U.S. troops in Winnipeg face hostility over COVID-19 fears
WINNIPEG -- A string of hostile incidents in Winnipeg, which included two cars with U.S. licence plates being keyed, has some United States Air Force members stationed in the city speaking out.
As a partnership with the United States, somewhere between 10 and 100 American troops help out at the Canadian base in Winnipeg.
"There is a nice size American contingent here that are here for between 2-4 years," said Lt.-Col. Brian Hardeman of the U.S. Air Force. "We are embedded in the community, and we are happy to be here."
Hardeman said American troops go to school and play organized sports alongside Canadians.
As part of a bilateral agreement, the U.S. troops get to keep their licence plates, but that's been causing problems recently.
"Some of the dependent spouses and things of that nature have gotten some profanity at local business establishments, and some have been told to go back home," said Hardeman.
The Lieutenant-Colonel said there have been three "outbursts."
There was also an incident where two cars were keyed because of their American plates.
According to the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF), the Americans are essential to the base and pose no risk of bringing COVID-19 into the community.
"Our American colleagues are very aware of this, and they certainly don't want to be a factor of the COVID-19 or a threat or a danger to us," said RCAF Col. Eric Charron, "They wouldn't be serving in this capacity if they didn't believe that."
Charron said he knows what being stationed in another country feels like firsthand, having lived in Germany and the Netherlands.
"Being accepted when you're in another country - a foreign country, it means the world," he said. "The impression we make is going to last, and there are no second chances for a first impression."
Charron said he has a reminder for Manitobans.
"We pride ourselves on being 'Friendly Manitoba,'" said Charron. "We pride ourselves that we are welcoming and accepting."
Cars from the airbase can be identified by a window sticker of the Canadian Forces Base Winnipeg logo.
The incidents involving U.S. troops have been reported to military police and the chain of command.