Although most of our readers are delegates and thus have a chance to visit an embassy of “their” country, the topics usually only include the most pressing issues in their respective models. There’s not much time to talk with representatives at the embassies about more personal topics. Fortunately, Chron got this opportunity which couldn’t be passed up and we are thrilled to share with our readers what we found out. Kimberly Phillips is the Counsellor for Political, Economic and Public Affairs at the Canadian Embassy in Prague. How does the Czech Republic look from the perspective of a Canadian? What exactly is her job and how does she view the diplomatic boycott of the Olympic Games? You can find these answers and much more below.

Ms. Counsellor,

Let’s start with a more light-hearted question: among non-Canadians, there is a “running joke”/a stereotype about Canadians being uncommonly nice to people. Was arriving to Czechia a cultural shock for you in that sense? 

I began my assignment in the Czech Republic in August 2021, following two previous visits to Prague as a tourist over the span of many years. I was delighted when I found out that I would have the opportunity to live here as a Canadian diplomat.

I have had such a warm welcome every time I arrived in the Czech Republic. The only “cultural shock” is that I am constantly amazed by the beauty of the architecture in Prague. I look forward to travelling more around the country for work and holidays.

When I was doing research for this interview, I found out that you are a part of the Métis population with Ojibway roots. In our curriculum at school, we don’t really talk about indigenous peoples of Canada, could you please tell our delegates more about this topic?

The original inhabitants of Canada are First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples who today live throughout Canada. Collectively, we are referred to as Indigenous or Aboriginal peoples. The Canadian Constitution recognizes all three groups, each of which has its own unique history, language, cultural practices, and spiritual beliefs.

I am a proud Métis, with Ojibway roots, including some Cree as well. The Métis can trace their origins to the 1700s when French and Scottish fur traders married Indigenous women. Their descendants formed a distinct culture and language. You can read more here.

Today there are more than 70 Indigenous languages spoken in Canada. The most common Indigenous languages are Cree, Inuktitut, and Innu. 

My mother’s first language is Saulteaux which she still speaks fluently.

You are a Counsellor for Political, Economic and Public Affairs. Would you please explain what your job consists of, what is your role at the embassy and why did you choose this job? Is Czechia the first foreign country you’ve worked in, or do you have other diplomatic experience from elsewhere?

The Czech Republic is my sixth posting abroad. I am a career Foreign Service Officer and I have previously been posted to Manila (Philippines), Jakarta (Indonesia), Canberra (Australia), Stockholm (Sweden), Brussels (Belgium), and, since August 2021, Prague.  

I applied for my current position because I had such great experiences here as a tourist and I thought working and living here would be an amazing opportunity.  My last diplomatic posting before Prague was at the Joint Delegation of Canada to NATO from 2017 to 2021. I had the privilege of being a member of different committees with Czech colleagues and fellow NATO allies.

I currently manage the Political and Public Affairs Program at the Embassy of Canada. I am one of three Canada-based program managers who report directly to the Ambassador.  All program managers are supported by locally engaged employees hired in the Czech Republic who work in our respective programs, such as the trade and consular sections.

The Political and Public Affairs Program promotes and advocates Government of Canada policy priorities with decision-makers and influencers. These priorities include reinforcing international peace and security; the rule of law; democracy; respect for human rights; addressing climate change; and diversity and inclusion.

We also work to increase awareness within the Czech Republic of Canadian values resulting from our support, engagement, and cooperation with partners on events and initiatives focussing on Canadian priorities such as LGBTQ2+, gender equality, and reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples.  

Depending on the issues, we also partner with like-minded embassies and organizations to support common objectives and values.

To learn more about our activities, please check out our social media accounts. We post in English, French and Czech.

We’ve recently had a new government appointed and since you’re a Counsellor for Political Affairs, I assume it affected your job in some ways. Did it? If that’s so, what’s changed? 

Canada and the Czech Republic have a warm and friendly bilateral relationship, based on a foundation of many shared common values and approaches including human rights, democracy, and rule of law. As NATO allies, we share security priorities.  Canadian and Czech troops work and train side-by-side in the Canada-led NATO enhanced Forward Presence (eFP) battlegroup in Latvia.

Equally important for our bilateral and multilateral relationships are the people-to-people ties. Did you know that there are now more than 100,000 Canadians with some Czech heritage?

We expect the great cooperation and partnership with the Czech Republic to continue to grow with the new government.  For us, it’s an opportunity to further strengthen our bilateral relationship and to establish new networks. 

There arecurrently a lot of things happening around the world, for example, the Olympics in Beijing. Both Canada and Czechia have announced a diplomatic boycott of the Olympics. Do you think that it is a step in the right direction in tackling the human rights issues or the People’s Republic of China?

Canada will continue to challenge China on issues such as human rights (including concerns about human rights in Xinjiang), democracy in Hong Kong, support for journalists, and non-interference in the goings-on in independent countries in Asia. At the same time, Canada will continue to work with Beijing on key multilateral issues, including climate change.

Where Czechia and Canada differ, though, is the COVID-19 issue. Our new government plans to lift a lot of restrictions during spring, while Canada issued a vaccine requirement for truck drivers which led to major protests, Ottawa even declared a state of emergency. Could you please explain the situation further? Is there a way out of this certainly unpleasant situation?

What we have been seeing is unfortunately a very real demonstration of frustration and exhaustion, but the Government of Canada has been clear that illegal actions and illegal occupations are not the answer. 

Since the outset of the pandemic, the Government of Canada has been engaging regularly with all levels of government and road industry stakeholders, including the trucking industry and union representatives, to identify emerging issues and mitigate disruptions.

The COVID-19 pandemic has posed unprecedented challenges for the trucking industry, and the Government of Canada recognizes the essential work accomplished by this sector in continuing to provide critical goods and services that benefit Canadians during this difficult time. These challenges have been further exacerbated by the recent rise of the Omicron variant.

We have learnt a lot from science throughout this pandemic and the Government of Canada will continue to rely on the advice of our public health specialists in the coming weeks and months to help us chart our next course to deal with these challenges as we look to live with COVID. Vaccination, used in combination with preventative public health measures, is the most effective tool to reduce the risk of COVID-19 for Canadians and to protect broader public health. This is why the Government of Canada continues to take action to ensure as many Canadians as possible get vaccinated.

We all hope that we will quickly come through this pandemic and return to a life of normalcy.