U.S loses faith in Canada
March 30, 2003 11:41 PM   Subscribe

U.S. loses faith in Canada "We would be there for Canada, part of our family. And that is why so many in the United States are disappointed and upset that Canada is not fully supporting us now," says Paul Cellucci, U.S. ambassador to Canada. As pro-US sentiments from prominent Canadian figures are harshly criticized while blatant (and rather tasteless) anti-US remarks go more or less ignored by the government, has the relationship with our longtime friends up north been irreversibly soured?
posted by swank6 (35 comments total)
Realize that's two National Post posts right near each other, but I'm seriously wondering about how the MeFi Canadians feel. Whether pro-war or anti-war, I think the booing of the US anthem at the hockey game is just wrong... Is the anti-US sentiment more a reflection of the French community (not to mention the French president), or is it really getting ugly between America and Canada?
posted by swank6 at 11:46 PM on March 30, 2003

Cellucci is the dumbest man in the world. His family bankrolled his career in politics because he was too stupid to be successful in their auto dealership.

When I say he's the "dumbest man in the world," I don't mean that he has a tin ear for public opinion or doesn't think before speaking or any of the other things that prompt people to call politicians "dumb." I mean he's really slow. In the head. Like, not very bright.

And yes, I'm from Massachusetts.
posted by Sidhedevil at 11:51 PM on March 30, 2003

We would be there for Canada if what?
posted by rhyax at 12:06 AM on March 31, 2003

Canadian nationalism = bashing America. Secretly, we're just a little jelious and really very nice to work with.

I'm Canadian born and raised and the america bashing aspect of this place has revolted me since I was old enough to notice it.

Increasingly, I'm thinking about giving up and just moving to Manhattan.
posted by Leonard at 12:10 AM on March 31, 2003

Leonard, the last I heard, camworld was considering leaving NYC and moving to Canada. If you guys work out an apartment swap, I'm charging 5% commission. (hmmmm...idea for a web business.....)

Back on topic, I doubted that the Bush Administration was getting desperate about their little war until I saw they had reached the "Blame Canada" stage.

Shouldn't we just Take It to IraqFilter?
I wanted to be the first to say that...
posted by wendell at 12:38 AM on March 31, 2003

Yeah, we would be there if Canada went to war. We'd just come a bit late, maybe a couple of years late. Cough ... WWI & WWII .. cough
posted by MiG at 12:51 AM on March 31, 2003

Ah, the U.S.

Always there for us... like in 1914 and 1939... Or more recently with the softwood lumber dispute, or with subjecting Canadian citizens who happened to have been born in certain countries to humiliating searches at the border.

Speaking for my people, /sarcasm, I can say that we like Americans just fine, we really do, but that your government really scares us at the moment. A lot of people up here are furious at Celluci's presumption and arrogance, and worry that it's symptomatic of the whole administration.
posted by jokeefe at 12:54 AM on March 31, 2003

i'm sure the states would help us out if anyone attacked us, but if canada decided to invade a country with wmd's and in violation of more u.n. resolutions then iraq, like Israel perhaps, i really doubt the states would through their military or verbal weight behind a war the populous and the administration did not endorse.
posted by Aleph Yin at 1:05 AM on March 31, 2003

'...has the relationship with our longtime friends [insert name of yet another country] been irreversibly soured?'

BushCo: Where shall we piss people off today?
posted by i_cola at 1:28 AM on March 31, 2003

Actually, what really gets my goat is this: Chretien claims we're not supporting the Iraq war, yet we have three warships in the Persian Gulf, "exchange" officers on British ships, and crews flying AWACS aircraft. Presumably, should the Iraqis fire on them, they're not going to check our men's backpacks for maple leaves (or Leafs) or their CD collections for the Tragically Hip.

Prediction: Canadian bacon (the food) will become back bacon, just like we call it up here, Canada geese will become freedom geese, and Canadian Bacon (the movie) will become a documentary. Which Michael Moore will win another Oscar for, and irony will be found alive and well.
posted by arto at 1:38 AM on March 31, 2003

Americans don't seem to have much of a problem booing our anthem (2), even after the four Canadians were killed by US fighter pilots in Afghanistan. When I see this disappointment at Canada all I'm really seeing is a bunch of fragile egos and short memories.

