Indigeneity and Diplomacy: Representing Canada Across the Globe as an Indigenous Woman

07 December 2020

The University of Alberta hosted the third installment of the Diversity in Diplomacy speaker series, which featured former Canadian Ambassador Deborah Chatsis. Ms. Chatsis spoke to issues of diplomacy through the lens of her identity as an Indigenous woman in conversation with Dr. Matthew Wildcat, Assistant Professor, Department of Political Science and Faculty of Native Studies, and Dr. Florence Glanfield, Vice-Provost (Indigenous Programming & Research).

During the webinar, Ms. Chatsis reflected on her experience over 30 years of work in diplomacy. She emphasized the importance of diversity in the foreign service, and the strides that have been made to increase diversity, particularly in the last decade. Having a foreign service that reflects its citizenry strengthens its overall effectiveness by providing an opportunity to forge more meaningful connections across borders. Ms. Chatsis shared examples of the ways in which her identity and experience as an Indigenous woman helped her to build links with communities during her career—from connecting with Indigenous women in Guatemala to discussing leadership with Indigenous and other minority communities in Vietnam. 

Deborah Chatsis is a member of the Ahtahkakoop First Nation. She had a long and varied career in Ottawa and abroad as a member of Canada’s Foreign Service since 1989. During that time, she served in Beijing, Bogotá, Miami, Geneva, New York City, Hanoi, and Guatemala, from where she also covered Belize. She served as Canada’s Ambassador to Vietnam, Canada's Ambassador to Guatemala, and High Commissioner to Belize. At Headquarters, she served with the Legal Operations and Human Rights divisions as executive assistant to the Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs and as Executive Director for South Asia Relations. Ms. Chatsis also served on secondment to Indian Affairs and Northern Affairs Canada as Senior Advisor with the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, and the Privy Council Office as Senior Advisor with the Social Policy Development Secretariat.

In 2006, Ms. Chatsis received a Fulbright scholarship to attend Harvard University. She has also received awards from the Treasury Board and the Professional Association for Foreign Service Officers for her work on the Ottawa Landmines Treaty in 1998.

Read the transcript or  Listen to the audio file


The Diversity in Diplomacy series is jointly organized by the University of Alberta’s Intersections of Gender Signature Area, the Peter Lougheed Leadership College, and University of Alberta International. In moderated online conversations, heads of diplomatic missions, such as Canadian and foreign ambassadors, high commissioners, and consuls general, are invited to reflect on their practice of foreign policy and diplomacy with a view on Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (EDI) in the diplomatic service.

Diversity in Diplomacy series:

  1. Diversity in Diplomacy: Working Around the Globe as an LGBT+ Diplomat
    with Lucia C. Piazza, U.S. Consul General in Calgary 
  2. Diplomacy and Race: A Black Canadian Diplomat in the Southern U.S.
    with Nadia Theodore, Consul General of Canada to the Southeastern United States
  3. Indigeneity and Diplomacy: Representing Canada Across the Globe as an Indigenous Woman
    with Deborah Chatsis, former Canadian Ambassador 
  4. African Woman Diplomat: Challenges and Opportunities
    with Fatima Braoulé Méïté, Ambassador of the Republic of Mali in Canada