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Russian embassy complaints show tricky business of protecting embassies and diplomats

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OTTAWA — Russia’s recent complaints about its Ottawa embassy being blocked by protesters and attacked with a Molotov cocktail shed light on the tricky balance Canada faces in protecting diplomatic missions.

“We have an unquestioned responsibility,” said Roy Norton, who served as Canada’s protocol chief from 2016 to 2019, overseeing the security of diplomatic missions within Canada.

“We take it seriously; we honour it and we expect others abroad to honour it,” he said.

In September, Russia summoned Canada’s ambassador in Moscow over concerns that officials in Ottawa weren’t taking complaints about security incidents at the embassy seriously.

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That includes apparent security-camera footage, which the embassy posted on Twitter, that shows an unidentified person tossing what the embassy says was a lit Molotov cocktail over the fence. The RCMP said earlier this month that it is investigating the incident.

The embassy also complained that a mid-September protest against Russia’s invasion of Ukraine blocked people from accessing consular services, even as Ottawa police looked on.

The RCMP and the Ottawa Police Service declined interview requests.

The embassy has asked Ottawa to provide 24/7 security, which Norton said is a common request.

“I wouldn’t say that embassies exaggerate their fears, but they are going to err, quite naturally, on the side of caution,” Norton said.

Under the 1961 Vienna Convention, countries incur obligations to protect diplomats when they formally accept ambassadors from foreign states.

In accepting an ambassador, the hosting country “shall treat him with due respect and shall take all appropriate steps to prevent any attack on his person, freedom or dignity,” the convention reads.

That includes protecting the premises of the embassy and the ambassador’s private residence “against any intrusion or damage, and to prevent any disturbance of the peace.”

Norton said those terms are up to interpretation.

For example, Canadian law enforcement will only intervene in protests that pose a real risk of violence. But the Chinese embassy in Ottawa often deems human-rights demonstrators to be hostile, he said. That embassy did not respond to a request for comment on Friday.

The Israeli embassy says it will often reach out to Canadian officials when events in the Middle East are more likely to produce a security threat to its staff abroad.

Norton said that is a normal cycle that Canadian diplomats abroad will also tap into.

Earlier in his career, he was posted to Canada’s missions in Washington, D.C., Detroit and Chicago. He was working in Chicago on Oct. 22, 2014, the day a gunman killed Cpl. Nathan Cirillo at the Canadian National War Memorial in Ottawa and stormed Parliament Hill.

Norton recalled phoning Chicago police in the wake of the attack to see if extra protection was possible, not knowing at first whether it was an isolated incident or a wider assault on Canadian officials. Police stationed an officer in the lobby of the consulate’s Chicago office building for the day, Norton said.

Robert Collette, who served as Canada’s protocol chief from 2003 to 2005, said he was regularly in touch with Manila officials when he was ambassador to the Philippines.

In either 2002 or 2003, local officials warned him Canada was among a handful of embassies targeted by bomb threats, he said. After consulting with Ottawa and Philippine officials, the embassy shut down for a month, with diplomats working from home and operating its immigration section out of a hotel.

Collette still continued his work and was driven around Manila in an official car that had a Canadian flag to demonstrate the country still had a presence. The Philippine government provided an officer to follow him 24/7.

Back in Canada, Collette recalled working with the Americans shortly after they opened a new Ottawa embassy in 1999, a set-up that included bollards that take up part of the sidewalk outside.

After 9/11, the embassy successfully lobbied to temporarily restrict traffic on Sussex Drive outside the embassy.

In Ottawa, Global Affairs Canada has teams liaise with diplomatic missions across Ottawa and Gatineau, Norton said.

They check if embassies feel they have adequate security, and if there are any upcoming days that might merit more police resources, such as certain holidays or anniversaries of difficult events.

The staff also make their own suggestions based on Canadian intelligence, such as when they feel a crackdown abroad is likely to bring a diaspora group in Canada out in droves to an embassy or consulate. The two municipalities also notify the department about permits issued for demonstrations near embassies.

Norton said the RCMP ultimately makes the call, with the help of CSIS, on how to offer protection. That can mean a Mountie follows an ambassador around the clock for a set period, or the RCMP stations a car outside the mission for a few days.

“It’s huge expense; it’s three shifts a day, and there are 130-odd missions in Ottawa. So it’s risk-management,” Norton said.

More often, the RCMP will simply increase the number of times a day they circle past an embassy.

Norton said poorer, less-stable countries often have ample police forces that can permanently surveil foreign embassies.

“Fewer things happen in Ottawa than Ouagadougou, and so we can get away with applying fewer resources,” he said, referring to the capital of Burkina Faso.

Colin Robertson, a former Canadian diplomat, says that can be a draw.

