While some foreign diplomats posted to Canada spend their evenings at cocktail parties sipping wine and chatting with other foreign-ministry types, David Lunderquist took a different path.
Sure, the Swedish counsellor and deputy head of mission went to national days, but he focused on getting to know Canadians.
He leaves Canada this week having built strong ties with his Canadian neighbours.
His whole family—wife Hedvig and three daughters, aged eight, 12 and 14—took part in the Glebe Community Centre’s production of Oliver, The Musical, in the spring. The eldest daughter played the lead role, and the parents had two of the lead female and male adult roles in the Oliver Twist production in their neighbourhood theatre group.
Family members have also participated in A Christmas Carol and other local theatre productions.
It’s not just acting.
Hedvig Lunderquist, who sings classical music, took advantage of her time in Canada to take a second degree at Carleton University in music.
Her husband, a clarinet player, played in the National Capital Concert Band.
The arts truly are a family affair. David Lunderquist was in charge of the theatre program through part of his studies at university and through that role met his wife.
“We’ve always had it as a passion, but for many years we haven’t had time, with three small kids and careers, and all that, to act, until we got here and discovered the Glebe Community Centre, which is a treasure,” said Mr. Lunderquist in a July 8 interview.
His two oldest daughters are set to start at an arts-focused high school when they return to Sweden. Mr. Lunderquist expected to leave July 18 after five years posted to Canada.
He hopes to start a klezmer band with his wife upon their return, playing traditional eastern European Jewish music. Ms. Lunderquist sang in the Bytown Tango Band while in Ottawa.
“We have immersed in the community,” he said.
Besides the arts, he also played beer-league soccer once a week.
It’s a choice to engage with your host community, said Mr. Lunderquist, and everybody can. His advice?
“Get to know the people around you. If there’s a community centre, check it out. And if you have kids, become friends with their friends’ parents, engage yourself with the school.”
The family also travelled to the Rockies and Okanagan in British Columbia a few years ago, and travelled in Quebec including to watch whales. Mr. Lunderquist’s Canadian journey started when he was a teenager as an exchange student at a CEGEP in Quebec.
The day job
The one spot he regrets not going to is the high Arctic, an expensive place to travel due to the remote environment.
Ambassadors are invited to a Northern Tour organized every year or so by the Canadian government with stops in several northern communities, but deputies like him don't normally get that chance.
The Arctic was a big part of his job, given that Sweden and Canada both chaired the Arctic Council, an intergovernmental forum, during his Canadian posting.
And despite the recent chill between Canada (and other Western nations) and Russia, he said it’s still a “forum for de-escalating, I would say, tension between superpowers, because that’s an area where co-operation has worked really well.”
Besides the Arctic, one area he was surprised to find ate up a lot of his time on the job was in organizing itineraries for visiting Swedish delegations of policymakers.
“A never-ending flow of Swedish politicians come here,” he said, seated beside his standing desk at a coffee table in his downtown office. “That goes to show that Canada has a lot to offer for policymakers because our countries are so similar.”
Many come to study integration and immigration issues. “Canada has a very good reputation for doing many things right there. We have a lot to learn.”
Sweden in 2013 took in the highest percentage of asylum seekers per capita among rich nations in the OECD. It has accepted people fleeing Syria, Eritrea and Somalia, among others.
Besides that, dozens of parliamentarians have swung by Canada to talk everything from transportation to taxation.
He couldn’t recall many Canadian parliamentary committee visits to Sweden during his posting.
“It’s not the same tradition of travelling abroad, which I think is a pity because you can learn a lot from studying other countries, and actually going to those countries.”
Mr. Lunderquist is headed back to his foreign ministry headquarters in Stockholm where he is set to work on a small team doing export promotion in developing countries.
He said his replacement, Jessica Hedin, is set to arrive in late August for a September work start, he estimated. While she’s a Swedish diplomat, she’s spent the last few years at the European Union Delegation in Colombia, he said.