International Papers

The Ugly Canadian

On Wednesday, at the end of a “media scrum” about Iraq, Canadian Liberal MP Carolyn Parrish was captured by TV cameras saying, “Damn Americans. I hate those bastards.” When Daniel Leblanc, a reporter from Toronto’s Globe and Mail asked her to explain the remark, she threatened to restrict journalists’ parliamentary access if it was reported, telling him, “If you guys want to keep the privilege of working in that area without being held back, I would be very careful with this one.” The press ignored her attempted intimidation and publicized the remarks. Later in the day, Parrish released a statement apologizing for comments made “in the heat of the moment. … My comments do not reflect my personal opinion of the American people and they certainly do not reflect the views of the government of Canada.” On Thursday, she made a formal apology in the House of Commons and sent a letter of apology to Paul Cellucci, the U.S. ambassador to Canada.

Several commentators mocked Parrish’s claim that her comments “do not reflect my personal opinion.” “Was she channelling someone else’s thoughts, then? Saddam Hussein’s? What sort of apology is it to say your mouth doesn’t talk to your brain?” asked the Globe and Mail. The National Post echoed, “But then whose opinion was it? It is difficult to understand how, exactly, Ms. Parrish expects us to believe that her statement of disdain for 280 million ‘bastards’ was out of keeping with her general attitude, especially when her initial reaction was not to apologize but to churlishly threaten reporters that their parliamentary access might be restricted if they reported on it.”

The papers reminded readers that last November, Jean Chrétien’s communications director, Françoise Ducros, was forced to resign after she called President George W. Bush a “moron” in front of reporters. For the Calgary Herald and the National Post, among others, this exposed an anti-American tendency within the Liberal Party. The National Post thundered: “As we have lamented here often, there is a streak of latent anti-Americanism that permeates much of the federal Liberal caucus. But for Carolyn Parrish … the latency is absent.” The editorial concluded, “Senior Liberals must … recognize how damaging it is for Canada’s international reputation to have government representatives putting their provincialism and ignorance on display.”

The Toronto Star noted that Parrish “revels in her reputation as a scrapper, unafraid to play the rebel in the Liberal party. But the … MP’s latest cranky outburst is embarrassing to all Canadians, not just the federal government.” The Star said Parrish should act on her threat to quit the ruling Liberal Party and sit as an independent: “She has hurt her party and her country with her insensitive remarks and given ammunition to those Americans who think Canadians are whiny, ungrateful neighbours who only take easy potshots.”

An op-ed in the Globe and Mail doubted “very much that the vast majority of Canadians feel even remotely this way. There may be a great many Canadians who disagree with America, particularly over the race to war against Iraq, but few would stand and damn Americans as a people and call them ‘bastards’ worthy of hate.” An unscientific poll conducted on the paper’s Web site suggests that the author may be out of touch with the mood of the Canadian public. As of press time (4:30 PT on Feb. 28), of the 22,289 visitors who had voted in the poll that asked, “Do you agree with Carolyn Parrish’s remark that Americans are behaving like ‘bastards’?” 52 percent had answered, “Yes.”