"Where else would you go when you have an ax to grind?"

Tuesday, December 09, 2003

Star-spangled sissies


Canadian flag causes flap in the U.S.
Maple Leaf on baggage irks 'sensitive' Americans

Jack Aubry
The Ottawa Citizen


A group of Canadian climbers celebrate their ascent of Mount Logan by waving the Canadian flag. While such achievements warrant national pride, Americans express irritation at the habit of Canadians using the flag while travelling to express nationality.

CREDIT: Jeff Holubitsky, Vancouver Sun

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OTTAWA -- Canadians should be careful not to appear "boastful" to Americans, who are insecure because of the war in Iraq and admit they are annoyed by northerners showing off the red maple leaf on their luggage when they travel, a recent federal report warns.

In focus groups held this fall in four U.S. cities where the federal government is opening consulates, Americans acknowledged they don't know much about Canadians.

"Some participants expressed a certain amount of annoyance at what is perceived as a systematic attempt by Canadians to make the statement that they are not Americans by sporting the maple leaf," said the recently released report. "This underscores the American sensitivity at feeling rejected by the rest of the world ...."

A front-page story by the New York Times this week, which declared that Canada's stance on social issues is opening rifts with the U.S., is unwittingly confirmed with the findings of the report.

Canadian comedian Rick Mercer said at a recent Toronto show that being attached to America is like "being in a pen with a wounded bull," joking that between gay marriage and pot smoking, "it's a wonder there is not a giant deck of cards out there with all our faces on it."

The report says even Americans who blame the Bush administration to some extent for the country's poor relations with the world, do not seem to understand why friendly countries and neighbours such as Canada would want to distance themselves from Americans.

For instance, an American from San Diego is quoted saying: "What bugs me about Canadians, if I may, is that they wear that damn patch on their bags, the Canadian flag patch. That way, they differentiate themselves from us."

The report is based on eight focus groups conducted in September by Millward Brown Goldfarb in San Diego, Raleigh, Denver and Houston where Canadian consulates are in the process of opening.

Pierre Bechard, a spokesman for Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada, said Millward Brown Goldfarb was paid $49,543 for the October report and focus groups. He said the findings will act as a base for the consulates to work to understand how much Americans understand about Canada and how they feel about their relationship with their northern neighbours.

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