(Image Credit: Screengrab from the website of the Government of Canada, at this link)
A 30+-year veteran of Canadian Armed Forces, who has worked security in several Canadian embassies, told me the detailed procedure for situations like the one in Israel. Read his message for yourself & judge if our embassy there goofed up or not.
A CULTURE OF DENIAL
Over the past few days, uncorroborated but credible messages have been circulating online that show our embassy in Israel to have been less than eager to help Canadian citizens caught up in the situation there. On the other hand, in keeping with our current culture of denying facts, many people are strenuously contending that the embassy was not closed for Thanksgiving weekend. I have seen former Canadian Ambassador to Israel, Ms. Vivian Becovici, being accused of spreading disinformation on Twitter / X because of her posting about the messages that she had received from stranded Canadians. Most people would be unfamiliar with the procedure that a diplomatic mission is supposed to follow in such situations, and therefore, the isolated scraps of information that they come across are bound to be confusing, e.g., the claim that Canadians are required to go to the mission in-person to get assistance.
Thankfully, I received a message from a veteran of the Canadian Armed Forces who has worked security in several Canadian embassies. With his permission, I am reproducing his message below, verbatim (with slight edits for punctuation etc.). He has assured me that this is not classified information in any way. I urge you to read the message and decide for yourself if our embassy in Israel has functioned according to the prescribed procedure.
“Something is rotten in the state of Denmark”
Having been stationed for a total of seven years at three embassies and assisted several more on temporary duty, something is not right here. All of these missions are supposed to have emergency plans (MEP) designed both to ensure the safety of staff and to handle the evacuation of Canadian citizens (that’s the whole point of registering with the embassy on arrival) and ‘business continuity plans’ to allow a mission to continue working even if the chancery is damaged / unusable.
In fact, helping missions update their plans is precisely one of the tasks I had when on temporary mission assistance trips to embassies that didn’t have a full time MPSS member at post (Military Police Security Service).
With the terrorist threat in Israel, I’m quite confident that our embassy in Tel Aviv has at least one if not several MPSS assigned. In Beijing, we had sufficient numbers that one was on duty at the mission 24/7, even on holidays & if calls for consular assistance started flooding in like that, the mission consular office would be contacted ASAP.
If 24/7 coverage is not provided there, but rather an automated answering service linked to the consular watch office in Ottawa, you can rest assured the standard procedure is for Ottawa to contact the mission duty consular officer at post to roost them out of bed, and failing to reach them, the calls would branch out across mission staff until someone was reached, most likely the MPSS who would be directed to ‘kick some ass’ or even the Ambassador (HOM or ‘Head of Mission’).
With an emergency of the scope of what is going on in Israel, the MEP most definitely shou have been activated. Part of an MEP, especially in a country with an above average threat, the MEP would include things like ‘wardens’, Canadians who live full time in the country, who are volunteers that assist in coordinating notification and evacuation of registered Canadian citizens located within their ward. For example, in (country name redacted), we had the ward system & wardens as part of our MEP. In Austria, few Canadians travelling in the country bothered registering with the mission & I don’t remember discussing wardens there.
Another part of MEP involved designating assembly areas with alternates & one of the tasks an MPSS would have is scouting them when setting up the plan, and after activation to ensure a site was still safe to use.
The MEP would also include assignments for mission staff from other sections to augment the consular staff (which more often than not might consist of CBS (Canada based staffer) and one LES (Locally Engaged Staffer – frequently a CBS dependant)).
By the sounds of it, the MEP hasn’t been activated, or it’s a steaming pile of garbage, which would be on the HOM (Head of Mission) and HQ at Fort Pearson.
I have to wonder if the department under Minister Joly has sought ‘cost efficiencies’ by axing most of this in favour of a useless 1-800 number.
The MEP, at least as I knew it, was fully scalable to meet the specific situation at hand. It sure doesn’t sound like it was properly leveraged in this case.
Once again, I urge you to arrive at your own conclusion based on the above information. I have absolutely no reason to doubt any of it. This is a person I have known for many years and he has consistently been a source of authentic information. Thank you.
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