Secret Life of Canada

Why did Canadians volunteer to fight in the Vietnam War?

Is the Canada/U.S. border really the “longest undefended border” in the world? The Secret Life of Canada looks into this question and many more in their latest episode: The Medicine Line.

A brief history of line-crossing between Canada and the United States

Canadian Rob McSorley (left), seen here in 1970 with two members of his U.S. Army 'Ranger' regiment, was among an estimated 12,000 Canadians that served in combat roles in Vietnam. (L Company Ranger 75th Infantry Archives)

Is the boundary between Canada and the U.S. really the "longest undefended border" in the world? What are some of the lesser-known reasons that people have crossed this human-drawn line?

In the latest episode of The Secret Life of Canada — The Medicine Line — co-hosts Leah Simone-Bowen and Falen Johnson look the long and complex history of the Canada/U.S. border and how its creation impacted the environment and Indigenous communities who live on the line.

Also, as American draft dodgers came north to Canada to evade government-mandated service in the Vietnam War, why did thousands of Canadians head the opposite direction to serve voluntarily?

The slash cuts through the forest eastward into Glacier National Park clearly defining the border between Canada and the U.S. Photo taken Aug. 22, 2007, north of Polebridge, Mont. (The Associated Press)

What you'll hear this episode:

  • An immersive introduction to "The Medicine Line" — an imperceptible boundary known to the Lakota and other Indigenous people. 
  • How the Americans and the British decided where the border between the U.S. and Canada should be. Plus, a clause in Jay's Treaty that wasn't equally recognized by both sides. 
  • What is the slash, and how does it maintains the divide between the U.S. and Canada? (Note: this slash has nothing to do with Guns N' Roses.)
  • The environmental impact of the border. A case study on salmon migration, courtesy of Mitchell Moffit and Gregory Brown of AsapSCIENCE and the Sidenote podcast
  • An incredibly brief history of the Vietnam War. (We're talking three minutes plus a couple bites of beef patty.)
  • Why Canadian volunteers went south to fight for the U.S. even as American draft dodgers came north to evade the same war in Vietnam. 


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