While there’s no fast rule, the job of Canada’s ambassador to Washington often goes to a former politician or a high-profile Canadian who comes from outside of the ranks of career diplomats.
Kirsten Hillman, who took the post just over a year ago after serving as deputy ambassador, is very much from the public service side of Global Affairs Canada. A lawyer who grew up in southern Winnipeg and Calgary, she’s held various senior trade positions within the department.
I spoke with her this week about the changes in the relationship between Canada and the United States now with Joseph R. Biden as president. Our conversation has been edited for clarity and length.
first detailed bilateral meeting, albeit virtual, was with the prime minister and some members of his cabinet. I myself was receiving calls from high-level White House executives literally hours after the inauguration, like two hours after they actually took over the administration.
The prime minister and the president, they know each other well, they have a strong relationship. But also really important, they share a lot of crucial policy objectives. It’s a really good moment in time for Canada-U.S. relations.
The new administration in Washington has a lot of big domestic priorities right now, particularly the post-pandemic economic recovery. Does it have the bandwidth to deal with issues of importance to Canada?
At the meeting between the president and the prime minister, we set up with the Americans what we are calling a road map. Often, statements at the leaders’ level are quite aspirational. They’re “we really believe in this, and we’re hoping to go that direction” — that kind of thing.