April 02, 2003


MONTREAL -- A peewee hockey tournament in Montreal became a trip into hostile territory for a busload of Americans who say they encountered such fierce anti-Americanism that they will think twice before returning.

During a four-day visit, boys travelling with their Massachusetts hockey team witnessed the burning of the Stars and Stripes and the booing of the U.S. national anthem. When travelling in their bus emblazoned with a red-white-and-blue "Coach USA" logo, they saw people on the street who extended their middle fingers or made other angry gestures.

On the ice, the Canadian players told their visiting counterparts that "the U.S. sucks" and dispensed other anti-American insults, the Americans said.

"It was a shock to go to a tournament and have kids saying this to us. These are our friends that are doing this," Brockton Boxers coach Ernest Nadeau said.

"We didn't expect Canadian players -- especially young boys -- would take things to that extreme," he said in an interview.

The 11- and 12-year-old boys from Brockton, 30 kilometres south of Boston, had been looking forward to the hockey tournament in Montreal. But parents who accompanied them said they were unprepared for the depth of anti-American sentiment over the U.S.-led war against Iraq.

One parent, Bill Carpenter, was so upset he cancelled his family's vacation to Quebec this summer.

I don't blame him and I doubt he'll be the only one.

UPDATE: Here's more bad news from Canada. A Canadian reader, meanwhile, fears that I'm adding fuel to the fires of animosity between Americans and Canadians. I hope not. I hope I'm calling attention to how Canadians -- for years proud of their tradition of civility -- have abandoned that in an orgy of anti-Americanism. (Especially, of course, in the French-speaking parts of Canada, which are anti-American and which wield disproportionate influence in Canadian politics, much as the French-speaking parts of, well, France, do in the United Nations. . . .).

At any rate, I doubt that Americans will respond in kind. We're more bemused and disappointed than furious. It's like having a nice brother-in-law who suddenly loses touch with reality and starts talking about joining a cult. You don't hate him. You hope he'll snap out of it after a while. But you'll never quite trust him the same way again. And, ultimately, that's a much bigger loss for Canada than it is for the United States.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Canadian Blogger Mike Campbell says I shouldn't worry:

I don't think he's adding fuel to the fire. The fire's already going. Let the people who started it stand by their convictions and pay the price. There is a price, people. Let's hope the political and media elites and the rest of the population are willing to pay it. And let the silent portion, if they are a majority, pay it as a price for keeping silent.

He points out that they're quite pro-American in Nova Scotia as opposed to Quebec, and suggests that Americans adjust their vacation destinations accordingly.