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Archive for Canada

Newsline: Canadian Embassy Officials in Mexico Accused of ‘Supporting’ Corrupt Miners

Mexican and Canadian activist and civil organizations are demanding the Canadian government investigate its embassy in Mexico for supporting the mining company Blackfire Exploration despite corruption allegations. Organizations such as the Mariano Abarca Environmental Foundation, Otros Mundos Chiapas, Chiapas Autonomous University Law School Human Rights Center and the Affected by Mining Mexican Network, along with Mining Watch Canada made the petition to the Public Sector Integrity Commissioner (PSIC) of Canada, an independent oversight office, hoping the embassy and its personnel will be investigated. Now, the PSIC has 90 days to decide if they will investigate the case. This is the first time the PSIC, which can ask for sanctions or make other recommendations, has been invited to investigate an embassy. The complaint states that the embassy continued to support Blackfire even after Mariano Abarca, an environmental activist opposing the company activities in Chiapas, southeastern Mexico, was killed in 2009. He was shot in front of his restaurant in Chicomuselo by armed people on a motorcycle. A week before his murder, Abarca had notified authorities that he was receiving death, which he believed were linked with Blackfire. One employee and two former employees of Blackfire were detained as suspects following the murder. Only one of them was sentenced at the time, but all three of them are now free. The organizations are now asking the PSIC to investigate the embassy and have also demanded that the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights investigate what happened in 2009. The Mexican government halted Blackfire operations after Abarca’s murder, but they were able to continue after a few days. The embassy supported their activities through 2009 and afterward as other controversies showed up.



Newsline: US embassy worker ordered to pay back Ottawa landlord

An American diplomat will pay an Ottawa landlord more than $10,000 in owed rent and legal fees in the wake of an Ontario Superior Court ruling that her diplomatic immunity doesn’t cover rent disputes. Justice Rohan Bansie ruled last week that Betsy Zouroudis’s diplomatic status doesn’t exempt her from paying back rent to her former landlord, Rolf Baumann. Ms. Zouroudis, who works at the U.S. embassy in Ottawa, and Mr. Baumann reached a settlement on Tuesday morning, less than an hour before she was scheduled to appear before an Ottawa court to determine how she would pay the landlord. Mr. Baumann said Ms. Zouroudis has agreed to pay back $8,625 – two months rent – plus $1,500 in legal fees. For the landlord, who has rented his properties to diplomats in Ottawa for 25 years, it’s not about the money.


Newsline: US Embassy worker refuses to pay back rent, claims diplomatic immunity in Canada

Ottawa landlord Rolf Baumann thought an American embassy worker would be the ideal tenant for his luxury townhouse. After all, she was closely vetted by the U.S. government and was able to provide proof of a well-paying job and a good housing allowance. To win over the diplomat and meet stringent American security standards, Baumann even bomb-proofed the condominium’s windows and put double bolt locks on the doors. But now Baumann is embroiled in an expensive court battle to recoup costs after the tenant claimed “diplomatic immunity” to skip out on two months of rent. “This is a growing trend of bad behaviour by foreign diplomats in Canada,” said Baumann, who owns several high-end rental properties in the capital. “The question is where does it stop?” A CBC News investigation last year, revealed a spike in illegal behaviour by foreign diplomats. The misconduct ranged from traffic violations to tax evasion to tens of thousands of dollars in unpaid rent.


