The Upshot

Dick Cheney avoids “dangerous” Canada

The Upshot

After what happened in Vancouver when the Boston Bruins won the Stanley Cup, who can blame Dick Cheney for canceling on his northern neighbors?

The former vice president had planned to speak April 24 in Toronto. However, recovered memories of September protests convinced Cheney that "personal safety" was at stake in Canada, and both he and daughter Elizabeth will stay on the safer side of the border.

"On the advice of security, they were worried that quite simply Canada is just not a friendly country to them," said Ryan Ruppert, the president of the promotions company that booked Cheney for the Metro Toronto Convention Centre. "God forbid there was ever an emergency" he added, referring to Cheney's heart problems. Cheney, a former heavy smoker, relies on a battery-powered heart pump and has no pulse.

Cheney's turnabout should satisfy the StopWar Coalition, which led the 2011 protests. "We hope to set an example that Cheney doesn't see Canada as a safe haven," co-chair Derrick O'Keefe told the Globe and Mail at the time.

"War criminal" accusations

Not that Cheney isn't used to protests in his backyard. His book tour for "In My Time: A Personal and Political Memoir" has had Amnesty International on his back in D.C. and New York City, Code Pink in San Francisco, Illinois Coalition Against Torture in Chicago, former vets at the Nixon Library in Southern California.

Canadian critics as high up as Parliament, though, have accused Cheney of being a war criminal, for advocating tactics such as water boarding and sleep deprivation. The Sept. 26 protests took place at the exclusive Vancouver Club, where participants paid $500 for dinner and a talk with Cheney. Protesters -- estimated at 250 (reporter) to 600 (commenter) -- came in full rioter gear: placards, chants, drums, and whistles. Cheney had to hunker down in the exclusive "club of choice" for seven hours. One man was arrested for allegedly "choking" a staff member (injuries were later called "minor").

His former boss didn't get much better treatment: George W. Bush's breakfast talk at a Toronto university just days before Cheney's protest was "abruptly canceled ... amid a backlash from a number of its students." Bush though, along with former President Bill Clinton, showed up a month later for the Surrey Economic Summit. Human rights activists showed up there as well, demanding that the police arrest the "evil dictator."

Safety among Canucks

Protesters aside, Toronto has been deemed one of the safest cities in North America. Indeed, crime rate in Canada overall is at its lowest rate in 40 years. Sure, the U.S. is getting safer too, but its 1.3 million violent crimes (2009) dwarf Canada's 437 violent incidents (2010). As for those Vancouver riots, its citizens felt awful bad for their unsportsmanlike behavior, and apologetic schoolkids even sent letters of goodwill to their Boston peers after the Stanley Cup loss. The most compelling image to emerge from that ruckus was two lovers kissing in the street. In retrospect, Vancouver riots can be kind of romantic. Someone tell Mrs. Cheney.

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