Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird has ordered an immediate investigation into “serious” allegations of misconduct by diplomatic staff at the Canadian embassy in Copenhagen, the Citizen has learned.
The accusations include financial mismanagement, abuses of government property, diplomatic privileges and racial harassment. They are supported by as many as 13 current and former locally engaged embassy staff. Some of the grievances date back several years.
Just days after the written and signed allegations were delivered to Baird’s office early last week, two investigators from the department’s Office of the Inspector General were dispatched to the Danish capital to interview the employees and review documents. One is a financial auditor and the other is focusing on any violations of the Code of Conduct for Canadian Representatives Abroad, according to a source close to the case.
The interviews continue today, as the officials attempt to gather evidence to support or disprove the claims, some of which are vague. For example, in an eight-page document obtained by the Citizen that details some of the allegations, one complaint simply states: “Abuses of diplomatic privileges in the host country.”
Others are more precise, including:
- Questions about costs and the apparent absence of contracts and tendering related to the sale of a previous official residence.
- “Prolonged abuses” of official embassy vehicles and drivers for private use.
- Private parties “under the guise” of official functions while “using staff members as guards and chauffeurs.”
- Personal use of the official wine and spirits inventory without reimbursement.
- Racial slurs directed at a Venezuelan woman employed as a nanny.
- A locally engaged embassy security guard caught on a security camera video with prostitutes in an embassy van parked in the mission’s garage. If true, the incidents would constitute a critical breach of security.
- Local bank managers calling the embassy and threatening to terminate the personal accounts of some diplomats because of “huge overdrafts.” Embassy accountants directed to contact utilities, cable and telephone companies to have diplomats’ delinquent accounts reopened.
- The hiring of two Filipinos, despite their not having Danish work permits. One was subsequently deported from Denmark by local authorities, according to the document.
Overall, it alleges that locally engaged staff operated under a climate of fear and harassment.
Baird’s office acted quickly when the allegations were levelled last week.
“Your note contained serious allegations that will be treated in an appropriate manner,” says an Aug. 17 email from Chris Day, Baird’s acting chief of staff, to one of the complainants.
“Minister Baird immediately asked his deputy minister, Morris Rosenberg, to ensure that a genuinely independent and comprehensive investigation is undertaken,” Day wrote in the email, obtained by the Citizen.
He assured the accusers the investigation would be one that, “fully respects both the letter and spirit of (federal) whistleblower protection,” officially known as The Public Servants Disclosure Protection Act.
The Office of the Inspector General typically carries out inspections of DFAIT’s overseas operations and evaluations of program spending. The inspections are intended to provide senior management with an independent review of mission operations, programs and management practices and whether the operations comply with legislation and policies. It’s unclear when the last operational inspection was done of the Copenhagen embassy, or the results.
Canada’s envoy to Denmark, Ambassador Peter Lundy, vacated the post last week as part of a previously scheduled routine diplomatic rotation. He is in Ottawa, but declined to respond to repeated calls for comment Thursday.
Lundy joined the department in 1993 after serving with the Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry in Calgary, Winnipeg and Germany, according to his departmental biography.
He has been posted abroad as trade commissioner in Caracas and as investment and strategic alliance program manager in Chicago. In Ottawa, he held the positions of deputy director, Central Europe and Eastern Mediterranean Division, and senior desk officer in the South America and the International Finance divisions. He also served as director of the Nordic, Central Europe and Eastern Mediterranean Division.
He was named as ambassador to the Kingdom of Denmark in July 2008, succeeding ambassador Fredericka Gregory.
In a series of diplomatic appointments announced by Baird’s office last Friday, diplomat André François Giroux was named to replace Lundy as ambassador at the Copenhagen embassy, which is not new to controversy.
In 2001, it was revealed that former Canadian ambassador to Denmark Ernest Hebert had been quietly recalled in 1995 after a young housekeeper alleged he had sexually assaulted her at the Copenhagen embassy’s 1994 Christmas party. He was seconded to the University of Ottawa as an executive-in-residence.
The current allegations contain no accusations of sexual impropriety by Canadian diplomatic staff at the embassy, only the locally engaged security guard.
As a result of the Hebert case, former foreign affairs minister John Manley imposed a new policy of automatically notifying police when allegations of criminality are levelled against Canadian diplomats.
No decision will be made on whether police should be contacted about the current case until the inspector-general investigators report their findings.