Sunday, January 08, 2006

Northern Ire, Indeed

Northern Ire: Canadian Politics Are All About America
by Anna Morgan

The above article appeared in today's (Sunday's) Washington Post. It's hard to know where to begin but I guess the subtitle is as good a place as any, since it does a fine job of summing up the theme of the article.

Canadian politics are all about America? It just isn't so. "America" (I prefer to call it the United States) enters into the debate, as it must, but it is hardly the main focus of this campaign, especially since the holiday break.

Perhaps it's being spun that way by the author (a Canadian freelance journalist and author, as described by the Post) in order to attract the attention of the paper's readership.
I suppose a headline such as "Alleged corruption may lead to ruling dynasty's downfall" would only attract yawns from the "Americans".

Anyway. Besides the America-centric bias, there are portions of the article that are just plain wrong.

The most blatant factual error is the following statement:

U.S. Customs and Immigration this year imposed passport requirements on visiting Canadians for the first time...

Not so, according to the US Customs and Immigration website:

Generally, Canadian Nationals must show ID but are exempt from passport and visa requirements.

Not so, too, according to my son who travelled to Maine last month, and who I know for a fact does not have a passport.

More shocking, is the paragraph dealing with Canada and terrorism, which put forth the claim that the case of Abdullah Khadr (is) the Canadian media's current cause celebre.

Come again?

Nobody can say that I don't consume enough media (Canadian and otherwise) to know that this just isn't true, however I did some digging in Google News and Google Blog Search and while the Khadr case is reported, any outrage is noticeably absent.

Even more egregious is the mention of the case of Mohammed Zeki Mahjoub. The author uses it in order to bring up the following quote "from a CSIS report":

there are more terrorist cells operating in Canada than in any other country outside the Middle East.

A little digging reveals that a similar statement was indeed made to the Canadian Senate by then-head of CSIS, Ward Elcok - in 1998 - and it was quoted by a Washington organization, the Center for Immigration Studies (confusingly, also "CSIS") as follows:

with perhaps a singular exception of the United States, there were more international terrorist groups active in Canada than any other country in the world, and that Canada can not become through inaction or otherwise what might be called an unofficial state sponsor of terrorism.

IN 1998.

As for Mr Mahjoub, he has spent the last five and a half years imprisioned in Toronto. His case was sympathetically portrayed in, of all places, the WASHINGTON POST in late 2004
and was most recently mentioned only two weeks ago in Yahoo News.

So much for Canada as a safe haven for America's Most Wanted.

As if all that weren't enough, there's the softwood lumber issue, for which, the article claims, Prime Minister Martin has made confronting Washington on this score a main issue of his campaign.

Main issue? One of many issues but certainly not a *main* one. And why not confront Washington when they have repeatedly ignored NAFTA rulings on the subject?

Similarly, why not refuse to extradite to the U.S. people who would face the death penalty? This is certainly not unheard of in international affairs.

Some parts of the article are factually correct but taken in context with the whole, portray a confrontational attitude which just doesn't exist. Canadians don't go around looking for issues on which to bash the US but when those issues appear we are not shy to make our position heard, and that is all it is.

I don't understand why a Canadian journalist would want Americans to see this country in the way she has portrayed it and why the Washington Post, a respected publication, would print this without at least some fact checking.

And I haven't even gotten to another article, by the same author on the same page of the paper, that deals with poor Michael Ignatieff regarding the treatment he's received because of his views on torture, Ukrainians, and Iraq.

I can only take so much aggravation in one day.

Cross posted to the CTV Election Weblog

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