Archive for Canada
Justin Trudeau may still be a big draw on the international circuit, but his cardboard stand-ins have fallen flat. Global Affairs has instructed diplomatic missions in the United States to stop using life-size cardboard cut-outs of the prime minister to promote Canada. The order follows the revelation last week that prime ministerial replicas turned up at an event last June organized by the Canadian consulate in Atlanta and earlier this month at a Canadian music festival in Austin, Tex. It’s not clear if the missions ever had departmental permission to use the cardboard cut-outs. According to emails obtained by the Conservatives through the Access to Information Act, the Washington embassy’s interest in using a cardboard likeness was sparked by word that the Atlanta consulate had put one on display at a pre-Canada Day event last year. Asked if Ottawa had given permission, Louise Blais, the Atlanta consul general, advised the embassy that she did ask but “never got an answer.”
The federal government will open a new embassy in South Sudan in a sign that Ottawa plans to take a bigger role in the conflict-torn African state. Canada’s former head of office in Juba, Nicholas Coghlan, will become the new ambassador. Previously, Canada had only a diplomatic office in the country and was officially represented by the Canadian ambassador to Kenya. The status of Canada’s embassy in Khartoum, the capital of neighbouring Sudan, has not changed. Canada officially named South Sudan one of its top 25 development priorities when it revamped the list last spring. Sudan was also removed from the list at that time, a formal acknowledgement that Canada’s interests in the region lay in the southern, breakaway state.
A diplomat from Can Tho who attempted to resign after fleeing to the US during an official trip to Canada was fired by the city government. The municipal authorities issued a statement announcing that Tran Ngoc Phi Long has been dismissed from his post as deputy head of the international relations office at the city’s Foreign Affairs Department. Long was criticized for being undisciplined and disorganized and separating himself from a delegation visiting Canada in early July and entering the US. Long was among 150 select officials that Can Tho once sent overseas to earn master’s degrees. Tuoi Tre said his education cost the city around VND300 million (US$14,100). In his resignation Long alleged that his health and family situation had required him to quit.
It has the air of a startling Canadian diplomatic success in the Middle Kingdom, where the size of a social-media following is a mark of influence and, indeed, prestige. It is social currency and in China, Canada seems to have an account stuffed full. The problem: A good deal of it seems to be counterfeit, as online companies compete for users amid strengthening censorship. In fact, Canadian officials and other Weibo users suspect Sina, the company running Weibo, is responsible for running a factory for fake followers. The Canadian government says it hasn’t paid for the fakes and doesn’t know who has. But there are a lot of them. An analysis of the embassy’s website, using publicly available Chinese software, estimates that just 12.9 per cent of its 1.1 million followers are real. That number is likely low. But it’s clear that many are, like Hongmingzi520 and User512237168, almost certainly fake – or, in the preferred appellation of Chinese Internet experts: zombies. Zombie accounts aren’t unique to the Canadian embassy, nor even to China. On Twitter, according to a testing tool run by Socialbakers, 66 per cent of the accounts following Barack Obama are empty or suspicious. For Stephen Harper, it’s 42 per cent. But Canada occupies a unique position in Beijing’s diplomatic corps. The online tool shows that 45.8 per cent of the U.S. embassy’s close to 900,000 followers are real; as are 39.9 per cent of the U.K.’s 365,000 followers and 51.2 per cent of Japan’s 289,000 followers. Weibo followers are commonly bought and sold in China, where companies openly advertise their services.
A member of the Chinese diplomatic corps must leave Canada or face arrest after he was nabbed for drunk driving. The Chinese government has not provided a certificate of diplomatic immunity for Teng Zhou, 25, and a bench warrant was issued for his arrest on Thursday. Zhou, who is described on a Quebec government website as a Chinese government attache, was stopped near Rideau and Charlotte streets at 11:50 p.m. on June 14, Ottawa police said. He was charged with impaired driving, refusing to provide a breath sample and resisting arrest, although the resisting arrest rap was later dropped. On Thursday, Crown attorney Vikki Bair told the court a certificate of immunity had not materialized and she requested the justice of the peace issue a bench warrant. Zhou had not show up to court for the scheduled appearance. The embassy had not returned requests for comment.
Canada formally opened its embassy in Yangon on Friday, aiming to further promote cooperation between Canada and Myanmar, and between Canada and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). Visiting Canadian Foreign Minister John Baird said the opening of the embassy is to establish long-term relations between the two countries and between Canada and the ASEAN with which Canada is one of the dialogue partners. Canada and Myanmar established diplomatic relations in 1958, but the Canadian embassy with Myanmar were stationed in Bangkok, Thailand ever since. Canada downgraded its relations with Myanmar in late 1988 and imposed economic sanctions, barring trade with Myanmar and banning visas for then Myanmar’s high ranking military officials. The two countries later normalized their relations. In April 2012, Canada suspended most of its prohibitions on trade with and investment in Myanmar in recognition of the Myanmar’s reform progress.
The Conservative government is being harshly criticized by the union representing Canada’s diplomats for reaching outside the ranks of career foreign service officers to appoint a prominent member of the Knights of Columbus as this country’s next ambassador to the Vatican-based Holy See. The appointment last week of Dennis Savoie, an active Roman Catholic who has spoken at pro-life rallies on Parliament Hill, immediately drew criticism from the Official Opposition for how he once reportedly compared abortion to the deaths in the 9/11 terrorism attacks. Now, Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s governing Conservatives are under fire from the Professional Association of Foreign Service Officers (PAFSO), which represents more than 1,500 current and retired diplomats. In a strongly worded statement, the group said it “deplores the government’s decision to, once again, nominate a non-diplomat to one of Canada’s ambassadorial positions.” The group said Savoie’s appointment is the third non-diplomatic posting this year. Others include Vivian Bercovici, a lawyer and newspaper columnist who was sent to Israel as Canadian ambassador, and James Villeneuve, a beer company executive who was appointed Canada’s consul general in Los Angeles. The group said the appointments represent one-third of all new diplomatic appointments since January. “From PAFSO’s perspective this is a worrisome trend.” A spokesman for Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird indicated Wednesday that the government stands by its appointment.