Sept. 28, 2005 —
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. – Canada’s humanitarian relief efforts in the United States Gulf Coast region following Hurricane Katrina have shown, once again, that the two countries enjoy "a great relationship," said the new U.S. ambassador to Canada last week during a visit to the headquarters of the North American Aerospace Defense Command and U.S. Northern Command.
"In the wake of the Katrina disaster, the support in Canada was overwhelming," said David H. Wilkins, who became the 21st U.S. ambassador to Canada in June. "Canada has proven they are a strong friend and are there when we are in need, as we have proven to them over the years."
Wilkins said he was in Halifax, Nova Scotia on the day Canadian military troops embarked on ships for the Mississippi and Louisiana coasts.
"The next day I was in Vancouver to greet the 45 members of the Vancouver [Urban Search and] Rescue Team that had just come back from St. Bernard Parish in Louisiana," Wilkins said. "They were all sunburned and tired, but thrilled that they were able to rescue 117 people from trees or tops of houses."
Although Wilkins has been ambassador for less than 90 days, he felt it was "imperative" to visit the NORAD and USNORTHCOM headquarters, where Americans and Canadians work together to defend their homelands from airborne, land-based and maritime threats.
"I felt like it was important to see this wonderful example of collaboration, to see the military leaders on both sides, from both countries, working hand-in-hand," Wilkins said. "I don’t think there’s a 3 perfect example of cooperation and collaboration between our two countries ... and I wanted to come see it firsthand."
Being allies in the Global War on Terrorism has made the Canada-U.S. relationship "more important now than ever," Wilkins said.
"Friends have to stay together. Friends have to help each other," he said. "I think, with the war on terror, it’s more important than ever that we foster that relationship, that we accentuate the positive, and that we try to strengthen the many ties that bind us."
Certainly one of the largest ties that binds the two countries is economic; Canada is the United States’ number one trade partner. Another tie is their mutual, 4,000-mile-long border.
"Security is a top priority for the United States and, obviously, it’s paramount that we have safe borders," Wilkins said. "At the same time, we want our borders to be accessible to legitimate travelers and legitimate trade. Canada’s our top trading partner, so that’s important.
"But security and prosperity are not mutually exclusive. You can have both."
Witnessing Canada’s Hurricane Katrina relief efforts and visiting NORAD and USNORTHCOM have reinforced that belief, Wilkins said.
"To be able to see Canadians helping Americans in our time of need, and see the collaboration and cooperation between the American forces and Canadian forces here in Colorado Springs makes me believe our relationship is even stronger than it ever has been, and that it will continue to get stronger."