The international personality of Québec has a lot to do with policies and vision. It is conventional wisdom in Québec that its jurisdictions under the Canadian constitution must be promoted and defended internationally by its government representatives. In recent years, successive governments have gone beyond their constitutional responsibilities to include shared responsibilities with our Canadian federal partners. Beyond policies and vision, however, Québec diplomacy is about people.
No matter how compelling our message and our product can be, the talent that make up Québec’s diplomatic teams “in the field” make the difference. Understanding the subtleties of the host country, being persistent in promoting our positions, having a feel for what preoccupies the host country, and offering win-win perspectives to reinforce links and identify common interests represent but a part of what is expected of our representatives internationally. It takes patience, it involves innovation along with imagination, and above all, it requires people skills.
In the past two years, I have had the honor of working with three great talents and with whom I have shared exhilarating moments in promoting Québec interests within the United States – Jean-Stéphane Bernard, Frédéric Bolduc, and Alain Olivier. All three in 2011 have obtained new assignments, and will pursue their goal of making a difference. Let me elaborate.
Jean-Stéphane Bernard, who served as Director of Québec’s Washington office until March 2011, is now Québec’s Delegate in Boston and is responsible for the New England territory on behalf of Québec. Jean-Stéphane has proven to be the quintessential diplomat. Accessible, personable, always persistent and solution-oriented, Jean-Stéphane possesses the people skills needed to advance Québec’s interests in areas considered essential to its future – energy, trade, security, the Plan Nord, links to the Northeast corridor on high speed rail, promotion of Québec culture, immigration and dialogue on common interests in education. People who know him just gravitate to him. In a short period, he has made his mark in both Washington and Boston. Already, he is making a difference.
Frédéric Bolduc has acted as Québec’s representative at the OAS, working closely with Canada’s Ambassador to the Organization of American States. In the last 9 months, he has served with success as Director of the Washington office as Jean-Stéphane went on to Boston. Just recently, he was appointed by the OAS to be the Special Representative of the OAS to Haiti. He is leaving in January to serve in Port-au-Prince, two years after the catastrophic earthquake.
Frédéric has decided to go in an area where he is most committed. He has not chosen the easy path. Courage and idealism have guided his choice. He wants to make a difference in the lives of a people who have suffered inexplicable tragedy. It is laudable that this young man, fluent in 5 languages, has chosen to serve in a part of the world so devastated by both nature and man-made events for so many decades. Just as in Washington, Frédéric is out to make a difference, and assuredly, will.
Alain Olivier leaves New York to head up the office in Washington in January. Alain can be easily be described as the ultimate policy content person on our team. Efficient, dedicated, and thorough, in the last year he has skillfully and successfully put together a new department that included communications, government relations and educational affairs. His very presence commands respect. A lawyer, he has chosen public service and decided to be in diplomacy where he brings his careful attention to detail in the belief that public service is all about making a difference in the lives of people. Alain possesses the sure judgment and discipline to represent Québec well in America’s capital.
Jean-Stéphane, Frédéric, and Alain represent the kind of talent and energy needed to affect change and bring about progress in the world. They may be in mid-career, but already I can tell that these three products of Québec diplomacy have promising futures, but more importantly, will continue to make a difference in the paths that they will choose.
My favorite quote remains from George Bernard Shaw, “Some people see things as they are and ask, why? I dream things that never were and ask, why not?” Jean-Stéphane, Frédéric, and Alain exemplify this kind of thinking. We can only wish them the best in their new challenges, and in their quest to make a difference. Merci, chers amis.