Politics

Canada shouldn't sweat WikiLeaks: ex-envoy

Former U.S. ambassador David Wilkins says U.S. diplomatic memos depicting Canadians as whining liberals with an inferiority complex aren't worth the angst they seem to be creating.
Former U.S. ambassador David Wilkins says U.S. diplomatic memos posted on the WikiLeaks website shouldn't rattle Canadians. ((Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press))

Former U.S. ambassador David Wilkins says classified U.S. diplomatic memos depicting Canadians as whining liberals with an inferiority complex aren't worth the angst they seem to be creating.

Three so-called diplomatic cables dispatched from the U.S. embassy in Ottawa while Wilkins was ambassador are among the latest classified documents being released by the online whistleblower site WikiLeaks.

In an interview with CBC News late Wednesday, Wilkins characterized the leaked missives as much ado about not much.

"If this is all we have, if all anyone could find offensive is a four-page cable talking about certain Canadian TV shows, it demonstrates [the two countries] have a pretty strong relationship," Wilkins said.

The former ambassador pointed out that all of the cables "say there is a very strong bilateral relationship between the U.S. and Canada."

'Inherent inferiority complex'

One of the cables talks about Canadians having an "almost inherent inferiority complex vis-à-vis their sole neighbor" to the south.

Another memo from the U.S. embassy to the State Department in Washington spends four pages ranting about CBC television shows filled with what the diplomatic author claims is "anti-American melodrama."

The memo takes particular aim at the comedy Little Mosque on the Prairie, and the now defunct drama The Border for offering Canadian viewers depictions of "nefarious American officials carrying out equally nefarious deeds in Canada."

The missive ends with an extraordinary call to action from Washington.

"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."

Embassy routinely issues cables

Wilkins said the embassy routinely issued "dozens" of cables to Washington every week and, while his name appeared on all of them, he didn't actually write them.

He said about a dozen American diplomats at the embassy had the authority to issue cables to Washington, and most of the time he didn't approve the communiqués before they were sent.

"Sometimes I would go away travelling for three or four days … I would come back and have a stack on my desk, and I would take them home and read them at night or over the weekend."

Wilkins said U.S. embassy officials under his command issued several thousand diplomatic cables during his tenure from 2005 to 2009.

If only a few were a bit critical of Canada, "I think it indicates we have a very strong relationship."

As for Canada's suffering an "inferiority complex," Wilkins said that perception came from Canadians.

"I don't think Canada needs anyone to validate it," Wilkins said. "In fact, right now, Canada is looking pretty good in the banking industry, in the general overall economy — I think we have a lot of lessons we could learn from Canada."

The three U.S. memos are among an estimated 2,600 mentioning Canada that are being slowly released by WikiLeaks.

Wilkins calls the leaks "totally irresponsible," saying confidentiality is all that allows diplomats to be candid in communications with their respective governments.