At the moment, being Canadian seems to have its advantages:
Mark Budzanowski could almost feel his captors' mood sag when they rifled through his pockets and found his passport. The word Canada on the cover was a blow to the dozens of masked men who surrounded him in the nondescript basement somewhere in the Gaza Strip. They thought they had kidnapped an American.
At first, the men in the masks didn't believe their eyes, and questioned the 57-year-old aid worker about Canada and about specific shops near Mr. Budzanowski's residence on Carlton Street in Toronto.
When they were finally convinced that Mr. Budzanowski was not an American in disguise, he said, they started treating him more politely, and handling him less roughly.
"When they were certain I was Canadian, they were very disappointed. Then, they told me, 'We love Canada.' That's wonderful to hear when you have guns pointed at you," an exhausted Mr. Budzanowski said yesterday in a telephone interview shortly after he was released after almost 30 hours as a hostage.
But don't worry, folks. Stephen Harper's going to take care of that. He's working on it as we speak.