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Anti-American Feelings Growing In Canada

by Mark Bourrie

Canada Newest Member of U.S. Enemies' List
(IPS) OTTAWA -- When the chief spokesperson for Canada's prime minister called President George W. Bush a "moron" in November, polls showed that about one-half of people here agreed with her.

On Wednesday, a member of parliament was overheard muttering about "those damned Americans". "I hate those bastards," added Carolyn Parrish, an MP in Prime Minister Jean Chretien's Liberal Party critical of U.S. plans to attack Iraq.

Have Canadians become anti-American?

Author and former journalist Lawrence Martin, who has written several books about Canada-U.S. relations, says Canadians are not opposed to the American people. He notes that they still like to travel across the border, despite a crippling exchange rate between the U.S. and Canadian currencies. Canadians buy U.S. music (while at the same time exporting a steady stream of pop divas south), and prefer U.S. movies and television shows to their own.

The anger, say experts, is based on politics. Relations between the governments of the two countries have fluctuated in the past 50 years, reaching a low point during the Vietnam War when President Richard Nixon was caught on tape calling Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau "that asshole".

Yet when U.S. jetliners were forced to land outside the country after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, people here opened their homes to thousands of displaced passengers. And months after the incident, many Canadian houses still flew the U.S. flag in solidarity with their southern neighbors.

Martin says he believes the tension between Ottawa and Washington results from a clash between U.S. neo-conservatism and Canadian liberalism.

"They're critical of the U.S. because right-wing Republicans control the government," says the former Washington correspondent. "When the Democrats are in power, anti-Americanism is no big deal here. The Democrats are more close to Canadian ethics, which are centrist and liberal."

"When you get the right-wing hordes in power, with their war-mongering, the rhetoric rubs up against Canadians," he said.

Martin says Canada's Liberal government is under pressure to follow Washington's policies "because (a) they're our 'best friends' and (b) they're going to retaliate against Canadian trade".

"But American presidents don't retaliate economically. Even during the toughest years of the Vietnam War, when the U.S. wanted support from Canada, there was no retaliation against Canadian businesses."

Economics could be fuelling some Canadian anger. This week Washington refused to lift a punishing tariff on Canadian lumber, imposed at the insistence of U.S. companies, which has caused huge job losses in rural and northern parts of Canada.

Some Canadians visiting the United States say border guards are treating them roughly, refusing them entry for frivolous reasons, and deliberately delaying crossings. Since Sept. 11, 2002, Canadian trucks have been stuck in traffic jams at U.S. border points while trucks coming into Canada face few backlogs.

Readers here have also seen anti-Canadian articles in conservative U.S. publications.

"You can be sure that if you see a story about Canada in most U.S. newspapers, it's going to be a piece about Canada being a haven for terrorism, or it's going to make us out as weak or naive," one Canadian MP said Thursday.

"Even Hillary Clinton made the mistake of saying the 9/11 terrorists snuck in from Canada," she added.

Martin says he has seen a pattern in the strained relations between Canada and the United States during Republican administrations. For example, Canada has maintained good diplomatic and trade relations with Cuba despite pressure from Republican presidents and conservative members of Congress.

"Most Canadians believe Republican administrations engage in threat inflation. During right-wing administrations, there has to be an enemy and the president has to protect the people from them."

"During the Reagan administration, Reagan actually said the Sandinistas were going to leave Nicaragua, come up through Mexico and attack the U.S. Back then, when Canadians weren't buying the alleged threat of the Sandinistas, and now, when they don't believe Saddam Hussein is a threat to North America, Canadians who oppose U.S. policy are not anti-American. They're against the Republican view of America."

But L. Ian MacDonald, a conservative commentator and former Canadian diplomat in Washington, disagrees. He says Canadians envy U.S. wealth and power, although he admits that the Bush administration has made mistakes that have offended people here.

"It's because they think the terrorism problem is at our border, when it demonstrably isn't. Not one of the terrorist hijackers entered the U.S. through Canada, and every alert since has proven to be a false alarm, unless crossing the border to gas up is now considered terrorism."

But he says, "Canadians don't get it, because even as we live under the protection of the American shield, and live off the profits of trade with them, we resent Americans".

MacDonald and other right-wing commentators believe that the widening gap between the status of living in the two countries adds to "a spirit of envy" in Canada.

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Albion Monitor February 27, 2003 (

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