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Canadian TV producers: We don't really hate America

US diplomatic cables suggested Canadian TV seeks to “twist current events to feed long-standing negative images of the US." Not really, say Canadian producers and officials.

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The US cable also highlighted an episode of “The Border,” a drama about Canadian immigration officials’ efforts to secure their country’s frontier, in which a Syria-bound US rendition aircraft carrying Guantanamo detainees crashes in rural Quebec. Canadian officials chase down escapees and clash with a Homeland Security official over sovereignty issues, including a proposed American F-15 strike on the detainees.

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Executive Producer Peter Raymont says his series’ 2008 season did depict US security officials darkly, but it didn’t have an ax to grind. He notes that the 2009 season introduced a sympathetic Homeland Security character who worked closely and productively with her Canadian counterparts.

“We weren’t doing negative popular stereotyping, we were just reflecting accurately what happening during the Bush administration,” Mr. Raymont says. “There were CIA rendition flights from Guantanamo – that was a fact.”

While US-Canada relations were cooler than usual at the end of the Bush administration, when the cables were written, polling data have shown no cause for concern, says pollster Frank Graves of EKOS Research Associates. “There aren’t two countries in the world that have more similar value systems than Canada and the US, and if you look at the trajectory over time, the gap is shrinking, not growing,” he says. “If we ask Canadians which country is your best friend, they will always answer ‘the United States.’ ”

Obama's election improved perceptions

“Bush became almost anathema to many Canadians, to almost a cartoonish level,” Mr. Graves adds. “But the outlook was improving in 2008, and then when Obama came in – Canadians love Obama! His approval ratings remain in nosebleed territory.”

“There’s greater optimism about the United States since Obama was elected,” agrees Mr. Doyle of the Toronto Globe and Mail. “The kinds of trends, hints, or clues that the diplomats were looking for when they studied Canadian television, that’s since kept moving ever closer towards integration with American popular culture” as HBO and other US channels have become available in the Canadian market.

The current US ambassador to Canada, David Jacobson, agrees. “My view is that relations between the US and Canada have never been better,” he says. “Whether it's leaders of popular culture or political figures or business leaders, there’s an exceptional attachment that Canadians have with Americans that’s like nothing I have seen elsewhere in the world.”

Ambassador Jacobson says the State Department has a standing policy not to comment on the leaked cables, but adds: “I would hate to have policy toward America determined based on ‘Dancing With The Stars’ or ‘Jersey Shore.’ ”


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