An “institutionalized culture” of misconduct and harassment has persisted at Canada’s embassy in Copenhagen since 1995 when a former ambassador was recalled after a suspected sex scandal, says a longtime embassy employee.
Meanwhile, two government investigators are expected to return to Ottawa on Sunday with the results of a weeklong fact-finding probe at the embassy.
They were ordered to the Danish capital last weekend after a group of current and former local embassy employees delivered a lengthy written “whistleblower” grievance to the office of Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird, who championed the 2007 introduction of the Public Servant Disclosure Protection Act.
In a similar document obtained by the Citizen, the group alleges a host of improprieties and raises questions about an embassy real estate deal last fall, as well as unauthorized personal use of the mission’s local staff, property and alcohol.
They also raise concerns about what they say was racial harassment of some locally-engaged mission staff, the use of undocumented workers and one incident involving prostitutes working in the embassy’s garage.
“If you think this because we want to get even, or we have a hidden agenda or that we are too sensitive,” you’re wrong, the employee said from Copenhagen on Friday, on condition of anonymity.
“I don’t want to badmouth or vilify Canada, I have the greatest admiration for Canada.”
The employee said the group’s motivation to speak out comes from “what I believe to be our duty and obligation, to bring something forward which is (allegedly) against the rules, the (departmental) code of ethics and against the values that you are sent out (with) to represent your country.”
“This is an institutionalized culture (of alleged misconduct) and harassment that has persisted since 1995,” when former ambassador Ernest Hebert was quietly recalled to Ottawa after a young housekeeper alleged he sexually assaulted her. Police were never called in that incident.
The poor staff morale leading to the allegations is a problem at other Canadian missions. Operational audits by the Department of Foreign Affairs cite various morale issues in at least eight overseas missions inspected between 2009 and 2011.
A recurring sore point is the perception of an “us-and-them” divide between Canadian diplomatic staff and the locally-engaged staff. The local employees’ complaints range from favouritism and feelings of being undervalued to cultural insensitivity by some Canadian envoys.
Nothing, however, comes close to the stinging new accusations levelled by the demoralized group in Copenhagen.
None of the claims has been proven. Departmental officials, including former ambassador Peter Lundy, are not commenting.
Lundy returned to Canada last week as part of a previously scheduled, routine rotation. He has not responded to repeated calls to his hotel or to requests directed through the department.
The investigators are said to be generally focusing on financial issues and any violations of The Code of Conduct for Canadian Representatives Abroad.
Among other things, the code stipulates:
- “That representatives and their dependents will, when abroad, display personal behaviour that reflects the highest standards. Mission facilities, staff, resources, as well as official residences and staff quarters, should not be used for unofficial activities which may negatively affect Canada’s reputation.”
- “Representatives must be alert to the very real possibility that hostile intelligence agencies may attempt to exploit not only weaknesses in the physical security arrangements of Canadian missions or carelessness on the part of personnel, but also personal behaviour that offends against local laws or customs or broadly accepted standards of conduct.”
- “All representatives are bound by the relevant provisions of the Financial Administration Act, including provisions governing the expenditure of public funds.”
- “Canadians enjoy the rich diversity of Canada’s bilingual and multicultural society. This is all the more reason why Canadian representatives, while promoting Canada’s multicultural identity abroad, should at all times communicate and behave in a manner that respects local culture and values while honouring Canadian values.”