I’m leaving Canada... and I'm glad
For two years the U.S. Vice-Consul in Toronto listened with surprise and mounting irritation to what he calls the malicious myths we spread about his country. Now he raps our knuckles with a frank vigor that’s as arresting as it is undiplomatic
FRANK A. TINKER
THE OTHER day, having resigned my job as United States Vice-Consul at Toronto, I was sweeping a two-year collection of paper clips and old memoranda from my desk in preparation for my departure. A Canadian friend stopped by and asked, as friends do when there is not much else to say, if I weren’t sorry, really sorry, to be leaving. Without thinking, I was hallway through the trite answer when it occurred to me that I was lying for no good purpose. I thought it over for a moment.
'‘No,” I told him finally, “I’m not. In fact, it’s going to be a great relief to leave Canada.”
Being a person with whom I had played many rounds of golf, and spent evenings swapping stories, he accused me at first of joking. I fervently wished that I had been joking, for the distress on his face was not pleasant for a friend to see. I would have felt the same keen disappointment had a visitor to Arizona or Michigan told me he was glad to be leaving my country, especially if that visitor happened to be Canadian.
But why should he be amazed? Why is it a shock for Canadians today to hear that Americans who spend more than a brief vacation in their country feel like unwelcome interlopers? Certainly the reasons for this become abundantly more evident each day. They are remarked upon accordingly in my country in spite of the occasional determined editor who enjoys a vacation drive through one of the Canadian provinces and, thus sketchily educated, renews the oft-expressed idea of a union between the two countries.
Of course, as my friend properly and promptly told me, it is not the sole or primary aim of Canada to provide a comfortable rest camp for oversensitive Yanks. It is difficult to believe, however, that Canadians would not be concerned if they knew that a personal animosity toward Americans was growing among them. And such a feeling is indeed growing, as many foreign residents here can attest. Does the average Canadian stop to realize how far this has gone? What a tragedy it will be for both our countries if it is permitted to spread further, especially if it does so without the full awareness and consent of you Canadians!
People below the border are often accused of being grossly ignorant of Canada. This is not nearly so true as the Canadians who keep repeating it apparently want to believe. Still it may be that a little ignorance of the superficial differences is good for the soul, since one seldom hears Canada mentioned in the U. S. except in the most glowing and amicable terms. Indeed if a U. S. editor printed material as hostile to and suspicious of Canada as the material Canadian editors print almost daily about the U. S. he would be snowed under by an immediate avalanche of protest.
Aside from the fact that you Canadians have done nothing to alleviate it, much of the unfamiliarity with Canada found in the U. S. stems from the small circulation there of your national publications. If they were more widely distributed, however, it is a safe bet that many Kansans or Texans would refuse to believe that some of their comments came from our northern neighbor.
Does this sound farfetched or oversensitive? If so, will you consider the newspapers you have read during the past month (scarcely one of them did not give a prominent flourish to a truculent, smugly anti-American editorial or a twisted headline)? Will you answer truthfully whether you would like to have these utterances put forth in San Francisco or Boston as representative of your own feelings? Would you be proud of them there?
During the time spent here, I have known many Torontonians, although few of them well, and their refreshing cynicism towards journalism of such a character is welcome and familiar to American ears. They deny that such journalism Continued on page 48 »peaks for the average Canadian. But Jo they really believe that this constant carping from the Press, minority groups md disgruntled politicians in search of j whipping boy, and from overzealous patriots, is not lowering their own opinion of the U. S.?
There must be a distinction between >alid political criticism and deliberate, personal attacks on politicians. Heaven knows that, as a constant target, the fj. S. is becoming an expert on both types of criticism and, to a certain extent, inured to the latter. A friendship as solidly based as that between Canada and Uncle Sam need never fear an honest difference of opinion reasonably expressed. Rut no worthy association -an avoid being harmed when the complaints are unthinking, overplayed and malicious. Today, in even the most impersonal negotiations, many Canadians seem to insist that they are being bullied by their big brother. But, after all, it is no one’s fault that the U. S. is higger than Canada in population and industrial wealth. Sometimes the smaller party’s resentment henomes downright ludicrous.
