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Cablegate: Primetime Images of Us-Canada Border Paint U.S. In

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FM AMEMBASSY OTTAWA
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RHMFIUU/DEPT OF HOMELAND SECURITY WASHINGTON DC
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RUEAORC/US CUSTOMS AND BORDER PROTECTION WASHINGTON DC

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SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV KPAO CA
SUBJECT: PRIMETIME IMAGES OF US-CANADA BORDER PAINT U.S. IN
INCREASINGLY NEGATIVE LIGHT

OTTAWA 00000136 001.2 OF 003

1. (SBU) Summary: The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC)
has long gone to great pains to highlight the distinction
between Americans and Canadians in its programming, generally
at our expense. However, the level of anti-American melodrama
has been given a huge boost in the current television season
as a number of programs offer Canadian viewers their fill of
nefarious American officials carrying out equally nefarious
deeds in Canada while Canadian officials either oppose them
or fall trying. CIA rendition flights, schemes to steal
Canada's water, "the Guantanamo-Syria express," F-16's flying
in for bombing runs in Quebec to eliminate escaped
terrorists: in response to the onslaught, one media
commentator concluded, somewhat tongue-in-cheek, that
"apparently, our immigration department's real enemies aren't
terrorists or smugglers -- they're Americans." While this
situation hardly constitutes a public diplomacy crisis per
se, the degree of comfort with which Canadian broadcast
entities, including those financed by Canadian tax dollars,
twist current events to feed long-standing negative images of
the U.S. -- and the extent to which the Canadian public seems
willing to indulge in the feast - is noteworthy as an
indication of the kind of insidious negative popular
stereotyping we are increasingly up against in Canada. End
Summary.

"THE BORDER" -CANADA'S ANSWER TO 24, W/O THAT SUTHERLAND GUY
--------------------------------------------- ---------------

2. (SBU) When American TV and movie producers want action,
the formula involves Middle Eastern terrorists, a ticking
nuclear device, and a (somewhat ironically, Canadian) guy
named Sutherland. Canadian producers don't need to look so
far -- they can find all the action they need right on the
U.S.-Canadian border. This piece of real estate, which most
Americans associate with snow blowing back and forth across
an imaginary line, has for the past three weeks been for
Canadian viewers the site of downed rendition flights, F-16
bombing runs, and terrorist suspects being whisked away to
Middle Eastern torture facilities. "The Border," which
state-owned CBC premiered on January 7, attracted an
impressive 710,000 viewers on its first showing -- not
exactly Hockey Night in Canada, but equivalent to an American
program drawing about eight million U.S. viewers. The show
depicts Canadian immigration and customs officers' efforts to
secure the U.S.-Canadian border and the litany of moral
dilemmas they face in doing so. The CBC bills the
high-budget program as depicting the "new war" on the border
and "the few who fight it." While the "war" is supposed to
be against criminals and terrorists trying to cross the
border, many of the immigration team's battles end up being
with U.S. government officials, often in tandem with the
CIA-colluding Canadian Security and Intelligence Service
(CSIS).

3. (SBU) The clash between the Americans and Canadians got
started early in the season and has continued unabated. In
episode one a Syrian terrorist with a belt full of gel-based
explosives is removed from a plane in Canada while the
Canadian-Syrian man sitting next to him is rendered by the
CIA/CSIS team to Syria -- a fairly transparent reference to
QCIA/CSIS team to Syria -- a fairly transparent reference to
the Maher Arar case. Fortunately for the incarcerated
individual, the sympathetic Canadian Immigration and Customs
Security official recognizes the mistake and shrewdly causes
the government to rescue him from a Syrian jail through
organized media pressure. The episode ends with a preview of
things to come when one of the Canadian immigration officers
notes with disgust, "Homeland Security is sending in some hot
shot agent."

4. (SBU) Episode two expands on this theme, featuring the
arrival of an arrogant, albeit stunningly attractive female
DHS officer, sort of a cross between Salma Hayek and Cruella
De Vil. The show portrays the DHS official bossing around
her stereotypically more compassionate Canadian colleagues
while uttering such classic lines as, "Who do you think
provides the muscle to protect your fine ideals?" and "You
would have killed him. Let the American justice system do it
for you." Her fallback line in most situations is "it's a
matter of national security."

5. (SBU) But the one-liners and cross-border stereotypes
really take off in episode three, in which an American

OTTAWA 00000136 002.2 OF 003

rendition aircraft with three terrorist suspects on the
"Guantanamo to Syria express" crashes in Quebec and the
terrorists escape -- however, not before killing a Quebec
police officer, whose sympathetic widow appears throughout
the show. The DHS officer's answer to everything is American
firepower, but in this episode even CSIS gets a chance at
redemption as the CSIS officer in charge challenges her. Ms.
DHS barks back, "You really want to talk territorial
sovereignty, or should we talk about getting the terrorists
back?" After being chased through the woods of Quebec by a
cross-culturally balanced CSIS-JTF2 team which kills a
15-year-old terrorist in a shootout, the bad guys are finally
cornered on the side of a pristine Canadian lake. Then,
after a conversation with Washington in which she asks "can
you bypass NSA and State?", our DHS official calls in an
air-strike on the terrorists without Canadian concurrence.
Canadian planes, another official has explained, are "already
deployed to Afghanistan, helping our neighbors fight their
war on terror." With only seconds to spare before the bombs
are dropped on the Quebec site, the planes are called off
when the CSIS-JTF team affirms positive control over the
terrorists. Finally, in a last-minute allowance for
redemption, the CSIS officer informs his DHS colleague that
the captured terrorists will not be turned over to the U.S.
but will stand trial for the death of the Quebec police
officer. She does get the final word, though, hissing the
classic phrase "you people are so nave," before the screen
goes blank.

