OTTAWA - Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird says a memo written by one of his senior bureaucrats, warning of a lack of security at Canada's embassy in Moscow, was never delivered to him.
"Mr. Speaker, no memo was sent to my office on this issue," Baird told the House of Commons on Wednesday as he faced questions by the opposition NDP.
The Canadian Press has reported exclusively on the memo — stamped "unclassified" and addressed to the minister of Foreign Affairs — which warned that Canada's current embassy building in Moscow remained vulnerable to terrorist attack and being spied on.
Baird has directed his officials to call in the RCMP to investigate how the memo was leaked from his department.
The memo said that Canada's embassy in the Russian capital offers "almost no protection" against a terrorist attack.
The document explained why diplomats won't be moving to a more secure facility until January 2016 instead of last July as planned. The delay has added nearly $30 million to the cost of the project, since Foreign Affairs received approval in 2008 to move the embassy to a more suitable building.
"Calling on the RCMP to investigate a document leak is not a solution. Was the minister aware of this situation and if so why didn't he do something?" New Democrat MP Eve Peclet asked Baird during question period Wednesday.
That's when Baird rose, gave his one-line reply, and immediately took his seat.
NDP foreign affairs critic Paul Dewar followed up by asking Baird what his priority is.
"Is it protecting our diplomats from terrorism, or is it about protecting themselves from transparency?"
Baird sidestepped the question, attacking Dewar for his past criticism over the closure of Canada's embassy in Iran.
The memo surfaced after the recent high-profile closures of Canada's embassies in Iran and Syria, decisions that Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Baird have said were made to keep Canadian diplomats out of harm's way.
Dewar said in an interview he was "startled" by Baird's response.
"Where did this memo go, and why didn't it get to Mr. Baird? And who's in charge here?" he said.
"We're not talking about a small interest here? We're talking about Russia. He should have been briefed up on it."