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Argentina’s ambassador and a history with human rights

By Laura Beaulne-Stuebing      

Five new heads of mission present credentials, US and Chinese embassies see staffing changes.

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The 1970s were a terrible time for Argentina, said Norma Nascimbene de Dumont, the country's ambassador in Canada.

An estimated 30,000 people disappeared during Argentina’s Dirty War from the mid-'70s to the early 1980s, which saw leftists, trade unionists, students and many others kidnapped by the Argentine dictatorship at the time.

But, the ambassador said, the country is coming to terms with its past. It’s dealing with its history, which is necessary for families to find closure.

The ambassador, who arrived in Canada on April 7 and presented her credentials the next day, has spent a significant time working in the field of human rights and has a unique connection to the thousands who disappeared decades ago.

From 1999 to 2004 she was posted at the United Nations office in Geneva as Argentina’s deputy permanent representative, and part of her country’s delegation to the UN Human Rights Council. Ms. Dumont said one of the most important things she’s done in the human rights field was to put in motion the establishment of the group that negotiated the UN Convention on Enforced Disappearances.

“The convention was negotiated under the presidency of France, and now it's in force,” she said. “And it is also a sort of committee that tries to look after occurrences…of disappearances all over the world.”

It’s not just an Argentine phenomenon, she added.

“For us it is not only [a] sensitive question, but it is a paramount question,” the ambassador continued. “To [make sure] this phenomenon does not occur anymore, not only in our country, but in other countries. So we fought…to have this convention.”

The country is now tackling this history through its judicial system, she said. Hundreds of people who were a part of this dark chapter are now in jail and families are finding closure, she added.

The diplomat has spent many years in Argentina’s foreign service, with postings in Italy, the United Kingdom, her home ministry in Buenos Aires and now Canada.

And her situation is, and has been, a little different from the typical diplomat. Both she and her husband Alberto Juan Dumont are ambassadors. But this isn’t a huge problem, because Argentina recognizes couples within the foreign service and makes an effort to post partners in the same city.

"My country is one of, I would say, one of the leaders…in the sense of that we recognized the existence of couples in the foreign service many years go,” she said. “We do have many women that joined the foreign service, for many decades already.”

The two have been separated in previous postings, though. Her husband was in Geneva while she was in Rome, for example.

Mr. Dumont is currently Argentina’s representative at the UN’s International Civil Aviation Organization, which is headquartered in Montreal. He has to commute back and forth by train, but his wife said they’re lucky to be where they are.

“It's more difficult when you are both ambassadors. We are full ambassadors, both of us,” she said.

“When they offered this possibility, it was really good for us…So we are very luck and we are very happy to be here.”

New heads of mission

Things became official for five new heads of mission on Nov. 18. Governor General David Johnston announced this week that a handful of new heads of missionfrom Hungary, Greece, Indonesia, Bahrain and Mauritaniapresented their credentials Tuesday morning at Rideau Hall.

Bálint Ódor now officially represents Hungary, George L. Marcantonatos is Greece’s new ambassador, Teuku Faizasyah represents Indonesia, Bahrain’s new ambassador to Canadaposted at the country’s embassy in Washingtonis Shaikh Abdulla bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Khalifa and Sidi Mohamed Ould Boubacar is the new head of mission representing Mauritania at its office in New York.

US Embassy is hiring

The US Embassy in Ottawa is on the hunt for a new senior media specialist, to replace Sophie Nadeau, who had been on the job for for almost six years. Ms. Nadeau left the embassy this fall to launch her own media consulting company, she noted in an email, and the new business is still in the start-up phase.

The embassy also saw the departure of spokesperson Steve Pike back in July. Mr. Pike’s role was subsequently filled by Steve Posivak, who is the former spokesperson for the US Embassy in Honduras.

Changes at the Chinese Embassy

Ding Lei, a press attaché at the Embassy of China, wrapped up his post this month and is heading back home. His replacement at the embassy is Zhi Luying.

Canada in NYC looking for comms help

Canada’s consulate general in the Big Apple is looking for a media relations and communications officer. The gig is a three-year term and includes travel within the consulate’s territory (New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Pennsylvania and Delaware). The job posting, which went up on Nov. 13, says candidates need a few key qualifications, including a bachelor's degree in a relevant field, at least five years working in media or public relations, “significant” experience shaping content for public events or social media platforms and a proven, professional social media presence. A strong understanding of US and Canadian media institutions is also pretty essential.

Media on the move

Foreign affairs reporter Michelle Zilio is moving to CTV’s Parliament Hill bureau to work as an associate producer for CTV's Sunday-morning political program Question Period and writer for the company’s national news program after two years with iPolitics.ca. Ms. Zilio announced her departure via Twitter on Nov. 7.



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