Most Canadians prefer to think of our ties to the United States as less binding than they truly are.
One way of explaining our relationship is to liken it to us staying the night on America's proverbial couch, as opposed to sleeping naked in its proverbial bed.
In the morning, we like to think we can just get up and leave.
But we all know when something matters to them, it matters to us by default we sort of have to take notice.
The assault on academic freedom and freedom of speech in the U.S. stemming from Sept. 11 and the conflict in the Middle East is threatening an assault on the expanse of our own principles.
"There seems to be this chill that is out there: if you say anything contrary to the flag-waving patriotism that seems to dominate the U.S. right now, you may have to suffer the consequences," said David Robinson, associate-executive director of the Canadian Association of University Teachers.
"In Canada, there haven't been any threats of dismissal, but we have seen a tax on academic freedom in the U.S. that could be harmful to the profession as a whole," Robinson said.
Promoting Western values: Tim Blackmore, Western, Sept. 2002
On the anniversary of Sept. 11, academics at Western were asked to provide expert commentary. Tim Blackmore, a popular professor in the faculty of information and media studies, provided the following excerpt for a university media release: "The post-September 11th world is one in which we have apparently decided we can organize the world the way we want to; obey or disobey international law as we please; count on the media to carry a message of nationalism and implicit racism; and kill people where and when we choose."
Following the distribution of his comments, which included several interviews with local media outlets, Blackmore began to receive a series of e-mails from other faculty members questioning his right to assert his perceived "anti-American" views.
"I was in a classic nightmare situation. I have been at Western for five years now. As a result, my file went forward for tenure. I'm in the classic up or out position either I get tenure or I have to move on. I gave my commentary [on Sept. 11, 2002] and then the mail started," he said.
"I had a deep moment of existential despair. That's the first thing I thought of that [the university] would, in the coming weeks, be holding my tenure file in [their] hand," Blackmore said. "I wondered, 'if I had thought of that ahead of time, maybe I wouldn't have said anything.' But I was brought up to believe we live in a democracy that we can say what we want, especially in a democratic institution."
"That wasn't academic chill, that was academic frozen heart," he said.
Following the slew of e-mails, Blackmore said he was informed the university was not going to sanction him for expressing his opinion.
"It is times like these that perhaps test our commitment to academic freedom and make it all the more important not only to be tolerant of diverse opinions, but to encourage them," said Greg Moran, Western's VP-academic.
A View from the West: Sunera Thobani, UBC, Sept. 2001
On Oct. 1, 2001, Sunera Thobani, a professor of women's studies at the University of British Columbia gave a speech in Ottawa at the Women's Resistance Conference.
"Today, the United States is the most dangerous and the most powerful global force unleashing prolific levels of violence all over the world," Thobani said. "The path of U.S. foreign policy is soaked in blood."
The speech made international media headlines and drew Thobani substantial criticism from some of her colleagues.
Thobani was ultimately defended by her university.
"Whenever there has been a national crisis, academic freedom and free speech have been threatened," UBC president Martha Piper told the university board following the incident. [Academic freedom] asserts that in the university, unconventional ideas and controversial opinions deserve special protection."