- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 6, 2002

Between friends

Canadian Heritage Minister Sheila Copps could not believe the outpouring of support for the United States when more than 100,000 Canadians packed Parliament Hill three days after the September 11 terrorist attacks.

Her ministry had only begun to organize the memorial service the day before the gathering.

"We never expected this many people would show up on 24-hours notice. It was an amazing human-to-human response," she told Embassy Row on a visit to Washington yesterday.

That Sept. 14 memorial service is vividly displayed in the book "A Diary Between Friends," which the Canadian government published to commemorate the vast emotional response of Canadians from Newfoundland to British Columbia.

Ms. Copps yesterday presented a film based on the book at a Canadian Embassy reception. The Discovery Channel is expected to broadcast the film.

The film, produced by Alliance Atlantis Communications of Toronto, documents many of the scenes from the book.

On September 11, hundreds of U.S. airliners were diverted to Canada when all American airports were closed. The tiny town of Gander, Newfoundland, hosted 10,500 passengers, which doubled its population for several days.

The stories of the stranded travelers included heart-warming accounts of generosity by Canadian families who gave them shelter and entertained them with tours of the countryside.

Relief efforts across Canada saw cowboys in Alberta collect $35,000 in a fund-raising ride and two children from Windsor, Ontario, raise $59.06 selling pears.

One of Ms. Copps' favorite stories concerns a bus driver in British Columbia who was supposed to take a group of American tourists from a cruise ship to the airport. When she found out the airport was closed, she drove them home some 3,000 miles to the Midwest.

When U.S. airports were reopened, grateful American passengers on one flight home collected $14,500 on the plane to open a scholarship fund for students in Lewisporte, a small town near Gander that hosted 200 passengers.

"Out of tragedy comes human contacts that will endure. It is an incredible testament to the friendship we share," Ms. Copps said.

Chicken diplomacy

The U.S. ambassador to Russia complained about a Russian ban on American chicken imports, while Russia warned that new U.S. steel tariffs will damage relations between Washington and Moscow.

The trade disputes this week could well lead to tensions when President Bush meets Russian President Vladimir Putin for a May summit in Russia.

Ambassador Alexander Vershbow said Russia's new ban on American poultry is "unacceptable."

"The stakes in this issue are much bigger than just the poultry trade, though that's pretty big, too," he said at a news conference in Moscow, according to the Associated Press.

Russia last year bought 1 million tons of American poultry worth about $700 million.

The Russian Agriculture Ministry last week said it will impose a total ban on U.S. poultry beginning this weekend. Russia cited salmonella contamination and violations of Russian agricultural regulations.

Mr. Vershbow complained that Russia imposed the ban without proper consultation.

"By imposing the ban before we've had a chance to discuss the issues leads us to the conclusion that this is based more on protectionism than on legitimate safety concerns," he said.

"This doesn't set a very good tone for the meeting between our two presidents, when we had hoped to put the spotlight on the expansion of our economic ties, not problems."

Meanwhile, Russia is complaining about the steel tariffs.

The Foreign Ministry summoned Mr. Vershbow late Monday, following news reports that Mr. Bush planned to impose tariffs on foreign producers of steel to protect the U.S. steel industry. Mr. Bush yesterday announced tariffs of 8 percent to 30 percent on different types of steel.

High tariffs "could have a serious impact on the atmosphere of Russian-American relations," the Foreign Ministry said.

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