Thursday, April 06, 2006

From Canadian Embassy in DC: is legit

A few days ago there was the sudden stir of controversy over the website and a display of poster art scattered around US cities. Having never seen the site before, I was a little curious when I saw posts from here and here questioning the origin of the site. There was also the fact that, despite the Government of Canada motif, the site did not carry the suffix associated with all other Government of Canada sites.

So, I sent an email off to the Canadian Embassy and asked about it.

I had never seen before. Could you provide some information regarding its origin, date of inception and why it appears as a dot com as opposed to a, which is the standard Government of Canada suffix?

I take it the site is administered on behalf of the Canadian Embassy in Washington. I attempted to email the contact person on the contact page, but the email was returned as undeliverable. Thank you for your assistance.

Today, I received an answer from Lt-Col Jamie Robertson who administers the site from the Canadian Embassy in Washington, D.C.

The website was set up in May 2004. We use a dotcom because it is aimed at an American audience. A address would be very hard to market in the U.S. Nobody is going to remember such an address when the standard down here is dotcom. It was a pragmatic communications decision.

The Embassy also maintains another site, It's purpose is to engage the hundreds of thousands of expat Canadians who live in the U.S.

The rationale of CanadianAlly.Com is stated on the site itself: "A comprehensive look at defence and security issues from a variety of key sources, outlining Canada's role in North American and Global Security and the War on Terror." Bottomline, the awareness level in the U.S. on all things Canada is shockingly low. In addition, much effort is put into countering widely-held myths within the United States that Canada is somehow weak on security and terrorism. We still deal with claims that some of the 19 hijackers entered the U.S. from Canada.

The job of the Embassy is to represent Canada's interests here in the U.S. Part of that mission involves advocacy. is clearly an advocacy website. It is one small part of our engagement with lawmakers, policy think tanks, media and the administration. The important thing is that Americans have found the site to be useful, relevant and informative. The vast majority of Canadians who have provided feedback seem to agree.

I hope this answers your questions.


Jamie Robertson
Lt-Col Jamie Robertson
Canadian Embassy/Ambassade du Canada
Washington, DC
(202) 448 6324

Some observations.

Canada, as a nation, is involved in the "War On Terror", although not quite in the way the Bush administration would prefer. We were involved from the very start, right after Sept. 11, 2001, and committed ships, troops and aircraft immediately. We also sent a staff to CENTCOM (Madill Air Force Base, Florida) which has continuously participated in planning and support since their arrival. Canada's involvement is in Afghanistan and the Persian Gulf; not Iraq.

The position of the government and specifically the Canadian Forces is that Iraq is NOT a part of the "War On Terror" in which we participate and engage. We therefore do not participate in CENTCOM's Iraq mission planning and execution. In fact, that position is shared by many other countries who have liaison staffs in CENTCOM. It is the Bush, Blair and Howard administrations which have rolled Iraq into the international response to 9/11 and they stand very much in isolation in their beliefs.

Lt-Col Robertson's assessment of American knowledge regarding Canada and Canadian participation in global affairs is very true. A large segment of the US population knows little or nothing about Canada, save what they learn from media reports and pundits. My own experience more than verifies his statements.

Having said that, there are significant elements of American society which actually do pay attention to Canada and are aware of Canada's domestic and foreign policy, but they do not constitute either the majority or the norm. Many Americans only hear about Canada when watching the TV weather forecast and hearing the words, "A massive cold front will move south out of Canada..." (Canada shows on the weather map as the nondescript territory to the north with no internal boundaries and no cities.)

Many have suggested that we shouldn't be portraying ourselves as depicted either on the website or the posters which went up. I disagree.

Neither of those campaigns presents anything untruthful. We do have troops in foreign lands; we have been involved in Afghanistan from the start and we have taken casualties. As the colonel says, there are widely-held myths in the US that Canada is not prepared to take on terrorism and simply isn't doing anything. I don't have to take him at his word; I've experienced it first-hand.

There is a need to combat, at the very least, the rhetorical falsehoods that spew forth from the gaggle of talking heads appearing in the US media. The O'Reillys, the Carlsons and the Cavutos DO have large audiences and DO have influence. Being able to attract attention and then point out that they are wrong, particularly in an area which many Americans consider important, is necessary. That isn't surrendering anything - it's simply aiming them at the truth.

If such a campaign, which started in 2004, is having the desired effect, chauvanistic style arguments are rather meaningless.

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