Cross Burning Rumor Scorches Canadian Liberal

By Alison Appelbe | July 7, 2008 | 8:09 PM EDT

Vancouver, B.C. ( - The Washington, D.C. bedroom community of Bowie, Maryland appears to have been caught in a case of foot-in-mouth disease by a prominent Canadian politician.

The tale began March 21, when Hedy Fry, Canada's Secretary of State for Multiculturalism and the Status of Women, stood up in the House of Commons and announced that crosses were burning "as we speak" on the lawns of Prince George, a resource-industry city located 550 miles northeast of Vancouver.

However, the Trinidian-born member of the ruling Liberal Party hadn't checked her facts. Neither the mayor of Prince George, from whom she claimed to have heard the rumor, nor police had heard of such an incident.

The outrage among the local citizenry was loud and long lasting. Almost two months later, Fry's aides are still trying to account for what has become her now-legendary blunder.

So how did Fry get from Prince George, British Columbia to Bowie, Maryland?

After combing their files, the only explanation officials could come up with is an unsubstantiated rumor of a cross-burning in Merritt, B.C., 550 miles south of Prince George, and a newspaper report of a 1999 criminal conviction in Bowie, Maryland arising from a cross-burning at a local high school.

A federal employee of Fry's Ottawa-based ministry explained that Bowie, the subject of the 1999 conviction and ongoing press reports of troublesome race relations, is in Prince Georges County, Maryland.

"Coincidence, or is this possibly the source of a mix-up in rumors?" asked multi-cultural programmer Susan Murdock.