Closed borders, the inability to travel, canceled missions, Quebecers to repatriate: the pandemic has brought its share of challenges to Quebec diplomacy, which had to reinvent itself as never before in 2020. In an interview with our Parliamentary Bureau, the Minister of International Relations, Nadine Girault, reviewed the road traveled, off the beaten track, by Quebec representatives abroad over the past year.
Question: When we examine the activities in which the representatives of Quebec abroad participated this year, we find mostly virtual events. COVID-19 must certainly have transformed the way things are done?
Answer: “At first it was a big disappointment, because I really liked doing the missions, not only for the missions themselves, but especially because we had started the economic turn.
When we create business relations, when we create diplomatic relations, it is much easier and above all more effective to do it face-to-face than to do it by video or videoconference.
So, yes, we made some big adjustments. We went back to a dime, to use a very Quebecois expression. “
Q: The arrival of the pandemic earlier this year must have been quite a challenge. How did you deal with the situation?
A: “It was done in two stages. If we remember, in March it was really the worst part of the first wave. […] Our influential diplomacy, the contacts we have established over the past 50 years, have been very profitable and have enabled us to go and find the material we need, among others in China and the United States.
Then, we set up a crisis unit at home. We had to repatriate all Quebecers who were outside. It went unnoticed, but it was a huge job for many delegations around the world. A lot of work has been done with Global Affairs Canada to be able to board Quebeckers on Canadian planes and repatriate them. “
Q: Could the story be different for those who decide to venture abroad this holiday season?
A: “Indeed. Because here, unlike last time, those who are leaving today are fully aware of the risks they are taking. It is really at their own risk.
I wouldn’t go to Florida, I wouldn’t travel outside, because I’m like, if you get sick, what happens? Yes, it is true that one can have good insurance. But will the hospitals there be able to receive us? Will have the ability to heal us? For me, these are important question marks. “
Q: And the “economic shift” that you took at the start of your mandate, has it continued despite everything?
A: “There are missions that were done anyway, virtually. We supported several companies who wanted to meet people abroad. We did it in a much more personalized way, with smaller groups. […] The shift is currently being made in terms of resources. What we are doing is operationalizing the mechanics of this turn, to bring results […] coordinate the turn we have taken with Investissement Québec, the Ministry of the Economy and Innovation, to ensure that everyone works together. “
Q: Last year you had to take a temporary retreat due to health concerns. We then learned that you were battling lung cancer. How are you ?
A: It’s going well, I would tell you that the treatments are going well. 2021 is going to be even stronger. We wish each other health for everyone!