Remember how people would joke about moving to Canada when things would go terribly, politically?
Like, say, after America had invaded the wrong country. People here, especially liberal Seattle people, would vow: “That’s it, I’m moving to Canada.”
Well it turns out we need a new joke. Because Canada isn’t having it anymore. They don’t want us there — at all, no laughing matter.
“We regard the United States right now as the biggest petri dish in the world,” reports George Creek, from Vancouver Island, British Columbia.
Creek has been leading a group of volunteer watchdogs to monitor marine traffic, looking for Washington state boaters who have sneaked across the border into Canadian waters. They then report them to Canadian officials to try to keep them from docking and coming ashore. No hard feelings, he told me cheerily by phone this past week. But every American is seen as a loaded vector of disease.
“You need to get the pandemic under control. You need a rational person to take the helm of your country. Until then, all we’re saying to Americans is: Stay away. When you come against our wishes, pardon the expression, it pisses us off.”
Ouch. You know you’re becoming a pariah country when the Canadians go all “pardon the expression” on you.
Earlier this month, three local members of Congress — Democrat Derek Kilmer of Gig Harbor and Republicans Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Spokane and Dan Newhouse of Sunnyside — joined some of their colleagues in sending a seemingly benign letter to the Canadian government. It suggested we talk about reopening our shared 5,500-mile-long border, which remains closed to most travel due to COVID-19.
The letter was fluffed with flowery, binational niceties — such as a call to “restore the social bond that unites our two nations.” But hoo boy, not since the 1859 “pig incident,” when we nearly went to war in the San Juan Islands over one slaughtered hog, have our friends to the north gotten quite so prickly.
“Hard pass on opening the border — we’re a healthy nation with big plans, and you’re a failed society,” one Canadian replied to the congressional letter on Twitter.
“That border stays CLOSED,” wrote another. “Canadians may be polite but we aren’t CRAZY!”
And another: “There’s no reason to believe Americans will care about the health of Canadians, given that relatively few seem to care about the health of other Americans.”
Ouch again. On it went like this, with more than 6,000 tweeted responses to the members of Congress, in what was the social media equivalent of being battered by the wings of a flock of angry Canada geese.
Also this month, in response to news that U.S. boaters were flouting the border closure, the B.C. premier, John Horgan, joined in the stay away chorus.
“Our government fought hard to get the border closed, and it needs to remain closed until the US gets a handle on this pandemic,” he tweeted on July 15. “This is not the time for Americans to be here on vacation & anyone abusing the rules should be penalized accordingly.”
A recent poll of Canadians showed 89% want to keep the border with the U.S. closed through 2020, with the pollster saying they regard America’s mishandling of the virus as “a cautionary tale.”
Remember that election we had, in 2016, when the winner talked about closing our borders to the world? The world ended up closing its borders to us.
It isn’t just the virus. On Wednesday, a Canadian court ruled that a 16-year-old agreement with the U.S. governing refugees and asylum is invalid because the U.S. no longer qualifies as a “safe” place for refugees. The way we treat them is a human rights violation, the court said.
Creek, the Vancouver Island boat monitor, also said the violence in American cities has long been confounding to Canadians. But seeing the willful denial in America about the coronavirus, a known contagion, has Canadians wondering if their neighbors have lost any capacity to reason.
Canada, he said, is averaging fewer than 500 new COVID-19 cases and five deaths per day, in the entire country — yet is scrambling to tamp that down with contact tracing, calling it a “surge.”
“You had 71,000 new cases and more than a thousand deaths today,” he said. “American tourists are normally the most welcome, but we look at all this and we just shake our heads.”
“We need to build a wall,” another Canadian responded to the members of Congress, on Twitter.
“And make USA pay for it,” quipped another.
“Prime Minister Trudeau should arm the border if necessary, to keep Americans away,” said a third.
Ouch, ouch, and ouch. Canadians really do tend to be nice, it’s not just a stereotype. So to be mocked ruthlessly by them, it has a certain sting. It could leave a mark. Especially as we so thoroughly deserve every word of it.