The Liberals had a Cabinet-level post of Parliamentary Secretary with special responsibility for Canadians abroad, which Mr. Harper abolished last month. Despite a bad record of helping Canadians in trouble abroad, the Liberals had someone to take responsibility for this essential duty. The Conservatives perhaps decided Canadians who managed to get themselves in a fix while outside the country was not a Cabinet priority.
As a Canadian who travels often, this is one area in which I wish we copied the Americans. The U.S. has a special Washington-based agency within the State Department, named the Office of American Citizens Services and Crisis Management and devoted to serving out-of-country Americans. There is a strict diplomatic protocol in which officials must be on site within 24 hours, and ready to report to Congress within 72 hours, of any crisis involving an American. It seems to me that whatever little mechanism we had in Canada has now been abolished by the Tories.
It's not easy at times to help your citizens in trouble. Australia could not prevent the execution of Nguyen Tuong Van in Singapore, nor prevent Schapelle Corby from being jailed for 20 years in Indonesia.
When William Sampson was imprisoned in Saudi Arabia, Monte Solberg, then the Canadian Alliance foreign affairs critic demanded that Canada protest Mr. Sampson's treatment by cancelling a visit to Ottawa by Crown Prince Abdullah in June to open an embassy. He also demanded the recall of Canada's ambassador to Saudi Arabia. Yet it was the Liberals that took this step when Iran killed one of our journalists. It was the Liberals that took the drastic step of issuing a travel advisory on travelling to the United States when the Americans were stopping and finger-printing Arab-Canadians based on their place of birth.
The Mexican situation, while a tragic event for the families involved, was tailor made for Harper to shine. No Canadian is imprisoned there - it's a crime investigation where a Canadian died. Nothing extraordinary. Yet we find a huge mismanagement in Canada's response to the situation. The RCMP waited a week to send its Mexico City liaison officer to the Playa del Carmen murder site, despite statements from Mexican authorities that Canadians were the prime homicide suspects. Last week, the Mounties sent two non-Spanish speaking officers to Mexico, with "observer" status only. For 12 years we have been hearing the Conservatives complaining about the Canadian government being a wimp. The Conservatives have no one to blame this time, they are now in charge.
First though, they have to figure out who amongst themselves is in charge for managing such scenarios.
Stand Up For Canada? Stand Up For Canadians? You'd better be in Canada, then.
News Link: The Star
Tags: Canadians Abroad Ianiero