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Life, North American style I:
The shadow of Iraq

An expatriate panel shares its insights
CBC News Online | May 2, 2003.


CBC News asked Canadians living in the U.S. and Americans living in Canada to participate in an online forum discussion about their experiences. The forum started in April and is still going on.

We got the discussion rolling with this preface: Obviously in recent weeks the two nations' differences over the war in Iraq has caused tension. How has that affected your personal and/or professional life? Have you had problems (or surprising support from)...

  • your neighbo(u)rs
  • your co-workers
  • your family back home

Here are some of the responses, edited for clarity, brevity and in some cases, privacy.


The radio talk show rhetoric and lambasting of anything not supportive of the war is unnerving at times. A lot of it stems from the basic insular attitude of Americans... the fact that from the time you are a toddler, you grow up learning that you are part of the best, greatest free nation on earth.

-Bill, Texas
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It is very reassuring to me that the Americans that I interact with in my community are very aware of the bigger picture.
-Jean-Pierre
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I'm beginning to think that some Canadians really do hate Americans. I am not convinced that it's only the government that they dislike any longer.
-DRS, Halifax
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I keep a low profile in the U.S. simply to avoid confrontation (typical Canadian?).
-Angela, Washington
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My concerns have more to do with getting arrested and/or deported for participating in the peaceful anti-war protests that abound here.
-Amy, Wisconsin
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I have found by not talking about it, that it at least isn't too much of an issue.
-Andrea, Toronto
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It is seen as treasonous to question the government. This is antithetical to everything I have been raised to believe.
-Melanie, New York
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Most of my friends here [in Vancouver] are highly critical of the U.S. actions of late, and I find I'm frequently in the majority opinion. My experience with friends and family in the States is somewhat different, however.

-Kim, Vancouver
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I also have co-workers critizing the fact the Canada has not backed the war and I have had to explain to them why.

-Cheryl
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They do not hold me personally responsible for George Bush's policies, especially as I have been critical of the Administration since the beginning. As an American who has lived in Quebec for more than 30 years, I believe that I am more inclined to view things though a Canadian prism.

-Diana, Quebec
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Having lived here in Texas for almost 10 years (from Alberta), it never even once crossed my mind to move back to Canada, *until* the past six months. The radio talk show rhetoric and lambasting of anything not supportive of the war is unnerving at times. A lot of it stems from the basic insular attitude of Americans towards the outside world, reflected by media reporting, but moreso the fact that from the time you are a toddler, you grow up learning that you are part of the best, greatest free nation on earth.

I avoid, for the most part, discussing Iraq with all but my closest of friends here. Instead, I send links from the BBC, or CBC, or DailyKos.com webblog, or United Press, or others, so that they can read for themselves. I talk about it all the time with my Canadian family and friends, who, regardless of their position, are mostly capable of dealing with it with logic, as opposed to black/white emotion.

-Bill
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I'm a Canadian in Wisconsin. This city is one of the most lefty towns in the U.S. so most of my interactions have been with Americans who oppose the war. Interestingly, the local news coverage is actually very supportive of the war, even though city council passed a resolution in opposition.

My concerns have more to do with getting arrested and/or deported for participating in the peaceful anti-war protests that abound here. There is heightened surveillance of international students in the U.S. right now; we are going to have to pay for our own monitoring by the U.S. government starting this fall. This is particularly weird as a Canadian, since I grew up with the expectation that Canadians were welcome in the U.S.

I get the sense from people that people are afraid of terrorists entering the U.S. from Canada. I don't think this is a very well-founded view, but on the other hand, these are pretty much "average Americans" and may represent what a lot of Americans think.

-Amy
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I am deeply opposed to this war, and I was glad to hear the news that the Chretien government took a stand in favour of multilateralism.

What surprised me most was that the vast majority of my colleagues seem to be as opposed to this war as I am, and in most cases far more vocal in their opinions. It is very reassuring to me that the Americans that I interact with in my community are very aware of the bigger picture. The question is what will be done in the coming months and years to repair the rifts caused by this action.

