A guest post from my husband, Chris.
Juno Beach, Normandy, France
Considering the rotten things Donald Trump has said about – and done to – his neighbours to the south, it seems almost churlish to complain about his latest insult to Canada. Hell, despite his patronizing tone he may even have been trying to be complimentary when he conceded that in the Second World War Canada “helped us out”.
But honest to God, for the benefit of the many thoughtful and fair-minded Americans who may not have the grasp of history that you would expect of a President, let me explain a few things.
Here’s a good one to start with: by an interesting trick of time travel we started helping America in September 1939, two years and three months before you joined the fight. During that time we helped you by flying in the Battle of Britain; escorting convoys across the North Atlantic; carrying out bombing raids over Europe; sending agents into Europe; and training thousands of American ex-pats to help us in the fight against fascism. Immediately following the disaster at Dunkirk and the fall of France, the First Canadian Division was the only large body of trained soldiers in England equipped to resist the expected invasion.
While you listened to “do-nothings” and quasi-fascist isolationists like Lindbergh, we got busy helping set up the Commonwealth Air Training Plan which put over 140,000 aircrew from Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Czechoslovakia, Norway and other countries through training in Canada. Included in this number were a pretty healthy crop of Americans who needed our help to get into the fight. By the end of the war about 10,000 Canadian air crew lost their lives.
Canada fought in China at Hong Kong, in North Africa, in Sicily and Italy, in North West Europe and in south-east Asia. We took one of five beaches on D-Day.
With a population of only 11 million at the time, Canada had over one million people in uniform during World War II. Virtually every industry was a war industry. And we were never attacked! We did this when we could have sat back and relied on geography to see us through. Instead we stepped up. About 60,000 Canadians died in the war. And if it happened again, we’d do it again.
I don’t begrudge the United States the pride it takes in its contribution to the fight in the Second World War. You were an indispensable ally. But let’s get this straight. When you joined the war late in 1941, you helped Britain and its allies. Even the USSR, which took a savage toll in casualties, can’t claim that we were just their helper. It’s not something they like to be reminded of, but they only joined Britain, Canada and others after two years of trade with Germany – including trade in war materials – bought them time to get a little readier to face the inevitable. So, thanks America for doing the right thing. But remember, while your track record on fighting fascism may be good, on identifying fascists for what they are – not great.