NATIONAL

Evacuating Canadians an annual affair?

MICHAEL FRISCOLANTI June 4 2007
NATIONAL

Evacuating Canadians an annual affair?

MICHAEL FRISCOLANTI June 4 2007

Evacuating Canadians an annual affair?

MICHAEL FRISCOLANTI

The numbers are irrefutable: last summer, the federal government spent more than $62 million to evacuate 14,982 Canadian citizens from the Lebanon war zone. As for the rest of the details, it depends on the source. Peter MacKay, the foreign affairs minister, described the rescue efforts as “one of Canada’s finest hours.” Almost everyone else seemed to think it was a national disgrace. Not only did the first batch of boats arrive days later than those of our allies, but many people back home were wondering why we even bothered to send the fleet. After all, if Canadians choose to travel—or live—in dangerous places, why should fellow taxpayers bail them out?

Politicians would be wise to start preparing an answer to that question. Less than a year after Israeli jets bombarded Hezbollah targets, Lebanon is once again on the verge of war. At least 60 people have been killed in clashes between Lebanese troops and members of Fatah al-Islam, an al-Qaeda-inspired militant group. As tensions mount, Canadians living in the region—including thousands who returned to the country just weeks after the first evacuation—are wondering whether it’s time to start packing their bags for the second time in nine months.

Foreign Affairs says yes. “You are advised against all non-essential travel to Lebanon,” reads the department’s latest travel advisory. “Canadians already in Tripoli should consider leaving, if they can do so safely. The situation is highly dangerous and unpredictable, and

could deteriorate further without warning.” If things do deteriorate, Foreign Affairs will be forced to act. But for now, says spokesman Rodney Moore, federal bureaucrats aren’t drawing up another multi-million-dollar evacuation plan. If Canadians want to leave Lebanon, they will have to call a travel agency, not the embassy. M