You touched on what I consider to be one of the great weaknesses in our consular services. I don't think it's by design or anything like that. It's, first of all, the size of the country. Sometimes a telephone call just will not do it the way sitting down and talking face to face will with somebody who's going through a traumatic event involving members of their family.
As with all things in government, of course, it's a question of money, and this is why I tend to emphasize how the money is spent, money that is already paid by Canadians to get this service. This is very important. There is no career consular service as such. In effect, we all come out of essentially other parts of the department.
You're smiling at all of this. I'm sure that in your past you've done the same kind of work.
The ability to have people who are willing to take on this kind of work is not something that comes readily to political officers, nor do they have the training or background or even, in some cases, the inclination to do so. I'm sure you've run across these, as far as the department is concerned, in many of these cases.
I don't have an easy answer. Every government I've ever spoken to around the world says the same thing. There used to be something called the “consular service”, but over time they all disappeared. The service itself is rolled into all of the other services. In Canada we've had any number of structural changes with regard to who is responsible for consular services. It's been stable, I think it's fair to say, for well over 10 years now.
I follow the press reporting in this area. I talk to reporters assiduously. One thing I've noticed is that I have heard as many compliments about the work of consular affairs in this area as I've heard complaints. I can't say, during the time I was working there, that this balance ever crossed my desk.
Obviously, people are working on this, but it is always a struggle to get the right people doing the work. We always used to say, “Oh, God, it's Monday morning”, because on Monday morning, when you're doing this work, right off the top at least 10 people have died overseas. One of your first jobs is to contact the families. For anybody who does that kind of work, it is a difficult job. That's why a lot of people don't stay there for very long. They find the work very difficult.