And when I see how fashionable it has suddenly become to bash the French it shows how easily many (not all, or hopefully not even most) Americans can be led around by the nose when told whom to hate, and that bothers me greatly.
posted by Space Coyote at 1:50 AM on March 31, 2003

Canada: We're the new Mexico!
posted by mb01 at 2:01 AM on March 31, 2003

Back in teh good old days when our leaders had disagreements they were polite enough to keep it in the realm of political circles, and didn't feel the need to get the public on their side.

We need another Trudeau, though I fear the spectre of George W. Bush might be too much for such a man to handle.
posted by Space Coyote at 2:20 AM on March 31, 2003

Just to answer your original question swank6, strong anti american sentiment is not at all confined to French Canada. When I went back home to visit Canada (Nova Scotia), there was a VERY strong anti American sentiment in the air. That even went for people who are generally pretty conservative and those who make their living exporting to the US.

Still, it's not so much that Canadians despise Americans as people as that a lot of people despise almost everything the Bush administration says or does. Particularly the war in Iraq, but also on a whole mess of other issues.

It's largely a question of sleeping next to the elephant. We like it to sleep soundly, not thrash around and trumpet loudly. And Bush and company are thrashing and trumpeting very loudly indeed.

And by the way, Chretien isn't the Canadian president, he's the prime minister. Fairly big difference.
posted by datadawg at 2:42 AM on March 31, 2003

Of all the stupid things the Bushies have been up to lately, strong-arming Canada has got to be the stupidest. Granted that there's more to international relations than trying to become popular, but it's like they're actively trying to piss off every single country on earth. I just don't get this at all.
posted by Zonker at 3:48 AM on March 31, 2003

Swank6: Is the anti-US sentiment more a reflection of the French community (not to mention the French president), or is it really getting ugly between America and Canada?

I just fielded a question from my sister concerning anti-American sentiment. She has plans to visit Paris (both me and the city) in two weeks and is worried about the welcome she will receive. I have experienced no anti-American sentiment directed toward me personally since returning to France from the pro-CNN island of Montserrat. Are the majority of French citizens in disagreement with the policies of the current American administration? You bet your ass. Booing another nation's anthem or renaming a spuriously named product is a gutteral response to express a lack of agreement, at times poignant but mostly useless. (Personally, I've been wondering how long Canadian sentiment was going to go unnoticed in the with us-against us eqaution.)

I just want to add that I love Canada and France and the US and Scotland and any other place from where my ancestors crawled out from under a rock. I also happen to love Berlin, Amsterdam and Copenhagen but that's more about the sausages, cakes, beer, architecture and design.
posted by Dick Paris at 4:10 AM on March 31, 2003

There was this guy driving on Main Avenue. He was listening to the radio when he heard a special announcement:
"Warning to everyone planning to drive through Main street: apparently there's a lunatic driving in the wrong lane - please be careful until the police manage to pull him over".
The guy looks around him and says:
"Hah! Only one they say?! There's hundreds of them!"
posted by talos at 4:16 AM on March 31, 2003

has the relationship with our longtime friends up north been irreversibly soured?

you mean it was actually sweet at some point...? seems it's really never been anything but a tenuous half dialogue.

Secretly, we're just a little jelious [sic]

speak for yourself. i've lived and worked in both countries and wouldn't go back to the states if my life depended on it. more than anything my overriding feeling towards america is sympathy but, as of late, that's often trumped by disgust.

semi-aside: cbc did a series of streeters asking americans how they feel about canada not joining them in iraq and overwhelmingly these folks said they were disappointed after everything the united states has done for canada *sigh* sometimes it just seems like the entire usa is comprised of nothing but "street smarts" contestants.
posted by t r a c y at 4:22 AM on March 31, 2003

The most significant historical failures of the United States to "be there" for Canada were World War I and World War II. In 1939 Canada declared war on the (real) Axis of Evil and the US didn't join the war until three years later. More than 42,000 Canadians died in that war, per capita a higher number than American losses. I cannot think of clearer threat to democracy and Western civilization than Nazi Germany, yet there was a strong belief in the US that the country should not be involved, and no small amount of sympathy to Hitler and fascism among the US political and business right.

