POLITICS

Canada's Foreign Affairs Department Openly Disloyal To Baird: U.S. Official In 2012 Email

11/30/2015 08:09 EST | Updated 12/01/2015 10:59 EST

WASHINGTON — A U.S. official expressed amazement at how deeply detested Canada's Conservative government was by some employees of the Foreign Affairs Department.

That impression was described in a note sent three years ago to Hillary Clinton, who was then the secretary of state and whose emails are now being publicly released.

It was contained in a message where a U.S. official described how his colleagues across the border pleaded for his help lobbying the Canadian government not to cut a program for Haiti.

"In my many years here I have never seen such open disloyalty with a change of administrations."

The U.S. special co-ordinator for Haiti said Canadians were worried about budget cuts that would have slashed down an operation from 11 employees to four, for a country that was ostensibly a major Canadian foreign policy priority.

"I was a little astonished at how openly the career folks at the foreign and assistance ministries disliked their new political masters and wanted us to convince them not to cut Haiti,'' said Tom Adams, in a May 2012 email forwarded to Clinton and released Monday.

"In my many years here I have never seen such open disloyalty with a change of administrations. Although the political appointees told me there was no need to have the Secretary talk to Baird about Haiti, the senior career folks, on the margins, implored me to have this done."

john baird united nations John Baird is seen at the United Nations in 2014. (Photo: Canadian Press)

The dynamic described in that email was on public display recently after the federal election, when employees at the foreign ministry cheered during a visit from their new Liberal bosses.

Clinton replied that she was happy to call her counterpart John Baird, if necessary. The presidential contender's emails are now being released in instalments, after an uproar over her use of a private home-based server that couldn't be searched for freedom of information requests.

Emails mention Omar Khadr

The latest released batch includes another interesting exchange about Canada.

There was delight in Clinton's office over news that Omar Khadr was being released from the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay and repatriated to a prison in his home country.

The newly released emails show the then-secretary of state's response to news that the young man was being transferred to Canada: "Thank you for all you did to get this resolved."

"After spending the last 10 years on GTMO, at least this young man finally has another chance.''

She was writing to the State Department's legal adviser — who was ecstatic at the 2012 development.

"So glad we got this done,'' said the adviser, Harold Koh. "After spending the last 10 years on GTMO, at least this young man finally has another chance.''

Canada's then-Conservative government was far less enthusiastic about approving Khadr's return, which was delayed amid sniping between Canada and the U.S.

In his written decision allowing the transfer, then-public safety minister Vic Toews expressed five points of concern about bringing home a young man he described as a known al-Qaida supporter and convicted terrorist.

omar khadr Omar Khadr is seen in October after he was released on bail this year. (Photo: Canadian Press)

Khadr's advocates describe him as a child soldier. And the Obama administration wanted him out of Guantanamo, amid its years-long effort to close the detention centre in Cuba.

He was of grade-school age when his father moved the family to Afghanistan, and after 9-11 was convicted on murder for throwing a grenade that killed U.S. Army medic Christopher Speer and seriously injured another soldier.

He spent a decade at Guantanamo, was transferred to a Canadian maximum-security prison in 2012, then to medium security in 2014, and was released on bail earlier this year under an Alberta court decision contested by the Harper government.

But Koh, the State Department lawyer, wrote of Khadr's transfer: "Gtmo is 1 down!! Yayy!'' When another colleague congratulated the team on its work, he replied again: "Hooray! Thanks for the call to FM Baird!"

Those references to Baird were among several in Clinton's emails, as the foreign ministers occasionally discussed ongoing international files ranging from multilateral meetings to crises like Syria.

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