“Ambassadors with families love to come here, because they don’t have to live behind gates with private security,” said Robertson.

Actual attacks on diplomatic staff in Canada are rare, but not unheard of.

In 1982, an Armenian militant group assassinated Turkish military attaché Atilla Altikat on a parkway west of Parliament Hill.

In 1970, Quebec separatists kidnapped British diplomat James Cross in Montreal, holding him hostage for two months.

Experts said all countries generally go to great lengths to protect foreign diplomats and missions, even if the two countries are in a protracted conflict.

“The RCMP and CSIS are always extremely conscious and careful to provide the best protection possible, under any circumstances,” Collette said, whether or not Canada is in agreement with the other country’s actions, like with Russia and its invasion of Ukraine.

“We protect as best as we can, because also we wish that our diplomats and our chanceries in other countries be given equal protection and equal treatment.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 2, 2022.

 

Dylan Robertson, The Canadian Press

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More 'police' centres run by China found around world: NGO – CTV News

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A human rights organization says it has found dozens of additional overseas Chinese “police service centres” around the world, including at least two more in Canada.

In a new report released Monday called “Patrol and Persuade,” the Spain-based non-governmental organization Safeguard Defenders says it used open source statements from People’s Republic of China authorities, Chinese police and state media to document at least 48 additional stations.

This on top of the 54 stations revealed in September, bringing the total number of documented centres to 102 in 53 countries. Some host countries also have co-operated in setting up these centres, Safeguard Defenders says.

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The stations are accused of targeting Chinese nationals living abroad, particularly those who allegedly committed crimes in China, in order to coerce them to return home.

Safeguard Defenders reports that along with the three police “stations” previously confirmed in the Greater Toronto Area, which are operated out of the Chinese city of Fuzhou, it has found newly confirmed centres in Vancouver, operated out of Wenzhou, and another whose location is unknown but operates out of Nantong.

In a statement to CTV National News on Monday, the RCMP said it’s “investigating reports of criminal activity in relation to the so-called ‘police’ stations.” No further details were provided.

A similar statement was given by the police force to CP24 in late October following the previous report of Toronto-area stations.

The consulate general of the People’s Republic of China said at the time that the stations are to help Chinese citizens renew their driver’s licences, given many of them are unable to return to China due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and that the “local volunteers” facilitating this “are not Chinese police officers.”

However, Safeguard Defenders says the vast majority of the newly documented stations were set up starting in 2016, years before the pandemic began.

In its previous report in September, Safeguard Defenders found that Chinese police “persuaded” 230,000 claimed fugitives to return to China “voluntarily” between April 2021 and July 2022. Among the tactics used, Safeguard Defenders said, included denying suspects’ children in China the right to education and punishing relatives through “guilt by association.”

The U.S. Department of Justice accused seven people in October of a yearslong campaign to harass and intimidate a U.S. resident to return to China.

While Prime Minister Justin Trudeau attended the G20 summit in Indonesia in November, his office told reporters that he had raised concerns with Chinese President Xi Jinping of “interference” in Canada.

Asked about what specific interference he referred to, Trudeau later told the House of Commons, “We’ve known for many years that there are consistent engagements by representatives of the Chinese government into Canadian communities, with local media, reports of illicit Chinese police stations.”

With files from CP24 Web Content Writer Joanna Lavoie, CTV National News Vancouver Bureau Chief Melanie Nagy, CTV News Toronto Videojournalist Allison Hurst and The Canadian Press 

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Trudeau 'extremely concerned' about report Canadian parts ended up in Iranian drones – National | Globalnews.ca – Global News

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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is “extremely concerned” over a report Canadian-made parts have been discovered in Iranian drones used by Russia in its war on Ukraine.

Trudeau shared his worries with reporters in Ingersoll, Ont., Monday after the Globe and Mail reported on Sunday the discovery by a non-profit organization, Statewatch. Its “Trap Aggressor” investigation detailed last month that an antenna manufactured by an Ottawa-based Tallysman Wireless was featured in the Iranian Shahed-136 attack drone.

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Canada sanctions Iranian drone makers amid Russian strikes in Ukraine


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Federal government ‘extremely concerned’ about report Canadian-made parts found in Iranian attack drones used in Russia: Trudeau


The drones have been used recently by Russia in Ukraine as Moscow increases its strikes on the country’s energy and civilian infrastructure.

“We’re obviously extremely concerned about those reports because even as Canada is producing extraordinary, technological innovations … we do not want them to participate in Russia’s illegal war in Ukraine, or Iran’s contributions to that,” Trudeau said.

