(To be fair, us Canadians have referred to all racist redneck inbreds
from the US South as "Mongolians" for years now.)
In the U.S. south, is Canadian a new racial slur?
Graeme Hamilton, National Post
Published: Thursday, January 24, 2008
It was a routine e-mail from the boss sent to congratulate a junior
prosecutor in Houston, Tex., who had won manslaughter convictions
against an intoxicated driver.
"He convicted Mr. Sosa of a double intoxication manslaughter, got a
weak jury to give him 12 years in each, and then convinced Judge
Wallace to stack the sentences," Harris County assistant district
attorney Mike Trent wrote in an office-wide memo. Then came the odd
part: "He overcame a subversively good defence by Matt Hennessey that
had some Canadians on the jury feeling sorry for the defendant and
forced them to do the right thing."
The e-mail was sent in 2003 but came to light only this month as part
of an unrelated controversy with his office, forcing Mr. Trent to
defend himself against accusations of bigotry -- not because he
offended the people of Canada, but because "Canadian" has apparently
become a code word for blacks among American racists.
"There is a double meaning to that word and I didn't know it. I was
horrified when I learned what it was, and I immediately addressed the
issue with the people who brought it up," Mr. Trent told a local Fox
News reporter in a recent interview.
"I'd never heard of Canadian being used as a term for a black person
or for a racial slur," he said.
"If I had, I would never send that out in an office-wide e-mail that's
going to go to people who are going to be offended if they recognize
it as such. That would be crazy.... I'm not a racist. I'm not a
bigot," Mr. Trent said.
Mark Vinson, who was a chief prosecutor in the Harris County office at
the time, said he was puzzled by the reference to Canadians when he
got the e-mail but was too busy to give it much thought. Then some
colleagues informed him about the slang meaning of Canadian, and he
"So much has been accomplished in terms of equal opportunities, and
the office had a super reputation," Mr. Vinson, who is black, told the
National Post. "I just couldn't imagine someone in the office who
would engage in that conduct."
He said he believes Mr. Trent's assurance that he had simply repeated
a term used by the prosecutor on the case, Rob Freyer. Mr. Freyer did
not return a message left yesterday.
"I know Mike. We laugh and talk about the [Dallas] Cowboys," Mr.
Vinson said. "I truly don't believe that Mike knew what he was
It is unusual that a seasoned attorney like Mr. Trent would not have
wondered how a Harris County jury came to be stacked with Canadians.
(There were no Canadians on the jury but there were some black
members.) "The only way that there could have been Canadians on the
jury, was if they were born in Canada and then became U.S. citizens,
and then became citizens of the county in which the case was tried,"
Mr. Vinson noted.
Mr. Trent told Fox News that was not out of the question. "It would
not be impossible or unusual for people from other countries to be on
our juries," he said. "That's what I was told, and I took it as the
The bigger mystery is how "Canadian" came to be code for black. An
online directory of racial slurs defines Canadian as a "masked
replacement" for black.
Last August, a blogger in Cincinnati going by the name CincyBlurg
reported that a black friend from the southeastern U.S. had recently
discovered that she was being called a Canadian. "She told me a story
of when she was working in a shop in the South and she overheard some
of her customers complaining that they were always waited on by a
Canadian at that place. She didn't understand what they were talking
about and assumed they must be talking about someone else," the
"After this happened several times with different patrons, she
mentioned it to one of her co-workers. He told her that Canadian' was
the new derogatory term that racist Southerners were using to describe
persons they would have previously referred to [with the N-word.]"
A similar case in Kansas City was reported last year on a Listserv, or
electronic mailing list, used by linguistics experts. A University of
Kansas linguist said that a waitress friend reported that "fellow
workers used to use a name for inner-city families that were known to
not leave a tip: Canadians. Hey, we have a table of Canadians....
They're all yours.' "
Stefan Dollinger, a postdoct***fellow in linguistics at University
of British Columbia and director of the university's Canadian English
lab, speculated that the slur reflects a sense of Canadians as the
"This code' word, is the replacement of a no-longer tolerated label
for one outsider group, with, from the U.S. view, another outsider
group: Canadians. It could have been terms for Mexicans, Latinos etc.
but this would have been too obvious," he said. "What's left? Right,
the guys to the north."
"And how can we win when fools can be kings?"