Stephanie Duhaime, Canada's top diplomat in Iraq
Charge d'affairs Stephanie Duhaime will lead Canada's diplomatic mission in Iraq. (DFAIT)
Fan-Yee Suen, CTVNews.ca
Published Monday, April 1, 2013 8:15PM EDT
Last Updated Monday, April 1, 2013 8:23PM EDT
With a conflict raging in neighbouring Syria and deep historical divisions between Sunni, Shia and Kurdish sects casting an ominous shadow over Iraq’s potential future as a pluralist society, Stephanie Duhaime has a daunting task.
Duhaime, a Sudbury native who is fluent in English, French and Arabic, was appointed as the charge d’affaires of Canada’s newly created diplomatic mission in Iraq on Monday.
The new one-woman semi-ambassadorial post -- the Canadian embassy in Jordan will continue to work full-time to restore diplomatic relations in Iraq -- is meant to expand Canada’s engagement with the country at a time of economic prosperity.
Duhaime, 33, may have just what it takes to lead Canada as it builds an economic relationship with a country still at a crossroads -- despite her age, she has an impressive resume.
She joined the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade as Afghanistan’s Operations Officer in 2005, where she was one of two officers tasked with rebuilding areas within Kandahar.
Duhaime’s role in Afghanistan garnered a significant amount of attention within the international community. She worked alongside not only Canadian military and civilian colleagues, but also with American officers.
Duhaime, who is a graduate from the University of Western Ontario and has a Bachelor of Science in Biochemical Engineering and a Bachelor of Arts in Economics, has significant experience working with government and non-governmental organizations.
Her education has helped her mentor and work with district-level government heads in Afghanistan as they manage services in the country.
Since her time in Afghanistan, she has worked in some of the world’s most challenging political areas, including Lebanon, Bangladesh and Syria.
Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird, who announced Duhaime’s new role Monday during a surprise one-day visit to the Iraqi capital, said the Middle Eastern country is one of the fastest growing economies in the world.
“Today's opening is a historic milestone in Canadian relations with Iraq and comes at a pivotal moment," Baird said.
He noted that despite the ongoing sectarian divisions and violence, Iraq has become a key regional player with the potential to one day evolve into a “multi-confessional, pluralist society at peace with its neighbours.”
The high hopes from Baird means Duhaime, who will be sharing office digs with the British embassy in Baghdad, will have to meet high expectations.
Iraq is unquestionably a troubled country with serious international security challenges. Its history has been marred with sectarian conflicts – the main fault line being the Sunni, Shia and Kurdish identities.
The county also has a dwindling Christian population that continues to face hardships and persecution.