has been doing a lot of apologising recently for views on the present world situation its citizens, elected officials and civil servants have been caught1
espousing on- or off the record. While the Great White North "enjoys" a unique geographical, economic and military relationship with the key implementers of the New World Order
, it is one that often leaves many non-American North Americans alienated and wondering if, sometime back during the negotiation of the FTAA (or maybe as far back as NATO), we missed our chance to opt out.2 Margaret Atwood
put it neatly in her disarming, offputting manner:
Canada as a separate but dominated country has done about as well under the U.S. as women, worldwide, have done under men; about the only position they've ever adopted toward us, country to country, has been the missionary position, and we were not on top.
This latest wave of (reported) Anti-American
sentiment got off with a bang shortly after
"the tragic events of September 11th
" when Professor Sunera Thobani
of UBC's Department of Women's Studies said to an audience at a conference
that "the path of U.S. foreign policy is soaked in blood
and "the American nation that Bush is invoking is a people which is blood thirsty, vengeful and calling for blood.
" Motions for censure, calls for termination of tenure and more than a few death threats followed contextless citation and print publication of these remarks, panned in the press as hateful, destructive, offensive and inappropriate (as opposed to, say, erroneous or factually incorrect.)4
Though frankness and honesty can be refreshing, the potential for reprisal from those unwilling to recognise a grey area between "either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists" kept traps largely clapped shut for quite a while. But drop by drop, fluid pressure builds up at floodgates, threatening ships of state with loosened lips.
Wednesday, November 20th, 2002 a leak sprung and someone got wet. Françoise Ducros, communications director to Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chrétien, was caught making an aside to a colleague at a NATO summit meeting in Prague. The aside was "what a moron." What was so scandalous (well, impolitic) about the remark was its subject - George W. Bush, the US head of state5, pushing for foreign support against Iraq's transgressions. After a small furor in which members of the international press seemed unable to distinguish comments made by the PM's aide from the personal and official party positions held by Chrétien, Ducros resigned from her position - her former boss apologising for her remark, saying about Bush "He is a friend of mine.... He's not a moron at all, he's a friend. My personal relations with the president are extremely good." Fortunately for all, the media tuned out before Jean could go into any further detail regarding his "personal relations" with the President.6
(About this time Pat Buchanan proves that Bush hardly has a state monopoly on moronity, characterising the Dominion to the north as Soviet Canuckistan. Both sides take a break from the mud-flinging to wash up.)
Just last week the gaffes continued, for the first time emerging from the mouth of a Member of Parliament - backbencher Liberal MP Carolyn Parrish, representing Mississauga (and perhaps also the views of her constituents there?) left her mouth open at the end of a media scrum on "Canada's diplomatic initiative on Iraq", after she figured all the recording equipment had been turned off, and something ugly fell out and was caught on tape:
"Damn Americans. I hate those bastards."
CLUNK. Not long after, she revised her unfairly blanket statement and clarified that it was only eight or nine Americans she was referring to. Good save!
However, for these and other occasions where apologies from Canadians towards the United States have been inadequate, too slow to arrive, or non-existent, a multipurpose apology has been drafted: circulating these past few days on the e-mail forward lists, the following text (to which this was all mere legitimising preamble), ostensibly7 penned by Canadian comic Rick Mercer (famous for his Talking to Americans segment on the comedy newsprogram This Hour Has 22 Minutes and infamous for the notorious Jean Poutine incident contained therein)...
A Canadian Apology
On behalf of Canadians everywhere I'd like to offer an apology to the United States of America. We haven't been getting along very well recently and for that, I am truly sorry. I am sorry we called George Bush a moron. He is a moron but... it wasn't nice of us to point it out. If it's any consolation, the fact that he's a moron shouldn't reflect poorly on the people of America. After all, it's not like you actually elected him.
