Washington: the Fidel Castro of his day?

Patience, Canadians have found, has its limits. A mild and tolerant people, loath to act in haste, they have decided, after a wait of 200 years, that the time has come to demand justice, to reclaim stolen lands from the United States of America.

Two Canadian members of parliament plan to introduce a bill in Ottawa's House of Commons next month seeking restitution from the US of property seized in 1776 by George Washington's revolutionary courts. As many as three million descendants of the 80,000 United Empire Loyalists who fled north after the American War of Independence will be entitled, under the bill's provisions, "to reclaim land that is rightfully theirs and was confiscated unjustly and illegally by the American government and its citizens".

The bill's architects, John Godfrey and Peter Milliken, have each cheerfully confessed to a personal interest in the bill. Mr Godfrey's ancestors owned a house in Williamsburg, Virginia; Mr Milliken's owned lush farmland in New York state.

What initially goaded the MPs into action, however, was patriotic pride. In February this year, President Bill Clinton signed a bill virtually identical to theirs, the difference being that it concerned American property confiscated during the Cuban Revolution of 1959. The new law allows US citizens to sue foreign companies that have since established businesses on the confiscated properties.

As a further punitive measure, the law says that executives of the offending companies and their families are to be banned from entering the US. The State Department has already black-listed nine executives of a Canadian mining company, two of them British nationals.

Mimicking the US's Helms-Burton Law, named after the two Republican senators who introduced it, the Godfrey-Milliken bill would deny entry visas to the American corporate chiefs who "traffic" in confiscated Canadian property. The spouses and children of such persons, the bill specifies, would also be excluded from Canada.

It remains to be seen whether Godfrey-Milliken will itself pass into law and receive what in Canadian parliamentary jargon they call "the Royal assent".

In the meantime the two MPs' initiative has been received with delight by their peers and the Canadian public alike. An aide to Mr Godfrey said the beauty of the bill was that it conveyed Canada's displeasure at Helms- Burton - a displeasure shared by the European Union - while exposing the fatuous jingoism behind a law which seeks to extend US jurisdiction beyond US boundaries.

Applauding the bill, a columnist in Canada's Financial Post wrote: "There is only one way to deal with idiocy and idiots. It is not force, it is not threats, it is not anger. The only effective response is ridicule." The writer was perhaps exaggerating the sense of humour of the likes of Jesse Helms and Dan Burton, neither of whom is quite reconciled yet to the fact that the Cold War is over. It might be asking too much of them, for example, to grasp the barbed analogy between Fidel Castro and George Washington, the Cuban Revolution and the American one.

Which may explain the distinctly unamused response of Mr Helms, whose staff huffily pointed out in that in fact the US had already compensated those whose property had been taken away in 1776.

Not so, according to Mr Godfrey, whose brainchild the bill was. The Treaty of Paris of 1783 between Britain and the United States provided for "the restitution of all Estates, Rights and Properties, which have been confiscated". Mr Godfrey, a former professor of history, has noted that while British merchants were repaid pounds 600,000 in outstanding debts, the US failed to make good on its commitment to the 80,000 exiles who refused to be shaken in their loyalty to King George III.

Stubborn to this day, still loyal to Queen Elizabeth II, Canada, at long last, is demanding satisfaction.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Voices
There will be a chance to bid for a rare example of the SAS Diary, collated by a former member of the regiment in the aftermath of World War II but only published – in a limited run of just 5,000 – in 2011
charity appealTime is running out to secure your favourite lot as our auction closes at 2pm tomorrow
Arts and Entertainment
Caroline Flack became the tenth winner of Strictly Come Dancing
tvReview: 'Absolutely phenomenal' Xtra Factor presenter wins Strictly Come Dancing final
Life and Style
A still from the 1939 film version of Margaret Mitchell's 'Gone with the Wind'
life
Arts and Entertainment
J Jefferson Farjeon at home in 1953
booksBooksellers say readers are turning away from modern thrillers and back to golden age of crime writing
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Sport
Amir Khan is engaged in a broader battle than attempting to win a fight with Floyd Mayweather
boxing Exclusive: Amir Khan reveals plans to travel to Pakistan
News
Stacey Dooley was the only woman to be nominated in last month’s Grierson awards
mediaClare Balding and Davina McCall among those overlooked for Grierson awards
Voices
Joseph Kynaston Reeves arguing with Russell Brand outside the RBS’s London offices on Friday
voicesDJ Taylor: The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a worker's rant to Russell Brand
News
Twitchers see things differently, depending on their gender
scienceNew study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
News
i100
News
Xander van der Burgt, at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew
scienceA Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
Arts and Entertainment
British actor Idris Elba is also a DJ and rapper who played Ibiza last summer
film
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Finance Director

£65000 - £80000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Finance Director required to jo...

Recruitment Genius: Medico-Legal Assistant

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a unique opportunity fo...

Ashdown Group: (PHP / Python) - Global Media firm

£50000 per annum + 26 days holiday,pension: Ashdown Group: A highly successful...

The Jenrick Group: Quality Inspector

£27000 per annum + pension + holidays: The Jenrick Group: A Quality Technician...

Day In a Page

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

The 12 ways of Christmas

We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

The male exhibits strange behaviour

A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'
Marian Keyes: The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment

Marian Keyes

The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef creates an Italian-inspired fish feast for Christmas Eve

Bill Granger's Christmas Eve fish feast

Bill's Italian friends introduced him to the Roman Catholic custom of a lavish fish supper on Christmas Eve. Here, he gives the tradition his own spin…
Liverpool vs Arsenal: Brendan Rodgers is fighting for his reputation

Rodgers fights for his reputation

Liverpool manager tries to stay on his feet despite waves of criticism
Amir Khan: 'The Taliban can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'

Amir Khan attacks the Taliban

'They can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'
Michael Calvin: Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick