9 recent diplomatic brushes with the law in Canada

Documents obtained from the Department of Foreign Affiars provide a rare window on allegations of diplomats behaving badly while in Canada.
A portrait of the Queen hangs on the Sovereign's Wall at the entrance to the Department of Foreign Affairs building in Ottawa. Foreign Affairs' Office of Protocol keeps an eye on diplomats posted to Canada and their brushes with the law. (Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press)

Documents obtained from the Department of Foreign Affairs provide a rare window on allegations of diplomats behaving badly while in Canada.

The department's Office of Protocol compiles internal quarterly reports of incidents involving alleged or suspected criminal activity involving diplomats, their family members and staff.

CBC News has obtained the six most recent reports under an Access to Information request. While the countries and names of the individuals involved are redacted, summaries provide details of dozens of diplomatic brushes with the law ranging from child sex assault and domestic abuse to late-night party noise and shoplifting.

Immunity allows individuals with diplomatic status to avoid lawsuits and prosecution in the host country.

That immunity became subject of national headlines in 2000, when Russian diplomat Andrey Knyazev killed an Ottawa woman and injured her friend while driving drunk. Knyazev was allowed to leave the country rather than face charges. That led to a crackdown on diplomatic drinking and driving, as three diplomats found out in 2005.

But as the most recent reports from the Protocol Office reveal, suspected impaired driving remains a pitfall for diplomats in Canada. Here are some of the incidents listed in the reports for the past 18 months:

  • Montreal police respond to 9-1-1 call from a restaurant employee, who claimed a consular officer assaulted and threatened him over the bill for a meal. The complainant later told police he did not want to pursue charges.
  • An alleged spousal assault led one diplomatic mission to withdraw the accused person’s accreditation to allow him to appear in court, but all charges were later dropped by the Crown.
  • Montreal police laid charges of impaired driving and failing to provide breath sample. It was the individual’s second offence during his posting to Canada. A waiver of diplomatic immunity was sought, but the embassy said its government would not waive immunity, so the individual was ordered to leave the country.
  • RCMP stopped a vehicle with diplomatic plates after a passenger was observed protruding from the vehicle’s sunroof;  the officer noted the driver exhibited signs of possible impairment. The vehicle was driven away by another sober passenger, no further investigation was undertaken and no charges were laid.
  • Children's Aid Society contacted Ottawa police on a possible sex assault against a minor under the care of a person with immunity – the son of a diplomatic agent. A daycare run out of the home by the agent’s spouse was closed, but charges were not recommended due to a lack of cooperation by the complainant.
  • A consular officer in Vancouver allegedly assaulted and threatened another member of staff. No charges were pursued by the Crown after reconciliation in court by the parties involved and an indication the individual left Canada.
  • Son of a diplomat was uncooperative with attending officers responding to noise complaints during a mid-week house party. He was advised his status did not entitle him to ignore laws and was persuaded to shut down the party. A fine was levied for noise infractions, and paid.
  • An administrative staff member with a High Commission was accused of making threatening gestures with a knife in public.
  • Following an alleged child assault, the Protocol office requested and obtained a waiver of immunity to facilitate a court process. The individual was ordered to participate in "extra-judiciary activities relevant to the nature of the incident" in lieu of a criminal sentence.

with files from Kathleen Harris