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Archive for Canada

Newsline: Russian foreign ministry complains to UK, US and Canadian embassies for flying the rainbow flag

The foreign ministry in Russia made a formal complaint to the UK, US and Canadian embassies in Moscow for flying the rainbow LGBT+ Pride flag during Pride Month. Russia’s infamous “gay propaganda” law bans any positive depiction of LGBT+ people. Anyone found guilty of sharing such information with minors can be sentenced to heavy fines or up to 15 years in prison. A diplomatic source told TASS that the UK embassy in Moscow had received a protest note from the Russian foreign ministry for displaying the LGBT+ Pride flag, which it raised towards the end of June. (https://www.pinknews.co.uk/2020/07/29/russia-pride-flag-foreign-ministry-complaint-uk-us-canadian-embassy-rainbow-lgbt/) State Duma lawmaker Vasily Piskarev confirmed that protest notes had also been sent to the Canadian and US embassies in Moscow, which also displayed rainbow LGBT+ Pride flags.

Newsline: Former ambassadors warn of unwelcoming signs for investors in Mexico

Mexico needs to do more to create a welcoming environment for foreign investors, three former ambassadors said. Speaking during a virtual forum on the future of North America beyond the coronavirus pandemic and the ratification of the new free trade pact between Mexico, the United States and Canada, former U.S. ambassador to Mexico Roberta Jacobson said the Mexican government is failing to demonstrate that it really welcomes foreign investment. (https://mexiconewsdaily.com/news/former-ambassadors-warn-of-unwelcoming-signs-for-investors/) Jacobson, ambassador between 2016 and 2018, said that Mexico needs to establish a level playing field on which foreign investors and their capital are not unfairly disadvantaged. Jacobson’s remarks came two weeks after her successor, Ambassador Christopher Landau, said that it’s not a good time to invest in Mexico. Specifically citing recent changes to energy policy, Landau said that the federal government failed to keep its pledge not to change investment rules that were in place when it took office in late 2018. The “uncertainty” created by the government could be a barrier to increased investment, he said. Speaking at the virtual forum, former Canadian ambassador Pierre Alarie expressed a similar sentiment, asserting that clear rules and a stable political environment are paramount to attracting foreign investment.

Newsline: Canadian ambassador to the UN named

Former Ontario premier Bob Rae has been appointed Canada’s ambassador to the United Nations, the Prime Minister’s Office announced. Rae, who also served as the interim Liberal Party leader between 2011 and 2013, will succeed Marc-André Blanchard as Canada’s representative to the body. The ambassadorial shakeup comes less than a month after Canada failed to secure a temporary seat on the Security Council, losing to Norway and Ireland on the first ballot. Speaking to reporters on Parliament Hill, Rae said “job No. 1” is to convince Canadians of the continued importance of the UN. (https://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/bob-rae-united-nations-un-ambassador-1.5638840) He said that with the COVID-19 pandemic still raging in some parts of the world, Canada will be central to efforts to “rebuild a successful world order. Nothing short of that will do.” He said Canada shouldn’t retreat from the world scene just because it lost its bid for a Security Council seat.

Newsline: Canada’s new ambassador in D.C. learns art of Covid-19 diplomacy

Kirsten Hillman slid into the role of Ottawa’s top diplomat in Washington last summer on a temporary basis, as Canada was hustling to seal a revamped continental trade deal ahead of the 2020 presidential election and its potential to further reshape the bilateral relationship. On the same day Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced her formal appointment, the White House was musing about sending troops to the Canada-U.S. border in response to the coronavirus. Just days earlier, the nations had worked together on a deal to limit who could cross from one country into the next during the pandemic. “We had had such success with orderly and quick and coordinated restrictions on the border to nonessential travel,” Hillman said in an interview as she reflected on her first official week on the job. “To then somehow suggest that something wasn’t going well at the border, and therefore there needed to be troops deployed potentially to assist at the border, just was taking that incredibly positive tone and potentially undermining it.” (https://www.politico.com/news/2020/04/23/canadas-new-ambassador-in-dc-learns-art-of-covid-19-diplomacy-205710) The chaos and confusion in these days of Covid-19 are a remarkable development for a diplomat newly emerged from the pressure and uncertainty of the USMCA negotiations. Since the coronavirus has disrupted diplomacy, Hillman spends much of her time working the phone from home, though she must occasionally go to the embassy to access secure communication networks. She is in “constant contact” with connections in the White House, State Department and other executive branch agencies. She also talks to Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland “sometimes several times a day,” in addition to other Cabinet ministers, to ensure the embassy is clued into the Canadian government’s priorities.

Newsline: Ex-Royal Marine took his life at Canadian embassy in Kabul

A former Royal Marine who suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) shot himself while working as a security officer in Afghanistan, an inquest has heard. The inquest was held via video-link because of the Covid-19 lockdown. (https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2020/mar/31/ex-royal-marine-took-his-life-at-embassy-in-kabul-inquest) Stuart McBrearty, 39, from Aldershot, Hampshire, was found dead in the shower of his accommodation at the Canadian embassy in Kabul on 17 October last year. Hampshire coroner Jason Pegg said McBrearty had visited a psychiatrist, Dr David Oyewole, at the private Nightingale Hospital in London a month before his death and told him that, during his periods of service in Iraq and Afghanistan, he had a “number of horrific and frightening experiences”. The coroner said McBrearty had served with the Royal Marines before leaving in 2013 to become a close protection officer and at the time of his death was working at the Canadian embassy in Kabul for the Olive Group, part of the security firm Constellis. Pegg said a postmortem examination showed that McBrearty, who carried a pistol at all times, had suffered a gunshot wound. A toxicology report had showed McBrearty had been more than three times the drink-drive limit and also had therapeutic levels of diazepam, a drug used for depression and anxiety, in his system. The inquest was told the company had a zero-tolerance policy to alcohol but drink could be obtained in Kabul.

