The United States and Canada used to be two countries that trusted each other the most. Since Canada became a falsely accused scapegoat after the 9/11 attacks, the relationship has deteriorated.
Then again, George W. Bush blew off a modern tradition of not making Canada the first foreign visit once you get to the White House. Of course, Bush could have been upset since he had to get a waiver every time he visited Canada thanks to his DUI conviction.
The U.S. has their own issues, such as why Canada didn't send troops to Iraq or why Canada gets so upset over lumber trading.
So the drama that came from the Wikileaks dump, so to speak, isn't all that surprising.
You have to laugh when you realize that American officials were freaking out over portrayals of Americans on Canadian TV. You would think a country that specializes in "freedom of speech" would have a thicker skin. To quote from the cable:
The degree of comfort with which Canadian broadcast entities, including those financed by Canadian tax dollars, twist current events to feed longstanding negative images of the U.S. — and the extent to which the Canadian public seems willing to indulge in the feast — is noteworthy as an indication of the kind of insidious negative popular stereotyping we are increasingly up against in Canada.
These U.S. diplomats clearly don't understand the animosity (on some levels) Canadians have toward the U.S. The Quebecois ones are probably worse, but they are in French, so the U.S. diplomats probably don't care about those, if they understood them.
You have to love the sly reference to "those financed by Canadian tax dollars" — in other words, the CBC. At least they knew about the CBC.
The U.S.-Canada casual animosity has gone on for some time. Even when I was in college, first learning about the relationship between the two countries, there was this sometimes acrimonious relationship.
Since the 9/11 attacks, let's look at the extra that has been piled on:
-- George W. Bush didn't make an official trip to Canada in his first four years. Took him an awful long time to publicly acknowledge the heroics of the people of Halifax, NS, who put up Americans in their homes after planes were forced to land there on September 11, 2001.
-- Canada was falsely accused by U.S. officials of being a gateway for Al-Qaeda, something that hasn't been proven, but caused a lot of damage and hurt feelings north of the border.
-- Maher Arar, a Canadian citizen, was on a layover coming back from an overseas trip to Tunis in 2002. Arar was kidnapped/detained by U.S. officials and deported him to Syria, where he was tortured. And the U.S. knew he would be tortured. There still is no proof that Arar was involved in terrorism. Canada awarded him $10.5 million in compensation. Despite numerous sources stating that Arar is not involved in terrorism, including Syria, the U.S. still has not acknowledged its wrongdoing and Arar is still on the U.S. watchlist, as far as we know.
-- Canada has sent troops to Afghanistan to help out the United States. It's fair to say Canada doesn't feel appreciated for its sacrifice in Afghanistan.
-- Canada did not send troops to Iraq; then Prime Minister Jean Chretien held that Canada's participation depended on UN approval. The U.S. didn't wait for the UN, and charged ahead with the "Coalition of the Willing." The Wikileaks cables showed Canadian concern that the country was being punished for its non-participation in the war by not being a part of a channel for sharing intelligence related to Iraq operations with Britain and Australia.
-- Omar Khadr, a Canadian citizen, was 15 when he was captured after a battle in Ayub Kheyl, Afghanistan and was detained by U.S. authorities. Despite Khadr's age and Canadian citizenship, the United States sent Khadr to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Khadr had to wait 8 years at Guantanamo Bay for a trial; the U.S. tried explicitly to tie Khadr to throwing a grenade, even though there was no possible proof that Khadr has done so versus the numerous others who died in the battle. Khadr was finally sentenced to another 8 years this fall; the case was more settled than anything as it was clear that Khadr wouldn't get anything close to a fair trial.
-- The United States has turned the time after 9/11 as an excuse to harass Canadians who travel to the United States, even if they are flying somewhere else. Canada has fought back by being tougher on Americans coming into Canada. But in the immature words of a 7-year-old, "the United States started it."
This is by means not a full list. The fact that NAFTA — the United States — forces Canada to take glucose-fructose (high-fructose corn syrup) would be reason enough.
Even if the U.S. media undercovers or doesn't cover the Arar and Khadr stories, Canadian media reports on these stories. If a U.S. citizen was treated as bad as Arar was, Americans would be up in arms. I would say Americans would get upset at a similar case to Khadr, but Jose Padilla's case would prove me wrong, though Padilla was an adult at the time.
Given these realities north of the border, the TV fictional images that alarmed American diplomats might have been a mild reaction, even if they horrified the diplomats with "insidious negative popular stereotyping."
Canadians love Americans, but Canada doesn't always like the United States. Even as countries that mostly get along, there has been more infighting than usual in the last 10 years. America's image around the world has suffered massively in the last decade, and outside of Iraq and Afghanistan, Canada's perception has dropped the most.
Those diplomats might want to focus more on having better behavior toward Canada, and seeing if that will change the perception of the U.S. No amount of diplomacy can beat improved action.