Banish Lebanese ambassador, Jewish group urges Ottawa: B'nai Brith Canada
National Post - By: Jack Aubry
Thursday, August 14, 2003
Page: A5 /Section: Canada

OTTAWA - Lebanon's controversial envoy to Canada should be banished to his home country, his critics say.
"This is not the first time this ambassador has made statements that are not acceptable by Canadian standards. What we think is the appropriate manner for our government to handle this is to have him sent home to his home country," Rachel Wilner, national president of B'nai Brith Canada, said yesterday.
Ambassador Raymond Baaklini is again under fire after telling an Arabic-language weekly newspaper in Montreal that Lebanon's "security arrest" of Canadian Bruce Balfour would not have taken place unless authorities were certain the charges were confirmed. He also echoed previous comments in December that Canada's media is controlled by pro-Israel owners, adding Mr. Balfour's case had been exaggerated. Mr. Balfour was detained at the Beirut airport and charged with collaborating with Israel.
Ms. Wilner said her organization will ask Bill Graham, the Foreign Affairs Minister, to deal with Mr. Baaklini in "a serious fashion."
She said it is understood Mr. Baaklini enjoys diplomatic immunity, but his "offensive" comments should not be tolerated by the Canadian government.
"His pattern is obviously repetitive in nature and cannot be ignored in a country that values respect, dignity and human rights for all Canadians. He certainly is not showing that respect as a visitor in his host country," Ms. Wilner said.
The Canadian Lebanese Human Rights Federation, which opposes the Lebanese government, has stated Mr. Baaklini's new comments only prove the ambassador should have been sent back to Lebanon when he previously attacked the Canadian media for being controlled by a "Zionist party."
A receptionist at the Lebanese embassy in Ottawa said Mr. Baaklini was not in his office yesterday. Several faxed requests to the embassy for an interview with Mr. Baaklini have not been answered.
In a translation provided by the Canadian Lebanese Human Rights Federation, Mr. Baaklini is quoted as telling the Montreal newspaper Al-Mustakbal: "The exaggeration of the news has its well-known background since the media that is controlled by certain parties seek to exaggerate every news item pertaining to Israel."
The Canadian Jewish Congress also issued a statement strongly condemning Mr. Baaklini for his recent "reprehensible" remarks.
"It is unacceptable for a foreign envoy to make disparaging comments about a particular community in a host country.... Mr. Graham must make it crystal clear that if Ambassador Baaklini cannot refrain from making prejudiced allegations, he is unwelcome to represent his country in Canada," said Moshe Ronen, chairman of the CJC's board of governors.
He pointed out Mr. Baaklini did not retract his comments about Jews in January when Mr. Graham called him in for a meeting and only regretted that his comments "caused offence and that they created controversy."
A spokesperson in Mr. Graham's office said the Minister was aware of the diplomat's recent comments, but said he was not available to comment yesterday.
Reynald Doiron, a spokesman for Foreign Affairs, declined to comment on Mr. Baaklini's latest controversial statements, except to point out Canada's ambassador in Lebanon would never comment on a Lebanese man facing a court proceeding in Canada.
Canadian Alliance MP Stockwell Day, who was also criticized in Mr. Baaklini's most recent declarations, said he is not surprised by the ambassador's comments.
"We asked last time that the Minister rebuke him for his offensive remarks. That did not happen then and I do not expect the Minister to rebuke this ambassador for interfering in what is essentially communications between myself and the Minister," Mr. Day said.