Veteran diplomat Michael Grant, BAdmin 92, finds the multilateral world of the United Nations very different from his previous international postings.
As ambassador and deputy permanent representative of Canada to the United Nations, Grant works with a dedicated team representing Canada across the complete spectrum of UN bodies and activities in New York City. He also chairs the Working Group of the Whole of the UN’s Special Committee on Peacekeeping, as well as the Ad Hoc Advisory Group on Haiti as part of the Economic and Social Council. Grant also co-founded the Bridge Group on UN budget issues to help find common ground between member states.
Grant, who joined External Affairs and International Trade Canada in 1994, served as Canada’s Ambassador to Libya from 2012 to 2013, following assignments in Serbia (1995), Turkey (1996-1998), Argentina (1998-1999) and Mexico (2001-2004).
“In this diplomatic world you are committed to serving abroad,” says Grant. “Going from Libya to New York, I went from a place where security was our number one concern, to a city where I no longer had a protection team. But the adjustment was mostly going from a bilateral to multilateral world at the UN.”
No matter where he is posted, Grants says what he likes most about his job is representing Canada. “It sounds a little corny but that still gives me a thrill,” he says.
Grant reveals that there is behind-the-scenes camaraderie at the UN, despite public differences. “I have 192 interlocutors — the UN has 193 members — so on a daily basis I am engaging with various levels of depth with 30 or 40 counterparts,” he explains. “Everybody recognizes you are here to defend and advocate for your national positions. That is the nature of diplomacy. But at the same time we are all human beings. You can be in a meeting room at one moment for a robust heated debate, and the next moment you could be sitting beside the same person, co-operating on a different issue.”
Grant loves living in New York with his family. “It is one of the great cities of the world,” he says. “I’m from New Brunswick, and there are elements of New Yorkers that remind me of Maritimers: they are people who grew up on the coast. I call New Yorkers the most direct polite people in the world because they are polite at heart but they can be a little bit in your face, which is fun.”
Grant tips his hat to Concordia and Montreal. “They gave me a good understanding of what it was like to be a Canadian in the world,” he says. “At Concordia, sports — rugby — shaped my experience as much as academics. We were just a bunch of guys who enjoyed rugby and we still get together each year in New York City at a tournament we started in the Big Apple in 1989.”
Having travelled widely, Grant underscores “the tremendous system of education we have in Canada. When you have conversations in various parts of the world, inevitably somebody in that chat will have studied in Canada or wants their kids to study in Canada,” he says. “Concordia, like a lot of universities in the country, is world class. I’m always out there selling Concordia. I think it’s a tremendous school.”
—Richard Burnett, BA 88