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Top Canadian diplomat in appeal for 'sensitivity' over Brexit and border

By John Mulgrew

Published 26/11/2016

Canada’s High Commissioner Janice Charette
Canada’s High Commissioner Janice Charette

Canada's close relationship with the US will "overcome the differences and divisions" it has with the incoming Donald Trump administration, according to the country's new High Commissioner to the UK.

Janice Charette was speaking to the Belfast Telegraph during her first visit to Northern Ireland.

On Brexit, she said she understood our unique position due to the land border with the Republic.

Speaking about Canadian-owned Bombardier, one of the biggest employers here, she said its Northern Ireland business remained an "important and competitive part of the overall Bombardier enterprise", which had a "pretty bright future".

She was diplomatic over her country's future relationship with the incoming - and politically polar opposite - US Government under President-elect Trump.

"We are very committed to working with the new administration... it's an incredibly integrated economic space. We have taken a lot of steps to make sure we can facilitate trade, the movement of people and goods across the border, and the emphasis has to be on how we collaborate on that performance.

"I think the beauty of the relationship is the shared interest that we have really overcomes the differences and divisions.

"I think President-elect Trump has a difficult agenda on his hands at a very difficult time.

"My single best piece of advice to him would be that the role of political leadership in uniting the country around the shared sense of purpose should be an important focus for him."

Speaking about Brexit and the impact on Northern Ireland, she said the border issue with the Republic was a "very sensitive and important topic to deal with carefully".

"I think part of the reason that I wanted to come to Northern Ireland was to understand the perspective of Northern Ireland on a wide range of issues, not the least of which is Brexit," she said.

"It's not my place to have a point of view on that. Canada has an interest in the future of the UK, given our ties, but we also want to see a successful EU."

She said it was in Canada's interests for negotiations for the UK exit from the EU to be "smooth, productive and constructive".

"I think there's been a recognition that the whole issue of a border between Northern Ireland and the South would be a very sensitive and important topic to deal with carefully," she said.

"I think the link between the border, which is not just about geography and security, but it's also a form of identity, which is one of my 'take-aways' - how carefully that issue will have to be dealt with." Ms Charette spent time at Bombardier, the province's biggest manufacturer, which is cutting more than 1,000 jobs here this year alone. "I left with a very strong impression of the pride people take with the work that is done there," she commented.

"All that being said, Bombardier, like a lot of aerospace companies around the world, are going through some challenging times."

A former Cabinet secretary in the current Liberal Party administration in Ottawa, Ms Charette took over in her new role in September.

"A year after being in power, they (the Liberal Party) are more popular in Canada than when they won the majority government a year ago," Ms Charette explained.

"They made it a point to change the style of governing, the focus on citizen engagement and consultation, as well as the nature of the agenda."

She said she was keen to take a look into her genealogy to see whether her family had any Irish roots.

Around 2.5 million Canadians have an ancestral link to Ireland.

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