“We have strict export permits in place for sensitive technology that are rigorously enforced, and that’s why we’ve been following up with this company, that’s fully cooperating, to figure out exactly how items that we’re not supposed to get into the hands of anyone like the Iranian government actually ended up there.”

The Shahed-136 is manufactured by Shahed Aviation Industries, one of two Iranian drone makers Ottawa sanctioned last month for reportedly supplying Russia with its lethal drones. After denying reports it was supplying Moscow, Iran acknowledged for the first time on Nov. 5 it had sent Moscow drones before the Feb. 24 war began.


Click to play video: 'Russian missiles smash apartment block in Ukraine’s Mykolaiv: mayor'

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Russian missiles smash apartment block in Ukraine’s Mykolaiv: mayor


It denied continuing to supply drones to Russia. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has accused Iran of lying, previously saying Kyiv’s forces were destroying at least 10 of its drones every day.

Aside from its Iranian-made engine, the Shahed-136 consists entirely of foreign components, Statewatch said in its report. It cited Ukrainian intelligence managing to identify more than 30 European and American companies’ components, with most parts coming from the United States.


A drone is seen in the sky seconds before it fired on buildings in Kyiv, Ukraine, on Oct. 17.


Efrem Lukatsky/AP

Drones like the Shahed are packed with explosives and can be preprogrammed with a target’s GPS coordinates. They can nosedive into targets and explode on impact like a missile, hence why they have become known as suicide drones or kamikaze drones.

Shaheds are relatively cheap, costing roughly US$20,000 each — a small fraction of the cost of a full-size missile.

Read more:

‘Game-changing’ drone warfare in Ukraine may tee up new phase of conflict: official

Drones “provide a critical capability” to exploit vulnerabilities in defences, and their use may be a prelude to a new phase in the conflict, U.S. Army Lt.-Col. Paul Lushenko previously told Global News.

Gyles Panther, president at Tallysman, told the Globe the company is not “complicit in this usage” and “is 100-per cent committed” to supporting Ukraine.

Ottawa is working to understand how the parts ended up in the drones, and wants to “ensure” incidents like this don’t “happen again in the future,” Trudeau said.

&copy 2022 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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Available Nexus appointments Canada

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There’s good news for those looking to expedite their border crossing experience.

To mitigate the ongoing backlog issues at Canadian border crossings, border officials have reopened two Nexus and Free and Secure Trade (FAST) enrolment centres in Canada.

It’s the first time any Nexus and FAST offices have been open in Canada since the pandemic began, and federal officials say more offices will be opening in the future.

The Nexus program, which has over 1.7 million members, is designed to speed up the border clearance process for its members, while also freeing up more time for Canadian and U.S. border security agents to tend to unknown or potentially higher-risk travellers and goods.

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The benefit of Nexus is that it allows for those travelling between the two countries to save time, skipping long lineups and using the shorter, dedicated Nexus lanes when crossing the border, as well as designated kiosks and eGates at major airports, and quicker processing at marine crossings.

Reopening these two Canadian centres is the first phase of a larger plan to address the lengthy Nexus and FAST backlog, and will increase availability for applicants to book appointments to interview for Nexus pre-approval, the Canada Border Service Agency said in a statement Monday.

Those looking to get Nexus approval can now schedule interviews, by appointment only, at the Lansdowne, Ont. (Thousand Islands Bridge) and Fort Erie, Ont. (Peace Bridge) enrolment centres, through the trusted traveller programs portal.

Travellers looking to apply will still need to complete a new two-step process, and the Canadian offices don’t mean applicants won’t have to cross the border to finalize the process.

If conditionally approved for Nexus status, travellers can complete the first part of the interview at one of the two reopened Canadian enrolment centres, then complete the second interview portion just across the border at the corresponding U.S. enrolment centres on the other side. For Lansdowne, that’s Alexandria Bay, N.Y., and for Fort Erie, it’s Buffalo, N.Y.

To become conditionally approved, both the CBSA and U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) have to grant approval prior to scheduling the interview portion, and interviews need to be conducted on both sides of the border.

“Nexus and FAST are a win-win for Canada and the United States – and we’re working hard to find creative solutions to reduce wait times, address the backlog and help more travellers get Nexus cards,” said Marco Mendicino, minister of public safety, in a press release. “This new, two-step process is further proof of our commitment to it. We’ll keep finding solutions that leverage technology and streamline renewals.”

Applicants also have the option to complete a one-step process and schedule complete interviews at enrolment centres in the U.S., which may be a preferred option for those who don’t live near the two centres currently open in Canada.

And those who are already members of the Nexus program and are awaiting an interview can renew their membership ahead of its expiry date in order to retain their travel benefits for up to five years.

More centres are expected to open at select land border crossings in the future, as this initial phase carries on, CBSA says.

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