Interventions in Committee
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View Lois Brown Profile
Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
Ambassador, you spoke earlier, either in your opening remarks or just afterwards, about some of the engagement you have with the larger diplomatic corps here in Ottawa. You also spoke a little bit about training for our own diplomats who are going overseas.
I wonder if you could expand on that and tell us what you do with diplomats who are coming into Canada in terms of explaining your role. Is there any uptake from any of the diplomatic corps, when they're returning, to take that message back to their own countries?
I wonder if you could speak about those two aspects.
Andrew P.W. Bennett
View Andrew P.W. Bennett Profile
Andrew P.W. Bennett
2014-02-10 16:46
Certainly. I'll take the training aspect first because I can be brief on that, Mr. Chair.
I had a chance to speak to outgoing heads of mission last year to talk to them about our mandate. We're in the process of developing various tools that they can make use of. We've just developed a very quick two-sided information sheet that they can make use of and pass out to their main interlocutors when they're abroad on posting. Then we have a human rights training component, so I was speaking to colleagues in the foreign service two weeks ago on what we mean by “religious freedom”. We had a wonderful panel. We brought together an evangelical Christian, Rabbi Reuven Bulka from here in Ottawa, and one of the leaders of the Baha'i community here to talk about their experiences and how their communities understand religious freedom. Then we have the Religious Freedom Forum that I mentioned. The broader sort of training that we're developing, that's in the works over this next quarter, as we move into the next fiscal year.
In terms of engaging foreign diplomats here, it's been a bit of a two-way street. I've been reaching out to them and many of them have been reaching out to me. I think within the first two months of my being here I had a chance to meet with certainly all of our key allies on this file, and also some of the key ambassadors for countries that we want to focus upon, including China and Turkey. I had a chance to engage again with the Pakistani ambassador, and a number of others.
We organized an event at headquarters, at foreign affairs, where we brought together roughly 20 ambassadors to talk about what the office is doing. I continue to have ongoing dialogues with them. They're not always easy dialogues, as you would expect, but we want to maintain that dialogue. There are times when we issue démarches for different acts that take place in certain countries. I referenced the case of the Sri Lankan Muslim human rights activist.
But again, the fundamental premise is that we want to engage in that dialogue, even with countries where it's going to be difficult to have that dialogue. We can't just sort of cut it off. We need to find ways to engage. So on a weekly basis I'm meeting with foreign diplomatic officials. Certainly when I go abroad, typically our missions will bring together key like-minded countries, where I can engage with them and get their perspective of what's happening on the ground in these countries. Then we're always engaging with multilateral partners, whether it's the European Union, the UN, or the OSCE. That's a core element of my outreach.
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