With Canada-U.S. relations reeling in the wake of new steel and aluminum tariffs imposed by the Trump administration, tempers have begun to flare.
Reports of a contentious May 25th telephone call between prime minister Justin Trudeau and U.S. president Donald Trump describe a lively exchange, with Trudeau pushing back and questioning Trump’s defense of the tariffs as a national security issue.
“Didn’t you guys burn down the White House?” responded the president, apparently unaware that it was British troops who burned the executive mansion down during the war of 1812.
Under the command of General Robert Ross, 2,500 British troops invaded Washington D.C. on August 24, 2014, and held the city for 26 hours, during which time they also burned the yet-unfinished capitol building and many other public buildings in retaliation for an American raid on Port Dover, in what is now Ontario.
It was during this invasion that First Lady Dolley Madison famously oversaw the removal of a Gilbert Stuart portrait of George Washington from the White House before it could be captured by the British, cutting it from its frame and rolling it up for a quick escape.
As to the tenor of the president’s remark, an unnamed CNN source who sat in on the Trump-Trudeau phone had a terse reply when asked if the president was joking.
"To the degree one can ever take what is said as a joke. The impact on Canada and ultimately on workers in the U.S. won't be a laughing matter."