President Bush declared Wednesday that both the United States and Canada have a vital interest in the success of democracy in Iraq and said “a new day of freedom, of hope and self-government is on the way.”
“Our enemies have declared their intentions and so have we,” Bush told an audience in Halifax, Nova Scotia. “Peaceful nations must keep the peace by going after the terrorists and disrupting their plans and cutting off their funding.”
“Two years ago, we disagreed about the best course in Iraq,” the president acknowledged. But he said that both Canada and the United States know what’s at stake.
Time to ‘go forward’
Bush, continuing a hemispheric fence-mending trip north of the U.S. border in a country where opposition to the U.S.-led war to oust Iraq’s Saddam Hussein has been fierce, said that Washington and Ottawa now agree essentially about how to “go forward.”
“There’s only one way to deal with enemies who plot in secret,” he said. “We must take the fight to them. We must be relentless and we must be steadfast in our duty to protect our people.”
Bush also said that it is “cultural condescension” to think that democracy cannot work in the broader Middle East.
He praised Prime Minister Paul Martin as a strong leader and said he looked forward to a “strong partnership” with Canada in his second term.
“We have important work ahead. A new term in office is a perfect time to reach out to our friends,” Bush said.
Noting that some 33,000 passengers on diverted U.S. commercial flights got stuck in Canada in the wake of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, he said, “Canadians came to the aid of men and women and children who were worried and confused with nowhere to eat and sleep.”
Thanking a nation
“How does a person say thank you to a nation?” he said. “Well, that’s something a president can do. So let me say directly to the Canadian people ... Thank you for your kindness to America in an hour of need.”
Bush said he believes the people of the United States and Canada will remain close, as they have over time, “beyond the words of politicians and the natural disagreements that national leaders will have.”
Hundreds of people lined the roads to get a glimpse of Bush as his limousine and long trailing entourage made their way into Halifax on an overcast day. The vast majority displayed no feelings toward Bush and merely watched respectfully. One of the few placards directed at him read, “Be Nice, Mr. Bush.”
Both Martin and Bush are seeking to rebuild U.S.-Canada relations, which cooled under Martin’s predecessor, Jean Chretien. The dialogue became especially strained when Chretien decided against sending troops to Iraq — a decision supported by more than 80 percent of Canadians. Thousands of Canadians have protested Bush’s visit.
“We don’t always agree, and we won’t always agree,” Martin said, acknowledging Bush’s unpopularity in Canada. “But there is a spirit of renewal in the relationship between our two countries.”
No agreement on missile program
Bush has been trying to elicit Canada’s participation in the new U.S. continental missile defense program, but Ottawa has not yet agreed to join.
He spoke at Pier 21, a modest port where nearly 1 million immigrants arrived between March 8, 1928, and March 28, 1971 — the official opening and closing dates of the entry point for people migrating into Canada. Pier 21, which was refurbished and opened as a museum in 1999, also served as the departure point for nearly 500,000 Canadian troops who joined allied forces in World War II.