Dead Canadians and Mexican Injustice
Since 2000 some 250 Canadians have been killed abroad. Over the past few years there has been an upward spike in the number of Canadian tourists who have been killed in Mexico.
Canadians better be prepared to tough it out if they get into trouble abroad. Don't expect the government to protect you. They're too busy defending the rights of the people of Afghanistan and bending over backward in high profile cases like Maher Arar.
If you are just an ordinary Joe with no propaganda value, then take your chances in Mexico and other crime infested tourist locales because there will be no Mounties galloping to your defense if you or yours gets knifed, shot or worse. You might have more luck calling your local branch of the Hells Angels back in Ottawa if you want to see some real action.
The US takes care of its citizens abroad via the Office of American Citizens Services and Crisis Management. It has teeth and can and will act in the case of Americans who are victimized abroad.
By contrast in Canada even the cabinet post with the high sounding title of Parliamentary Secretary with Special Responsibility for Canadians Abroad, was ditched a year ago. PM Harper for all of his law-and-order rhetoric shows no inclination to create a watchdog with teeth that looks out for Canadians abroad in the fashion required.
If the CIA kidnap you though and you end up being tortured in Egypt or Saudi Arabia, you will become a cause celebre - and if the RCMP covered any of it up - very possibly a multi-millionaire also when all is said and done.
The way things stand, if a Canadian gets killed abroad, his or her relatives will likely obtain more information by going directly to the authorities in the country where the crime occurred. Calling Canadian Foreign Affairs, which is notoriously evasive in these matters, is a bit like calling a 1-800 number with elevator music for those on hold.
Families are left to fend for themselves and get the runaround from a Foreign Affairs Ministry that seems more keen to close and bury files of Canadians killed abroad than undertake the unpleasant task of making international waves.
A story in the Toronto Star recently revealed that 60% of the cases involving Canadians killed abroad, have been closed. A closed case doesn't infer that justice has been served. Many of these cases in fact remain unsolved.
Oh wait, Canadian authorities will do a few things on your behalf. Consular officials will ask local authorities to investigate the crime. In parts of Mexico this is not unlike asking Al Capone to investigate the Sicilian Mafia. They will also assist in shipping the body home.
The system is far too bureaucratic and ineffectual. The Foreign Affairs/consular link isn't effective in a lot of these cases. The protocol is governed by political expediency that frequently stymies pro-active measures to ensure justice is done, or even that basic needs of victims are met in a timely fashion. There ought to be a third element in the mix, perhaps a victim assistance program allied to Foreign Affairs that has the authority to go to bat for Canadians who suffer death or injury abroad.
As it stands the Mexican authorities have been selling the Canadian government a line of bull on what they are doing about the murders of Canadians in that country, and Foreign Affairs Minister, Peter MacKay, seems to buy into all of it without even a squeak of disbelief.
Maintaining chummy Canada-Mexico relations appears to be more important than rocking the boat, despite the laughable scenarios that Mexican officials have repeatedly come up with in the past. Right after the double murder of Domenico and Annunziata Ianiero, the Mexicans tried to frame Canadian students, Cheryl Everall and Kimberly Kim. Even inspector Clouseau on prozac would have exercised more professionalism.
It's hard to imagine at what point MacKay would consider blowing the whistle on the spin and cover-up routinely dished up by Mexican authorities.
Minister: Hi Peter MacKay here - is this my Mexican counterpart? How are the investigations going?
Counterpart: Very well Peter. We are investigating a gang of dyslexic Siberian vodka smugglers. Some UFO's were also seen in the areas where the crimes took place.
Minister: Gee that's great. Thanks so much for your cooperation in this matter.
Amnesty International recently came out with a report that reveals the extent of corruption in Mexico's judicial system. The report cites cases of arbitrary detention, evidence manipulation, torture and targeting without any consideration for presumption of innocence. Moreover the report raises the question of how much trust Canada should demonstrate when receiving assurances from Mexican authorities.
Canadians are being poorly represented when Foreign Affairs persists in maintaining the A-Okay facade with respect to hollow assurances from Mexican officials.
How many more Canadians have to die before they drop the diplomatic act and start getting serious?