08-02-17 Canada strengthens its team ahead of NAFTA negotiations

Canada strengthens its team ahead of NAFTA negotiations

August 2, 2017– Ottawa, Ontario — Canada and the United States have built the most peaceful and mutually beneficial partnership in the world-one that supports millions of middle class jobs in both countries.
The Honourable Chrystia Freeland, Minister of Foreign Affairs, today announced that the Government of Canada is strengthening its diplomatic outreach to the United States with the appointment of new consuls general in San Francisco, Seattle and Atlanta, and a new deputy ambassador in Washington, D.C.
The new appointees are:

  • Kirsten Hillman, Deputy Head of Mission at the Embassy of Canada to the United States;
  • Brandon Lee, Consul General of Canada in Seattle;
  • Nadia Theodore, Consul General of Canada in Atlanta; and
  • Rana Sarkar, Consul General of Canada in San Francisco.

Through direct engagement with the Canadian Embassy in Washington, DC, and Canada’s Ambassador to the US, the network of consuls general will form a cohesive, integrated team. The consuls general will work with provinces, the business community, labour, Indigenous peoples and others to represent and defend Canadian goals and interests.

These senior diplomats will join Canadian consuls general in Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Denver, Detroit, Los Angeles, Miami, Minneapolis and New York City (together with trade offices in Houston, Palo Alto and San Diego), and will report directly to David MacNaughton, Canada’s Ambassador to the United States in Washington, D.C.

The new consuls general will play pivotal roles in promoting Canada’s interests to our American neighbours and bolstering Canada’s presence and profile in key centres across the United States as the Government of Canada continues to lead an ambitious program of Canada-United States outreach.

In advance of NAFTA negotiations, set to begin on August 16, 2017, the Minister also announced today the creation of a new NAFTA Council, which will strengthen Canada’s NAFTA team. The individuals on the Council will offer their expertise and strategic advice in support of Canada’s negotiations.


Members of the Minister’s new NAFTA Council

Hon. Rona Ambrose, P.C. – An Alberta native and a long-time Member of Parliament, Ms. Ambrose most recently served as leader of the Opposition and has also held eight different ministerial portfolios in government.

Perry Bellegarde – Named national chief of the Assembly of First Nations in 2014, Mr. Bellegarde has dedicated his professional life to progress on issues that matter most to First Nations people.

Marc-André Blanchard – A Quebec lawyer and diplomat, Mr. Blanchard was previously chair and CEO of one of Canada’s largest law firms before assuming his current post as Canada’s ambassador and permanent representative to the United Nations.

Sophie Brochu – Active in the energy industry for the past 30 years, Ms. Brochu has served as president and CEO of Quebec’s Gaz Métro for the past decade. She is deeply involved in her community and charitable endeavours in Quebec.

William Downe – A veteran of the banking and financial sector, Mr. Downe has served as CEO of BMO Financial Group for the past 10 years. He sits on numerous non-profit and corporate boards across Canada.

Marcel Groleau – for decades Mr. Groleau has been an advocate for the agricultural sector, and today serves as the president ‎of the Union des producteurs agricoles, representing Quebec’s farm and forestry producers.

Linda Hasenfratz –‎ as CEO of the Ontario-based global firm Linamar Corp., Ms. Hasenfratz has been widely recognised for her years of leadership in the automotive manufacturing sector, both in Canada and internationally.

Hon. James Moore, P.C. – A long-time parliamentarian from British Columbia who served in several Cabinet posts, including as Minister of Industry, Mr. Moore is a senior business adviser at the multinational law firm Dentons and a public policy adviser at the global firm Edelman.

Rana Sarkar – An entrepreneur with significant experience in business and education, Mr. Sarkar is today assuming the role of Canada’s consul general in San Francisco.

Brian Topp – An arts and culture and labour leader, Mr. Topp has also served in the Saskatchewan provincial government and as chief of staff to the Premier of Alberta.

Annette Verschuren – A business executive born in Nova Scotia, Ms. Verschuren was the president of Home Depot and oversaw its tremendous growth in Canada and entry into Asia. Today, Ms. Verschuren is a recognized leader in the renewable energy sector as the chair and CEO of NRStor Inc.

Phyllis Yaffe – As chair of Cineplex Entertainment and as CEO of Alliance Atlantis, Ms. Yaffe has had a long and distinguished career in Canadian arts, culture and entertainment. A Winnipeg native, Ms. Yaffe currently serves as Canada’s consul general in New York City.

Hassan Yussuff – One of Canada’s most experienced labour leaders, since 2014, Mr. Yussuff has twice been elected as president of the Canadian Labour Congress, which represents 3.3 million workers across the country.

Biographical notes for new diplomatic appointees

Kirsten Hillman (Bachelor of Arts, University of Manitoba, 1989; Bachelor of Civil Law and Bachelor of Common Law, McGill University, 1993). Ms. Hillman most recently served as the assistant deputy minister of the Trade Agreements and Negotiations Branch at Global Affairs Canada. Ms. Hillman was responsible for leading and overseeing Canada’s trade negotiations agenda, such as exploratory trade discussions with China and the ratification of the Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement.

Previously, she held the positions of associate assistant deputy minister of the Trade Agreements and Negotiations Branch, Canada’s chief negotiator for the Trans-Pacific Partnership and director general of the Trade Negotiations Bureau. Ms. Hillman also served as the senior legal adviser at the Permanent Mission of Canada to the World Trade Organization and director of the Technical Barriers and Regulations Division. Prior to entering the public service, Ms. Hillman practised law in Montréal in the area of commercial litigation.

Brandon Lee (Bachelor of Commerce [Honours], McMaster University, 1999). Mr. Lee was appointed as consul general of Canada in San Francisco, with accreditation for northern California and Hawaii, in 2015.

Mr. Lee joined the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade (DFATD) in 2004. He has held several executive and management positions within the department. From 2007 to 2011, he oversaw reform activities to strengthen Canada’s international presence and became DFATD’s first director of innovation. From 2012 to 2014, Mr. Lee held senior positions at the World Trade Organization and the International Committee of the Red Cross, spearheading major organizational and international reform initiatives.

Previously, Mr. Lee worked in the private sector as a leader in North American online banking and with large-scale telecommunications and IT management consulting firms.

Nadia Theodore (Bachelor of Laws, University of London, 1999; Master of Arts, Political Science, Carleton University, 2004).

Ms. Theodore previously held positions at the Canada Revenue Agency and at Public Safety Canada, before joining the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade in 2005.

She has made her career in the Trade Agreements and Negotiations Branch and has worked on several recent and major trade initiatives, including the Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement. She has also served abroad at the Permanent Mission of Canada to the World Trade Organization in Geneva, Switzerland.

Ms. Theodore is currently chief of staff to the Deputy Minister of International Trade at Global Affairs Canada.

She is married and has one child.

Rana Sarkar (Bachelor of Science [Honours], Political Studies, Queen’s University, 1993; Master of Science, London School of Economics, 1997). Mr. Sarkar was national director for high-growth markets at KPMG. Throughout his career as an adviser and entrepreneur working globally, he built considerable expertise in providing strategy and transaction-focused services to firms, investors and start-ups, enabling cross-border trade, investment and innovation.

Mr. Sarkar was the founding advisory board committee co-chairman and senior fellow at the Munk School of Global Affairs (in 2010, he was awarded the Arbor Award for his outstanding contributions to the foundation of the Munk School, and its vision and programs). Much of his work focuses on impacts and opportunities of technology change, innovation and economic development in Asia.

From 2009 to 2013, Mr. Sarkar was president and CEO of the Canada-India Business Council.


“A constructive working relationship between Canada and the United States is essential to good, middle class jobs and economic opportunities on both sides of the border. Our focus is squarely on our shared prosperity and economic well-being. With the expansion of our consular presence in the United States, and the creation of the NAFTA Council, we are furthering Canada’s determination to promote Canadian interests and values in our bilateral relations with our main economic partner.”

– Hon. Chrystia Freeland, P.C., M.P., Minister of Foreign Affairs

Quick Facts

  • America’s trade with Canada is balanced, fair and mutually beneficial.
  • An estimated 9 million good, middle-class American jobs depend on trade and investment with Canada.
  • Canada buys more from the United States than any other country, including Mexico, China and Japan, or the European Union.
  • We are the number-one customer for the majority of American states and among the top three customers of 48 states.

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SOURCE: Global Affairs Canada