Dear Famous Canadians,
Canadians behaving badly in the United States – you could practically write a book about the subject, couldn’t you?
There was the time former Toronto mayor Rob Ford was arrested in Miami, mugshot and all. He told a Miami police officer to “go ahead, take me to jail,” and the officer happily did so. Ford was arrested for drunk driving and marijuana possession.
He became mayor of Canada’s largest city anyway.
There were those many times Michael Ignatieff offered commentaries that followed him around like a persistent bad smell. Ignatieff told an American magazine we would all “pay a price” if we banned torture. Or the time he was again at home in Boston and wrote an essay about the George W. Bush administration’s war in Iraq and that “I think they are right on the issue.” Or that famously unhelpful CSPAN interview where he said America was “your country, just as much as it is mine.”
Ignatieff still went on to become leader of the Liberal Party of Canada.
So we’re rather forgiving of Canadians who behave badly when south of the 49th parallel. You can still behave badly and go on to be a big success back home. A psychologist could have a field day with what this says about us.
Recently, we were provided with more examples (alleged and otherwise) of Canadians doing bad things while in America.
There was our governor-general-to-be, Julie Payette, found to have been charged with assault when she lived in the U.S. in 2011. The court files documenting the case, the Toronto Star reported, were gone. “The entire case record has been expunged,” the Star reported. Odd.
It also reported that Payette, behind the wheel of a car, hit a pedestrian in Maryland earlier the same year. The woman, Theresa Potts, was killed. An eight-month police investigation found that Payette was not at fault.
The government of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, which can fairly be presumed to have known about Payette’s assault charge and the fatal collision, appointed her to the post anyway. “She is perfectly aligned with the image that we want to project,” a senior Liberal official told the Globe and Mail. “It’s such a nice nomination.”
And there was Conservative MP Peter Kent, writing in the Wall Street Journal, calling the settlement with Omar Khadr a “cynical subversion of Canadian principles.”
It wasn’t the first time a Tory MP had written an op-ed in the Journal, condemning his own country. Around the time of the Iraq War, Stephen Harper excoriated the Liberal prime minister of the time, Jean Chretien, for declining to join Bush’s insane misadventure. He even called Canadians who opposed the Iraq war “cowards.”
And Harper went on to become prime minister for nearly a decade.
The Conservatives’ Khadr-related fundraising initiative also saw MP Michelle Rempel on Fox News declaring that “Canadians are absolutely outraged about [the $10.5 million settlement and apology Khadr received].” That may be true. But when host Tucker Carlson asked Rempel if the settlement was “a way of giving the finger to the United States,” Rempel apparently didn’t say it wasn’t.
Of this Conservative strategy, Ipsos tells us, more than 70 per cent of Canadians are onside. They’re mad, too, and presumably okay with the likes of Kent and Rempel – and before that, Harper – crapping on their country when in the United States.
They shouldn’t be.
It’s regrettable that it needs to be said but we’ll say it nonetheless: Canadians who behave badly when abroad – driving drunk, or advocating for torture, or allegedly getting in altercations, or simply going on American TV to malign one’s country – shouldn’t.
It’s unfortunate, too, that this also merits saying: prominent Canadians who act like jackasses – or who allegedly commit crimes, or who do unhelpful things whilst in other countries – shouldn’t be rewarded when they come home. They shouldn’t get a collective shrug.
You represent Canada when you aren’t in Canada, famous folks. Stop acting like jerks.
Troy Media columnist Warren Kinsella is a Canadian journalist, political adviser and commentator.
The views, opinions and positions expressed by columnists and contributors are the author’s alone. They do not inherently or expressly reflect the views, opinions and/or positions of our publication.