Posted by: Rob | February 23, 2010

Video: Tom Brokaw Explains Canada to Americans

Well, apparently there’s a winter Olympic games event going on right now, in Vancouver BC, of all places.  I haven’t really been paying attention, though.  Watching sports of any kind is not really high on my list of things to spend my spare time.  Well, okay.  It’s not on the list at all.

Still at times, it is nigh impossible to avoid mention of these sorts of events, even if you typically get your news from the google aggregator or from public radio or C-SPAN.  Like the fact that the Canadian men’s hockey team was defeated by Team USA during qualifying play.  That event will cause some national angst here in the Great White North, methinks.

Worldwide focus on the Olympic event in Canada was sure to provide the opportunity for American journalists to put together a puff piece or two on the state of things between Canada and the USA.  I found the following video, presented by Tom Brokaw, that Ann had posted to her facebook page.  It’s only about 6 minutes long:

The video opens on the Peace Arch, which stands on the Canada-US border between Blaine, WA and Surrey, BC.  On the inner pillars of the Arch are iron gates, with an inscription reading “May these gates never be closed.”

It then segues into a series of images of some of the breath taking vistas present in North America, moving on to commonalities like both countries having immigrant populations and a closely intertwined economic economic relationship.  Two hundred million people cross the Canada-US border every year.  Canada is the USA’s number one – yes, number one – supplier of crude oil, a fact that apparently surprises many Americans, even still.  The USA is Canada’s number one tourist destination.  (That’s quite a trade, isn’t it, oil for tourism?)

The video notes that 90% of Canada’s population of 34 million (a tenth of the US) lives within one hundred miles of the border with the US.  I’ve always heard that it was within 200 miles, but what’s a hundred miles when Canada is the second largest country (by land area) in the world?

The usual stereotypes are trotted out.  You know, far north, remote, so cold, only the hardiest people can live there.  That last is true, by the way.  It does take a hardy person, not only physically, but mentally as well, to survive the long cold and dark winters of Canada.

No American puff piece is complete without running a list of the Canadian born talent who’ve left their native land seeking “fame and fortune and celebrity” in the US.  Mike Myers, John Candy, Michael J. Fox, Martin Short, Celine Dion (?!?), Seth Rogen, Jim Carrey, Wayne Gretzky, and Peter Jennings all have cameos.

Brokaw then moves on to Canada’s military history.

“And if you’re in a fight, you want the Canadians on your side.  They were in World War II before we were.”

Yeah, the Canadians were in World War I before the Americans as well.

“They’ve been America’s most reliable partners in Afghanistan, and it’s been costly.”

The next few minutes of the video highlight some of the events where Canada has rushed to America’s aide, no questions asked and no thanks demanded, like the rescue of American embassy personnel from Tehran after the overthrow of the Shah and the hostage taking at the US embassy there (although it turns out, much later, that Canadian ambassador Ken Taylor was working for the CIA).  Like the way Canada accepted all USA-inbound commercial airline flights on September 11, 2001 when they were diverted from their intended destinations after the airplane attacks on the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and the aborted attempt on Congress (Shanksville, PA incident).

“In the long history of sovereign neighbours, there have never has been a relationship as close, productive,  and peaceful as the US and Canada.  We share a continent, and so much more.”

There’s some great footage of JFK addressing Parliament in May, 1961:

“Geography has made us neighbours, history has made us friends, economics has made us partners, and necessity has made us allies.  Those whom nature have so joined together, let no man put asunder.”

To be totally honest, the video made me choke up at a couple of moments.  I’m not sure why, but I think it has to do with how, in spite of the historical relationship and all that Canada has sacrificed, most of those in the US will never know, or care to know, about it.  And, despite all we as Canadians have done in support of the USA, the only thing it has earned us is contempt and disrespect.


  1. It was emotional, rightly so, but it was sad too because the previous and current U.S. administrations have done a lot to damage relationships with their paranoia about border security.

  2. it was a good video/tribute. i’m not sure that americans hold canada in contempt… it’s more apathy and indifference. and complete lack of understanding for the most part…

  3. You get choked up because you’re human and you care. When I was a teen, I spent a couple summers chopping wood in Kitchner, Ontario. (I even saw Rush in Guelph!) I enjoyed every moment of it. The people were great. A Canadian girl kissed me!

  4. I once travelled from Sydney to Prince Edward Island (brief stopover in Halifax) for a holiday with my mother. It was a bit like flying from Toronto to Tasmania and bypassing the rest of Australia. But I thought the little bit I did see of Canada was beautiful.

    Hey Rob, have you ever seen the documentary Murderball? I’m not usually into sport but this was fascinating – such rivalry between the two countries

  5. we’ll kick thur arses tonite, hope you’re cheerin em on!

  6. […] views, more than double the next most popular post on my blog (which, for those interested, was the one I put up during the Vancouver Olympics  featuring the video of Tom Brokaw “explaining…).  My blog isn’t one of those big traffic ones, so if I’m averaging 40 or views per […]

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