The American embassy in Ottawa issued a statement Thursday morning saying the country does, in fact, value the “service and sacrifice” of Canadians after a top Trump aide appeared to belittle the hundreds of deaths and casualties incurred during the war in Afghanistan.
“The United States deeply values the service and sacrifice of our Canadian allies in support of the defense of freedom and global security,” said Richard Mills, the embassy’s chargé d’affaires.
The chargé d’affaires is the top-ranking official in the embassy at the moment given Aldona Wos, who was nominated in February 2020 by the president to take over the ambassadorship, is not yet confirmed.
The statement also referenced a quote from Vice-President Mike Pence when he visited Canada last year.
“The United States and Canada have stood shoulder to shoulder in the defense of freedom for generations. Our ancestors fought side by side in the great conflicts of the 20th century,” Pence said.
“And in recent years, our armed forces have fought against the scourge of radical Islamic terrorism across the Middle East. And both of our nations have endured great sacrifice.
“The United States will always honor this alliance — this alliance for freedom. And we will always honor the sacrifice of soldiers of both of our nations.”
Thursday’s statement is an unusual move by the embassy but one that comes after Peter Navarro, trade advisor to U.S. President Donald Trump, was quoted in a new book on the current administration’s foreign policy.
In the interview, he suggested that the reason Canada signed up for the bloody war in Afghanistan was to “curry favour” with the U.S. administration at the time.
“Were they doing us a favour, or were they brought into the idea they needed to do that as part of the global effort against terrorists?” he was quoted as saying.
“I mean, if they were just doing us a favour, maybe their government should have been thrown out of office. I mean, every time that a Canadian shows up in a uniform, it’s doing us a favour? How’s that work?”
He also added: “What’s good about Canada?”
Over the course of the decade-long war in Afghanistan, 158 Canadian Armed Forces members died.
More than 1,800 others were also injured, and the psychological and physical effects — including stress-related injuries — remain a challenging legacy that both the country and the military continue to work to address.
As well, seven Canadian civilians also died in that conflict: a diplomat, a government contractor, four aid workers and a journalist.
Canadian officials stress ‘sacrifices’, support after 9/11
A senior Canadian government official, speaking on background, described the comments as “disappointing” given the support Canadians offered in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks.
Kirsten Hillman, Canada’s ambassador to Washington, posted a tweet that highlighted the sacrifices Canadians have made standing by Americans and other allies in conflicts.
“You’ve left behind sons and daughters, husbands and wives, mothers and fathers, to stand by our U.S. partners and allies around the world,” she tweeted.
Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan issued a statement about the comments emphasizing the strong ties and shared sacrifices between Canada and the U.S.
“When our friend and ally was attacked on 9/11, Canada was there for America that day and throughout the entire Afghanistan campaign,” Sajjan said, pointing to the Canadians who made the “ultimate sacrifice in the name of our collective peace and security.”
“Canadians will not forget their sacrifice and having served alongside them, I know the American military and everyday Americans will not forget that Canada was there for them in their time of need.”
He also noted the ongoing military cooperation against ISIS in the Middle East, as well as the Canadians who have fought and died shoulder to shoulder with Americans in Normandy, Korea and other conflicts.
It’s not the first time Navarro has launched verbal volleys north of the border.
Following the G7 summit held in Quebec in 2018, Navarro let loose a tirade against Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on television, insisting there was “a special place in hell” for the leader of one of America’s longest-standing allies.
He made the comment after the U.S. imposed steep steel and aluminum tariffs on Canada as part of the renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement, which prompted Trudeau to say in a press conference when asked about the tariffs that Canada “will not be pushed around.”
Navarro later apologized for his tirade, calling it “inappropriate.”
He has not yet apologized in the current case.