During the recent pipeline fracas, when the U. S. Federal Power Commission turned down the Westcoast Transmission Company’s request to build an outlet for Alberta gas into our northwestern states, the announced reason for the refusal was that the Canadian supply could not be considered completely reliable in times of emergency. A section of alert editorial Canada immediately read the charge of “unreliability” into a personal affront. As such, it was condemned loudly and somewhat exultantly. Yet no Canadian paper had the grace to remark that this phrase of the FPC decision was almost exactly the same as that rendered by the Canadian government when it delayed permission for American gas to be brought temporarily to the Toronto market from Niagara Falls. ’ ' -
Understand, this and other examples offered here are not intended to justify American economic or foreign policy. They are merely to illustrate the disturbing Canadian tendency to personalize, to refuse to accept the shortcomings of big business and governments, both their own and others, and to insist on a constant, imagined competition in all things between themselves and the U. S. Through the mere accident of äize, it would seem that Canada is thus condemning itself to certain and recurrent frustration.
It is no secret, even in Canada, that the booming economic outlook of your country is encouraging the surge of nationalism that usually goes with such growth. Pride in his country has always been considered an integral part of a happy citizen. But is it necessary that national pride be subverted and traded for childish spite?
Any foreigner in Canada must have been discouraged to hear the coach of Miss Marilyn Bell, the youngster who made the gallant swim across Lake Ontario, claim during a reception at the Toronto City Hall that Miss Bell’s act had somehow proved the superiority of Canadian youth. The fact that a professional American swimmer had been nvited to make the attempt also and ad failed appears to be slight ground or the remark and the state of mind it encourages. Certainly Florence Chadwick, who went to Toronto in good faith at the invitation of the Canadian National Exhibition, must have been
amazed to find that she had been assigned willy-nilly to carry U. S. colors in a contest of which she was totally unaware and which her business contract specifically prohibited. When the swim proved too much for her the inevitable triumphant hoots made it appear more of a disgrace than a simple failure.
It is to be hoped that the fates will he more kind to Miss Bell and that she will not be saddled with this nonsense about the honor of Canada every time she enters the water. The real issue is not the swimming prowess of either woman nor the honor of either country, hut the personal esteem and friendship of the people on both sides of the line which Canada appears to hold so cheaply.
The same charge of creating a spiteful and hostile atmosphere without reason must be made in the curious and apparently chronic hassle over the nationality of the entertainer who heads the grandstand show at the CNE. As usual, a top American entertainer was paid t his year to do his stuff in hopes of attracting larger crowds. 'The usual bickering followed. Roy Rogers, with Mias Chadwick, had good cause to wonder at the reasoning of a community which hires him to put on a show, and then casts him in the role of an unwanted alien who is being forced on the patrons. After the charm of the Exhibition and the thrill of the swimming marathon have gone, there is still left the unbecoming spite and antagonism so unthinkingly engendered.
Giving a Baby a Home
I have tried to talk frankly with many people about this deliberate misunderstanding of American intentions toward Canada. Mr. Ginsberg, my laundryman on Toronto’s Bathurst Street, pointed out that when a person or a public has no definite opinion it takes but a little nudging to implant one. Such subtle nudging is indulged in constantly both in Canada and abroad with surprising success by misinformed or calculating persons.
Consider the matter of immigration. One opinion poll showed that it was one of the subjects uppermost in Canadians’ minds, although few of them are familiar with the immigration laws of either their own country or the U. S. Yet, mention U. S. Immigration and many Canadians immediately grimace, even though their own experience with that service has been pleasant. The reasons for this are easily explained and, once more, the illustrations are given not to argue the merits of our immigration regulations, but to try to persuade the interested Canadian how illogical it is to work up a personal animosity over them.
Perhaps the baby-smuggling episode of last year may be recalled. A U. S. Immigration officer at Malton Airport apprehended an American citizen taking a Canadian baby illegally into the U. S. Almost certainly the impression lingers now that the officer was unnecessarily severe in his actions and, in general, what was the matter with a person taking home a baby that needs a home anyway, regardless of national borders? The discussions that followed were not about regulations, but were of an emotional character, and when the smoke cleared the facts had been obscured in many Canadian minds by the colored reports. The general impression was that the U. S. Immigration Service was too tough.
But how about Jimmy McHugh, the officer involved? If you are passing through Malton someday drop in to our offices and say hello to Jimmy. See how much of a brute is this soft-spoken grandfather. Ask him how he felt in the plane that day when, on a parent’s ttuition, he asked the woman carrying fte baby to produce further evidence |bf the child’s identity. The U. S. laws specifically state the provisions for the adoption of a foreign-born child, thus protecting the child. Jimmy McHugh, as a representative of our Immigration Service, unfortunately remains a despised symbol because he protected the interests of a baby and discharged the duty to which he had been assigned. Thus the effects of ignorance and inspired gossip!
