Harper gov't warned budget 'insufficient' to meet security needs at Canadian embassies
Published Sunday, September 27, 2015 10:01PM EDT
When Stephen Harper faces his rivals in a key foreign policy debate Monday night, he’ll confront new revelations about the safety of Canadian embassies abroad.
CTV News has learned many of Canada’s diplomatic missions in the Middle East and Africa are not safe – putting the lives of diplomats and staff at risk.
A memo prepared for a recent deputy ministers’ meeting says security threats are on the rise, and “20 per cent of missions are now categorized as high risk.”
The document, dated Sept. 9 and marked secret, says security needs to be more robust in critical threat locations such as Afghanistan, Iraq and South Sudan.
It warns the Foreign Affairs budget is “insufficient to …meet the complex security requirements.”
Paul Dewar, the NDP’s foreign affairs critic, said the government should be providing more security.
“When you have people who are abroad who are in these high-risk zones, they need security and they need to know that their government is going to listen to them and actually provide security,” Dewar told CTV News.
The Liberals blame Conservative penny-pinching for the gap. The government has been selling off properties such as the High Commission in London, and keeping foreign affairs spending under budget.
“We do know that the government has been holding back money because it wanted to be able to tell Canadians that it had balanced its budget,” said Liberal MP Marc Garneau. “I sure hope it isn’t for that, because the safety of Canadian diplomatic staff abroad is not something you play around with.”
The secret memo acknowledges that Canada has invested heavily in updating security at high-risk missions, but it says: “Much remains to be done to bring security to a satisfactory level globally.”
Defence Minister Jason Kenney told CTV News that Ottawa is hardening embassy security, but there’s only so much money available.
“The Americans are around the world, spending tens of billions of dollars to build new embassies outside the capitals,” Kenney said. “We do not have those kinds of resources.”
Foreign Affairs has drafted a new security investment plan for Canadian embassies. The department is still awaiting the Harper cabinet’s approval.
With a report by CTV Ottawa Bureau Chief Robert Fife