Last week, U.S. President Donald Trump announced the itinerary for his first foreign trip since taking office, and there was one destination noticeably absent from the list: Ottawa.
By choosing to visit to Saudi Arabia, Israel and the Vatican — followed by a NATO summit in Brussels and a Group of Seven meeting in Sicily — Trump defied the convention that U.S. presidents make their first foreign trips to Canada.
That custom isn’t always followed. But for Canadians, who are chronically insecure about their relationship with the United States, it’s usually seen as a sign of Canada’s standing in Washington. In the past, picking a destination other than Canada for that first trip abroad usually led to considerable hand-wringing.
In 2001, U.S. President George W. Bush opted to visit then-Mexican President Vicente Fox at Fox’s ranch in San Cristobal rather than head north to Ottawa, sparking suggestions that Canada had been unfairly ignored and that Bush was deliberately shunning Canada’s Liberal prime minister at the time, Jean Chretien.
Eight years later, there was a collective sigh of relief when former president Barack Obama, less than a month after his inauguration, flew up to frigid Ottawa for a six-hour visit whose highlight was a stop at a local bakery for a BeaverTail.
But with Trump, there hasn’t been a peep of protest from politicians or editorial writers.
When Trump was elected in November, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau made the usual congratulatory call and told the news media that he had invited the president for the traditional first visit north.
“I reminded him of the tradition and extended an invitation for him to come up. He responded positively, but obviously we’re still working with the incoming administration to finalize it,” Trudeau said.
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