By Elizabeth Pond
Let's see. What would it be like if the USA last month had sent a couple hundred well-armed, masked SEALs in identical unmarked black uniforms to occupy the town halls or police stations of Medicine Hat, Lethbridge, and a dozen other smallish communities in Alberta?
They would, of course, have been commanded clandestinely by a SEAL colonel who went by the moniker of "Shooter." They would have been backed by the Big Red One First Infantry division, which happened to have been exercising for two months at high readiness in Montana a mile or so from the Alberta border and making periodic northward feints.
After seizing each outpost, the superpatriots would have hoisted the stars and stripes instead of the maple leaf on each conquered building, surrounded it with barricades of old tires or new sandbags, and quickly turned it over to a mix of Alberta mercenaries, criminals, and fanatics who want the province to secede from Canada and join the United States. Then the SEALs would have melted away, to proceed to the next target.
The new local bosses would have designated one of the cities—Lethbridge, perhaps—as their center of operations and erected checkpoints around the entire municipal perimeter. They would have taken hostage more than three dozen Alberta journalists and international observers, beaten up some who refused to reveal the password to their computers, and murdered one or two local officials who opposed the takeover. Aided by Alberta's oligarch and by the province's former Canadian prime minister—who had fled to Florida two months earlier, after having ordered his snipers to kill some seventy peaceful demonstrators on Parliament Hill—they would have proclaimed the birth of the Alberta People's Republic.
They would have jammed all Canadian broadcasting in the region and blared Voice of America 24-hours a day as the monopoly newsgiver, accusing Ottawa of being the stooge of notorious Canadian fascists. As evidence, they would have run non-stop videos on the VOA of one incident in which they killed an attacker at Lethbridge who conveniently carried a business card of the most notorious Québecois neo-Nazi—and would keep on running the videos even though date stamps on them showed that they had been filmed by prescient VOA journalists a day before the alleged attack.
Canada would have protested to the United Nations Security Council, of course, but any counteraction would have been stymied by the veto of the US former superpower.
By the time the pro-USA activists had seized the opera house in Fort McMurray, realized their mistake, and moved on to a local armory to complete their string of captured buildings, they would have been ready to go into high gear.
At that point, when the Royal Canadian Mounted Police finally started a timid counteroffensive at the Lethbridge perimeter, the activists would have protested vociferously against Ottawa's shocking violence against Canadian citizens and denounced the RCMP either as Nazis or as Jews, depending on the audience they were addressing. They would also have scolded the Ottawa fascists for daring to call the squatters "terrorists."
The separatists would have further called a referendum on "self-rule" to protest Ottawa's bossing them around. They would have held the plebiscite with advance notice of less than two weeks, with threats against schoolmistresses who refused to let their schools be seconded as polling stations, with utter confusion by voters as to whether "self-rule" meant secession, more decentralization within Canada, or annexation by Washington, with armed men at polling booths, with no up-to-date voter lists or neutral observers or identity checks to prevent quadruple or 50-fold ballot casting in see-through plastic boxes at different booths.
The results would have been foreordained—in a phonecall tapped by the Communication Security Establishment Canada, in which a handler in Washington told his operative in Alberta that 89% for yes to self-rule would be a nice number to achieve in the province. Marvelously—despite polls that found 70 percent of Albertans preferring to stay in the unitary state of Canada—the yes vote would turn out to have been exactly 89.07 percent.
Within hours of the swiftly-announced results, the self-styled head of the Alberta People's Republic would have appointed "Shooter" as the commander of the APR's new armed forces and called for the APR to join the USA. For its part, the White House would have solemnly promised to respect the expressed will of the people of Alberta.
That's just a conterfactual thought experiment, of course.
A version of this blog was originally posted at https://ip-journal.dgap.org/en/.