Newsline: Canada’s Global Affairs won’t confirm if ambassador joined diplomat husband on Myanmar beach

After a Canadian diplomat deleted an “insensitive” tweet about a “perfect” beach in Myanmar, Global Affairs is refusing to confirm if his wife, Canada’s ambassador to Myanmar, had joined him on holiday in a country that is facing widespread international condemnation for a brutal ethnic cleansing campaign. “First day of 2018 unfolded on a Myanmar beach where the great surf is pleasingly turquoise coloured, warm, clean and clear — perfect for snorkelling to visit with nature and the fish,” Canada’s ambassador to Indonesia, Peter MacArthur, tweeted on the morning of Jan. 1 along with a trio of photos showing a deserted stretch of shoreline. CTV News London correspondent Daniele Hamamdjian captured a screengrab and retweeted those words and photos before MacArthur quickly deleted them at the urging of Global Affairs Canada. MacArthur had been on a private trip to the Southeast Asian country where his wife, Karen MacArthur, serves as Canada’s ambassador — a position that comes with additional hardship pay. Although Canadian officials have described the ongoing persecution of Myanmar’s Rohingya Muslim minority as “ethnic cleansing,” there are no rules that bar diplomats from vacationing in the troubled country, where many large hotels and resorts are financially linked to its military. Myanmar’s military has been accused of being complicit in the longstanding humanitarian crisis. “The government of Canada takes the situation in Myanmar very seriously and is deeply concerned by the ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity that are occurring there,” Global Affairs Canada spokesperson Brianne Maxwell said in an emailed statement to CTV News. “Ambassador MacArthur was advised to delete the Tweet in question.” Peter MacArthur has been working with the department since 1982 and has held positions in countries such as Russia, India and Japan. He has been Canada’s ambassador to Indonesia since 2016.


Newsline: Canada sent doctor to Cuba to examine embassy staff

The Canadian government sent a doctor to Cuba to examine embassy diplomats who complained of medical ailments thought to have been caused by acoustic attacks, Canadian media reported. Newly declassified and released memos show that Dr. Jeffery Chermin, a physician with Health Canada, was dispatched to the Canadian embassy in Havana. Diplomatic staff experienced symptoms similar to that suffered by American diplomats such as nosebleeds, short-term memory and hearing loss as well as nausea. The source of the maladies remains a mystery, but speculation by officials pointed to some type of sonic attack. The phenomenon was severe enough that the U.S., blaming Cuba for the attacks, recalled many of its embassy staff home from Havana, while expelling Cuban representatives from Washington. The newly disclosed Global Canada memos state that as early as May, Canadian staff experienced medical problems.


Newsline: Venezuela expels top Brazil and Canada diplomats

Venezuela has expelled the Brazilian ambassador to Caracas, Ruy Pereira, and Canadian charge d’affaires Craib Kowalik. The move was announced by the head of Venezuela’s powerful Constituent Assembly, Delcy Rodriguez. Ms Rodriguez accused Brazil of violating the rule of law and Canada of interfering in Venezuela’s internal affairs. Both countries have strongly criticised the move. The decision to expel Ambassador Pereira may have been triggered by Brazil’s recent complaint that President Nicolás Maduro was “constantly harassing the opposition”.


Newsline: Audits on ‘higher fraud-risk’ Canadian embassies find undocumented payments

The audits in Nigeria, Algeria, Russia, India and Kenya were ordered after a probe found Canada’s embassy in Haiti was defrauded of $1.7M over 12 years. Audits of five Canadian embassies operating in “higher fraud-risk environments” have found cases of questionable procurement practices, undocumented payments for work, and sky-high levels of overtime for drivers. The audits were ordered after a 2016 investigation discovered that Canada’s embassy in Haiti was defrauded of $1.7 million over 12 years through inflated supply contracts and diverted materials. The government fired 17 locally recruited employees over the case. Management audits were conducted on Canadian embassies in Nigeria, Algeria, Russia, India and Kenya, as well as on Canada’s embassy in South Korea as a low-risk environment for comparison purposes. The audit on the Nigeria embassy was the most damning, concluding that protocols around “finance, procurement, contracting, revenues, and asset management were not consistently followed and some key controls were not in place or were circumvented.” Several dubious payments were found, including one case where the contract was signed after the work had already commenced, another where the overtime was paid at a higher rate than in the contract, and another where the value of the contract was “significantly exceeded without a contract amendment.”

Audits on ‘higher fraud-risk’ Canadian embassies find undocumented payments, ballooning overtime costs