I am here in the United States temporarily... I have every intention of returning to Canada once my project is complete. One question that has been troubling me is whether, by my continued presence in this country, I am implicitly condoning the actions of the Bush administration. [But] the opportunites [in the U.S.] in my area of specialization, are second to none. On the other hand, would my returning to Canada as a gesture of protest be as silly as the that of the politicians we see on the news pouring French wine down the drain? I am almost certain I will still be here six months from now, and I am also almost certain that the Americans will go back to drinking Bordeaux.

-Jean-Pierre
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My husband and I moved to Washington from Vancouver. Our kids were born in the 'States.

As for Iraq I avoid the topic with the friends we have made. I keep my opinions to myself. Effects on my personal life are limited to keeping my mouth shut. I think I have opinions regarding the subject but I don't want to alienate the friends I have made. Their patriotism is strong.

In addition, the lack of alternate news sources is annoying. My craving has led me to the internet and this discussion group. We used to get CBC on cable but, my husband (in his infinite wisdom) switched us to satellite dish. Now no more news, hockey or DaVinci's Inquest, This Hour etc. We do get Newsworld International.

Our family is all Canadian so their views are similar. We all appear be against the war.

I keep a low profile in the U.S. simply to avoid confrontation (typical Canadian?). I don't talk to my neighbours about politics. However, American flags are blooming everywhere.

-Angela
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I am a Canadian living in the U.S. and have a very pro-Canadian family back home. The war in Iraq is very problematic for me...

My immediate family in Canada are Liberals and very anti-Bush to the point that our conversations are extremely heated.

I also have co-workers critizing the fact the Canada has not backed the war and I have had to explain to them why and also to remind them the Bush never took the time to strengthen his relations with Canada when he was first elected which did not impress Canadians overly much.

-Cheryl
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I'm a citizen of both countries, having grown up in North Dakota (no jokes, please!). I moved to Vancouver, B.C. after living in Arizona and now I live and work near Halifax, N.S.

I am not surprised at the amount of comments we've all been making about the media coverage. I think the fact that we're here at all is an attestation to the difference in media philosophy between the two countries.

Like many of you, my family back home is Republican. We've always differed in our political views, and we've finally learned to stay away from the topic. Unfortunately, that makes me feel superficial, because I'm against U.S. foreign policy and feel I need to shout out loud why I think so.

I'm beginning to think that some Canadians really do hate Americans. I am not convinced that it's only the government that they dislike any longer. Not that I've had anyone attack me, but it's just a sense I'm getting.

-DRS, Halifax
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I have had a great mix of emotion and views from both Americans and Canadians. I married a Canadian (me being an American) last August. We decided to live in Toronto instead of Oregon. One thing I have noticed most is the fact that the news programs are so different in the way things are covered and how the facts are actually facts or not. I was in the U.S. with my family right before the war started and I was in Toronto when it did. The differences are amazing to me. When I was in the 'States the things I was hearing were very convincing to me that war was not right. The thought that Bush was using the war as the reason to improve the economy instead of dealing with the problem was not supported. With what I saw here I changed my mind quite a bit. Though I have complete respect for American news stations, when I come up here I see the diferences in reporting styles and you can see the bias. Also, Canadian news programs are very against the war I find (which might just be the majority of what people think coming out in the news).

When the war first started I was talked to quite a bit from both my parents and my in-laws about the war. My in-laws very much wanted to know what my parents thought about the war, and what I thought about the war. I would say that my in-laws are very agianst the war and my parents are very pro war. I wouldn't say that any of it has had a big effect on my personal or professional life, but I do avoid the subject.

I have found by not talking about it, that it at least isn't too much of an issue. Though the fact that I am an American in Canada I do sometimes feel I am seen differently and treated differently if people know this since the war started.

