In Conversation with Bruce Heyman, U.S. Ambassador to Canada

United States Ambassador to Canada Bruce Heyman talks to reporters at Rideau Hall in Ottawa on Tuesday, April 8, 2014. Fred Chartrand/CP

On April 13th, 2016, the U.S. Ambassador to Canada, Bruce Heyman, visited McGill’s campus with the goal of fostering a dialogue amongst students in regards to current affairs. Heyman discussed his life as an ambassador, his ongoing sustainability efforts, cultural exchanges and diplomacy, the benefits of a multilateral approach to global issues, and the functions of the United States/Canadian border. A panel of student delegates, most with a Political Science or International Development background, welcomed Heyman, emphasizing student perspectives in an attempt to accurately represent the McGill community and their concerns. These students included Steve Tempesta Jr., Molly Harris, Marta Canneri, Simon Altman, Erica Pederson, and Kareem Ibrahim.

Prior to the student-led discussion, Heyman spoke about how he came to be the U.S. Ambassador to Canada as well as current directives that the United States is focusing on in partnership with Canada. Heyman regarded his experience as both challenging and full of opportunity, stressing how fundamental it is to make the most of one’s individual wheelhouse.  Since becoming the U.S. Ambassador to Canada, Heyman has toured every Canadian province twice over, and is about to start a second northern tour of the territories.

A Unified Front

At the top of the student representatives’ list was a question regarding security efforts in regards to a united Western front and the continued building of both the United States and Canada’s GDP through improved trade relations. In response to environmental concerns, most specifically the XL Keystone Pipeline, which the Obama administration has restricted, Heyman stated that climate change is an “incredibly important issue […] and remains a priority”. He went on to stress the need for regulated policies which aim to drastically reduce both the United States and Canada’s carbon footprint. Heyman remains optimistic that the United States and Canada are on the right track towards reducing environmental pollution, but states that there are and will continue to be challenges along the way.

Refugee Crisis

The current refugee crisis is a difficult issue to broach. Heyman argued that both the United States and Canada are “lands of immigrants” and that each of our ancestral lineages lead back to a different part of the world. Heyman stressed that we need to remember our sense of obligation during times of crisis and where we came from, as well as continuing humanitarian efforts in our fight to help others. In doing so, he argues that we can create diversity while also strengthening our nation. In an effort to aid the refugee crisis, Heyman stated that the government has to go to the root of the problem before the crisis can be mediated. By doing so, people will not have to flee horrific conditions, sacrificing their belongings, lives, and cultures in the hopes of finding safety in another country. Heyman went on to say that by fighting the issue at its core, the government can effectively reduce threats of violence in war-torn areas, allowing for respective country’s citizens to remain in their place of birth.

A Common Mother

Students were able to submit questions before the event in the form of a Google Document run by the organizers. Prompted by a question regarding the similarities and differences between Canada and the United States, Heyman went on to say that we are all from a common mother, citing the Peace Arch that connects Washington State and British Columbia, yet have different tastes, values, and political beliefs, which remains essential to the distinct cultures of both countries. In short, Heyman sees the United States and Canada as cousins, sprouting from the same family but upholding differing perspectives, stating, “we are more similar than not”.

Exclusive Sit Down with Bruce Heyman

Because of the nature of the event, the registration process was intensive, requiring the full names, student ID numbers and other personal information of all who attended. Surrounded by Secret Service, it seemed as though Heyman would be impossible to approach for an interview, but the Bull & Bear was able to get a one-on-one with Heyman before he set out on his second northern tour as the U.S. Ambassador to Canada.

B&B: What did you think of this event? Did it meet your expectations?

BH: “I will tell you that from my perspective the students here at McGill are as on their game. Sharp, thoughtful answers, great questions about the role of the ambassador and things that I’m working on. I’m really pleased. I’m glad we were able to do this – it was all very creative. A lot of other institutions will just say ‘Ambassador, you go speak for a little while, take a few questions from the audience’…but the different structure of this event allowed for greater student involvement.”

B&B: Do you think the structure helped create an open dialogue?

BH: “Yeah, and I think we covered subjects that may not have been easy to cover [in a lecture style setting]. We were able to get into conversations on race and gender, equality, LGBT issues, refugees and the concept of refugees, the environment, and the role of the United States in Canada and the world.”

B&B: How do students perspectives help shape future policy?

BH: “We take input from everybody, and student perspectives are one of the critical inputs that every leader and every ambassador should take into account, while equally considering the perspectives of [other demographics], such as the aging or uneducated. At one point I said that these are our future leaders. I was corrected, no, these are leaders, not future leaders.”  

The event was a success, with over one hundred students and faculty in attendance. By opening up the floor for student delegates to broach insightful and thought-provoking questions, the diligent responses from the Ambassador could mirror the issues on campus and global concerns McGill students have. As the Ambassador stated, students are the leaders of today, igniting McGill’s current undergraduates to make real and definitive change in an attempt to move toward a better future.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.