KRAYDEN: Rolling Thunder a great moment for Canada but not for Ottawa’s failed mayor
I had only been in Bangkok for a couple of weeks, putting out an internet publication on Myanmar called Myanmar Eleven, for Nation Multimedia.
It was exciting — my first job in Asia, and I was trying to prove myself.
One of the expats pulled me aside — a good English fellow, who had been there for a while and was looking out for me. He said, “Dave, if you get in trouble, call this number.”
It was the British embassy number.
I said, “Well, why the British embassy? I’m Canadian … shouldn’t I phone the Canadian embassy?” He said, “Pal, the Brits will come and help you, no matter what time of day or night. If you phone the Canadian embassy, you’ll get a recording.” I wrote down the phone number and kept it in my wallet, at all times.
“Dave, this is if you get into trouble…”
In other words, women, bars and booze. Repeat, women, bars and booze. Stuff can happen in Bangkok. Farangs (foreigners) can get into big trouble in Thailand, and sometimes they need official help to get them out of it.
Many expats are also working illegally or their visas have expired. Been there, done that. This can result in a one-way ticket to the “Bangkok Hilton” — one of the worst prisons on the planet. But if one needed such help, the Canadian embassy was a complete joke, I was told. Don’t even bother, they said.
I recalled this story, following Foreign Minister Mélanie Joly saying last week that Canadian diplomats “are always” there to help abroad. “We are always there to make sure Canadians abroad, including in Ukraine, are provided diplomatic support,” Joly testified this week at the Senate foreign affairs committee.
“That’s what I can say.”
Well, this is what I can say. I studied Foreign Affairs at the University of Windsor, under the very capable Prof. Terry Keenleyside, who was a former Canadian diplomat and also author of The Common Touch, a diplomatic thriller. And he told us, in no uncertain terms, that Canada’s diplomatic corps absolutely hates having anything to do with helping ordinary Canadians. They would sooner take a bullet in the head. Make that, two bullets in the head.
In fact, they don’t think that this is their job and they absolutely hate having anything to do with it. If you don’t get an answering service, if you are in big trouble, chances are they won’t lift a finger to help you, unless the media jumps on your bandwagon.
Then, and only then. They simply don’t give a damn. And why should they? They belong to the elite pinstriped crowd. They don’t care about Joe and Jane Average. And they worked hard — damn hard — to get where they are.
Get lost pal — we don’t need the headache! We have more important work at hand. So when Joly claimed that Canada’s foreign staff would be jubilant at having to help us, I had to laugh. A very big laugh.
The Foreign Minister could not have been further out to lunch. However, and, in their defence, their job largely evolves around building diplomatic ties and to extend the reach of Canadian businesses who operate abroad.
It’s always about the money. And it will always be about the money.
Having to deal with wayward travellers, who, for example, get drunk, get in a bar fight and bust up the place — then getting arrested and then dealing with developing world police and justice, is not something they like doing. Who would?
Joly was reacting to criticism, that Canadian diplomats — who were the first consular officials to leave Afghanistan — left behind hundreds of citizens in the face of the advancing Taliban.
According to a report in the Western Standard, records disclosed to date at a Commons Special Committee on Afghanistan indicate Canadian Ambassador Reid Sirrs and his staff commandeered a half-empty military plane to flee Kabul last August 15.
The closure of the embassy left 1,250 Canadians without aid as the city fell under Taliban control.
“We were the first embassy to depart,” Major-General (Ret’d) Dean Milner, the last Canadian combat commander in the region, testified February 14 at the Commons committee.
“That was very embarrassing for a lot of us on the ground.”
“They could have been a lot of help. I know I was working with a number of them in the embassy and all of a sudden, boom, they were gone,” said Milner.
Again, this is consistent with the way Canadian embassies operate — they simply do not like getting involved in the issues of Canadians in trouble abroad.
Obviously, this could have been handled better, and should have been handled better. Keep in mind, the Afghan situation was a dynamic one, constantly changing with each new day.
On the heels of this, it has been alleged that Global Affairs Canada does not even look after its own, let alone Canadians in foreign countries.
Howie, Sacks & Henry announced it has partnered with law firm Waddell Phillips to represent Canadian diplomats who have suffered mysterious injuries known as Havana Syndrome while representing Canada in Cuba.
The diplomats have been diagnosed with “Havana syndrome,” which neurologists say is medically similar to a concussion but without physical trauma, and which some US researchers have speculated may have been the result of some sort of energy weapon, the law firm said.
Symptoms include dizziness, nosebleeds, headache, nausea, and confusion. The diplomats are seeking $28 million from the federal government, alleging Ottawa failed to properly address mysterious brain injuries they sustained while representing Canada in Cuba, the law firm said.
Believe me, this is a rarity. Diplomats seldom sue their current employers.
Yet another black eye, another embarrassment, for the Canadian foreign service. It’s all fine and well, to report to the local Canadian embassy, when you are abroad. I still recommend that. But if the sh-t hits the fan, don’t count on them helping you. You’re on your own, pal.
That’s just the way they roll.
Dave Makichuk is a Western Standard contributor.