Eight Obama moments that won the hearts of Canadians

As Barack Obama packs up from the West Wing, here are some of the most memorable moments that grabbed Canada’s attention.

By: /
January 19, 2017
U.S. President Barack Obama laughs at a joke during the White House Correspondents' Association Dinner in Washington May 3, 2014. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts

It’s no secret that most Canadians love Barack Obama. Over the last eight years, the social media-savvy, charismatic president upheld an international image that earned him praise from many countries around the world. He will leave office with one of the highest approval ratings of any outgoing president, and with many Americans saying they will miss him in the Oval Office. And while his administration may have made mistakes, many of which have been written about on this site, and Canada-U.S. relations were not always smooth sailing (think Keystone), it’s mainly Obama’s successes that are being remembered this week.

So, as the president says farewell, here are eight lighter moments from his tenure — from 2009 until 2017 — that Canadians are not likely to forget.

1. Obama once called Ottawa ‘Iowa.’

For his first foreign trip after taking office in 2009, Obama travelled to Ottawa for a meeting with then-prime minister Stephen Harper. At the joint press conference that followed, Obama accidentally began his statement with, “It’s a great pleasure to be here in Iowa, uh, Ottawa.” It could’ve happened to any rookie prez. Americans may be surprised to learn about this slip up after the White House edited it out of its official version.

2. He looked doubtful at a BeaverTail.

Obama Beavertail
U.S. President Barack Obama Receives a BeaverTail in the Byward Market, Ottawa. US Embassy Canada/Flickr

During the same visit to Canada’s capital, Obama took a stroll around ByWard market and indulged in the most quintessentially Canadian treat: a BeaverTail. His fried, doughy pastry topped with cinnamon, maple syrup, chocolate and a big whipped cream letter “O” became known as the “ObamaTail.” Sounds delicious, right? So why the face, Obama?

3. He encouraged a budding bromance.

Obama Trudeau APEC
Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau (L) and U.S. President Barack Obama conclude remarks to reporters after their bilateral meeting alongside the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Summit in Manila, Philippines, November 19, 2015. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

When Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Obama met for their first one-on-one meeting at the 2015 APEC summit in Manila, people couldn’t help but take notice of their fondness for one another. While there, Obama teased Trudeau about preparing to dye his infamous hair early before it turned grey, and the two leaders chatted easily about the renewal of the Canada-U.S. relationship. And thus, Trubama was born.

4. He argued about hockey and beer.

The bromance was solidified when Obama honoured Trudeau with a state dinner in Washington in March, 2016 — a rare sign of good faith between the two countries. It had been 19 years since a president held such an event for a Canadian prime minister. At the official welcoming ceremony, Obama lightheartedly mocked Canadian culture, bringing up hockey and beer — two subjects certain to provoke a reaction out of most Canadians — and said the two countries may never agree on who does it better (of course, we do).

5. He had trouble saying ‘Mississauga.’

During a toast to Trudeau at the state dinner held in Washington, Obama began reminiscing about a trip he and his family took to Canada before he was president to attend his sister’s wedding. When listing the places he visited on that occasion, he paused and mumbled, “This is always tough...Mississ-sah-gwa.” The Canadians in the crowd promptly helped him out with the pronunciation. It was almost as endearing as his attempts to speak French.

6. He was a good sport, despite a handshake fail.

At the North American Leaders’ Summit held in Ottawa last year, Trudeau hosted Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto and Obama. The three leaders announced a joint climate agreement and progress on continental security and trade, among other things, but it was this awkward three-way handshake that stole the show. It was definitely Trudeau’s fault, but Obama handled it with a grace.

7. He roasted Trudeau at his final White House Correspondents’ Dinner.

The White House Correspondents' Association annual dinner provides politicians with the opportunity to joke with the members of the media who bombard them with questions year in and year out, while also poking fun at the party not in power and occasionally at foreign leaders. In 2016, Trudeau found himself at the end of a presidential punchline. “Somebody recently said to me, ‘Mr. President, you are so yesterday. Justin Trudeau has completely replaced you. He’s so handsome, he’s so charming. He’s the future,’” Obama said. After a pause, he went on, “I said, ‘Justin, just give it a rest.’”


8. He gave an impassioned speech to Canada’s House of Commons.

In June, Obama delivered a stirring speech to the Canadian parliament on social division, the effects of globalization, equality for women, terrorism and the economy. As he concluded his speech, members of parliament did something unexpected: they chanted “Four more years.” White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest was even asked about it at a press briefing later that week. "I'm not aware of any plans that the president has to run for prime minister of Canada," Earnest said. "As lovely as Ottawa was yesterday, I think the president would prefer a warmer climate."