A fiasco

"Lebanese-Canadians deserve better treatment from government by Frank D'Amico, Mountain  (Jul 21, 2006)

War, wherever it breaks out throughout the world, is a terrible tragedy. There are those sides who are seeking power, those who are trying to protect their power and those caught in the middle who want nothing but peace and harmony for themselves and for their families. With the re-awakening of bloody tensions between terrorist factions doing the bidding for their sponsors Iran and Syria and their arch rivals Israel, what was once considered a fragile work setting of worried peace is now a powder keg ready to explode into what some are saying is the beginning of World War 3.

All this past week we have been hearing about the dilemma of Canadians caught in the region especially in Lebanon just north of Israel. Estimates from External Affairs puts the number of Canadians in Lebanon at about 50,000, by far the largest amount of foreign nationals in that country than any other.

Through the local media, we have heard on 900 CHML, a Hamilton woman trapped in Beirut, Lebanon's capital, where some of the bombs from Israel's Air Force have been landing, wanting to get out of that country as fast as she can. She was so afraid for her life that she started crying on air over the frustration that her government, the Canadian Government was not acting fast enough to get its citizens out of the conflicted area. While other countries, namely European Nations, France, Italy and Germany, sent their own naval fleets to evacuate their citizens this past weekend, the Canadian Government was still trying to figure out what to do - shameful. Even the Americans and the Australians were in on Monday getting the most vulnerable of their citizens out of the region. It seems we will be 48 to 72 hours behind the efforts of other countries who were not the first countries to respond to the needs of their citizens.

It doesn't matter whether you are Jewish, Muslim, or Christian, you would expect your government to resolve whatever short comings in military logistics we have for a massive evacuation. We are a nation of many cultures and many peoples from all over the world, we need to get used to the fact that immigrant Canadians will go back home and visit relatives in the old country. Canadians are traveling outside of Canada more than ever, so why didn't the Government have a disaster plan and policy in place for instances just like this? There are companies who plan for disaster, they rent or buy bunkers where there are generators, back up computer equipment, desks with telephones and diverse telephone and internet companies that back up these services in the event of a disaster, contracted standby buses that bring the employees to the bunker etc. Why can't our government think the same way? Whether they are ships, helicopters, planes etc, why are we putting our citizens at risk? I'm sorry; I have to ask these questions, if you were traveling abroad you would want to know what the Canadian government will do for you.

In the meantime a Canadian Family of seven from Montreal died from a bombing incident in Southern Lebanon while on vacation visiting relatives. At the time that this article was written, the Canadian Government had chartered seven ships to pick up Canadian Nationals to bring them to either Cypress or Turkey. From there, personal arrangements would have to be made to come back home to Canada. It seems that the Canadian government should just bring Canadian citizens home without them having to worry that they have enough money to come home. The U.S. government has made that declaration for its citizens. Why can't our Canadian one?

We all wish that wars didn't exist and that the world was a better place to live. I would hope that our Prime Minister Mr. Harper, would wake up a little, there is more to governing than photo ops and announcements. A Prime Minister has the responsibility of Canadian lives to deal with as well. I hope the Prime Minister learns from this experience!

Frank D'Amico is a long-time resident of the Hamilton Mountain and former city councillor. He can be reached at"