The Canadian political and economic elite have close ties to the US. The Liberal Party of Canada, which is the ruling party right now, contains a wide range of opinion on many things, including the United States. Many members of cabinet, most significantly deputy Prime Minister John Manely, are considered "hawkish" and very pro-American. Paul Martin, who will likely be the next PM, is also considered quite pro-American.

Blatant anti-Canadian remarks by American media pundits go ignored by the US government. Most prominent of these are Tucker Carlson on CNN (who jokes about bombing Canada), Bill O'Reilly (who is boycotting Quebec), Rush Limbaugh (who says Canada isn't a real country), and Pat Buchanan; they toss off comments as if they had no consequence.

On April 22 the Canadian national anthem was booed from beginning to end by Detroit Pistons fans on the day funerals began for the four Canadian soldiers killed when an American F-16 mistakenly bombed Canadian troops in Afghanistan.

Most Canadians (80% or so) have relatives in the US, myself included. My partner is an American and I have several American friends. However, there is significant fear and anger about the Bush administration's policies, and Bush himself is not liked here by anyone who I have spoken to, though I am sure someone likes him.

There is still a significant minority of Canadians who think Canada should be more like the US, and will use this sort of comment by Cellucci to beat the rest of us over the head.

The problem I have with Cellucci's comments is that all he is doing is threatening us: do what the US wants or there will be economic consequences. This sort of bullying appears to be the last resort when moral and rational arguments have failed, and most Canadians see it for what it is. The threat rings hollow: over the past few years the US and Canada have been in a trade dispute over softwood lumber, and Canada's support for the "War of Terrorism" hasn't helped resolve that conflict and several others one bit.

Since the end of the Cold War there has always been an unease, in Canada and in most other places in the world, over American power. Since September 11th there is a perception that American behavior has changed to become more aggressive, xenophobic, and righteous.
posted by tranquileye at 4:43 AM on March 31, 2003

Heh, it's not just Canada.

The U.S. ambassador in Australia, Tom Scheiffer, has been inserting himself into the domestic political debate over the war, even though Australia's already sent troops.

Maybe it's State Department policy. Keep 'em in line.

Later in the morning Schieffer appeared on Channel Seven. He declared that "some of the rhetoric that has come out of this debate over the last week is very personal, very emotional and hopefully will be just something that, when people get a chance to reflect on it, [they] will realise it is not very helpful to the relationship". True. But it is not the proper role of the diplomat to comment publicly on national politics.
posted by bright cold day at 4:52 AM on March 31, 2003

Well said, tranquileye. Thank you.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 4:58 AM on March 31, 2003

Canada's pretty equally divided between the pro camp, afraid to piss off the Americans because, well, our economy virtually depends upon friendly relations, and the anti camp, angered that we're virtually ignored by the US despite being their #2 supplier of oil (1.6 billion barrels per day, compared to Saudi Arabia's 1.8 billion), for instance.

It seems Americans today think of Canada as an appendage, whereas Canadians always have looked at the Americans as a potential threat. The only country to have invaded or threatened to invade Canada is the United States. And I'm not just talking about 1812. Manifest Destiny in the 1840s, the post-Civil War rumblings that forced us into Confederation, "54-40 or bust" in 1902, even the possibility the US would join with Germany in the Great War. I'm not 100% convinced the US would have entered WW2 against Germany had Hitler not declared war in support of his Japanese partners. These days the threat is economic, cultural, and political, but it's just as intimidating.

Here's the perception today: The current American administration doesn't give a damn about Canada. On 9/11, where do you think all those redirected airplanes landed? What country was first to respond, and provided the most assistance? And what country did Bush completely forget to thank? We are your closest allies - our military forces are integrated far more than any others - yet the US had dismissed any suggestion or advice from Canada regarding how to proceed with Iraq. Here's a quote from a commentary this weekend on the subject: "Good citizens - and good friends - oppose bad policies. By telling you the truth, they strive to save you from folly. They may be mistaken, but they are not your enemies. " Instead of considering the opinions of their very nearest and dearest friends, they've put us on the wrong side of "you're either with us or against us".

