In Canada, Scott Walker’s withdrawal from the American presidential race generated some serious headlines. Walker famously suggested building a wall on the 5,540-mile U.S.-Canada border. A Bloomberg Politics poll released at the end of September found that 41 percent of Americans support the idea.
The controversy has inspired a new genre of columns and letters to the editor that have appeared in newspapers across Canada in recent weeks. The theme? “Bring on that wall!”
“Yes, Canadians,” journalist Josh Freed wrote in a column for the Montreal Gazette. “We must build a wall between the U.S. and us — and the time is now.”
Imagine the flood of political refugees, he told readers, in the case of a Donald Trump victory in the U.S. presidential election, “millions of shocked American Democrats and other Trump-dodgers fleeing across our Canadian border, seeking political refugee status here in the land of the free(ze).”
A Globe and Mail editorial expressed support for construction of the Great Wall of Canada. “Walls have demonstrated their usefulness throughout history, from the Ming dynasty to Game of Thrones,” it said.
“It’s time to build a wall – the higher the better.”
The editorial predicted that construction would be the ultimate stimulus project for the struggling Canadian economy and coming up with a barrier that could cross through the Great Lakes and the Rockies could inspire a wave of technological innovation.
Other Canadians offered design advice. “Think floral,” Heather Mallick wrote in the Toronto Star. Freed suggested bulletproof glass.
There’s a lot about guns in these letters and columns. Susan Sacks of suburban Toronto wrote in a letter to the Toronto Star, “If a wall will keep American guns and other American bad habits out of Canada, I’m all for it.”
Besides actual illegal handguns, suggested Dorothy Turcotte suggested in the Grimsby Local News, fencing off the United States could keep out “the influence of that culture which is being exported here.” While Canada has had its own mass shootings, they throw up their hands at American gun culture and the level of violence they see in the United States.
I speak with some authority. I am a dual citizen of the United States and Canada, and I’ve found Canadians follow the politics of their noisy neighbor pretty closely – and not just because the fate of the United States heavily influences their own. John Boehner’s resignation made Canadian newscasts. More generally, Canadians consider American politics, with their big personalities and very long races, another spectator sport or, less flatteringly, a circus.
But perhaps, behind these comments, there’s a little bit of gratitude that the United States has remembered its northern neighbor at all. Canadians often feel unjustly ignored by Americans. (Did you know they have a federal election in two weeks? No?) Recently, I heard pundits wistfully speculating on the radio about whether a debate focused on foreign news might inspire more international coverage. For the most part, it didn’t.
So perhaps, as another reader, Ron Freedman, wrote to the Star, “It’s a pleasant surprise that 41 percent of Americans know they share a border with Canada.”