Canada's new envoy in Atlanta has St. Lucian roots
September 20, 2017
An Ottawa resident of St. Lucian heritage with school and working experience in the Caribbean is Canada’s new consul general in Atlanta.
Nadia Theodore, who has worked on several major trade initiatives, including the Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic & Trade Agreement (CETA) that will create jobs, strengthen economic relations and boost Canada's trade with the world’s second largest market, assumed the new role earlier this month.
She made her career in the Trade Agreements & Negotiations Branch and served abroad at Canada’s permanent mission to the World Trade Organization in Geneva, Switzerland.
Her decade of experience in trade made Theodore an ideal candidate for the overseas posting south of the border.
“The relationship between Canada and the United States has always been multi-faceted, but a big part of the relationship is trading,” she said. “We are the United States number one customer and not only do we buy a lot from the US, but we make a lot of things together, so the economic growth of each of our countries is dependent on each other. The expectation is that I will be able to really remind the US, especially since they are kind of going through a period of more protectionism than ever before, that Canada isn’t necessarily a competitor, but a friend, ally and partner.”
While the relationship between the two countries has been historically based on trade, particularly in the southeast, Theodore has other ideas that could benefit Canadians.
Canada is committed to advancing gender equality, the empowerment, promotion and protection of the human rights of women and girls through international development assistance, diplomatic advocacy and trade policy and services.
“So part of what I want to do here is really work with the United States and the southeast in particular in the areas of women in business and women empowerment,” Theodore pointed out. “To be honest, the southeast is in a unique place right now. The economy is growing here in Atlanta, but across the southeast and they also have a very big women and business and youth agenda. The universities here are very powerful, they have a lot of public clout, they have very big youth agendas and they work a lot to empower young people not just in the economic space, but generally to make them aware of what they are capable of.”
Theodore said her passion for public service emerged after an internship with Canada Revenue Agency (CRA).
“My parents, who were both federal public servants, instilled in their children a sense of serving your community and really giving back in a way that is far-reaching,” she said. “When I finished high school, I thought that that meant becoming a lawyer, so I went to law school and quickly realized that wasn’t the kind of service I had in mind for myself. It wasn’t until after the internship with CRA working in their charities directorate that it clicked for me. I thought this was what my parents were talking about and that is having a sense of helping your community. I have never looked back since then.”
Theodore’s father -- McGriffin Theodore -- is a retired economist, while her mom passed away in 2001.
“Nadia is very bright, hardworking and committed to any task she takes on,” said her dad who was the top student in his Master’s graduating class at the University of Ottawa and St. Lucia’s first calypso monarch in 1957. “I am not surprised that she has achieved so much.”
The family patriarch was at the Governor-General of Canada’s residence with his daughter when the announcement was made.
“That was such a big and proud moment for our family,” added the eight-time St. Lucia calypso monarch whose sobriquet was ‘The Mighty Terra’.
Theodore spent her Grade 12 year in 1995 in St. Lucia at the Sir Arthur Lewis Community College when her father returned to the Eastern Caribbean island to be the second in command at the National Insurance Corporation.
“That was really an opportunity for me to get a first-hand experience of what I had being hearing about from my parents and extended family about what the Caribbean was like,” she said. “It taught me about my roots and I learned what it meant to have a West Indian background. It was very enriching, it made me appreciate my heritage and it rounded me out as a person.”
After completing high school in Ottawa, Theodore was accepted to the London School of Economics. Instead of going to England to pursue law studies, she opted to do the program externally in Trinidad before returning to St. Lucia for a year in the Office of the Ombudsman.
Back in Ottawa, she completed her Master’s in political science at Carleton University and then joined the federal public service as an assistant manager in the Aboriginal Policing Directorate at Public Safety Canada before joining the Department of Foreign Affairs & International Trade 12 years ago.
Theodore was the chief of staff to the deputy minister of international trade at Global Affairs Canada prior to her diplomatic appointment to Atlanta.
“This is the first time I have been to this city,” she said. “The closest I came was when I visited a family member in Florida back in 2004. I have travelled quite a bit, but I must say that Atlanta provided me with one of the warmest welcomes I have ever received. The people are friendly, generous and graceful and I feel quite at home already.”
Theodore replaces Louis Blais who was Canada’s top diplomat in Atlanta the past three years.
She said she couldn’t be happier passing on the baton to someone so qualified, talented and engaged.
“You will thrive and you will grow as I did,” Blais, the new ambassador and deputy permanent representative to the United Nations, told her successor.
Theodore, who is married and has a child, is the middle of three siblings.
Older sister Alison Theodore managed the St. Lucia Tourist Board operations in Canada for 12 years before joining Development Counsellors International last April as the travel trade manager for Visit California in Canada while their brother, Aldrick Theodore, is an Employment & Social Development Canada program advisor.