-Andrea
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As a Canadian living in NYC, I have been very pleasantly surprised to find that the vast majority of my colleagues at work and my friends outside of work believe, as I do, that this war was ill-advised, and in fact in flagrant violation of international law.

Many people I have come across and/or heard about in NYC that are in favor of the war are often those who have lost relatives or friends in the [September 11] attack, and who associate the war with getting retribution.

One of the most striking differences between Canada and the U.S. that I have noticed since the war with Iraq began is that in the U.S., when any international conflict begins, it is seen as treasonous to question the government. This is antithetical to everything I have been raised to believe in as a Canadian. I was raised to believe that war time is the time when you should most question your government – when they are about to risk the lives of thousands of Canadian soldiers, and countless Iraqi civilians, we as citizens should be at our most vigilant to ensure that the actions being undertaken are necessary and just. As far as I'm concerned, to do otherwise is to fail to "support the troops."
-Melanie
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I'm a landed immigrant in Canada, and moved out here with my husband who is a dual citizen who grew up in Vancouver.

I have been very happy living in Canada, and personally disagree with much of the politics of the Bush administration in the States. Most of my friends here are also highly critical of the U.S. actions of late, and I find I'm frequently in the majority opinion.

My experience with friends and family in the States is somewhat different, however. I am currently most comfortable attributing these differences in large part to media exposure. Having grown up exposed only to U.S. media, one of the best things I've found living in Canada is that I actually have access to both U.S. and Canadian news, and I perceive definite differences between them.

Before moving here, it had never occured to me to seek out news coverage beyond CNN or MSNBC. In contrast to Canadian news which I find fairly succinct and more globally focused, I find U.S. news to be focused on being "entertaining" to a great extent, and since 9/11 (and especially since the Iraq war began), to be very patriotically-bent.

I have the impression that the mainstream news media in the 'States is not very comfortable with any story that might be considered critical of the government or the military. It's not so much that I feel the U.S. news is heavily biased, but that as an institution it is perhaps holding back.

When I get into discussions with American friends and family, I find they have a tendency to state as fact things that have been alleged by politicians or in the media, and when I bring up other stories I've read in Canadian news, they seem shocked that there IS any other news. I've taken to just suggesting that my friends in the U.S. read news from international sources every once in a while, just to see what other people are exposed to.

I suppose I may endure fire for saying this, but I've been more comfortable identifying with Canadians than with Americans pretty much since President Bush first brought up the Iraq issue last summer.

-Kim
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Friends and neighbors here have largely been extremely supportive and able to differentiate between the actions of the U.S. Administration and the American people.

They do not hold me personally responsible for George Bush's policies, especially as I have been critical of the Administration since the beginning. As an American who has lived in Quebec for more than 30 years, I believe that I am more inclined to view things though a Canadian prism, therefore I am in agreement with those who are opposed to the war on the basis that the UN did not sanction it.

Family and a number of friends in the U.S. (even those who are traditionally supporters of the Republican Party) are also opposed, as are almost all of my American friends here. I have found some Canadian friends in favor (generally supporters of Israel) and a number of American friends in the States. In the case of the latter, I try to explain that Canada is not anti-American, but acting as a good friend who tells you if you are wrong. (That is hard to justify when Canadian hooligans attack American tour buses.) I try to explain why I am opposed and point out that not only am I not anti-American, but that I come from a military family. As it is generally very hard to convince these people to look at issues from more than one side, I usually conclude with the sentiment that if I can love them despite their politics, I can only hope that they will continue to love me despite mine!

-Diana
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About the expatriate panel:
CBC News asked Canadians living in the U.S. and Americans living in Canada to participate in an online forum discussion about their experiences. The forum started in April and is still going on. We asked people to talk about different aspects of moving to the other country, from family, work, politics, legalities, to customs and culture. We'll be bringing you their comments here.
On this page you can read their complete comments or just the highlights. Or you can join a more broad discussion about Canada-U.S. relations using the link below.

Panel topics:

»Send your comments

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»Coalition for Secure and Trade-Efficient Borders

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