1 This is not to say that we have been apologising for having disparaging views towards (the foreign policy of) our largest trading partner (and onetime co-custodian of the world's longest undefended border); rather we are saying sorry more for being clumsy enough to be caught so duplicitously holding such rude opinions of the holders of the pocketbooks motivating 85% of our economy. Remember: the customer is always right. Until they're out of earshot.
I'm sorry about our softwood lumber. Just because we have more trees than you doesn't give us the right to sell you lumber that's cheaper and better than your own.
I am sorry we beat you in Olympic hockey. In our defense I guess our excuse would be that our team was much, much, much, MUCH better than yours.
I am sorry that we burnt down your White House during the War of 1812. I notice you've rebuilt it. It's very nice!
I'm sorry about your beer. I know we had nothing to do with your beer but we feel your pain.
I'm sorry about waffling on Iraq. I mean - you're going up against a crazed dictator, you wanna have friends by your side. I realise it took more than two years before you guys pitched in against Hitler, but that was different - everyone knew he had weapons.
And finally on behalf of all Canadians: I'm sorry that we're constantly apologising for things in a passive-aggressive way which is a thinly veiled criticism. I sincerely hope that you're not upset over this. We've seen what you do to countries you get upset with.
2 It's as though Lester B. Pearson hadn't realised that peacekeeping would involve bombing so many brown people in the upkeep of military-industrial complex and multinational corporate interests.
3 This is not to gloat or point fingers: the very next line in her speech "We Are All Americans" continues, "And other countries in the West, including shamefully, Canada, cannot line up fast enough behind it."
4 Come to think of it, this may not be the best point from which to elaborate on apologies for insensitive remarks from Canadians because, as far as I can tell, no one has yet managed to get an apology out of her. Even if they were to succeed in so doing, I suspect it would take the form of the slippery Grade 3 underhanded apology: "Mrs. Hamilton! Dylan called me a dickwad!" "Dylan, tell Jeff you're sorry." "Jeff, I'm sorry... THAT YOU'RE A DICKWAD!"
5 As Mercer also notes - I would refer to him as President, but the holder of that title is customarily democratically elected. A hereditary or appointed (or both in this case?) head of state is something that us Commonwealth countries find a lot easier to swallow 8)
6 An old international trade relations joke here: Jean Chrétien and Bill Clinton in an old rowboat, spending a few minutes together fishing during some downtime at some summit or another. Bill stands up by the side of the boat, unzips his fly and starts urinating into the lake, when some fish - likely a relative of the candiru - attracted by the sound of the piss hitting the surface leaps up out of the water, fixes its mouth around Willie's generative member and starts nibbling. No Secret Service men in sight, Clinton tries in vain to remove the slimy critter with his bare hands. Shrinking away, without his wife and an Inuit sculpture at hand8 Chrétien is powerless to quell the grisly spectacle unfolding before him. Yelling and swearing up a storm, the leader of the free world grabs an oar and starts bonking it against the fish's head - eventually breaking something, if only its resolve, as sooner or later the fish's mouth lets go and it falls down back into the water. Finding no permanent damage to his hot news item, Clinton hefts the oar and says to Chrétien, "Ha! Let's see you do that!"
"... well, all right, Bill, but I don't want you to hit me on da head wit' dat paddle."
7Altusmens says Thought I'd mention that the joke was spoken on a recent episode of 22 Minutes by Colin Mochrie. Can't say for sure who originally penned it; I suppose Mercer is as good a guess as any.Further research reveals that the sketch is confirmed as at least having been performed by Colin Mochrie in the persona of reporter Anthony St. George.
8 Late November 5th, 1995 24 Sussex Drive - the official residence of the Prime Minister of Canada - was broken into at night by one André Dallaire, armed with a pocket knife. Eluding all three of the RCMP officers stationed outside the residence's official entrance, he managed to penetrate into the residence where he encountered Aline Chrétien, the PM's wife, who sounded an alarm. The couple held him at bay with a stone-and-ivory Inuit carving until the RCMP arrived, six or seven minutes later.