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07/23/2013

Canadian report on diplomats behaving badly kept secret

 

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Canadian diplomat Jean Touchette is hardly a household name.

But he created a stir and some headlines in 2009 when he was arrested in Tanzania for allegedly spitting at a senior police officer during an argument over a traffic ticket. Touchette at the time was first secretary at the Canadian High Commission in Dar es Salaam.

Making matters worse, Touchette was also alleged to have spat in the face of Jerry Muro, a TV journalist who went to the police station to interview the diplomat.

"I asked him why was he doing it to me," Muro told CBC News. "And he said, 'I'm doing it because you are taking my pictures … and it's my privacy.' "

Touchette was recalled to Canada following the incident.

From time to time, even Canadian diplomats behave badly.

In 2000, a former  Canadian diplomat was charged with smuggling almost $1 million worth of cocaine while he was posted to Israel. Douglas Wardle, who was office manager in Canada's embassy in Tel Aviv, was arrested outside his home in Mississauga.

Much earlier, in 1984, William Johnston, Canada's consul and senior trade commissioner in Sao Paulo, was arrested by Brazilian police about 4 a.m. Tuesday in the washroom of a Sao Paulo nightclub and charged with possession of cocaine.

But there are few other public examples of Canadian diplomats running afoul of the law while posted abroad. And the government isn't willing to add any names to the modest list.

In documents obtained by The Star under Access to Information legislation, details of Canadian diplomats who have come to find themselves in legal trouble overseas has been completely redacted. The documents, collected in a "Zivp incident report" contains a title page that reads: "Please handle this report with care. Information contained could cause serious prejudice to employees.)

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The unredacted forms include details such as the dates cases are opened and closed, the parties involved, the location of the incidents, and the estimated amount of money involved, if the dispute is monetary.


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In an odd twist, many of the 152 pages are redacted because the government says they not relevant.

Rick Westhead is a foreign affairs writer at The Star. He was based in India as the Star’s South Asia bureau chief from 2008 until 2011 and reports on international aid and development. Follow him on Twitter @rwesthead

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