World next door makes Ottawa what it is – Metro US

World next door makes Ottawa what it is

When a crowd of demonstrators gathers on Parliament Hill, it’s no sure thing, in this global city, just which government they’ve come to yell at. This week, for example, protesters contested the results of the Iranian election, demanding, “Where is my vote?”

A few blocks down Metcalfe Street, the Iranian Embassy, also the site of protests, is where Iranian-Canadians lined up last week to vote in the election, the only place in Canada they were able to do so.

The embassy itself has become a sign of chilly diplomatic relations since the death of Iranian-Canadian photojournalist Zahra Kazemi while in the custody of Iranian police in 2003. Canada downgraded relations with Iran over the incident, and a couple years ago, the Iranians erected a new spiked iron fence around the grounds.

Canadians aren’t always known for being consumed with world affairs, and Ottawa can have its outbursts of parochialism, but the world is here, represented by more than 100 diplomatic missions.
The United States has named David Jacobson as its new ambassador to Canada, and hence our new neighbour in Rockcliffe.

As with all neighbours, relations are not always smooth.

A Saudi diplomat was arrested earlier this month after trying to evade police in a high-speed chase and crashing into a cruiser, but can’t be charged unless his government waives his diplomatic immunity. This unavoidably reminds us of the case of Russian diplomat Andrei Knyazev, who, in 2001, killed an Ottawa woman while driving drunk. He escaped charges here, but was eventually tried and convicted in Russia.

If you’ve ever, before crossing an intersection, taken a cautious second glance at a red-plated diplomatic car, or noticed one brazenly parked in a no-stopping zone, you’ve probably lived in Ottawa a while.

Still, such bad behaviour is the conspicuous exception, not the peaceful rule, and having the world next door helps make Ottawa Ottawa.

When the government of Afghanistan bought a house on Argyle Street for its new embassy last year, the real estate agent who handled the sale was none other than Colleen McBride, wife of Mayor Larry O’Brien. It’s a small global village after all.

And demonstrators in Iran may have to smuggle their message through a state media blockade via Twitter, but those who echo it here can be heard loud and clear.

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