There has been a concerted effort in Canada to discredit U. S. immigration
policies—and the late Senator McCarran who is supposed to have hysterically voted them into being. Any person who has studied the question both inside the U. S. and out will agree there is much more hysteria about U. S. immigration policy in foreign countries, including Canada, than there is anywhere in the U. S.
Obtaining entry into any foreign country is usually exasperating and confusing. The applicant seldom understands nationality laws or considers the need for them. His exasperation is to be expected, and every visa officer of
any nationality experiences it many times a day. It is saddening however to hear the conversation I heard in a U. S. consular office not long ago. An elderly Canadian woman wanted to return to her retirement acre in Florida where she had been living illegally for several years. The clerk told her courteously that she would have to present her birth certificate in duplicate. The woman snapped, “Oh! I suppose this is some of that McCarran folderol!”
As Canadians have been told many times, the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952, sponsored by Senators Mc-
Carran and Walter, added little to U. S. immigration law. We have always had regulations barring people we believe would not help the national welfare and might, indeed, try to destroy it. So has Canada. America is the announced target of the enemies of the free world, and it is only sensible that we recognize that fact. This resultant legislation was not something slipped over on America while it slept, but a firm expression of the opinion of an overwhelming majority of the country.
The U. S. simply would rather not be bothered with people of a political faith that has shown such small concern for human rights or morality.
For Canadians, the McCarran Act has liberalized entry to the U. S. in many ways —■ particularly students, transients, and those with foreign-born spouses. Incidentally, most of the clamor against the McCarran Act is critical of the quota system of admitting immigrants. Most Americans agree they should maintain the essential character of their national family along its traditional lines. Therefore, we favor the entry of the same ethnic types as Canada.
Does this justify the gossip that American immigration laws are bitterly prejudiced as to race—a gossip you can hear parroted from one end of Canada to the other? Why is it so easy for Canadians to forget that both our populations are comprised of a mixture of races that makes any such talk patent nonsense? It is precisely because of such planned immigration that we are a mixture, rather than a disrupted collection of unassimilable, unreconcilable types.
Don’t Belong in the U. S.
Most of all, Canadians should keep in mind that at the present phase of their development the U. S. and Canada differ greatly in their basic approach to immigration. You need, or desire, a rapid increase in population. You instruct your representatives overseas to encourage immigrants. But the more crowded U. S. must continually guard against a mass influx and even then is only partly successful in warding it off. One third of Italy’s population wants to move to America, reports say—undoubtedly to their own detriment unless such a movement is carefully planned. An estimated fifty percent of the people in Mexico’s northern provinces have entered the southwestern states illegally at one time or another.
There are now more people illegally in the U. S. than Canada has admitted legally since the war.
When the American prejudice against newcomers and isolationist tendencies are being smugly damned, as they often are by her best friend, that friend should be reminded that we have given homes to five times as many newcomers as Canada since 1945. And we have not given any of them false encouragement to come. Thus we have avoided such embarrassment as my former colleague, the Italian consul in Toronto, faced recently when delegations of his unemployed countrymen called upon him demanding jobs or a return to their own land.
It is easy to see how Canadians could become irritated about immigration. After all, your country is trying to expand and is offering the immigrant a chance to share in the tremendous opportunities available to him here, in return for his contribution to the national economy and life.
Most Americans would sympathize with the chagrined Canadian who sees long lines of such newcomers at U. S. consulates, clamoring for visas to move south. It is becoming increasingly apparent that many are using the generosity of Canada as an aid to enter the false dreamland of New York or Los Angeles. Your country, like Israel, is being used as a staging ground for entry into the U. S. by people who cannot enter directly. If it were not for U. S. quota restrictions, based, like your own, on the welfare of the country, Canadians might find, like the Israelis, more people leaving their country even today than are entering.
Being an American in Canada, the writer is obliged to explain that he does not mean this to be mere boasting about how the U. S. attracts so many people. It. is hard fact. It has been observed by American consular officers and it may be verified through Canadian overseas representatives.
