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Ambassador Bob Rae
As the United Nations celebrates its 75th anniversary this year, it and its members confront unprecedented crises including the COVID-19 pandemic, global economic recession, ongoing displacement of millions of people, and the existential threat of climate change. Canada has long had a leading role within the United Nations system and has effectively used multilateral approaches to advance its foreign and economic policy interests over the years. Moving past its unsuccessful bid for a seat on the UN Security Council, Canada’s new Permanent Representative Bob Rae is actively pursuing an agenda of international collaboration with the aim of coordinating responses to the pandemic and economic recovery efforts. In a time of social distancing and virtual meetings, Ambassador Rae is pivoting Canada’s diplomatic approach at the UN and building new alliances to keep Canadian interests front and center on the world stage. Join us for a candid conversation with Ambassador Rae about what role the UN can play in tackling global challenges with such different local impacts and how Canada can contribute to those efforts.
Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Canada to the United Nations in New York
Mr. Rae served as Premier of Ontario from 1990-1995, and interim Leader of the Liberal Party of Canada from 2011-2013. He was elected to federal and provincial parliaments 11 times between 1978 and 2013.
Mr. Rae received his Honours B.A. in Modern History from the University of Toronto, an M.Phil in Politics as a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford University, and graduated from the University of Toronto Faculty of Law in 1977. He was named a Queen’s Counsel in 1984.
As a lawyer in private practice, Mr. Rae led the restructuring of the Canadian Red Cross, the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, and chaired the board of the Royal Conservatory of Music. He also wrote “Lessons to be Learned” on the Air India bombing, and “Ontario a Leader in Learning” - a study of the Ontario higher education system. He was also named to the Security and Intelligence Review Committee by then Prime Minister Chrétien.
Mr. Rae’s return to Parliament for the constituency of Toronto Centre in 2008 led to his appointment as Foreign Affairs spokesman for his party, and to his election as interim Leader in 2011. Between 2013 and 2020 he taught law and public policy at the University of Toronto, and was a partner and senior counsel to the law firm OKT LLP, specializing in indigenous law and constitutional issues.
Mr. Rae is a Fellow of the Forum of Federations (an organization he co-founded in the 1990’s), Massey College, and the Raoul Wallenberg Centre for Human Rights. He served as the Chief Negotiator for the 9 First Nations that are members of the Matawa Tribal Council in Northern Ontario between 2013 and 2018.
In October 2017, Mr. Rae was appointed as Canada’s Special Envoy to Myanmar. In this role, he engaged in diplomatic efforts to address the crisis in the country’s Rakhine State and wrote the report “Tell Them We’re Human” in 2018. In March 2020, he was named by Prime Minister Trudeau to be Canada’s Special Envoy on Humanitarian and Refugee Issues. This led to his report “A Global Pandemic Requires a Global Response”, which was made public shortly before his appointment as Ambassador to the UN.
Bob Rae is a Privy Councillor, a Companion of the Order of Canada, a member of the Order of Ontario, and has numerous awards and honorary degrees from institutions in Canada and around the world. In addition to several government reports, he is the author of five books. Along with music, reading, and writing, he loves tennis, golf, and fishing. He is married to Arlene Perly Rae, writer and public advocate on issues affecting women and children. They have three daughters and five grandchildren.
Dr. Bessma Momani
Professor of Political Science at the University of Waterloo; Senior fellow at the Centre for International Governance and Innovation (CIGI); Non-Resident Fellow at the Arab Gulf States Institute in Washington, D.C.
CIGI Senior Fellow Bessma Momani has a Ph.D. in political science with a focus on international political economy and is full professor and interim assistant vice-president of international relations at the University of Waterloo. She is a non-resident senior fellow at the Arab Gulf States Institute in Washington, DC, and a Fulbright Scholar. She was a 2015 fellow of the Pierre Elliott Trudeau Foundation and also previously served as a non-resident senior fellow at the Brookings Institution in Washington, DC, and as a non-resident fellow at the Stimson Center, and was a visiting scholar at Georgetown University’s Mortara Center.
Bessma currently sits on the board of the Pierre Elliott Trudeau Foundation and the University of Waterloo’s Cybersecurity and Privacy Institute. She is also an adviser to the National Security Transparency Advisory Group at Public Safety Canada. Bessma has received a number of awards and prizes for her research and work. She has been awarded multiple Insight Development Grants, Insight Grants and Connection Grants funded by Canada’s Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council. She is currently the leader of a three-year-funded Department of National Defence network called the Defence and Security Foresight Group tasked with providing policy-relevant advice to the Department of National Defence.
In recent years, Bessma spearheaded the Pluralism Project with Trudeau Mentor Jillian Stirk, which explored the link between diversity and economic prosperity and the role of globally connected citizens. This has led to a multi-million-dollar funding grant from Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada on a pilot project bringing visible minority women into the Canadian economy.