Newsline: Trump nominates new ambassador to Canada to fill post vacant since August

President Donald Trump has nominated a North Carolina Republican, physician and former diplomat as the next U.S. ambassador to Canada. The White House says Aldona Z. Wos, who is currently the vice-chair of the President’s Commission on White House Fellowships, has been named to the post, which has been vacant since August. (https://ckpgtoday.ca/2020/02/11/trump-nominates-new-ambassador-to-canada-to-fill-post-vacant-since-august/) That’s when then-ambassador Kelly Craft departed Ottawa to become the U.S. envoy to the United Nations. Wos has a long resume that includes working as a physician specializing in internal medicine and pulmonary care as well as being the U.S. ambassador to Estonia.

Newsline: Canadian diplomatic staff in Cuba may have been affected by mosquito gas, not ‘sonic weapon’

Canadian researchers say they may have identified the cause of a mystery illness which plagued diplomatic staff in Cuba in 2016. Some reports in the US suggested an “acoustic attack” caused US staff similar symptoms, sparking speculation about a secret sonic weapon. But the Canadian team suggests that neurotoxins from mosquito fumigation are the more likely cause. (https://www.bbc.com/news/world-latin-america-49770369) So-called “Havana syndrome” caused symptoms including headaches, blurred vision, dizziness and tinnitus. It made international headlines when the US announced more than a dozen staff from its Cuban embassy were being treated. Cuba denied any suggestion of “attacks”, and the reports led to increased tension between the two nations. In July, a US academic study showed “brain abnormalities” in the diplomats. The Canadian team from the Brain Repair Centre in Halifax thinks it now has the answer. Canadian diplomats were affected by similar reactions to US counterparts – though the study noted that the symptoms of the Canadians were more gradual than the “acute, directional… auditory stimulus” in some of the US cases. The study notes that tests carried out on 28 participants – seven of whom were tested both before and after being posted to Havana – support a diagnosis of brain injury acquired by diplomats and their families while in Cuba. The patterns of brain injury “all raise the hypothesis of recurrent, low-dose exposure to neurotoxins”, the report said. Specifically, the results were “highly suggestive” of something called cholinesterase inhibitor intoxication. But the low, consistent doses the researchers believe were delivered are consistent with exposure to commercial pesticides, the study’s authors said. And fumigation in Cuba increased after the country “declared war” on the Zika virus in 2016, spraying gas around or even inside diplomats’ homes.

Newsline: Canada accepts China’s nominee for ambassador after choosing its own envoy to Beijing

Canada has accepted the nomination of a new Chinese ambassador, Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland told reporters on Thursday, describing the move as a step forward amid a major dispute between the two nations. Her remarks are another indication that diplomatic relations might be warming up between the two nations after a crisis erupted last December. China, furious that Canadian police arrested a senior Huawei Technologies Co. executive on Dec. 1 on a U.S. warrant, has blocked imports of meat products and canola seed from Canada and charged two Canadian men with spying. Freeland was speaking a day after Ottawa unveiled business consultant Dominic Barton as its new envoy to Beijing, filling a post that had remained empty for eight months. Beijing recently nominated foreign ministry official Cong Peiwu to be the ambassador in Ottawa. “China has now announced its new ambassador to Canada, so this is a positive step,” Freeland told a televised news conference in Waterloo, Ontario. “Both countries now have new ambassadors who have been accepted. And that does give us another step forward in this relationship,” she continued. (https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2019/09/06/world/politics-diplomacy-world/canada-accepts-chinas-ambassador/#.XXJ1Po1RU8o) In Beijing, Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang earlier said Cong would take up his post in due course. “China-Canada relations have encountered serious difficulties. The responsibility lies completely with the Canadian side, and Canada knows it clearly,” he told a regular media briefing. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Thursday reiterated his government’s position that China’s detention of the two Canadians was unacceptable.

Newsline: Canadian Consulate suspends travel to China for Hong Kong staff

The Canadian Consulate in Hong Kong said it has suspended travel to mainland China for local staff, just days after an employee of the city’s British Consulate was confirmed to have been detained in China. The Canadian Consulate, in an email to Reuters, did not provide a reason for the travel restrictions. (https://www.reuters.com/article/us-hongkong-protests-canada/canadian-consulate-suspends-travel-to-china-for-hong-kong-staff-idUSKCN1VD095) On Wednesday, China’s foreign ministry confirmed that Simon Cheng, an employee of the British mission, had been detained in the border city of Shenzhen neighboring Hong Kong. Hong Kong has been gripped by anti-government protests for weeks, with China accusing Britain and other Western countries of meddling in its affairs.

Newsline: Chinese embassy says ties with Canada suffering ‘gross difficulties’

China’s embassy in Canada says bilateral ties are suffering “gross difficulties” and is repeating its demand for Ottawa to release Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou. Relations have been icy since Meng was detained in Vancouver last December on a U.S. warrant. China has since charged two Canadians with spying and halted imports of canola seed and meat products from Canada. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Wednesday said his government had no intention of backing down in the dispute and would defend Canada’s interests. In a statement, the embassy said, “We will always defend Chinese and China’s interests, too … China-Canada relations now suffer gross difficulties and the Canadian side knows very well the root cause. (https://globalnews.ca/news/5798702/chinese-embassy-says-ties-with-canada-suffering-gross-difficulties/) “Canada should release Ms. Meng Wanzhou immediately and ensure her safe return to China, and bring bilateral relations back onto the right track,” the statement continued.