How does one even begin to reflect on 2020? The unforgettable year we have just experienced is hard to capture in words. The world has run the 2020 gamut together. Through it, we have seen the vulnerability and resilience of the human spirit, our adaptability in the face of an unprecedented global health crisis, and a graphic reminder of our connectedness and interdependence. Our lifestyles and work environments have undergone profound adjustments. In the space of a few short months, Canada and the United States have seen a far-reaching shift to remote work and fundamental changes to our highly-integrated economies. In all of this, the need to fight the borderless COVID-19 pandemic together has emerged as perhaps the greatest unifying force of our lives. “We Are All In This Together” may just be the most-remembered catchphrase of 2020.
And yet, 2020 wasn’t only about COVID. Looking back at some 70 Connect2Canada posts over the past year, it’s heartening to revisit the many significant events and milestones we celebrated along the way. We commemorated Black History Month in February and the 50th International Day of La Francophonie in March. We celebrated a first-ever Virtual Canada Day on July 1, and that same day marked the entry into force of the modernized U.S.-Canada-Mexico Agreement (USMCA). We celebrated the 50th anniversary of Canada’s Consulate in Minneapolis, and yet another 50th Anniversary of Earth Day through our virtual participation at EarthX 2020 in Dallas, TX. We helped our U.S. friends as they battled large wildfires in Oregon and California. Together, we honored our veterans on November 11 and never lost sight of what it means for Canada and the United States to be friends, partners, and allies.
Even in the midst of this pandemic year, Canada and the U.S. also forged ahead in key policy areas, building momentum and achieving new outcomes in areas such as Canada-U.S. space cooperation, management of supply chains for critical minerals used in strategically important manufacturing sectors, stewardship of the Arctic, finding solutions to the opioids crisis, and collaborative Canada-U.S. work to reduce threats to both countries’ cybersecurity.
The ravages of COVID-19 caused unthinkable hardship and loss in Canada and the United States, too, in what was for most of us a first-ever global pandemic experience. But the silver lining of this challenging year may lie in the shared humanity that the virus has laid bare, and that the virus cannot extinguish. For Canada and the U.S., this shared human experience was especially poignant. Moving stories of the countless healthcare and other front-line workers who kept us all going on both sides of the border are a testimony to the best of the human spirit. Both governments worked closely together to jointly and safely manage the Canada-U.S. border faced with an intractable virus that knows none. Canadian researchers teamed up with their U.S. counterparts to help close in on life-saving treatment protocols and a vaccine. Cross-border truckers kept on driving along miles and miles of closed highway amenities to keep our grocery shelves stocked and other key supply chains open. Canadian companies responded quickly to the pandemic challenge, one retooling its manufacturing lines to meet the surging early demand for protective facemasks, another donating personal protective equipment to Kentucky, and still another pivoting from whiskey to hand sanitizer production. U.S., Canadian, and Mexican companies entered into a North American partnership to develop an indoor biodefense system that kills the virus. And the facemasks that have become a necessary part of everyday life for now have themselves become things of beauty, cultural expression, and support for the artists who created them – inspiring our Atlanta Consulate to embark on a unique form of facemask diplomacy.
These are just some of the Canada-U.S. stories and achievements that have occurred during this past tumultuous year, in spite of and because of the pandemic. None of these would have been possible for either country acting alone, and perhaps no two countries in the world have more at stake than Canada and the United States in continuing to deepen our friendship and partnership. COVID-19 has reminded us of our greatest friendships. We stand together on the brink of 2021 and the shared opportunity we now have to come back stronger than ever. Happy New Year!