Cablegate: Ontario Struggling with Consular Notification Sop for Mass

DE RUEHON #0118 1131319
R 221319Z APR 08





E.O. 12958:N/A
SUBJECT: Ontario Struggling with Consular Notification SOP for Mass
Casualty Emergencies

Ref: Toronto 20

Sensitive but Unclassified - Please Protect Accordingly.

1. (SBU) SUMMARY: Officials from Emergency Management Ontario
(EMO), other provincial government agencies, local first responders,
and Toronto's Consular Corps attending an April 12 working group
meeting discussed a proposed standard operating procedure (SOP)
framework for informing Consular representatives of the welfare and
whereabouts of their citizens during a complex emergency. While the
working group has made progress in sensitizing government emergency
management officials to the needs of Consular and foreign
representatives during an emergency response, we are uncertain
whether the proposed communication mechanisms would be robust enough
to proactively push vital information to diplomatic representatives
during a crisis in Ontario. END SUMMARY.

2. (SBU) About 25 representatives of Ontario Government Ministries;
the federal Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAIT); EMS and
fire departments from the Greater Toronto Area (GTA); and Consular
officials from the United Kingdom, Portugal, and the U.S. attended
the April 12 working group meeting, chaired by Emergency Management
Ontario. The participants generally agreed that existing
communication structures were adequate to cope with small events
with limited casualties. The thornier issue remains the access of
foreign consular representatives to information collected by first
responders and the Ontario Government on foreign citizens during a
major emergency. Both UK and U.S. representatives recounted the
difficulty in obtaining information from the Ontario Government
during the 2005 crash of an Air France jet at Toronto's Pearson
International Airport.

3. (SBU) Emergency Management Ontario presented a "Draft
Notification Protocol for Consulates Receiving Information
Concerning Foreign Nationals Involved in Major Events." UK, U.S.,
and Portuguese representatives noted that they had difficulty with
the term "protocol" and informed the organizers that any formal
agreement would require vetting by their respective Embassies and
headquarters (NOTE. A copy of the draft will be sent by email to
WHA/CAN and CA/OCS. END NOTE). In lieu of a formal protocol, the
foreign consular representatives suggested that a simple Standard
Operating Procedure that reflected the need of Consular
representatives to aid their citizens in a time of crisis would be

4. (SBU) EMO officials also described in detail an "Incident
Management Structure" that acknowledged the need for foreign
representatives to obtain real-time information about their
nationals in an emergency. The "Provincial Emergency Operations
Centre" (PEOC), a 24-hour operation that is rapidly expandable in
the event of an emergency, would be the notional point of contact
for all foreign representatives seeking information about a crisis
and information about their nationals. The PEOC, which is managed
by EMO and staffed by representatives of all involved provincial
ministries, would include representatives of Ontario's Ministry of
Intergovernmental Affairs, and would have access to a liaison
officer from DFAIT. First responders, and Ontario Government
Ministries, including the Ministry of Community and Social Services
and the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care, both of which would
play major roles in a crisis, would in turn feed information on
foreign citizens to the PEOC, and assist foreign representatives in
aiding their citizens.

5. (SBU) UK and U.S. representatives noted that while such a plan
made sense on paper, it is unclear whether information would
actually flow quickly enough through the government channels to
foreign representatives in the event of an actual emergency. Fire
department representatives noted that first responders in general
were more immediately concerned about rendering aid to victims,
regardless of nationality, and would not be in a position to collect
nationality data, much less ensure that it was distributed to a
Provincial Operations Centre. Other Ontario government
participants suggested that many individuals may have privacy
concerns and not want their governments to be notified.

6. (SBU) COMMENT: While Emergency Management Ontario has made some
progress in raising awareness of the need of consular
representatives to be "in the loop" on information that is collected
on the welfare and whereabouts of their citizens during a crisis, it
is unclear whether the Ontario government would actually be able to
do so in a timely fashion during an actual emergency. The working
group plans to meet again in mid to late May, hopefully to discuss a
streamlined draft SOP that will aid the Ontario government in
responding to the needs of foreign representatives. END COMMENT.


© Scoop Media

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