Canada-US Relations Strong: Wilkens

Posted on Wednesday, January 31 at 11:08 by jensonj
“[Saddam Hussein] was tried. He was tried by his own people, and he was found guilty. And he paid the price for his crime. And for you to mention a dictator, a murderer, in the same sentence as President Bush is really beyond my comprehension, and I’ll tell you, I’m personally offended by it. I can’t understand it. It’s inappropriate, and you and I will just have to disagree on that,” Wilkins said. That exchange marked the only tension in what was a relatively congenial discussion. Wilkins, who called his speech “a conversation” with the U of A community, relayed anecdotes of his 19-month term as ambassador, and spent as much time discussing his reaction to Canadian winters as he did discussing trade disputes and passport requirements. “I remember, it was in July, in the oval office ... the President said, ‘How you holding up with the weather?’ I said, ‘Mr President, the Canadians say it’s the mildest winter they’d ever had—it’s the coldest I’ve ever seen,” said Wilkins, to polite laughter from the audience. However, Wilkins did get to meatier issues after his stories of skating on the Rideau Canal and petting polar bears in Churchill. He discussed the tension spawned by trade disputes, such as the closing of the border to Canadian cattle after mad cow disease was discovered in 2003. Wilkins said that some of that unease has decreased during his term. “The relationship [between Canada and the US] is very much on an upward trend, there’s more feeling of shared responsibility, there’s an attempt to fix problems rather than fix the blame. An example is BSE—the President has said he very much wants to open the border to Canadian cattle ... hopefully, by mid-year, the border will be reopened, and we’ll be back to where we were pre-BSE,” Wilkins said. Wilkins also addressed what he called perceived anti-Americanism in Canadian society. “The next observation I want to talk to you about is anti-US rhetoric, something you may have heard about in Canada. People [in the US] ask me about it. I think often there’s a disconnect between what you hear in the media, and what I hear, and sense and feel from Canadians, as I talk to them about the United States, and my President. Canada is a great nation, and it never has to tear us up to build itself up,” Wilkins said.

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