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

The third installment of the Diversity in Diplomacy series featured former Canadian Ambassador Deborah Chatsis.

UAlberta International - 09 December 2020

On December 7, 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). The webinar was attended by almost 200 participants from 15 countries, with a number of viewers from Global Affairs Canada, the Alberta consular corps, as well as the provincial and federal governments. A recording of the event is available below.

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. 

Ms. Chatsis also discussed navigating her professional career while balancing her own values as an Indigenous woman: she acknowledged the nuances of remaining humble while still confidently self-advocating in a professional environment. She particularly noted how imperative it is to place value on your own experiences, and to draw on them as a source of confidence. Deborah’s words were very inspiring for many participants, which was vividly demonstrated by the numerous questions and comments shared by attendees.

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 Chief of Staff 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, Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, and the Privy Council Office as senior advisor, Social Policy Development Secretariat.

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

This episode of the Diversity and Diplomacy series was co-hosted by University of Alberta International, University of Alberta Intersections of Gender, the Peter Lougheed Leadership College, and Situated Knowledges: Indigenous Peoples & Place Signature Area. In moderated online conversations with Canadian and foreign ambassadors, high commissioners, and consuls general, the series explores diplomatic service through the lens of intersectionality, encourages students from diverse backgrounds to consider diplomatic careers, and leads national and international conversations on the role of equity, diversity and inclusion (EDI) in improving foreign policy outcomes. Find out more about the series and view previous episodes.

View the Recording