By Jerome Tharaud/Havre Daily Newsemail@example.com
Some Canadians may be nervous about coming to the United States, but it seems many can't get enough of Havre Mayor Bob Rice.
Rice has been interviewed by 14 Canadian radio stations, one television station and four newspapers about his efforts to welcome Canadians in the face of perceived anti-Canadian sentiment over their government's refusal to back the war against Iraq. Most recently, Rice was interviewed for a talk show on a Vancouver radio station Sunday.
"I think they're curious as to the feelings of the people of Havre," Rice said Monday. "They're just apprehensive about coming to Havre for anything and saying they're Canadian."
Rice said he thinks Havre has been lumped in with rumors about bad treatment of Canadians in other Montana cities, including rumors of car vandalism.
"I don't think people here are like that," Rice said. "I think they have opinions, all right, but I don't think they're anti-Canadian in Havre."
Rice has also spoken with several Canadian officials, including the mayors of Medicine Hat and Lethbridge, and a city official from Calgary.
Medicine Hat Mayor Garth Vallely said this morning he doesn't believe most Canadians are worried about American anger.
"I don't think the relationship has been severely damaged," Vallely said. He said the relationship between northern Montana and southern Alberta has been very strong over the years.
"Our troops are fighting side by side (with Americans) in Afghanistan as we speak," Vallely said, adding that the Canadian navy and air force helped transport supplies during the war with Iraq.
Rice began his public relations campaign about three weeks ago, when the Havre Area Chamber of Commerce heard a complaint that Canadians had been denied gas service in Havre. The same week, he said, there was another call from Canadians claiming they had been "treated shabbily," Rice said.
He said he's tried to confirm the stories but has been unable to determine if they are true.
Rice got proactive, telling the radio stations that all Canadians were invited to attend a special Canadian Day to be held in Havre during the annual Festival Days community celebration. The day, Sept. 19, will feature a free barbecue and car show. Also, a bagpipe band from Alberta will march in the Festival Days parade.
Vallely said he received a call from Rice some time after Easter, and has spoken with him one or two times since then. After speaking with Rice, Vallely called the Chamber of Commerce and the tourism board in Medicine Hat, as well as Lethbridge Mayor Bob Tarleck.
He said Rice and members of the Havre Area Chamber of Commerce have been invited to ride in the Medicine Hat Rodeo and Stampede parade in late July, and that he, Tarleck, and other officials plan to come down for Canadian Day and ride in the parade at Festival Days.
Since Rice hit the airwaves, he has received numerous e-mails and letters from Canadians who heard him on the radio.
"Heard your kind remarks while on my lunch break today on CBC," wrote Marjorie Snaith of Calgary on April 29. "Thanks a lot. It made me feel really good to know that some of our nearest neighbors still consider us friends."
An Edmonton resident also weighed in.
"I just heard an interview you gave to our CBC radio network here in Beautiful Edmonton, Alberta, Canada," wrote Cliff Ruggins on April 29. "I thought that it was great of yourself and the City of Havre, Montana to consider a day dedicated to getting our historic relationship back on the right track. A couple of beers ought to do it."
Two days later, Rice was on CBC again.
"I applaud your efforts to promote better feeling between our countries," wrote Canadian Ray Glasrud in an email on May 1. "There is fear on this side that we are not welcome on your side, even though many of us disagreed with the stand our government took."
Rice was even asked to write a column for the Calgary Herald.
Americans have weighed in too.
San Francisco resident Genevieve Fujimoto wrote to Rice after hearing his comments April 30 on "As It Happens," a Canadian show rebroadcast on National Public Radio.
"I'm saying here and now that I'm happy to hear an American official is standing up for our neighbor and old friend to the north," Fujimoto wrote. "I'm sorry that I won't be getting to your celebration, but I'll be thinking of you and your wonderful town."
Of course, not everyone has been so positive. Rice said he received one call from a Montanan telling him he was full of - well, full of manure.