LET US SUPPOSE the White House appointee as U.S. ambassador to Canada were an American diplomat whose spouse, a film producer, had just completed an exposé documentary with this brutal theme: a Canadian government conspiracy supporting Osama bin Laden-style terrorism against the American people. Inconceivable? Yes, for the United States. Not so for Canada, however, or at least for Canada's Liberal party and its leader Paul Martin, now out of power.
Canada's minority government is in the shaky hands of the Conservative party for the moment, and at least its leader and prime minister, Stephen Harper, respects his democratic neighbor to the south, which is more than can be said for Martin, as fanatical in his hatred of the United States as was his late predecessor Pierre Trudeau.
In fulfilling his role as Canada's America-hater Number One, Martin, when he was still prime minister last fall, appointed Michaëlle Jean, a Canadian Broadcasting Corporation television host of Haitian origin, to be the governor general. Technically, Britain's Queen Elizabeth appointed Jean, as the governor general is the vice-regent, the queen's representative in Canada. But the queen names whoever is recommended to her by the Canadian prime minister, and Jean will serve for the next five years.
It is Jean's leftist husband, Jean-Daniel Lafond, a film producer, who has set off an uproar in Canada. First, because he is a Quebec separatist who favors breaking up Canada. And second, because his anti-Americanism is so vicious it is unlikely he could ever be invited to the White House, despite his being consort of the governor general. All this was known, of course, to those who dreamed up Madame Jean's appointment by then Prime Minister Martin.
Lafond's latest project, according to a report in the Toronto-based National Post, is a documentary that has just debuted at a Toronto film festival called American Fugitive: The Truth About Hassan. The "Hassan" in question is an American man, born David Belfield, who converted to Islam while at Howard University, and in July 1980 murdered Ali Akbar Tabatabai, a spokesman for the exiled shah of Iran, in Bethesda, Md. He fled to Tehran, where he lives now, still wanted for the murder in the Washington suburbs.
The article about Lafond's project is headlined: "Paul Martin's hand-picked conspiracy theorist." John Geiger, National Post editorials editor, describes Lafond's film in these words:
It provides a podium to a confessed assassin and Islamist thug living in Iran to rant about "American state terrorism" and to claim "George Bush is killing people every day"--and it is premiering at a time when Canadian soldiers are fighting Islamist militants in Afghanistan and Iran's president is threatening to wipe Israel off the map.
The film, says Geiger, also gives "credence to outrageous conspiracy theories purporting to involve the U.S. government" coming from the governor-general's husband. Geiger writes:
It's like U.S. First Lady Laura Bush making a film suggesting that Pierre Trudeau was involved with Fidel Castro and the Chicago mob in the assassination of JFK.
Lafond's film, produced last year, highlights, says Geiger, "a long-discredited claim that campaign aides of Ronald Reagan and George Bush Sr. made a secret deal to delay the release of the American hostages in Tehran until after the 1980 presidential election in order to facilitate the defeat of Jimmy Carter."
There is a significant sector of elite opinion in Canada, in the intellectual and academic worlds, and in the civil service bureaucracy concentrated in Ontario, that regards the United States as Canada's main enemy. This was so even in the days when Soviet imperialism was in the ascendant. The rise to prominence of Michaëlle Jean and her husband is a new high-water mark for this crowd. Whether Prime Minister Harper can effectuate a turnaround is yet to be seen.
Arnold Beichman is a research fellow at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University.