Did Donald Trump Tell Justin Trudeau That Canada Burned Down the White House in 1812?
On 6 June 2018, CNN reported that during a 25 May 2018 phone call with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, United States President Donald Trump referenced the War of 1812, and accused the U.S. neighbor and ally of burning down the White House:
President Donald Trump and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau had a testy phone call on May 25 over new tariffs imposed by the Trump administration targeting steel and aluminum imports coming from Canada, including one moment during the conversation in which Trump made an erroneous historical reference, sources familiar with the discussion told CNN.
According to the sources, Trudeau pressed Trump on how he could justify the tariffs as a ânational securityâ issue. In response, Trump quipped to Trudeau, âDidnât you guys burn down the White House?â referring to the War of 1812.
Since the CNN report was published, both the New York Times and Canadian Broadcasting Corporation separately confirmed the accuracy of the report.
A read-out of the call posted to the White House web site says only:
President Donald J. Trump spoke today with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of Canada about the North American Free Trade Agreement and other trade and economic issues.
We reached out to Trudeauâs office, and his spokesman Matt Pascuzzo told us he was unable to comment on the discussion but pointed us to the Canadian readout of the call:
Today, the Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, spoke with the President of the United States, Donald J. Trump.
The leaders discussed the North American Free Trade Agreement including bringing the negotiations to a timely conclusion.
The Prime Minister also raised strong concerns about the U.S.âs Section 232 investigation on aut omobile imports, given the mutually beneficial integration of the Canadian and American auto industries.
On 31 May 2018, the White House announced the imposition of tariffs on imported Canadian steel and aluminum, drawing a sharp rebuke from Trudeau, who took to Twitter to say Canada will fight the âillegal and counterproductive measuresâ and that it was âsimply ridiculousâ to view any type of trade with Canada as a national security threat:
One of CNNâs sources told reporters it was unclear if the comment was interpreted as a joke by Trudeau, saying, âTo the degree one can ever take what is said as a joke. The impact on Canada and ultimately on workers in the US wonât be a laughing matter.â
Even if the presidentâs statement was meant in jest, it is an inaccurate characterization of history. Canada did not exist as a country until 1867, but as the Times explained, itâs not that simple:Source: Google News Canada | Netizen 24 Canada
Canada did nât become a nation until 1867, long after British troops did, in fact, burn down the White House in 1814. The fire gutted the presidentâs house along with several other crucial structures in Washington, which was still a relatively small town when the seat of government moved there 14 years earlier.
âThe inferno was so great that the glow in the night sky was seen from 50 miles away,â the White House Historical Association wrote.
So you canât really pin that on Canada, considering that Canada didnât exist. But it is a bit more complicated than that.
The United States did invade the colonies that later became Canada and were, at the time, controlled by the British. Ask some people in Canada and they would very much feel it was their war, marked by American aggression.