces became part of the multinational coalition in Operation Anaconda starting in January 2002. On April 18, 2002, a tragic incident occurred when an American pilot mistakenly bombed Canadian forces during a training exercise, resulting in four deaths and eight injuries among the Canadians. A joint American-Canadian investigation concluded that the incident was due to pilot error, as the pilot misread ground fire as hostile action and disregarded orders that he thought were questioning his judgment in the field.
In 2003, Canadian forces took over the command of the International Security Assistance Force for six months. By 2005, they were in charge of a multinational brigade in Kandahar, with 2,300 troops, and managed the Provincial Reconstruction Team in Kandahar, a region with significant al-Qaeda activity. Additionally, Canada has had naval forces in the Persian Gulf since 1991 as part of the UN Gulf Multinational Interdiction Force.
The Canadian Embassy in Washington, D.C., runs a website called CanadianAlly.com. This site aims to inform American citizens about Canada's involvement in North American and global security, as well as the fight against terrorism.
The New Democratic Party and some Liberal leadership candidates have voiced their opposition to Canada's increased involvement in Afghanistan. They argue that this role does not align with Canada's historic post-World War II focus on peacekeeping operations.
Invasion of Iraq 2003
Recent surveys showed that 71% of Canadians did not support the invasion of Iraq in 2003. Many Canadians, including the Liberal Cabinet led by Paul Martin, and some Americans like Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, saw the conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq differently. They did not agree with the Bush Doctrine, which combined these conflicts under the idea of a "Global war on terror."
Responding to Daesh/ISIS
Canada has participated in global efforts to address threats from Daesh/ISIS/ISIL in Syria and Iraq, and is part of the Global Coalition to Counter Daesh. In October 2016, Canada's Foreign Affairs Minister Dion and National Defence Minister Sajjan met with the U.S. special envoy for the coalition. The U.S. expressed gratitude for Canada's contribution, specifically noting the role of the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) in training and assisting Iraqi security forces. The CAF was also recognized for its work in building the capacities of regional forces.
In 2003, the American government expressed concerns when some members of the Canadian government proposed the decriminalization of marijuana. David Murray, an assistant to U.S. Drug Czar John P. Walters, stated in a CBC interview that they would feel compelled to respond to such a change. However, the election of the Conservative Party in early 2006 halted the efforts to liberalize marijuana laws until the Liberal Party of Canada legalized recreational cannabis use in 2018.
In a joint 2007 report by American and Canadian officials on cross-border drug smuggling, it was noted that despite their best efforts, drug trafficking still occurred in significant amounts in both directions across the border. The report highlighted that the primary illicit substances being smuggled across the shared border included MDMA (Ecstasy), cocaine, and marijuana. Canada was identified as a major producer of Ecstasy and marijuana for the U.S. market, while the U.S. served as a transit country for cocaine entering Canada.
United States-Canada Trade Relations
Canada and the United States share one of the world's largest trading relationships, facilitating the movement of goods and people across their border every year. Since the signing of the Canada–United States Free Trade Agreement in 1987, most goods traded between the two countries have been exempt from tariffs.
However, there have been trade disputes between the two nations. For instance, the U.S. imposed tariffs on Canadian softwood lumber, alleging unfair Canadian government subsidies, a claim that Canada refutes. This dispute has gone through various agreements and arbitration cases. Other notable disputes have included issues like the Canadian Wheat Board and Canadian cultural protectionism in areas such as magazines, radio, and television. Canada has also expressed concerns about certain aspects of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), including Chapter 11.
One of the key mechanisms for cooperation between Canada and the United States is the International Joint Commission (IJC), established in 1909 through the Boundary Waters Treaty. Its purpose is to resolve disputes and promote collaboration on boundary waters. An example of successful cooperation is the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement of 1972, aimed at controlling cross-border water pollution.
However, not all matters have been without contention. For instance, the Devil's Lake Outlet project in North Dakota has raised concerns among Manitobans, who fear water pollution as a result of this initiative.
In the late 1980s, then-Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney urged the Reagan administration to address U.S. industrial air pollution causing acid rain in Canada. While there was initial skepticism from the U.S. side, an Air Quality Agreement was signed in 1991 under the first Bush administration. This treaty led to regular consultations between the two countries, reducing acid rain. An annex to the treaty in 2000 addressed ground-level ozone.
Despite these efforts, air pollution, mainly from coal-fired power stations in the U.S. Midwest, remains a concern, particularly in the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence watershed. As part of the negotiations for the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), Canada, the U.S., and Mexico established the Commission for Environmental Cooperation, which monitors environmental issues and publishes the North American Environmental Atlas.
