Dress warmly, and watch out for the mice

Troubling details about the working conditions at the Consulate General’s visa office in the Big Apple

by Julia Belluz

Dress warmly, and watch out for the mice

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It seems that if you can make it at the Canadian Consulate General in New York City, you can make it anywhere. Richard Kurland, a Vancouver-based immigration lawyer and policy analyst, has uncovered—thanks to an access-to-information request—troubling details about the working conditions at the Consulate General’s visa office in the Big Apple.

According to the annual report, staff working in the basement office at 1251 Avenue of the Americas are often forced to wear their winter jackets and scarves to deal with temperatures dipping as low as 15° C. Air quality is “uncertain,” the report states: “Studies conducted several years ago were inconclusive.” Employees there have complained about a lack of natural light, which affects morale. Sanitation is also questionable; a fleet of mice has invaded the dank quarters, and are often seen scurrying about, leaving droppings on peoples’ desks. Extermination attempts have “proven unsuccessful.” A spokesperson from the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade told Maclean’s that they are “aware of the issues” and have “consulted with the landlord and taken steps to correct the situation.”

Still, Kurland is “shocked” by his findings, and that the complaints have not been fully addressed. “I’d expect to see this in a Canadian operation in the Third World, but not in New York,” he says. Kurland hopes his discovery will shed light on the challenges that can arise in Canada’s embassies. “Enforcement of Canadian standards regarding workplace issues stops at the Canadian border,” he says. “People think that it’s all champagne and fancy dinners overseas, but sometimes you’re relegated to the basement and dining on ‘rats-a-roni.’ ”




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