It lacks the ticking bombs, and that Kiefer Sutherland guy in 24, but American diplomats say the CBC fills the gap with stinging anti-American stereotypes in shows like The Border and Little Mosque on the Prairie, leaked cables from the U.S. embassy in Ottawa show.
"When American TV and movie producers want action the formula involves Middle eastern terrorists, a ticking nuclear device, and a (somewhat ironically, Canadian) guy named Sutherland," one leaked U.S. embassy cable says. "Canadian producers don't need to look so far – they can find all the action they need right on the U.S. border."
The cable describes CBC programs, in detail, to illustrate what the American diplomat described as "the kind of insidious negative popular stereotyping we are up against in Canada."
U.S. officials have for days warned Canadian officials to expect to see unflattering portrayals in diplomatic cables being leaked on the whistleblower website WikiLeaks, and Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon confirmed Monday that he expected to see a comment on Canada's "inferiority complex."
Now a handful of the cables show U.S. officials not only mentioning the inferiority complex, but explaining to colleagues in Washington the U.S.'s "overwhelming" importance to Canada and complaining about the increasingly negative stereotypes of the U.S. government on Canadian TV. The cables were leaked to the National Post ahead of the WikiLeaks data dump.
The five cables are those regarding Canada that were shown to U.S. officials by news organizations that received embargoed copies from WikiLeaks, according to sources.
The CBC program The Border, the embassy contends, regularly pits Canadians against nefarious U.S. authorities as they fight a "new war" at the border.
"While the war is supposed to be against criminals and terrorists trying to cross the border, many of the immigration team's battles end up being with the U.S. government officials, often in tandem with the CIA-colluding Canadian Security and Intelligence Service," the cable states.
It notes that the "clash between the Americans and Canadians got started early in the season and has continued unabated," featuring innocents sent off to torture and pushy Americans bullying Canadian officials.
"Episode two expands on this theme, featuring the arrival of an arrogant, albeit stunningly attractive female [U.S. Department of Homeland Security] officer, sort of a cross between Salma Hayek and Cruella De Vil."
It adds: "Even 'Little Mosque on the Prairie,' a popular Canadian sitcom that depicts a Muslim community in a small Saskatchewan town, has joined the trend of featuring US-Canada border relations. This time, however, the State Department is the fall guy."
In another cable, from 2008, the head of the political section at the U.S. embassy, Scott Bellard, describes U.S.-Canada relations as the "900-pound gorilla" that was not being discussed by political parties in the 2008 elections.
"This likely reflects an almost inherent inferiority complex of Canadians vis-a-vis their sole neighbor as well as an underlying assumption that the fundamentals of the relationship are strong and unchanging and the uncertainty about the outcome of the U.S. presidential elections," the cable states.