Saturday, March 11, 2006

Do Tories Care About Canadians Abroad?

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



Anonymous said...

Anyone who is outside of Canada is subject to the laws of the country. They manage to get themselves in trouble why should the rest of Canada pay for that?

SilverWinger said...

Apparently Canadians who went abroad and got themselves into trouble have not found much help over the past thirteen years.

The conservatives have one on-going case to deal with and are dealing with it.

Mexico like other countries are a soverign nation and don't take kindly to our police interferring, but they are co-operating.

We have embassies to deal with these issues much more effectively than a political hack.

Demosthenes said...

The first poster's innocence is precious; the second seems to believe that local ambassadorial personnel have the access of a full-time advocate in Parliament.

How amusing.

s.b. said...

Canadians can access consular services of the British High Commision when abroad, if the Canadian embasy/consulate cannot help them. I beleive they can also acess emergency services from any consulate from the commonwealth.

I do not believe the U.S. has such an agreement and needs to care for its own citizens exclusively when they are abroad.

mezba said...

Anon@5.50: Ridiculous statement. Just because I go out of Canada does not make me undeserving of Canada's help should I be in any trouble.

Alberta: We need a minister to be specifically put in charge of Canadians in trouble abroad. As I said in my post, I hope we follow the American lead in this regard.

Demo and S.b.: thanx for the comments. I also believe Canada has a similar reciprocal agreement with Australia.

The Arabian Knight said...

Having lived abroad while holding Canadian citizenship, the genral rule is whichever country you choose to go to, you agree to live by its rules and standards.

The only time which Canada can assist you in a direct manner while living abroad in a situation like say...a criminal investigation...your still on your own, the Canadian embassy (or British in some countries where a council os not present) will only make sure that proper rules and procesure has been in place for the trial within that jurisdiction.

Which ties in the mexico thing, they let the mexican authorities do their jobs at first, when they realized that the investigation was botched, and did'nt follow proper procedure, THEN they sent in the RCMP. We can't have the government send an agenbt the second a citizen is murdered aborad. The embassies monitor the investigations, and if there are irregularities, then they take action.

As well as the issue with Arab Canadians being fingerprinted (which not all of them...only those that were born in Syria and Libya, and/or are Suadi Citizens).

Its the law, the only thing Canada can do is make sure its citzens go through the process fairly. They can however raise the issue at the diplomatic level.

And truth is, that's the exact same way with every other country. No country defends its citizens abroad in a way which they hope to be above the law.

Now for your criticisms, if your basing the fact that the Tories don't care about citizens aborad simply because they did'nt place a cabinet minister for that responsibility...that's a little absurd. There does exist services for canadians living abroad in the offices of foreign affaires and "citizenship and immigration". And as you pointed out, despite having a cabinet minister, Canadian aborad never really had their situations improved.

It was just a junk post which never delivered any results.

But I will agree that improvements need to be made...but its on the bureaucratic level.