Canada

Foreign Affairs seeks study of embassy threats

The Foreign Affairs Department plans to spend up to $5 million next year for a sweeping intelligence study of potential threats to Canada's foreign embassies and missions.

Intelligence assessment will cost up to $5M

Haitians wait outside the Canadian Embassy in Port-au-Prince on Jan. 20, 2010. The Foreign Affairs Department plans to commission an intelligence study of potential threats to Canada's foreign embassies and missions. (MINUSTAH/Marco Dormino/Reuters)

The Foreign Affairs Department plans to spend up to $5 million next year for a sweeping intelligence study of potential threats to Canada's foreign embassies and missions.

The department is soliciting bids from seasoned security intelligence firms to tell them about the possible threats to its diplomatic corps from terrorism, instability and natural disasters in 174 countries, including 46 major cities.

Given the scope of the work outlined, the Baseline Threat Assessment -- or BTA -- comes with a seemingly modest $1- to $5-million price tag, according to a recently posted government procurement notice.

The importance of Canadian embassy security was also underscored in a memo to Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird in May shortly after he was given the portfolio.

"The Government's security obligations have grown markedly in recent years in the face of new international threats that are increasingly sophisticated, unpredictable and fluid in nature," says a memo obtained by The Canadian Press from Baird's briefing book.

The memo, released under Access to Information, reminded Baird that the 2010 budget set aside $450 million over seven years for the Security Abroad Strategy to bolster security at Canada's foreign embassies.

Foreign policy review

In addition to this new, proposed threat assessment study, bureaucrats continue their exhaustive and secretive foreign policy review. Prime Minister Stephen Harper ordered the review in his letter of assignment to Baird after the May cabinet shuffle.

Two weeks ago, Foreign Affairs posted a procurement notice to award a single contract for work to be conducted between January and March of next year.

It says that the BTAs are to be "living documents, which will allow the Department to assess the vulnerability of Government of Canada assets abroad (people, programs, infrastructure) and determine appropriate security safeguards."

It calls for a 15- to 30-page document to be prepared for each country that gives a ranking in seven categories: political instability; criminality; terrorism/insurgency; conflict zones; natural disasters; the health environment; and the general environment -- "e.g. fatalities, cultural constraints."

The threat analysis is supposed to identify emerging trends and concerns in a particular location. The study will assign labels of "low, medium, high and critical" to each of the seven categories.

Pakistan is noticeably absent from the exhaustive list of nearly every country on the planet, as are Afghanistan and Haiti -- presumably because the government already has detailed knowledge of the exact nature of the unrest in those troubled countries.

India and China -- the two Asian economic giants that the Harper government has targeted for greater trade ties -- are also missing from the list. But Foreign Affairs has asked for an assessment of the two other so-called BRIC countries, Russia and Brazil.

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