On April 24, 2020, the UBC’s School of Public Policy and Global Affairs (SPPGA) was pleased to host the following webinar: “In Conversation with Canada’s Foreign Minister – A Day in the Life of The Honourable François-Philippe Champagne.” UBC was the first stop along a virtual university tour that the Honourable François-Philippe Champagne is conducting to engage with students and academics in universities on Canada’s role during the current global health pandemic. Find the Press Release from Global Affairs Canada here.
Dr. Murali Chandrashekaran, Vice-Provost, International began the webinar with remarks on behalf of the University of British Columbia. Dr. Chandrashekaran spoke of the importance of “engagement and not estrangement” and of research that is responsive to the needs as identified by communities.
Moderator Boyd Hayes, a Master of Public Policy and Global Affairs student, initiated the conversation with questions about the Minister’s day-to-day work on addressing the COVID-19 crisis at the Foreign Affairs office. He asked what the past month has looked like for the Minister – who he has been meeting with, what his responsibilities have been, and how his work has shifted to respond to COVID-19.
Over 70 UBC students, faculty, and alumni participated, asking questions on a range of topics that enriched the discussion.
Some of the key messages that Minister Champagne shared are included below:
- Repatriation: We have undergone the largest repatriation effort in peacetime in our country’s history, with tens of thousands of people stranded across the world. As it currently stands, the government has repatriated over 20,000 Canadians from 75 countries.
- Canada’s Role in Global Dialogue: Canada is at the center of the G7, the G20, NATO, and other forums where we can make a difference. We consistently talk about the most vulnerable in this crisis. As long as there is COVID-19 somewhere, we will be at risk everywhere. To protect our population, we have to focus both inward and outward.
- Alliances: The COVID-19 crisis is bringing together old alliances but also forming new ones for Canada (e.g. with Indonesia, Brazil). On food diplomacy or health diplomacy, we can be a trusted partner.
- Supply Chains: Canada has kept supply chains open. We have the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) and the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) and trade with the U.S. We have access to the largest markets in the world.
- Sustainability: If we want to rebuild better and greener, more sustainable and predictable supply chains, Canada can play a role. Behind the scenes, the Minister was asked to co-chair a webinar on Zoom with 314 people, one of the biggest UN meetings on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
- Future Impacts: The government will review what worked well and what did not work well to deal with future crises. The way we shape the response will inform future generations.
We are grateful for the Minister’s time and thank Global Affairs Canada for this opportunity.