Monday, July 17, 2006

Canadian Consular Services

All day I've been hearing interviews on CBC radio with Canadians in Lebanon. They talk of the nationals of other countries being evacuated from the war zone, but they say they aren't getting any help from their own country. Some say that they have heard there will be a ship to evacuate them but they have no way of getting to the sea to find it. Meanwhile some of them are close enough to the bombing that you can hear it during the interviews.

I'd like to see a review of Canadian consular services. I have a little experience with them, having lived in England and Tanzania as an adult. In England I registered with the Canadian embassy and never heard boo from them - which was fine because I didn't need their services. But in Tanzania I did need their help on a several occasions and got no help at all.

There were only about 100 Canadian citizens in Tanzania during the time I was there (1995-97) and there was a large consulate in Dar es Salaam with many employees. They imported Canadian beer in bottles and other luxuries (I can't recall how I know this; I certainly never got invited to a party there). They provided services for Tanzanians who were looking to emigrate or claim refugee status, but I never did figure out what else (if anything) they did, despite my going there at least half a dozen times.

I was lucky that I'm also a US citizen so I could register at the US embassy. During the Tanzanian elections there was the threat of civil unrest and the US embassy had a plan in place to take care of us if necessary: they made sure they knew how to reach all of us (since many of us, like me, had no access to a telephone and lived on streets with no name), and we were all assigned a leader who would make sure we got information and help if things went bad. I asked at the Canadian consulate if anything was being done and was told that contingency plans were in place only for consular staff.

My mother became very ill and was thought to be on her death bed; my family contacted the Canadian consulate and asked them to contact me but nobody there was interested in helping, so they tried the US embassy - who immediately sent a car and driver to my workplace to inform me (and I flew home the next day).

Ambassadors and their senior staff live in enormous luxury, with pomp and ceremony and no expense spared. Many of those jobs are great perks for the political elite and their backers. They live in gated mansions with large staff and are treated like royalty, all paid by Canadian tax payers. That in itself should be a minor scandal, but the fact that they have no plan in place to help Canadian visitors in Lebanon evacuate the country... that should cause an enormous stink.

Errata July 18: Some of the comments I got to this post make a strong case that I misrepresented Canadian (and other country's) efforts in Lebanon. I think I let my grudge against Canadian consular services get in the way of the facts. I should have done some research and not just relied on the CBC radio news.

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4 comments:

s.b. said...

The other countries that are getting their citizens out have a military pesence in the area. Now where is all of our military? Let me see. Oh that's right Afghanistan but they can't help out right now. They are too busy.

Craig said...

There are 1,000 people from France in Lebanon; tonight on the news I heard they removed 70 to Cyprus. There are approx. 25,000 Americans - less than 100 have been removed and only because they had their own helicopters; there are a whopping 50,000 estimated Canadians in Lebanon. We have no ships, helicopters, etc. plus only about 1/2 of these have registered with the Embassy. The airport is bombed; the bridges are out; the roads are bombed; there is no train and there are Canadians in remote areas.
The government has managed to lease 6 ships - they can take 4,500 each trip to the island of Cyprus (150 miles). Elderly, children and sick first.
Canada has more citizens there than any other country.
Sound impossible? Can they pull it off? I'm guessing ONLY if they assure a cease fire and then who is to prevent Hizbolla from bombing the ships with the Canadians on board?

Anonymous said...

That is a sad story. People here in Canada are weeping over this dastardlyness.
Also, the First Nations people are weeping. Even through their own veil of tears, they weep for you and the people trapped in Lebanon.
Will the real people of Canada stand up?

decoin said...

Sweet Jiminy Cricket - if only the LPC was in power -all of these problems would be solved!!