Surely there is little logic in venting the irritation this causes upon anyone outside Canadian borders. The situation behnd it, multiplied many times in intensity and scope in other countries, is the reason for the severe American approach to immigration. Understanding this will go a long way toward alleviating much of the friction so ardently and unfortunately publicized in Canada.
This practice of identifying a person of a certain nationality with his country’s powerful and unpopular—and perhaps deservedly unpopular—interests is, of course, fraught with danger. Because a person is Russian, it does not follow that he is a murdering Bolshevist. The fact that he is American does not mean that he automatically endorses every bit of claptrap put out by Hollywood, U. S. Steel or the CIO.
To carry the point further, many Americans deplore excessive protective tariffs. They agree with the irate Canadian who proclaims goods should be bought from the place where they are most economically grown or made. But there is an interesting reverse face to this coin. What happens when the Yank reminds the Canuck that there is not really much justification for the duties on American automobiles entering Canada? After all this amounts to twenty-five percent of the value of medium-priced cars and thirty-five percent of the value of expensive cars. The U. S. tariff on lead, now so widely decried by some Canadians, is not much more than seven percent and that against zinc is six and a half.
Canadians in border cities used to buy a TV set in the U. S. free of duty on a tourist permit. Now that there’s a TV industry in Canada such sets are assessed about an additional half of their value by the time they have cleared Canadian customs and excise men at the border. This includes a sales tax.
When the U. S. raised the tariff on Swiss watches, Canadians seemed to take it more to heart than the Swiss, since this appeared to be an example of rank protectionism. Actually, if you care to check the figures, they show that on a representative seventeenjewel, two-control Swiss watch movement, valued at $30, you would pay about $2.35 American duty. The same movement entering Canada would be subject to an immediate duty of fifteen percent, or $4.50. Then, in addition, the Canadian finished watch is assessed an excise tax and federal sales tax,
which the U. S. does not levy on goods.
Any Canadian who cares to compare the prices of Swiss watches in the U. S. and in his own country may do so, and from that may decide if the hullabaloo about American protectionism might not have a double edge. The purpose of duties is to give domestic goods an advantage over the foreign by raising the prices of the foreign.
These figures mean little in themselves except that men everywhere are inclined to be selfish about their private business and their national welfare. What does mean something to an
American, though, is that a Canadian family may be persuaded that the leviathan to the south is depriving them of a livelihood by restricting trade between the two countries.
It would be unfair not to mention at least one outstanding subject in which a remarkable attitude of tolerance and understanding has been shown by Canadians. No informed, unbiased Michigander or Ohioan would deny that U. S. special-interest groups had been shortsighted and selfish in so long delaying the start of the St. Lawrence Seaway. Yet in spite of -or perhaps because of—the fact that the issue has been made a political pumpkin, few Americans in Canada have been accused of being personally responsible for the stalling. It appeared to be understood on both sides of the river that a small, powerful bloc had succeeded in postponing the project and that there was another group just as active striving for its success.
But such examples of understanding are all too rare. In an issue of Maclean’s an American in Canada may read Beverley Baxter’s assertion that the U. S. could have avoided war in 1939 by sending a strong naval force to the Mediterranean to rattle sabers with the British fleet in the Fascist back yard. On the same day, he can read in any number of newspaper editorials of the present “provocative” American policy of maintaining the Seventh Fleet in the troubled waters near Formosa. These views are all too often parroted by the Canadian who buttonholes an American at a cocktail party—-not to educate the poor fellow but apparently for the sheer delight of demonstrating his lack of sympathy for American views.
It has been at least one Yank’s privilege to attend a luncheon at which a local functionary announced that if the U. S. had sent the French more aid they might have won the war in Indo-China —and then a dinner where a Canadian MP solemnly reported that he had seen trigger-happy Americans in the UN threatening the peace of the world. Imagine, a Canadian whose nation has been “co-existing” with the U. S. for 180 years bitterly denouncing the “expansionist” and “aggressive” Yankee!
We are accused—this is a hang-over from pioneer days that sounds suspiciously like jealousy—of being materialist and moneygrubbing, usually by our more enlightened European
cousins but occasionally by Canadian capitalists as well. The answer to that charge is apparent to anyone who get« outside New York City on his visit to the U. S. and it does not need repeating here.
But who is it, in turn, that runs the blockade into Red China and sends trade delegations to governments openly dedicated to the destruction of such free trade? Unlike Britain, Americans believe it is to the credit of their leaders that they have had sufficient faith in their decisions about communism to abstain from begging for the advantage of commerce with communism’s slave labor.
