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Ask the ambassador

Lisa Scott
Northern News Services

Yellowknife (Mar 11/05) - Missile defence, border issues and accessible drinking water were among the topics on the minds of 10 Sir John Franklin high school students this week.

They were looking for answers about issues affecting Canadians and they got them via a March 9 e-mail chat with outgoing U.S. Ambassador to Canada, Paul Cellucci.

Paul Cellucci, U.S. Ambassador to Canada, had some tough questions to answer from Sir John Franklin students during an e-chat this week. - NNSL file photo

Rebecca Dupuis noted that Canada was in Rwanda and asked "where was the United States?"

Cellucci replied that "President Clinton went to Rwanda to apologize to the people there for the failure of the United States and others to stop the genocide."

Adam Hassan wondered "how can democracy be 'given' to countries as it has been in Afghanistan and Iraq? Doesn't the very definition of democracy require the people themselves to achieve it without direct foreign intervention in the country?"

Cellucci said that "sometimes tyrants through dictatorial rule prevent people from achieving their freedom," and noted that in Iraq, "men and women lined up by the hundreds of thousands despite great personal danger to vote. I think we should respect them and their desire to be free and we should help them achieve their dreams."

John-Earle MacPhee asked about U.S. policy on the opening of the Arctic Wildlife Refuge to oil drilling?

Cellucci said that President Bush supports the opening of the Arctic Wildlife Refuge to oil drilling, with strong environmental safeguards.

"However, many members of Congress oppose this and it has not yet been authorized and may not be," he said.

Chris Van Dyke said the United States have said that the Canadian border was something like a strainer that lets terrorists through fairly easily.

"Does the U.S. still feel the same way about this?" Van Dyke asked.

Cellucci said the Canada - United States "Smart Border Accord has increased significantly security at our border while at the same time facilitating the commerce that is important to our economies."

Blake Buckle wondered if there is any connection between Canada's refusal to support the missile defence shield and the continuing embargo on Canadian beef in the United States.

Cellucci said that President Bush "supports opening the border to live Canadian cattle. Unfortunately, a court challenge by some cattle ranchers in the United States has stopped the rule from taking effect. We will continue to do everything in our power to get the rule into effect by challenging the court ruling.

Important role

Niels Kaa wondered if Canada might in future be considered a "dominant power."

Cellucci said that with "increased defence spending, the Canadian Forces will continue to play a very important role defending North America and responding to crises around the world. I think this is a challenge for Canada.

"Canada has a great reputation, the Canadian Forces are quite good, but they will need the resources such as strategic airlift so the troops and equipment can get to the crisis quickly when needed. I look forward to the defence review that should be released sometime this month. I believe it will be a big step forward for the Canadian Forces.

"This, along with Canada's traditional diplomacy, peacekeeping, election monitoring, participation in G8, the WTO and other organizations will mean that Canada will continue to play an important role in the world.

Blake Buckle noted that Michael Moore "has produced two films in the last few years that are very critical of the American government. What are your thoughts on Moore himself and both of his movies?"

"I think he's a big, fat, white guy," Celluci said.