Do you remember 9/11? Of course you do. It was a traumatic event not only for the United States, but the entire world. We watched in horror as the towers fell, worried sick about our friends in New York City. Our broken hearts went out to America. We felt their pain.
Gestures of support and offers of assistance quickly flooded in from all over the globe, including here in Canada. I myself offered to donate plasma for the injured, but Canadian Blood Services told me it was not legally permissible because the US is a foreign country and besides, the terrorists’ handiwork was so thorough, the devastation so complete, that almost all of the casualties were deaths, and the dead do not need transfusions.
Other Canadians did have an opportunity to help in a meaningful way, though. When all air traffic to the United States was halted because of the high alert, incoming planes were diverted to Gander airport, and hundreds of scared travellers were fed and sheltered free of charge in the homes of Newfoundlanders, who are some of the best people in the whole wide world.
America was grateful, very grateful. She hadn’t been this grateful since the Tehran hostage crisis, when American diplomats were secreted for months in the Canadian embassy at great personal risk to ambassador Ken Taylor and his staff. But that’s what friends do.
Except for those times when the United States attempted to invade us, our two countries, separated by the world’s longest undefended border, have been staunch (if at times testy) friends sharing a host of goals and values. We have also been each other’s largest trading partner for almost two centuries. John Kennedy addressed our Parliament shortly after taking office:
We share common values from the past, a common defense line at present, and common aspirations for the future — our future, and indeed the future of all mankind. Geography has made us neighbors. History has made us friends, Economics has made us partners. And necessity has made us allies. Those whom nature hath so joined together, let no man put asunder. What unites us is far greater than what divides us.
So imagine our consternation when Pat Buchanan loudly proclaimed that these mostly Saudi Arabian murderers had come into the United States from Canada. OK, we all knew Pat was a creep, but this came as a total shock to us, and rightly so, because the report he was quoting was untrue. But you know, consider the source.
As it happened, the terrorists had entered the US the way overseas travellers usually do, through an airport on American soil, and then took some pilot training in the US over a number of months. By “some pilot training”, I mean they apparently weren’t all that interested in learning how to land. Why that didn’t raise any red flags with the flight instructors, I have no idea.
Now, imagine our further consternation when in 2005 Hillary Clinton repeated Buchanan’s debunked lie in the Senate, saying, amongst other things. “We need to look to our friends in the north to crack down on some of these false documents and illegals getting in.”
This was downright insulting. A large majority of Canadians had been positively ecstatic when the American people kicked George Bush out of the White House and replaced him with Bill Clinton. During the 1990s, Clinton and Prime Minister Jean Chrétien got along famously — even golfed together many times — and got some good things done. We thought we were best buds with the Americans in general, and the Clintons in particular. And we were horrified when George W Bush followed Clinton.
So Senator Clinton’s words felt like a betrayal of all we had achieved together. Obviously she blamed Canada for political purposes; she was, after all, representing the state where 9/11 happened, where the population was still justifiably on edge, and which borders Canada, and she could not afford to be seen as lax about the threat of terrorism.
Still, when it was pointed out to the senator that the report of the 9/11 terrorists entering the US through Canada was a hoax, she replied that “the hoax was all too believable.” Around then, she was believing a lot of things that weren’t true, including that there were WMDs in Iraq and that marriage is only between a man and a woman. I suppose that was her politician’s way of saying she was fooled without having to admit she was wrong.
But did Senator Clinton apologize for this slight? No.
Has Secretary Clinton apologized since for her slander? No.
Will presidential candidate Clinton ever apologize to the Canadian people? My first impulse is to say no, but I think the answer is yes — that is, if she hopes to have normal, happy relations with Canada as President of the United States.
Till then, nothing is forgiven or forgotten.