The Tone Canadians Use
At the same time we appreciate the fact that many Canadians cherish their ties with the British Commonwealth. It is certainly impressed on the foreign resident in Canada. Since Americans, as it is well known hereabouts, are isolationist as well as expansionist there is no objection by us. But you need an agile imagination to understand how the advocates of a British tag for Canada can at the same time pose as the impartial link between the U. S. and the rest of the world.
It is fascinating for the average American to learn that he needs “understanding” and “interpretation” when he believes that he is speaking quite clearly. And he is literally amazed when he hears such a service being offered to the world in the detached, patronizing tone now used in Canada.
Canadians, of course, have gone along with British foreign policy rather than American foreign policy to an increasing extent during the past year or so. Many Americans too probably think this is right. I don’t believe there are any who think that it is cause for endangering a friendship such as our two-countries have been able to model for the world. Yet the Canadian tourist in Algonquin Park can talk glibly to his American counterpart of going our separate ways unless, as he puts it, the American can get more into step with reality.
Does this difference of opinion extend even to the defense of North America? There are heard in some quarters, fortunately isolated so far, grumblings about the presence of American soldiers on Canadian territory. Generally, these grumblings have been prompted by easily identified minority groups who emulate the “Go Home, Yankee” theme which communists everywhere exploit.
It may be difficult for some Europeans to understand that American military forces may consider the defense of Europe their own defense as well, through simple geographic reasons. It should be apparent to any Canadian, however, that the defenses of our two countries are absolutely inseparable and their problems individually unsolvable. The American soldiers on joint temporary duty with Canadian forces will be one way of making Canada more familiar to large segments of American public opinion—if they are encouraged to do so.
Groping for a Scapegoat
At some point every person writing of America abroad seems required to mention a senator named McCarthy. There is no doubt that many Canadians dislike the man and deplore his methxls, since he appears a most unlikable person and his methods smack of something repugnant to traditional American fair play. But one survey showed that he had majority support in some areas of Canada. And this drives home the real point contained here -that it is not and should not be a matter of personalities or national prejudices between Canada and the U. S. when such a question is under consideration. McCarthyism, if there is such a thing, exists in both countries to about the same degree. To point to the man and say that he, as an American, is the cause of it is putting the cart before the horse and is groping for a scapegoat for unpleasantness at home.
Americans, far from being insular, like to think in terms of their hemisphere. When we are assigned to foreign service in the other Western republics, however, we are cautioned not to call ourselves simply Americans, since it might offend the pride or sensibilities of people who have as much right to the title as ourselves. This caution need not he extended to Canada, it is said, since there appears little desire for such identification. Canada, for instance, is the only independent nation of this hemisphere that does not belong to the Organization of American States. We certainly hope that this is not indicative of the attitude of the individual Canadian toward his co-Americans.
This raises a pertinent question that can always be asked of Americans: “What, if you believe Canada is drifting away from you in sentiment, have you done to cultivate its citizen, to let him know that you care one way or the other?”
It must be admitted that in an official sense we have not done a great deal. The days of diplomacy by unction are
over, however, and embassies and consulates are seldom geared or expected to perform any but the most routine bureaucratic chores. Perhaps it is one of the evils of diplomatic life that, official associations are usually formed at levels which tend to isolate the foreign assignee from the heartbeat of the country to which he is posted. It’s not easy to broaden the contacts where you’re as much on the defensive as the average American in Canada finds himself.
I came to Canada as an ignorant visiting American. I have spent, the
time required to remove me from the “stranger” category and I must repeat, my confession that it will be a pleasure to return to my native Arizona, even if it is only sagebrush and cactus. There, if we fly the Mexican flag for guests, no squabble follows over whether it is a gesture of hospitality or surrender. If we read that Ontario has curbed the export of pulpwood to the U. S. we do not holler that Canada is trying to stifle our industries.
In Canada I have listened, read, visited, and made some friendships, but I am afraid they have been distin-
guished h / their quality rather than by their number. I am disturbed, and other Americans would be disturbed if they had had the same opportunity, to see the direction in which Canadian public sentiment is being led. I do not believe it is deliberate, but it is happening nevertheless.
Does the continued respect and comradeship of 160 million Americans mean enough to each Canadian that he will examine with conscience the causes of his complaints against us, their frequency and their justice? Let us both hope so. it