Canada’s ambassador to Spain gives an interview to Go Aragón in which she reviews the main ties between the two countries, the attractions they can offer to companies and professionals and takes stock of the relationship between these two states.
Wendy Drukier has been Canada’s ambassador to Spain since 2020. She arrived at a difficult time, with the pandemic restrictions very much in force and, shortly after, she encountered the problems caused by the storm Filomena. Despite those early stages, Drukier has taken advantage of the three years he has already spent in Spain to get to know and enjoy a country that, he says, is attractive to Canadians.
Prior to her Spanish assignment, the ambassador was in Latin American countries such as Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Honduras, Colombia and Argentina. Now, she works at the Canadian embassy in Madrid, where she attends Go Aragón for an interview in which she discusses the attractions for companies and professionals offered by both countries. He also takes stock of the diplomatic relations between Spain and Canada, which have completed 70 years, and tells us how he finds himself in his current professional destination.
Is Aragon an attractive territory for Canada and Canadians?
I would say yes, that all of Spain is attractive to Canadians and their companies for several reasons. We have a lot of affinity between Canadians and Spaniards, even though we don’t know each other very well. The cultural offer that Aragon has to offer is very interesting, the natural offer, too, but in the field of business there are opportunities and I think that from both sides we can take better advantage of them.
What do Canadians living in Aragon and Spain say? Are they happy?
We know that Canadians living in Spain are very happy. We did a project, within the framework of the LXX anniversary of our diplomatic presence, with Canadians living in Spain and with Spaniards who have experience in Canada. And what came out was an assessment of the Spanish culture, of the welcome given by the Spaniards and, of course, coming from Canada, the climate is something important.
Precisely, when you arrived in Spain, at the end of 2020, you encountered the inclemency of Filomena, how were those first days?
I had been here for three weeks and Filomena arrived in Madrid. There were several people who blamed me for bringing the snow (laughs). It was a bit strange because I arrived in the middle of the pandemic, in December 2020, and I couldn’t take full advantage of what Spain has to offer. Three weeks later, Filomena limited us as well. But I have to say that the welcome I have had here has been spectacular. It has been my fifth diplomatic posting and I am impressed by how Canada has a very positive image here. And to be able to take advantage of this magnificent country is really a privilege.
What advice would you give to an Aragonese who wants to do business in Aragon?
Be well informed, because Canada is a large and very diverse country, not only because of its geography, but also because of the diversity of its population. We have a high level of immigration from all over the world and there are medium and large markets, depending on the product you want to sell and the investment you want to make. Our population is more or less the same as Spain’s, 40 million people, but we have free trade agreements with all the G-7 countries; of course, the agreement with the EU, the North American agreement with the US and Mexico… being established in Canada gives access to many world markets. And we have political and economic stability. Sometimes it can be a challenge to understand the rules of each province, which can change, but I think Aragonese and Spanish people understand this diversity.
What are the economic areas that could be most interesting?
For now, I understand that the sectors in which there is more business between Aragon and Canada include agri-tech and technology. There are many opportunities in Canada in these sectors, we have a lot of bilateral trade in terms of agri-food. There are many companies and a lot of research in Canada in these areas.
What is the current state of Spain-Canada relations?
They are extremely positive, to the point that maybe we should look for a difference (he jokes). We understand each other very well, we have a very similar vision of the world, we value multilateralism, diversity and inclusion, both countries have a feminist foreign policy, we are medium-sized countries, which are next to slightly larger powers, and relations are very good. The last time we had a big problem was during the 1990s, with the halibut war, but most people have already forgotten that. Actually, relations are very good, but I think we could deepen them even more.
This year, Spain and Canada celebrate the seventieth anniversary of mutual diplomatic presence. What have these relations been like over time?
As I say, they are very good and we are increasingly trying to foster business, cultural and all-round ties. There is interest when talking about Canada in Spain, as there is when talking about Spain in Canada. The challenge, really, is to improve it to increase even more that good relationship.
Before coming to Spain, you visited Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Honduras, Colombia and Argentina. Why did you decide to specialize in Spanish and Latin cultures?
That’s a good question and a difficult one to answer. I started learning Spanish in high school, as a third language. I love the culture and the language, how it is used and how you think when you are speaking Spanish. There is a lot of diversity within the Hispanic world; a lot of people in Canada talk about Latin America as if it is one country with one culture. There is a lot of difference and, at the same time, the similarity with Canada’s history of belonging to the new world, of colonization and overcoming it. What Spain has is that there is a lot in common culturally, but it has that European element, which is very different. The community is very different, Spain values its membership in the EU, this role that Europe has in the world, and it also values the transatlantic relationship, which is so important for Canada.
You have been ambassador to Spain since 2020, do you feel at home in this country?
Of course I do. It’s a wonderful country, there’s so much to explore… a lot of people are asking me if we have plans to go to Canada for Christmas, and no, we’re staying here to get to know the country even more.
By the way, do you know Aragon?
Yes, I’ve been there twice, but always for work reasons. I would have to make time for sightseeing. I went once for the anniversary of the Manuel Giménez Abad Foundation, which has a lot of relationship with several Canadian people working in the same field; on federalism and relations between states. And I also went because we placed a Canadian flag inside the Basilica del Pilar; we had been informed that the flags of all America were there, except for the Canadian flag.
Although they were visits for work reasons, is there anything that has caught your attention in this territory?
The history. And this is something that I loved about Zaragoza and I love about Spain, coming from a new world country, that we don’t have that history. It is a treasure that Zaragoza has and that Aragon has, like many parts of Spain.
You are from Toronto, is it a very different city from Madrid or Zaragoza?
Yes, the culture is different. One thing that is different about Canada in general, but that is very striking in Toronto, is the diversity. We have a lot of immigration in Canada, it is estimated that by 2030 50% of Toronto’s population will be immigrants. It has this huge diversity. Also both cities have a lot to offer culturally, but they are very different. We were fortunate to have a flamenco show from the Royal Theatre, which visited Canada in October and was a huge success. Both are world-class cities that have a lot to offer. People eat later here than in Toronto, I have to point that out (laughs).
What do you miss and what do you appreciate having in Spain that is difficult or impossible to get in Canada?
I really appreciate the lack of snow in Madrid, more than anything, for not having to remove it to go out with the car in the morning. That’s one of the things we have to survive with in Canada. Spanish food is super good, the fish and seafood are very good. We try to take advantage of everything Spain has to offer on those levels, also culturally and historically. And what I miss are very Canadian things, like some products like Canadian cheddar, which you can’t get here. Although, actually, you can get almost everything in Spain.
Are women in the diplomatic field still underrepresented, as they were a few years ago? How have things changed in recent times? Has there been progress?
I can say, and I am very proud to say it, that Canada has reached parity in the representation of ambassadors. Fifty percent of the heads of mission abroad are female ambassadors and I think we are the first country to get to that point. I’m very proud of that, but there’s always more to do. The model of diplomatic life is very macho, it has been built for decades around a male diplomat who is followed by his family. And the reality now is that there are men, there are women, who have families or not, but, normally, we have partners who want to work or should work, because that is the norm in our societies. We have a lot of work to do to make this an equal career for everybody, not only to have that parity, but to have equal opportunities.
What would you tell a girl who wants to go into diplomacy?
To be curious. That is an advantage of this profession, I change jobs every 3 or 4 years and I do something completely different, I am always learning. You have to have that curiosity to want to understand another society. To be effective in my work, I have to listen and understand what is happening in the country. I don’t go to another country to tell them what I think, but to listen.