French diplomacy in Canada: the Quebec consulate also shaken by controversies

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French diplomacy in Canada: the Quebec consulate also shaken by controversies

A senator questions the minister on a complaint .

The French Consulate in Quebec City and the French Embassy in Ottawa declined to comment these new revelations.

Complaints to the anti-harassment cell and a work climate described as “deleterious” at the French consulate in Quebec push elected representatives of French people living abroad to publish their concerns. After initial revelations concerning complaints to the French consulate in Toronto, elected officials are questioning the effectiveness of the “zero tolerance cell” of the French Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs.

In a letter written by elected representatives of the French abroad to the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the authors accuse, among other things, the Consul General of Quebec, Frédéric Sanchez, of having behaved vexatious and x27;having imposed sanctions that were unjustified or at least disproportionate to venial motives.

In a written statement published on the website of the Solidarity Alliance of the French abroad, Senator Évelyne Renaud-Garabedian, who represents the French outside France, questioned the Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs, Catherine Colonna , about the zero tolerance cell. This was put in place by the French authorities in September 2020 specifically to combat harassment in the public service. The Minister has not yet provided an answer.

The Solidarity Alliance of the French abroad is a political movement created by French expatriates throughout the world with the objective of improving their representation with the French authorities.

The senator mentions a complaint made to the Quebec consulate, in addition to those made by employees of the Toronto consulate.

Ms. Renaud-Garabedian points out that these complaints did not no follow-up and asks if an evolution [of] the functioning and [of] practices [of the anti-harassment unit] is envisaged.

In an email to Radio-Canada, the senator claims to have been arrested by French people living abroad concerned about the situation, but specifies that she has no direct knowledge of these facts.

These concerns are shared by four employees or former employees of the Quebec Consulate whose identity Radio-Canada has agreed to protect since they fear possible professional repercussions following their testimony.

All affirm that the work climate is impossible or deleterious. Some claim that management problems are also the cause of many internal conflicts between different employees.

Radio-Canada also obtained a copy of a letter sent in April 2022 to the Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs (MAE) and to the management of French people abroad and the consular administration, an authority administrative which stems from both the (MAE) and the Ministry of the Interior, in which French elected officials abroad request intervention from the Quebec consulate.

The President of the consular counsel of Quebec, Arthur Silve, is one of the co-signatories of the letter alongside the other advisers of the French abroad Laetitia Berts, Ramzi Sfeir and Richard Troussier.

According to this letter , the situation is said to be such that French people in the Quebec region have great difficulty […] in accessing quality consular service.

The letter mentions, among other things, the glaring lack of personnel, but also broader difficulties in relations with the consul general, Frédéric Sanchez.

Elected officials abroad specifically report sick leave for two heads of chancellery since Mr. Sanchez took office in 2019, then five consular staff since the summer of 2021.

“Some staff members walk away from ongoing meetings because they feel overwhelmed or overworked. »

—Letter from advisers of French nationals abroad to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Among their concerns, the authors of the letter also specify that women seem particularly affected by the difficulties.

The French consulate in Quebec and the French ambassador to Canada did not want to comment on these new revelations.

An inspection, led by three agents dispatched from Paris, was also carried out in Quebec after the reception by the ministry of the various reports, confirm the sources of Radio-Canada at the consulate.

To At the end of 2022, the inspectors would have collected testimonies from current and past employees of the French consulate in Quebec.

Some of the people who agreed to speak to Radio-Canada confirm that they participated in meetings and offered testimonies during the passage of the agents, but did not obtain any official conclusion after their report.

Radio-Canada asked the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs about the progress of the investigation, but our emails remained unanswered.

In addition, French people living abroad have received an invitation to a conference to be held in Paris on March 27. Another senator from the French living outside France launched the invitation to this meeting during which the participants will be invited to discuss with Maître Christelle Mazza the subject of harassment in the public service.

The theme of the meeting is presented as tools to prevent and react. It will take place in the premises of the Senate.

According to the professor of Sciences Po University in Paris, Christian Lequesne, the existence of conflicts within diplomatic offices, such as consulates and embassies, is not an exceptional fact. According to him, expatriation, frequent family separation and the length of assignments contribute to creating tensions within teams deployed abroad.

Officers and heads of post must therefore juggle, according to him, with their own stakes while planning the next move or putting in place the conditions to obtain the next position to which they aspire.

“Expatriation, sometimes, it weakens. »

— Christian Lequesne, researcher at Sciences Po University

He also points out that the mandates of diplomatic personnel generally last three or four years and that, from their new job, employees are therefore forced to think about the next position.

The fact that these conflicts end up in the public arena is less common, however, according to the researcher. There is a reputational aspect which is important and we try not to make the conflict too visible.

Christian Lequesne underlines however that certain recent events, including those of the Toronto consulate, show that diplomatic offices must learn more and more to respond to requests from society, including their own operations.

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