But I suspect the root of this problem is far more simple, and far less ominous. The current Prime Minister is a Liberal (slightly left of the Democrats), and the current President is a Republican (slightly right of our Alliance party). When it's a Republican-Conservative/Alliance or Liberal/Democrat matchup, relations tend to be favourable (the Reagan/Mulroney lovefest that produced free trade, for instance). When they don't align, things get nasty (Nixon calling Trudeau an "asshole" and a "son of a bitch"; Trudeau responding with "I've been called worse things by better people."). Canada didn't lose anything by not supporting the US in Vietnam, and didn't gain anything by supporting the US in the first Gulf War. I suspect relations will improve in February, when pro-business Paul Martin takes over as PM here.

(oh, and as for supporting the war in Iraq, the Canadian military is already stretched pretty thin dealing with Afghanistan, and could barely provide moral support in Iraq. right now. We've got two ships in the Gulf sharing a single Sea King helicopter, because the rest aren't fit to fly.)
posted by GhostintheMachine at 5:14 AM on March 31, 2003

I'm Canadian. The booing of the American National Anthem was wrong, but it was just as wrong when American's have booed the Canadian National Anthem in the past. For the record I'm anti-war but pro-troops.

Canada was there for the U.S. on and after September 11th. Canada provided shelter and refuge for all the aircraft that had been routed out of American airspace. Canada sent troops to Afghanistan and even saved American lives with world record sniper shots in combat.

Why do I personally feel that there has been a change in the level of support? Simply because the Al-Queda in Afghanistan were a clear and present danger. They needed to be routed out to protect both American interests as well as other countries. The onus was on President Bush to prove that Iraq was a credible imminent threat that needed dealing with. He didn't though, he fabricated information, used gross exaggeration and also worked very hard to make people see him as a cowboy with "You're either for us, or against us" and other jingoistic slogans.

His deceits regarding weapons of mass destruction didn't sway opinion so he then claims it's for the Iraqi people. I agree that Saddam is a vile and ruthless man and that him and his government should be destroyed. In order to do this however there needs to be more than bombing campaigns and invasions. There needs to be a real investment in money, think of the Marshal Act to restore Germany and Japan, which hasn't been seen. In fact recently (sorry, I can't find the reference) the president forgot to include 300 million for Afghanistan's reconstruction in his budget.

Here's the way I see the war at this point. There were probably justified reasons to kill Saddam. Bush didn't choose any of them, or at least didn't choose to make any real effort to prove any of them. Bush's stance is that Iraq has weapons of mass destruction and will use it's first opportunity to use them against the US or even it's own citizens. If this is true, and the war is in retrospect justified on these grounds, then when you look back on this war in the history books you will see that the taking of Baghdad took a tremendous toll on both Coalition forces and Iraqi citizens. In the 23rd hour Saddam will have unleashed weapons of mass destruction in Baghdad, resisting the Coalition to the bitter end. He's been painted as a psychopath with no respect for human life (probably true) willing to use his arsenal of chemical and biological weapons (probably nonexistent without stretching the meaning of these words) against anybody, including his own citizens.

The second part would have been easily proved. President Bush could have set aside money to rebuild a stable Iraq but he hasn't.

Instead of trying to prove anything he's resorting to threatening economic consequences.
posted by substrate at 5:29 AM on March 31, 2003

One other aside, I don't think Canadians hate Americans. I don't think Americans hate Canadians. I think there are some stupid people who will boo a National Anthem, who will resort to jingoism and sheep who will follow them. I believe that members of the Canadian government have behaved very unprofessionaly, but I also believe that the same can be said for the American government.
posted by substrate at 5:33 AM on March 31, 2003

When I was in Vancouver last month during the peace really on Feb 15, I noticed most of the people protested Mr. Bush and Mr. Blair, not the American or British people.

It sickens me as an American that a representative of my government would make threats against Canada.

As Ghost's post stated, the only real country that is a threat to Canada's security is the US [and always has been].

If some government invaded Canada, the US would be there in a second to help Canada defend itself. The reason would be self-serving since the US would really defending itself from whatever army that invaded Canada.