Conservative Spin Doctors at work.. Foreign Affairs Minister Peter MacKay yesterday praised officials, saying their effort has been tremendous and they were very dedicated.  But here is the reality...
"Diplomats sleep in, miss evacuees' arrival Evacuees from Lebanon arrive in Cyprus; Canadian officials nowhere to be seen Jul. 22, 2006. 08:20 AM CANADIAN PRESS   LARNACA, Cyprus A boatload of weary evacuees from Lebanon remained stranded aboard a docked ship for almost two hours because Canadian officials slept through their arrival early today.   The Blue Dawn pulled into port after a daylong journey and its passengers waited more than 90 minutes for the Canadian delegation to turn up so they could escort them to land and process their papers.  The boat arrived before 6 a.m. three hours earlier than the Canadians had been expecting.  They were so stunned by the early arrival that it took four phone calls from the media to convince them they should send buses and diplomatic staff to gather the evacuees.  Several of the passengers expressed incredulity that no one was on hand to meet them...  "People in their minds were kind of thinking, `What the hell's going on?' " said Kenny Avakein of Laval, Que.  . Another passenger was also measured in his criticism of the greeting in Cyprus. What irked him most was the performance in Lebanon.  He said Canadians had their eyes glued to Arabic-language TV stations that carried 24-hour evacuation instructions from other governments and were continually frustrated as Canada remained absent from the Lebanese airwaves.  Compared with the frustrations in Lebanon of seeking diplomatic services and of pleading for water, the extra time at a Cypriote port was a snap, Elie Aoun said.  "They should have been here waiting (at the Cyprus port) if you want to be reasonable," said the Montreal resident.  "But I understand waiting for an hour or something to be processed ... But I don't understand what happened (in Lebanon). There's a lot of people and a lot of babies and a lot of old people that are standing on the road for eight hours."  "There's no one there to give them a bottle of water."  .. Staff at the Cypriote port have appeared at times this week like the coal miners of the diplomatic world.  They have endured 22-hour days without a hint of self-pity, and the slightest complaint here about sleepless nights will earn you a symphony of the world's smallest violins from an orchestra of bleary-eyed bureaucrats.  Sadly, they scheduled their hotel wakeup calls three hours too late today.  "The Canadians aren't here," said one of the ship's crew upon stepping onto land.  The port authority was announcing a 9 a.m. arrival time through Friday night. The port authority's forecasts have been impeccably consistent in only one thing: extreme, inaccurate optimism.  The Blue Dawn was already a day late. But suddenly it showed up hours before its newly delayed arrival time.  Nobody appeared to tell the Canadians, and the Canadians apparently didn't check with the right folks at the port authority. A reporter called the port at 5 a.m. and was told the boat would be arriving any minute.  An immediate call to one Canadian military official prompted the following response: "No, it's still at 9 a.m."  The second call was made when the boat was in sight from a half-kilometre distance. The response from a Canadian official was: ``Call me back if it's (the right boat)."  The third call indeed confirmed it was the Blue Dawn. The fourth call, this time after the boat had been docked for more than an hour, prompted a deep sigh.  "We're still getting misinformation. We're being told that it's arriving but isn't at port yet."  In fact, about 260 passengers were standing on-deck, fiddling with their cellphones, chatting, or gazing from the Blue Dawn at the golden dawn of a magnificent Mediterranean sunrise.

"PM gets grilling aboard jet GLORIA GALLOWAY  From Saturday's Globe and Mail  OTTAWA Liliana El-Helou had a thing or two she wanted to tell Stephen Harper. He hesitated, but he was a captive audience. Ms. El-Helou was one of 87 Canadians who fled the violence in Lebanon and were being brought home on the Prime Minister's plane. "I said, 'Mr. Prime Minister, can I talk to you for two minutes? It's an 11-hour flight.' He said, 'Well, let's see.' I didn't want to wait for 'let's see' because I knew I would miss my chance, so I started talking." Ms. El-Helou talked about her inability to reach staff at the Canadian embassy in Beirut, which she said was closed last weekend. "How can you close an embassy in a state of war?" she asked. "You should have people working 24 hours to assist us." She talked about the pandemonium while waiting to get on a ship in Beirut headed for Cyprus, where the Prime Minister was waiting with his plane.  "In order to be checked from point A to point B we had to go for six hours in 30 degrees . . . and there were people who fainted. Then we went inside of a pavilion waiting to be shipped, like animals, I felt," said Ms. El-Helou, who had travelled to Lebanon with her two teenage children to attend her brother's wedding. "We were panicking. We were crying. It was horrible."  As for Mr. Harper's decision to divert his plane to Cyprus: "I told him I hope it is not a political move to erase the mistake that was committed towards us," she said. So, how did the Prime Minister take her criticisms? "I don't think he was comfortable," Ms. El-Helou said. "He just asked me to send him an e-mail." . The Prime Minister and his wife, Laureen, were the first off the plane in Ottawa. They waited at the bottom of the steps with Foreign Affairs Minister Peter MacKay to greet each passenger. "A lot of people were very grateful. A lot of people were very frustrated," Mr. Harper told reporters after the last of the evacuees had left the plane. The passengers were taken into a terminal building where they passed through immigration. Most were placed on buses and taken to a hotel. Seven were treated for illness such as dehydration but none needed to go directly to hospital, said Bob Davidson of the Ottawa Paramedic Service.  "