Fall, leaves, fall; die, flowers, away;
Lengthen night and shorten day;
Every leaf speaks bliss to me
Fluttering from the autumn tree.
I shall smile when wreaths of snow
Blossom where the rose should grow;
I shall sing when night’s decay
Ushers in a drearier day.
(Fall, leaves, fall by Emily Brontë)
It has now been a full year since I left the practice of law and had the good fortune to be appointed Québec’s Agent General in London, in which role the Government has entrusted me with the exciting diplomatic mission to represent and advance Québec’s interests throughout the UK, the Republic of Ireland and the Nordic countries.
Over this past year, I have been riding a fascinating learning curve on the role of a diplomat. Prior to assuming my position, I was of course instructed on the basics of protocol, learned the ins-and-outs of government workings and, as a student of history, was already steeped in historical anecdotes on the world of diplomacy. (In this latter regard, I have certainly tried not to heed the somewhat blustery advice of a Churchill (“Diplomacy is the art of telling people to go to hell in such a way that they ask for directions”) or a Teddy Roosevelt (“Speak softly and carry a big stick”).
So what have I learned about the role of a diplomat thus far?
First and foremost, having come from the private sector where one often hears rants and ravings about civil servants, I have been absolutely amazed by the high quality of the team in our Ministry for International Relations and la Francophonie, including the leadership and support of the dedicated team in Québec city and my very talented colleagues at the Québec Delegation’s offices here in London. Without the expertise of our teams in trade, investment, public and political affairs and culture, we would not be able to provide the excellent support to Québec’s entrepreneurial businesses as well as local companies, artists, cultural industries, political and academic communities throughout our extensive territory.
By the same token, I am fortunate that the team here has over the years developed solid relationships, if not friendships across our territory with all of you who are our local business, cultural, academic and political partners, and to whom we owe our sincerest gratitude for your important contribution to Québec’s dynamic success and prosperity. I also take this opportunity to thank my colleagues at the Canadian High Commission in London and Embassies across the territory for their generous cooperation.
I look forward to working even more closely with all of you over the coming year.
In addition, I am very proud to represent Québec, a modern, open, diverse, creative, entrepreneurial, environmentally-conscious and, most of all, welcoming society with strong stable socio-democratic values. Indeed I have been struck through my experience by the connectivity between politics, business and culture in the broadest sense, and how they feed into each other on the international stage. Diplomacy must be values-based, and culture provides a window to a society’s values which, in my experience also find expression in the political and business worlds. For, everything we do starts with our human interactions and relationships. Accordingly, the second and perhaps most fundamental lesson that I have learned this year is that successful diplomacy thrives when the diplomat is transparent and able to be one’s self in proudly representing the government in all of one’s dealings, be they economic, cultural or political.
Looking back on my first year, our team here in London has been very busy showcasing Québec’s business know-how and its arts. Below is a sample of some of the meetings or events that we have hosted, organised or sponsored across the territory:
· Québec business trade missions such as:
- Québec Mining companies’ mission to Mines and Money UK in association with the Québec Government’s Plan Nord.
- Quebec’s innovative security companies at UK Security Expo.
- Québec forestry companies mission to Sweden.
- Québec’s world renowned AI innovators to the AI conference in London, also celebrating the opening of Element AI’s first European offices here in London.
- Québec’s aluminium equipment suppliers on their business development mission to Norway and Iceland.
- Québec’s booming technological companies’ mission at London Tech Week.
- Québec’s tremendous world-class aviation industry eco-system at Farnborough Air Show.
- Québec’s intelligent transportation and mobility industries at ITS World Congress in Denmark.
- Québec Smart Cities in Stavenger, Norway.
It is also worth mentioning the strong links that exist between Québec and the UK in the ever-growing gaming and visual effects industries;
· Many meetings with Westminster MP’s, Lords and officials, in particular on the subject of Brexit, CETA and general commercial and political relations with the UK (Quebec’s 2nd largest trading partner in Europe and our 5th largest in the world).
· Numerous international relations and business development meetings with first ministers and/or ministers and party leaders, MP’s and officials of the governments of the Republic of Ireland, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland and Nordic countries.
· Arctic Circle Assembly, Forum and Frontiers meetings in Edinburgh, Iceland and Norway promoting Québec’s sustainable development Plan Nord, Arctic environmental protection and climate change expertise with Québec’s Special Envoy Jean Lemire.
· Numerous initiatives and actions supporting cultural activities and events showcasing Québec’s artistic talents, including :
- 15th Anniversary celebrations of our relationship with the British Council and a special call supporting numerous exciting cultural projects and collaborations.
- Launch of a new call for cooperation projects in culture and innovation with the Nordic Council of Ministers;
- Development, support and promotion of presentations and performances including several cultural showcases for Québec talent such as:
o Publication of a special edition of Granta magazine featuring the work of 8 québécois authors,
o Lumiere London with three installations from Québec,
o Focus Wales music event with three Québec bands,
o Edinburgh Festivals featuring no less than 3 Québec circus companies as well as theatre, dance, music, comedy and literature from Québec,
o Stockholm Culture Festival featuring Québec circus, music, film and literature,
o Finnish National Theatre focus on Québec dramaturgy;
o First edition of Festival America London welcoming six Québec authors;
- Specialised assistance for local partners as well as Québec artists and cultural entrepreneurs by our cultural team in order to foster more cultural exchanges and help Québec’s radiant light to shine on the international stage.
· Quebec ministerial fact-finding missions to share and learn best practices:
- Minister for International relations and la Francophonie to London;
- Minister for Energy, Natural Resources and Plan Nord (Norway);
- Minister of State responsible for the integrity of public markets and transparent government to London and Edinburgh;
- Minister for Consumer Protection to London;
I take this opportunity to thank the many government, civil service officials and subject-matter experts across our territory who shared their time and expertise with us;
• Bilateral politico-economic meetings held in Québec:
- U.K. Prime Minister May and Québec premier during the course of the G-7 in La Malbaie;
- Inauguration in Montreal of the first Welsh Government office in Canada by Welsh First Minister Carwyn Jones;
- U.K. ministerial visit to Québec and Bombardier by Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (Greg Clark);
- U.K. ministerial visit to Québec by Minister of State for the Department of International Trade, (Baroness Rona Fairhead);
· Many events surrounding Francophonie where Québec, in cooperation with various embassies of francophone countries, l’Alliance Française and/or l’Institut Français hosted evenings celebrating the French language through presentation of Québec films in major cities across our territory, as well as an impressive high school debate competition in French in London and, last but not least, a fiery exhibition of our surrogate national sport, Ligue Nationale d’Improvisation, with Canada and France joining in the competition and fun;
· Finally, we were thrilled to reinstitute the Quebec Annual Lecture, this year featuring renowned Quebec filmmaker and explorer, Jean Lemire, who detailed through film and story the devastating facts on climate change in the Arctic and Antarctic, and their global implications. We are grateful for the sponsorship of Fasken, Desjardins and the MRIF;
Once again, a great big thank you to all of you, our wonderful partners and friends of Québec across the UK, Republic of Ireland, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Finland and Iceland.
I wish you a happy and productive autumn and look forward to working with all of you in the coming months!