Booing another countries' national anthem is juvenile. I would expect that in a middle school game but not an event that "grown ups" attend. Then again, humanity has been pretty disappointing lately.
posted by birdherder at 6:05 AM on March 31, 2003

As a Canadian, I don't hate Americans, as that is a ridiculous concept. Like almost everyone, I have friends and relatives there. That said, I do hate George W, and like others, hope that Americans don't vote him in a second term (imagine the consequences ~ ~ shudder ~ ~). I also think that Mr. Cellucci was a tad out of line, but as he says, it came right from the top, so that brings us back . . .

Canadian's have always had a negative identity, i.e. Canadians are what they are not - American. That isn't a slur against our "closest freinds and allies," rather a mechanism of sorting out where they fit in. Also, just like not all Americans hate the French, not all Canadians hate America.
posted by Quartermass at 6:17 AM on March 31, 2003

Canadian's have always had a negative identity, i.e. Canadians are what they are not - American.

Quartermass, I have to disagree with that. I think that's one of the myths that Canadians repeat about themselves, and that it is simply untrue. I tend more to agree with John Ralston Saul, who says it better than I could :

"But on the other hand, I think that it's worth taking an extra step back from that idea of the American mythology and to stress that the American mythology is not really American at all. It's actually European.

The fundamental problem is that it's much more complex than believing we are the inferior party on this continent and that we only came into existence because we didn't want to be American. This is one of the garbage arguments that people like Donald Creighton are responsible for, which is totally untrue when you look at what Canadians were saying in the 1830s, '40s and '50s. People imagined the country. LaFontaine and Baldwin had very clear ideas about what they were doing. The movement was a positive movement, not a negative movement, and it wasn't a British imperial movement either. We weren't doing this for the Queen. We had an idea of what we could do here, and it was very different from what the British might have imagined.

You need to step back from this idea that we exist as a negative reflection of the United States and always did—the idea that they are the real American experiment and that's why their mythology dominates this continent. The United States isn't American at all. The United States is the perfect child of Europe. It's the European nation state as dreamt of in the eighteenth and nineteenth century: monolithic, the notion of manifest destiny, the drive to conquer anybody who gets in your way, sacred borders, the whole structure of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. All of this is the North American adaptation of ideas that came from Rousseau and Locke."
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 6:30 AM on March 31, 2003

I'm sorry, but isn't the Bush administration calling it a "Coalition of the Willing"? Not a 'Coalition of the Un-Willing' or the 'Semi-Willing'? And didn't Mr. Bush say that he felt so strongly about the dangers posed by Iraq that he was willing to "go it alone", if necessary?

So why does the U.S. government continue to bitch and whine when countries decide to sit this one out?

I also have friends and relatives in the U.S. Like a lot of people in Canada, we support and enjoy our links with the United States. However, the resentment most people here feel is not directed towards ordinary citizens, but the American government.

Even if the Canadian government were to come out now and support American actions, I have a feeling that the same people in parliament who've been criticizing the Liberals (Ie: the Canadian Alliance party), would then start to complain that Canada lacks the military equipment and personnel to adequately participate. Refer to GhostintheMachine's comments on our Sea King helicopters.
posted by Caffine_Fiend at 6:51 AM on March 31, 2003

It's not the Canadian people, it's the Jean Chretien regime!

And that one will definitely go away all by itself, no need for a blitz on Ottawa :-)
posted by clevershark at 7:02 AM on March 31, 2003

semi-aside: cbc did a series of streeters asking americans how they feel about canada not joining them in iraq and overwhelmingly these folks said they were disappointed after everything the united states has done for canada *sigh* sometimes it just seems like the entire usa is comprised of nothing but "street smarts" contestants.

I'm somewhat late to this one, but I'd like to note that these street polls are probably not purely random. I expect the pollsters were trying to make a point and found a bunch of silly people to back them up (never hard to do in any country, although I concede the possibility that it may be a little easier here). I saw a great example of this on the BBC news site the other week, where the most unreasoned and "american" quotes possible were used, with absolutely no relief.

I usually assume this goes without saying, but seeing "entire usa" set me off.