Both Canada and the U.S. have not supported the Kyoto Protocol for greenhouse gas emissions reduction, though Canada ratified it. However, due to internal conflicts, Canada has not enforced the protocol. In 2011, the Canadian Minister of the Environment, Peter Kent, stated that Canada's policy is to wait for the U.S. to act first and then harmonize with their actions, a position criticized by various groups.
Concerns have also arisen about water availability and potential restrictions on water exports from Canada to the U.S., given Canada's abundant freshwater resources and concerns about water scarcity in parts of the United States.
Newfoundland Fisheries Dispute
The United States and Britain had a longstanding disagreement regarding the fishing rights of Americans in the waters near Newfoundland. Before 1776, American fishermen, primarily from Massachusetts, freely used these waters. In the 1783 peace treaty negotiations, the Americans insisted on clarifying these rights. However, their ally, France, had its own rights in the area and wanted exclusivity.
The Treaty of Paris in 1783 didn't grant rights to the Americans but rather "liberties" to fish in British North America's territorial waters and dry fish on specific coasts. After the War of 1812, the Convention of 1818 detailed these liberties. Canadian and Newfoundland fishermen disputed them in the 1830s and 1840s.
In 1854, the Canadian-American Reciprocity Treaty and the Treaty of Washington in 1871 provided more specific terms for these liberties. However, the Treaty of Washington expired in 1885, leading to ongoing disputes over jurisdiction and liberties. In 1909, Britain and the United States took the issue to The Hague's Permanent Court of Arbitration, resulting in a compromise settlement that permanently resolved the problems.
Canada-US Common Memberships organizations
Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation
Canadian Hockey League (CHL)
Food and Agriculture Organization
G-20 major economies
International Chamber of Commerce
International Development Association
International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF)
International Monetary Fund (IMF)
International Olympic Committee (IOC)
Major League Baseball (MLB)
Major League Soccer (MLS)
National Basketball Association (NBA)
National Hockey League (NHL)
National Lacrosse League (NLL)
North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA)
North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD)
North American Numbering Plan
North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO)
Organization of American States
Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD)
Security and Prosperity Partnership of North America
United Nations (UN)
World Health Organization (WHO)
World Trade Organization (WTO)
Territorial Disputes between US and Canada
The United States and Canada have experienced various territorial disputes throughout their histories. Present-day maritime territorial disagreements between the two nations encompass the Beaufort Sea, Dixon Entrance, Strait of Juan de Fuca, San Juan Islands, Machias Seal Island, and North Rock. Additionally, the United States, along with several other countries, asserts that the Northwest Passage is international waters, while the Canadian government maintains it as Canadian Internal Waters. The status of the Inside Passage is also contested, with the United States claiming it as international waters.
In the past, historical boundary disputes included the Aroostook War at the Maine–New Brunswick border, the Oregon boundary dispute at the present-day British Columbia–Washington border, and the Alaska Boundary Dispute at the Alaska–British Columbia border. These disputes were resolved through diplomatic means, with the Webster–Ashburton Treaty of 1842 settling the Maine–New Brunswick boundary dispute, the Oregon Treaty of 1846 resolving the Oregon boundary dispute, and arbitration in 1903 concluding the Alaska boundary dispute.
A longstanding disagreement between Canada and the United States revolves around Canadian sovereignty over the Northwest Passage, a series of sea routes in the Arctic. Canada claims that the Northwest Passage falls under its internal (territorial) waters, but this claim has been challenged by other nations, particularly the United States, which argues that these waters are an international strait (international waters).
Tensions arose when Americans sailed the reinforced oil tanker Manhattan through the Northwest Passage in 1969, followed by the icebreaker Polar Sea in 1985, leading to a minor diplomatic incident. In response, Canada enacted the Arctic Waters Pollution Prevention Act in 1970, asserting regulatory control over pollution within a 100-mile zone. The United States countered by stating in 1970 that they could not accept Canada's claim of Arctic waters as internal.
A compromise was reached in 1988 through an agreement on "Arctic Cooperation." This agreement stipulated that voyages of American icebreakers would require the consent of the Canadian government. However, it did not alter the fundamental legal positions of either country. In 2005, Paul Cellucci, the American ambassador to Canada, suggested that the United States should recognize the straits as Canadian territory, but this advice was rejected, and then-Prime Minister Harper took a different stance.
The United States opposes Harper's proposed plan to deploy military icebreakers in the Arctic to monitor and assert Canadian sovereignty over those waters.