United States Armed crime scares Canadian diplomats –

United States | Armed crime scares Canadian diplomats –

(Ottawa) The union representing Canadian diplomats wants Global Affairs Canada to consider paying bonuses to those stationed in the United States because they face increased risk of armed crime and difficulty accessing health care.

Posted at 12:41 p.m.


Dylan Robertson The Canadian Press

Pamela Isfeld, president of the Professional Association of Foreign Service Officers (PAFSO), noted that Ottawa's security threat assessments for the United States are not as rigorous as for other countries.

“If we're talking about a post in Africa where we've been locked down half a dozen times in the last year because of active shooters, that would factor into the security assessment of that post,” he said. She complained.

She said Global Affairs Canada has had “major problems” convincing diplomats to serve south of the border, which the ministry attributes to the fact that diplomats may want more exotic assignments.

This is a misunderstanding of the situation, argues Ms. Isfeld, stressing that the federal government often emphasizes the importance of Canada-U.S. relations and the need to provide the best performance in diplomatic missions.

“And yet there is very little support,” she complains.

Global Affairs Canada did not respond to questions from The Canadian Press.

Canadian diplomats are stationed at the embassy in Washington and at consulates and trade offices in 15 other cities, including Boston, Los Angeles, Minneapolis and Houston.

Pamela Isfeld believes that the alleged shortage of personnel in US missions is due in part to compensation that does not reflect the risks and inconveniences of life in the United States.

During an appearance on the Canadian Global Affairs Institute's “Global Exchange” podcast earlier this month, she claimed that a diplomat stationed at a U.S. mission tried to transfer because the city's police department – which she did not name – was underfunded and Crime increased rapidly.

“There were all sorts of lockdowns and office evacuations. “The person says he personally witnessed five shootings, and yet no one is going to look at difficulty levels or incentive programs or even increasing security budgets for these missions to address that,” said Pamela Isfeld during the episode.

In a recent interview with The Canadian Press, the director said American assignments certainly have benefits for employees, such as proximity to loved ones on Canadian soil and an agreement that allows spouses of diplomats to work in the United States – in Unlike many other countries.

But she said security issues are a growing concern for diplomats and officials from other federal departments taking posts in the United States.

She argues that there is a trend of Ottawa sending more staff from other Canadian government agencies to the United States because there aren't enough foreign officials willing to go there. According to her, no formal data analysis has been completed on this topic.

Ms. Isfeld says one person left his job in the United States several years ago because there was a shooting at a nearby school and his child was afraid to go to class.

Global Affairs Canada has had problems with its new health insurance provider and diplomats reported delays in responding to claims and other questions while working abroad.

She said such delays are a particular problem in the United States, where public health care is virtually nonexistent and providers often withhold treatment until insurance payments are cleared.

Other countries, she explained, often have a government-funded plan that diplomats can rely on, or they provide basic medical care before footing the bill.

She cited two recent cases in which either a person stationed in the United States or a relative there had difficulty receiving medical care.

One “had a heart attack and was held in the emergency room because she couldn't get the information she needed from the insurer,” she said. Another had to postpone her cancer treatment due to a similar problem.

“Something like this just shouldn’t happen. And people hear these stories and don’t want to go (to the United States),” laments Ms. Isfeld. “It all adds up.”

It suggests it would be “very politically inflammatory” for Canada to officially designate an American city as an emergency services station. This designation is typically only used for operations in developing countries where crime rates are high, infrastructure is aging, or endemic diseases are present.

Former Canadian diplomat Roy Norton softened Pamela Isfeld's comments.

He said the ministry should address issues with its insurance coverage, but it does not owe additional pay to diplomats working in a country where Canadians regularly vacation.

“The implication or conclusion that we might have to treat the United States as a series of hard items and compensate them accordingly seems almost ridiculous to me,” he added.

Roy Norton was posted to Washington, Detroit and Chicago before taking on the role of chief of protocol, a senior position that includes overseeing the security of foreign diplomatic missions in Canada.

Now a professor at the University of Waterloo, he says U.S. contracts were unique in that much of the work involved collaboration with civil society and business leaders rather than being limited to the capital's “authorities.”

He points out that Canadian envoys to the United States operate in a similar culture and that their children have access to schools that can teach a similar curriculum to that in many provinces.

He said the ministry could face “significant” public resistance if it increased compensation packages for U.S. deployments as Justin Trudeau's government seeks to open new embassies in more countries while cutting the ministry's budget.

In fact, he said Global Affairs Canada should consider expanding rules requiring certain types of diplomats to complete a difficult assignment early in their careers, including by deploying to a U.S. given the importance of the United States to Canada -Mission should complement interests.

“But I realize it’s not for everyone,” he added. Many people do not register with Global Affairs Canada to be transferred to a location where they could drive. »