I'm from the U.S. but I went to McGill, so a lot of my best friends are Canadian. In fact I'm considering moving there (I don't expect the economy to do much better of course, but at least the civil liberties assault isn't nearly as far along), although I am a little nervous about anti-American backlash. I secretly wonder whether some small part of the impressive strength of the peace rallies in Canada comes from the opportunity to gather together and bash America. Not that much, just a little. I even understand it. Maybe I'm a little sensitive because of the nationalism I remember as a student there (when relations were much better, of course).
posted by bigschmoove at 7:07 AM on March 31, 2003

Canadian's have always had a negative identity, i.e. Canadians are what they are not - American.

I have to agree very much with what stravos has said in reply to this, so I won't go into repeating lots of it. I'm a military brat (USCG) who has bounced all over the US before ending up in university in southern Ontario. I have an ancestral home in Antogonish, Nova Scotia but I consider myself a Mainer. I don't know if this gives a sort of unusual perspective on things, but I think even just one year here has given me alot to think about.

Like was described about, I am strongly anti-war but pro-troops, but I'm also much more socialist-leaning than capitalist. I think these are the things that keeps me from getting more flak from my classmates than I already do. Though I have close friends now who tease me about how "we like you even though you're a dirty American" my whole first semester was having to deal with meeting after meeting going sour after my country of origin was revealed.

The air of anger and disgust toward actions of the American gov't around the world is very very strong among the youth on my campus, and I think it's really only my liberal upbringing and own anger toward said actions that shields me from from feeling outright guilty for the sneers at CNN in the cafeteria and all the statements I overhear.

I'm not saying that every single person I meet automatically dislikes me for my country of origin, some are very interested and most visibly relax after they realize I'm not like their stereotypical American (or at least that I'm trying very hard not to be). And I'm extremely happy to be in Canada, and I have some super friendships. But it's an overwhelming feeling to know how easy it is for people to judge me, and make me think very very hard about all the times I've done this myself. I definately think going to university in another coutnry will have a distinct impact on who I "grow up" to be.

(I also think it's interesting the sheer number of times the War of 1812 is brought up, and how Canada burned the captial and oh-ho isn't it funny that your National Anthem is about us sacking Baltimore? What the heck is up with that?)
posted by nelleish at 7:17 AM on March 31, 2003

'...has the relationship with our longtime friends [insert name of yet another country] been irreversibly soured?'
No, I don't think so...keeping in mind that what Governments say in public is usually for domestic consumption. We don't know what they're saying in private because it's secret. I have more respect for the Canadian viewpoint than the French/German/Russian/Chinese because Canada doesn't have the conflict of interest those countries have. Canada can be for peace and mean it, while the others gave lip service as they continued to rearm Iraq. Canada is a cool place with good people and I don't know anyone who expects them to be clones of us or any other country,
posted by Mack Twain at 7:57 AM on March 31, 2003

nelleish - re: War of 1812. It's the last time the US actively tried to conquer Canada. People tend to remember those instances, no matter how remote. How long do you think it will be before Americans forget the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbour, for instance? No matter how close your friendship becomes, it's still something you remember when you're on the receiving end. As for the anthem, well, if your Canadian friends are pissing you off about that, ask them to explain the French lyrics to O Canada, with all the swords and crosses. It's every bit as amusing (which is to say, hardly at all). National anthems are twaddle, and should never be examined too closely.

And don't take the anti-americanism too personally. There's a streak of regionalism in Canada that's every bit as nasty as our nationalism. Just get any westerner or Maritimer or Quebecois to give their opinion of Torontonians, for example, then step back. Apparently, we just like to bitch about our neighbours.
posted by GhostintheMachine at 8:45 AM on March 31, 2003

Not to get too technical, but for everyone throwing around the War of 1812 references, Canada did not become an independent country until confederation in 1867. So the much discussed war between Canada and the U.S. is really a war between the United States and Britain that happened to be fought between a British colony and a former British colony.

Surprisingly, the U.S. seems to have forgiven the British for the whole revolution/ repeated wars and are today "best buds". I'm sure that future Canadian-American relations will be no exception.
posted by Caffine_Fiend at 11:02 AM on March 31, 2003

As a Masshole, I would like to apologize for Paul Cellucci. During a debate in the 1998 gubernatorial race, he shouted at his opponent, "You can't handle the truth!" He was roundly cheered for this, but many others wondered exactly what kind of truth he was hiding from us...
posted by swerve at 8:14 PM on March 31, 2003

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