Martin Bartoň wasn’t about to let the end of his posting interfere with the demands of his embassy. After all, consular work doesn’t take a vacation.
After a miscommunication, the Slovak deputy head of mission descended from the depths of the embassy in shorts and a T-shirt, asking how he could help Embassy with its visa application.
Mr. Bartoň was, it turns out, officially on his standard-issued holiday to pack up his belongings for the move back to Slovakia. In reality, he was running around the embassy taking care of visas, paperwork and media interviews while trying to put his personal affairs in order.
With the miscommunication in scheduling sorted out, Mr. Bartoň spoke about the importance of keeping the flow of work moving, right until the moment before his departure.
“You cannot just make a cut, it must fluently continue,” he said, adding his goal was to ensure those who use the embassy’s consular section didn’t notice any change in service during the changeover in staff.
“The person is not important. It’s important that the work is done, and it continues to be done,” he said.
Mr. Bartoň was set to return to Slovakia Aug. 3 to work on human rights law for the foreign ministry for at least two years, after a four-year posting in Ottawa. Strong, well-established diplomatic relations between Canada and Slovakia have allowed the embassy to develop a smooth system for processing the never-ending consular work, he said, a system Mr. Bartoň has striven to improve.
One of the few sensitive areas in bilateral affairs has been the large number of refugee claimants arriving in Canada from Slovakia over the previous few years. Slovakia’s deputy prime minister and minister of the interior discussed the issue with Immigration Minister Chris Alexander and Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney during a visit this spring.
Immigration and Refugee Board statistics show that Slovakia was the seventh-leading source of inland refugee claims to Canada in 2014. The board received 480 referrals of Slovak nationals seeking asylum that year. Slovak refugee claims in Canada are beginning to decline this year, Mr. Bartoň said.
That is a sign of progress, the envoy said, adding the two countries would resolve the issue of refugees moving between them.
“Canada knows that our human rights record is high in Europe,” he said.
Life in a gateway to the great outdoors
Ottawa’s diplomatic community is smaller than the one in Berlin, his last international posting, Mr. Bartoň said. That made it easier to build relationships with the European diplomats he would see at regular regional get-togethers, he said.
While Ottawa may be “boring” for teens or young adults, it is an ideal city for a family with young children, particularly one keen on the outdoors, he said.
Mr. Bartoň’s son and daughter, aged 10 and six, started school in Ottawa and have become more or less fluent in French and English during their time here, he said.
“They speak like small Canadians” without any accent, he said, smiling.
Mr. Bartoň has rediscovered an old fishing hobby during his time here, and indulged in canoeing and skiing with his family since they arrived.
“It’s an outdoor country,” he said. “If you are interested in the outdoors…you must be, because otherwise you would suffer here. But to take hikes, canoeing, swimming, fishing, skiing, skating, [it’s] perfect.”
Wave of shuffled Canadian dips
Sandra McCardell was among more than a dozen diplomats and public servants working on international portfolios who were shuffled to new positions in the weeks before the federal election campaign started.
Ms. McCardell was appointed Canada’s high commissioner to South Africa with accreditation for Namibia, replacing Gaston Barban. She had been working as Canada’s ambassador to Morocco and Mauritania since 2012, prior to which she spent parts of three years as Canada’s ambassador to Libya.
Ms. McCardell oversaw the Libyan mission during the early days of the popular uprising and subsequent Canadian-aided militia campaign against President Muammar Gaddafi. She was the subject of an ethics review ordered by John Baird, Canada’s former minister of foreign affairs, after her husband, Edis Zagorac, took an executive job with a Libyan firm chaired by Saadi Gaddafi, the Libyan president’s son, the Globe and Mail reported. Ms. McCardell was cleared of any suggestion of or real conflict of interest by the investigation, the Globe and Mail reported, and Mr. Baird publicly praised her work.
Jennifer May Alice Loten was appointed Canada’s new ambassador to the Organization of American States, replacing Allan Culham. Ms. Loten had served as the interim ambassador since July 2012. She previously worked as a departmental co-ordinator for the National Roundtables on Corporate Social Responsibility and the Canadian Extractive Industry in Developing Countries, a series of meetings organized by the government in 2006 to examine the practices of resource companies operating in developing countries.
Canadian mining companies have been a frequent target of criticism for decades over alleged connections to human rights abuses in Latin America.
And the rest…
Daniel Maksymiuk was appointed Canada’s ambassador to Croatia with accreditation to Kosovo, replacing Louise LaRocque. He previously worked on assignments in Iraq and Iran, and as a senior departmental adviser to the minister of foreign affairs.
Deborah Chatsis becomes ambassador to the Republic of Guatemala, with concurrent accreditation to Belize, replacing Stuart Savage.
Patricia McCullagh becomes ambassador to the Republic of Côte d'Ivoire, replacing Chantal de Varennes.
Marianick Tremblay becomes ambassador to the Republic of Ecuador, replacing Pamela O’Donnell.
Steve Côté becomes ambassador to the Dominican Republic, replacing Georges Boissé.
Dennis Horak becomes ambassador to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, replacing Tom MacDonald.
Brandon A. Lee becomes consul general in San Francisco, United States replacing Catherine (Cassie) Doyle.
Sabine Nolke becomes ambassador to the Kingdom of the Netherlands and permanent representative to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, replacing James Lambert.
Michael Gort becomes ambassador to the Republic of Costa Rica, replacing Wendy Drukier.
Gwyneth A. Kutz becomes ambassador to the Republic of Peru, replacing Patricia Fortier.
Wilma Vreeswijk, currently associate deputy minister of Citizenship and Immigration Canada, becomes president of the Canada School of Public Service effective Sept. 8.
Richard Wex, currently vice-president in the programs branch at the Canada Border Services Agency, takes over Ms. Vreeswijk's job that same day.