I’ve had the chance to meet many Ambassador’s of Canada to other countries around the world but yesterday’s meeting with Paul Hunt, Ambassador of Canada to Israel, was in a league of its own.
The song and dance, it you want to call it that, I’ve heard from other Ambassadors was that of a pre-packaged message with a heavy emphasis on trade between the two countries. Rarely was there an open and honest dialogue about Canada’s presence in that foreign country. Mr. Hunt provided an educated, candid, and thought-provoking analysis of Canada’s role in Israel.
When I mention previous encounters with other Ambassadors I talked about the emphasis on economy and trade. Surely, there are also political ramifications for trade relations between Canada and other countries in the world; no more is this present then here in Israel. The political consequences of having a relationship with Israel in the International community are controversial to say the least (not necessarily my feeling on the matter).
So when we begin to look at the role of an Ambassador of Canada in Israel, one can imagine Mr. Hunt has a daunting task. But that wasn’t exactly his feelings.
Mr. Hunt was previously Ambassador in Brazil (a place that I visited in 2005) and since then has become a major trading partner with Canada. Just recently, he requested, emphasis on requested, a posting in Israel as Ambassador. That is a heavy burden – but on Mr. Hunt openly acknowledges and accepts the challenge.
He’s only been Ambassador for just over 12 weeks now, but the way he spoke around the region was as though he’s been living here for a while. He understands the importance of listening in this country.
So what did he say?
Generally, he echoed the thoughts of our Prime Minister. Recently this is what PM Harper said, and I quote:
“[As] long as I am Prime Minister, whether it is at the United Nations, the Francophonie, or anywhere else, Canada will take that stand whatever the cost. I say this, not just because it is the right thing to do, but because history shows us, and the ideology of the anti-Israeli mob tell us all too well if we listen to it, that those who threaten the existence of the Jewish people are a threat to all of us.”
But here is what I find most important. While Mr. Hunt fully realizes the pressure from the International community surrounding Israel, he wants to avert the dialogue from conflict resolution, which will always be a part of the conversation no matter what, to sharing just how entrepreneurial Israel is, and how as Canadians we can learn from this.
It was refreshing and paralleled my previous thoughts about this high-tech society.
My thoughts – let’s not be fearful of the International community in supporting Israel, not because that necessarily means as a country we are pro-Israel (because it’s ignorant to simplify the debate to pro this or pro that) but because this is a culture and country that the world can learn from.
Perhaps through entrepreneurialism and trade between the two countries we can switch the dialogue from being solely focused on a simplified conflict, but more importantly, a place where creativity, culture, and charisma reigns supreme. Mr. Hunt understands this.
Source: Blog of Devin Heroux
Israel’s economic success in recent years has caught the eyes and imaginations of international players interested in Israeli investors, research and talent.
Rob Norris, the minister of advanced education, employment and immigration of the booming Canadian province of Saskatchewan, was in Israel last week, holding meetings with government and business representatives in an effort to foster and facilitate new partnerships in the fields of innovation, technology and sciences.
During his weeklong stay, Norris met with National Infrastructures Minister Uzi Landau and Minorities Affairs Minister Avishay Braverman and paid visits to leading academic institutions, including the Weizmann Institute of Science in Reheovot, the Technion- Israel Institute of Technology in Haifa and the Hebrew University in Jerusalem.
Located in central Canada, the Province of Saskatchewan spans nearly 600,000 square kilometers, an area roughly 30 times the size of Israel. The province enjoys a wealth of natural resources, chief among them: oil, potash, natural gas and uranium. The region also possesses the most arable land of all of Canada’s provinces, growing 45 percent of the country’s grain.
In recent years Saskatchewan has enjoyed an economic surge enabling it to pay back 40% of its debt, invest heavily in infrastructure and offer a series of progressive policies in the fields of education, labor retention and immigration.
The province has made sure to take advantage of its natural resources, but it isn’t willing to depend solely upon them and aims to expand its capabilities in knowledge-intensive fields, according to Norris.
“In order to do that we need partnerships. Innovation cannot excel in isolation.
We foster a broad range of relationships already, but we think that there are significant opportunities that can arise from ties with Israel,” he said.
Norris said that his visits to Israel’s leading academic institutions left him impressed with their high levels of innovation and commercialization and said he saw substantial areas of potential cooperation with Saskatchewanian institutions and businesses, with the most obvious being in the fields of biological sciences and biotech.
Perhaps Saskatchewan’s biggest deficiency lies in its relatively small population.
With only a million people spread out across the province, 300,000 in its two major cities, Regina (the province’s capital) and Saskatoon, and the rest in 200 rural municipalities, it simply doesn’t have the manpower to help it reach its economic potential.
Norris explained that the province has gone to great efforts in the last few years to draw in more people. Its policies, which include advanced job training, work to citizenship programs and aggressive recruitment efforts, seek to both bring back residents who have left and introduce new immigrants from other provinces and other countries.
Norris said that in the last year alone, 11,000 people immigrated to Saskatchewan.
The top six countries producing immigrants to Saskatchewan are the Philippines, China, Ukraine, India, Pakistan and Iraq, according to Norris. He also said that there was some interest in immigration from Israel and that the province looked forward to receiving people who are well educated, energetic and who have an entrepreneurial attitude.
“We face a talent challenge.
There are currently 7,000 open jobs in Saskatchewan. An aging local population of baby boomers and a growing economy means we need more people in order to make sure we are well positioned to diversify and reinvigorate both our economy and our communities,” Norris said.
During his visit, Norris attended a meeting with members of the Israel-Canada Chambers of commerce and industry, where he spoke about venture capital investment opportunities and the potential for future cooperation.
“On both sides there is room for activity, but there is very little familiarity. I hope I was able to capture the imagination of some investors and that the visit will open the door to future projects,” he said.
Norris said that the small, but well established, Jewish community in Saskatchewan has the potential to play a role in fostering business relations through person-to-person ties. His deputy, Clare Isman, who is Jewish, accompanied him on the visit.