DEA ALSO TAKES SOME HITS
------------------------

6. (SBU) If that isn't enough, "the Border" is only one of
the CBC programs featuring cross-border relations.
"Intelligence," which depicts a Canadian intelligence unit
collaborating with a local drug lord-turned government
informant, is just as stinging in its portrayal of
U.S.-Canada law enforcement cooperation. Through its two
seasons, the program has followed plot lines including a DEA
attempt to frame the Canadian informant for murder, a CIA
plot to secretly divert Canadian water to the American
southwest, and a rogue DEA team that actually starts selling
drugs for a profit. A columnist in conservative Canadian
daily newspaper "The National Post" commented, "There's no
question that the CSIS heroes on 'Intelligence' consider the
Americans our most dangerous enemies."

EVEN THE LITTLE MOSQUE GETS IN TO THE ACT
-----------------------------------------

7. (U) Even "Little Mosque on the Prairie," a popular
Canadian sitcom that depicts a Muslim community in a small
Saskatchewan town, has joined the trend of featuring
U.S.-Canada border relations. This time, however, the State
Department is the fall guy. A December 2007 episode
portrayed a Muslim economics professor trying to remove his
name from the No-Fly-List at a U.S. consulate. The show
depicts a rude and eccentric U.S. consular officer
stereotypically attempting to find any excuse to avoid being
helpful. Another episode depicted how an innocent trip
across the border became a jumble of frayed nerves as Grandpa
was scurried into secondary by U.S. border officials because
his name matched something on the watch list.
Qhis name matched something on the watch list.

GIVE US YOUR WATER; OH WHAT THE HECK WE'LL TAKE YOUR COUNTRY
TOO
--------------------------------------------- ----

8. (U) And it appears that the season is just warming up.
After CIA renditions, DEA murder plots, DHS missteps, and
unhelpful consular officers, a U.S. takeover of Canada may
have been the only theme left for the CBC "H20" mini-series.
The series was first broadcast in 2005, when it featured an
investigation into an American assassination of the Canadian
prime minister and a very broad-based (and wildly
implausible) U.S. scheme to steal Canadian water. A two-part
sequel, set to be broadcast in March and April 2008, will
portray the United States as manipulating innocent, trusting
Canadians into voting in favor of Canada's becoming part of
the United States. Then, after the United States completely
takes over Canada, one brave Canadian unites Canadians and
Europeans in an attempt to end America's hegemony. Another

OTTAWA 00000136 003.2 OF 003

program could prove more benign but will certainly include
its share of digs against all things American: Global TV
reportedly is gearing up for a March 2008 debut of its own
border security drama, set to feature Canadian
search-and-rescue officers patrolling the U.S.-Canada border.

COMMENT
-------

9. (SBU) EKOS pollster Frank Graves told Poloff he thought
that at this point such shows are reflective and not causal
in determining attitudes in Canada. They play on the
deep-seated caution most Canadians feel toward their large
neighbor to the south, a sort of zeitgeist that has been in
the background for decades. As one example, a December 2007
Strategic Counsel poll showed that nine percent of Canadians
thought U.S. foreign policy was the greatest threat to the
world -- twice as high as those who were concerned about
weapons of mass destruction. What Graves does find
disturbing -- and here he believes that the causal or
reflective question is not important -- is that support for a
less porous border is increasing in both Canada and the U.S.:
in the U.S. because of generalized fear of terrorism and in
Canada because of concern over guns, sovereignty, and the
impact that a terrorist attack on the U.S. would have on
trade. Graves has detected an increasingly wary attitude
over the border that he believes could lead to greater
distance between the two countries.

10. (SBU) While there is no single answer to this trend, it
does serve to demonstrate the importance of constant
creative, and adequately-funded public-diplomacy engagement
with Canadians, at all levels and in virtually all parts of
the country. We need to do everything we can to make it more
difficult for Canadians to fall into the trap of seeing all
U.S. policies as the result of nefarious faceless U.S.
bureaucrats anxious to squeeze their northern neighbor.
While there are those who may rate the need for USG
public-diplomacy programs as less vital in Canada than in
other nations because our societies are so much alike, we
clearly have real challenges here that simply must be
adequately addressed.

Visit Canada,s Economy and Environment Forum at
http://www.intelink.gov/communities/state/can ada

WILKINS

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
 
 
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