With regard to the mechanics of registering, we've been doing it for years and it's probably about as easy as it can be, but most Canadians, when they head off for the southern sun and things like that, don't think a disaster is just around the corner, and more often than not they're not prepared to register.
I think the other element in all of this, though, is that governments are not being proactive enough in talking to the media when these times of crisis occur. Quite often they will use the Privacy Act and say that we can't say things about an individual and things like that. If you go to the site of the Privacy Commissioner, he has a section on that that says things in this area are not what the Privacy Act is meant to protect.
It's not only Foreign Affairs; all parts of government will use the Privacy Act to not talk to Canadians about things they are doing. You're not out to expose an individual Canadian, but there is no reason you can't provide more of an explanation to Canadians about what's going on.
On your reference to the events in the Caribbean last fall, what surprised me as an outsider looking at all of this was how many got back home in a relatively short period of time. I don't know how many of those we've done over the years. The worst one, of course, was out of Lebanon in...I forget what year it was. It was 2006 or something. On the registration side of it, I think they looked at that and said that there were 3,000 Canadians in Lebanon that we had to help. By the time it was all over, there were 40,000 Canadians in Lebanon who had to be evacuated, and every other country that had populations out of the Middle East ran into exactly the same problem.
I think somebody told me that everybody arrived on the spot marked for charter boats, because it was very difficult to get in there by air. You had to use a boat to get from Lebanon up to Cyprus or somewhere else in the Middle East, and even the boats were just not available to do it, and the Israelis were maintaining a blockade on the Lebanese coast. There are problems you run into in these areas in terms of time.
That was a special case. There was an act of war under way. More often than not, and in the Caribbean in particular, as I understand it.... I have a friend who went down to the British Virgin Islands right afterward, who is quite familiar with the place, and he said he did not even recognize it. Everything had been wiped out on the island, and when I say “wiped out”, I'm not talking about just the vegetation; I'm talking about every service that you would hope would be available for you.
There is no easy answer, other than that I think you have to talk to Canadians as much as you possibly can while the crisis is going on, not after the fact, when you measure and say, “Yes, we did pretty well on that one.” Canadians want the information on that just as quickly as CNN or CBC gives it to them, because they are saying things that may be different from what the government is saying indirectly.