After our visit to the Canadian Embassy in Berne, Her Excellency Jennifer MacIntyre, Canadian Ambassador to the Swiss Confederation, took time to answer three questions for the foraus blog.
Three Questions for… is a new series set to feature Ambassadors to Switzerland. It complements the Diplomacy group’s Ambassadors’ Seriesaimed at visiting Embassies from around the world. After our visit to the Canadian Embassy in Berne, Her Excellency Jennifer MacIntyre, Canadian Ambassador to the Swiss Confederation, took time to answer three questions for the foraus blog.
1. How does Canada see Switzerland and what lies ahead for Swiss-Canadian relations?
Ambassador MacIntyre explained that Canada and Switzerland have traditionally been excellent partners, celebrating 70 years of diplomatic relations in 2015. With its foreign policy and its role in international organisations, Switzerland is internationally recognized for its credibility. Canada particularly sees Switzerland as a natural partner for its renewed focus on peacebuilding. Because the bilateral relationship between the countries is excellent and free of irritants, the Embassy of Canada can instead focus its time and energy working together with Swiss partners on mutual international priorities.
As for what lies ahead, Ambassador MacIntyre envisions more concrete collaboration on peacebuilding. Canada’s renewed focus on mediation, conflict resolution and peacebuilding means there is great potential for exchange between Canada and Switzerland as well as collaboration on joint initiatives.
2. What do you consider the greatest challenges for Canada’s foreign policy?
Ambassador MacIntyre highlighted some of the numerous global challenges Canada and other international partners face, such as migration, extremism, climate change, etc. More specifically, Canada’s new government has been in place for a little over a year now, and the overarching foreign policy goal is to make Canada a determined peacebuilder. For Canada, peace is more than just the absence of armed conflict, it extends to human rights, freedoms, sustainability, etc.
Canada’s Foreign Minister, M Stéphane Dion, has said that Canada intends to return to peace operations. Consequently, Canada will see its resources and focus shift, redefining priorities under the new government. This shift of returning to peace operations will bring together military, humanitarian and diplomatic efforts.
3. You have been in Berne since 2013 – what has surprised you most about Switzerland?
Ambassador MacIntyre pointed out that as well as being ambassador of Canada, she is also the mother of two children, now aged 6 and 4. She was surprised by how much more difficult it is to be a working parent in Switzerland than in Canada, which hadn’t occurred to her before coming here. She singled out issues such as affordable childcare or erratic school hours and the seeming expectation that one parent is always with the child. For example, she wanted to purchase an SBB junior card for her eldest daughter (6 years old) to ride the trains and trams. For the card to be valid, however, the child has to be with a parent, and only a parent. So if her daughter is riding the trams with her babysitter the card is not valid. Ambassador MacIntyre ended up having to buy her daughter a half price libero card of her own.
Another example Ambassador MacIntyre gave is how she wanted her daughter to attend a Swiss local school and learn French. However, she was too young to enrol, as the enrolment age is higher in Switzerland than in Canada, and there were a lot of half days in the beginning, necessitating more complicated child-care arrangements. So, like many others, to make the logistics work, Ambassador MacIntyre was compelled to choose a French international school instead of a Swiss school.
Thank you for your time!
Image by Christian Raul Hernandez - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=48081316