Wikileaks cables won’t damage U.S.-Canadian relations: Ottawa

The U.S. diplomatic cables made public in a massive Wikileaks release are “raw material” that doesn’t reflect foreign policy, Foreign Minister Lawrence Cannon said at a news conference Monday.

The leaks by the whistle-blowing website Wikileaks are “deplorable,” he said, but won’t damage U.S.-Canadian relations.

“These are American documents. This is an American issue,” he said.

The U.S. Embassy in Ottawa sent 1,948 of the total cables, which cover a period from Dec. 28, 1966 to last February.

None of the Ottawa cables is among the 243 released so far, but Canada is mentioned, in passing, in five:

A note from the U.S. Embassy in Tripoli on Sept. 29, 2009, surmises the Libyan leader’s fear of flying was behind a request, then cancelled, for a stopover in Newfoundland.

How Canada and the U.S. handle dual citizenship was mentioned at a meeting of Israeli and U.S. military leaders in a cable sent Nov. 18, 2009.

A confidential memo Nov. 5, 2009, from the U.S. Embassy in Berlin reported the shock and political pressure in Germany over General Motors’ cancellation of the sale of Opel to Magna International Inc., the Markham-based auto parts manufacturer. Opel employed 25,000 people in Germany.

Canadian and British business executives were part of the luncheon group in 2008 where Prince Andrew, second son of the Queen, was “rude,” according to a cable from the U.S. Ambassador to Kyrgyzstan.

A historical gem: A memo on Nov. 28, 1966 about Argentina extending fishing territory was passed on to the Canadian ambassador.

Breakdowns of the data by Der Spiegel and The Guardian spit out numbers and keywords for the deluge of data, but little else.

For example, Feb. 26, 2010 was a busy day for cable traffic out of the U.S. Embassy in Ottawa, with the U.S. Consulate in Vancouver chiming in with a few to add to the traffic.

That was during the Winter Olympics in Vancouver and about the time that then-cabinet minister Helena Guergis apologized for berating an airport employee.

An analysis by the German news magazine shows the embassy in Ottawa’s cable traffic dates to 1986 and more than 1,200 of the memos are unclassified. Only 19 are the highest secret classification, another 76 are secret and 624 are in the confidential categories.

The flow of messages goes through jagged peaks and valleys since 2002, with dips in 2004 and 2006 and peaks in 2002, 2005 and 2008.

Ottawa is one of 274 embassies worldwide that will have its secret diplomatic messages revealed in stages over the next few months.

Each is tagged with keywords about content. Two Ottawa cables were tagged International Organizations and Conferences, Arms Control, Energy and Technology, External Political Relations and Security.

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