Winning the Hearts and Minds of the People of Pakistan
H.E Wendy Gilmour took charge as Canada’s High Commissioner to Pakistan in 2018 replacing Perry Calderwood, and ever since, she has been winning the hearts and minds of the people of Pakistan. It is due to H.E distinguished diplomatic work and her staunch encouragement of women empowerment, protection of human rights, climate change and her close fraternal relation with the local community of Pakistan which makes her the “people’s ambassador”. Owing to her lively social media presence, photographs in ethnic attire, and her regular visits to the tourist spots of the country that she has been able to reel in thousands of Pakistanis by her charm.
“The diplomatic relations between Canada and Pakistan started since the early days of Pakistan. We have been proud to support Pakistan along these years.” –Wendy Gilmour
Ms Gilmour completed her BA Hons in Political Studies and History from Queen’s University in 1989 and joined External Affairs and International Trade Canada afterwards. Wendy joined the Canadian Foreign Service in 1990, serving in Canadian diplomatic missions in Zimbabwe (with cross accreditation to Mozambique, Angola and Botswana), the United Kingdom and Nigeria, where she served as Acting High Commissioner during the transition from military to civilian rule in 1998. She also deployed on operational assignments to international peace missions, including the Office of the High Representative to Bosnia and Herzegovina in Sarajevo in 1996-97, and as Political Advisor to the first three Commanders of NATO’s Kosovo Force in Pristina in 1999-2000. Following 9/11, Ms Gilmour served as Canadian Political Advisor for Operation Enduring Freedom/Operation Apollo at the U.S. Central Command Headquarters, McDill Air Force Base Florida. While in Ottawa, Ms Gilmour served as the first Director of the Peace Operations Group in the Stabilization and Reconstruction Task Force Secretariat (START) of Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada, responsible for the policy, planning and coordination of Canada’s engagement in international peace operations. She also served as Director, Sudan Task Force, managing Canada’s role in support of the North-South and Darfur peace processes. In 2007-08, she was named McNaughton-Vanier Visitor and ‘diplomat-in-residence’ at the Royal Military College of Canada and Canadian Defence Academy, after which she was posted to Colorado as the Canadian Political Advisor to the Commander of the North American Aerospace Defence Command and United States Northern Command (NORAD–US NORTHCOM.) In 2010, she joined the Department of Public Safety to become the Senior Departmental Assistant to the Minister, before moving to National Defence in 2011, and then back to the Foreign Service in the new “Global Affairs Canada” in 2015.
“Things such as religious freedom, women having the ability to pursue politics, the transition of primary school girls to their becoming secondary school girls are things that are very important for us and we want to lend support to Pakistan in these areas.” –Wendy Gilmour
Under the leadership of HE Wendy Gilmour, the High Commission of Canada launched a five-year Women’s Voice Leadership Pakistan Initiative as a component of Canada’s Feminist International Assistance Policy with CDN $8million budget, which will strengthen women’s rights organizations to help improve policy, legislation, services and systems and impact on social belief and practices that promote gender equality. It builds on a strong legacy of 30 years’ cooperation of Canada working alongside Pakistani women’s rights organizations to advance women’s and girls’ rights. The objective of Women’s Voice and Leadership Pakistan is to better equip existing WROs to work collectively towards further change so that women and girls can fully realize their rights, and reach their full potential in society. Areas, where support will be provided, include enhanced literacy, preventing early and forced marriages, improved nutrition, reduced maternal mortality rate, combatting gender-based violence and fostering women’s economic and political participation.
“In the beautiful landscape of Pakistan, Canada has also been the original donors to the Aga Khan programme that looks into conservation and development such as digging tunnels under glaciers as well as the education of children in the Northern Areas” –Wendy Gilmour
Her love for Pakistan is evident from her tweets of tourist spots, her trekking stories and pictures of religious and natural sites of different areas of Pakistan like Taxila, Northern Areas and Margalla treks of Islamabad. She stated, “A diplomat is not afraid to travel in Pakistan.”
HE said in an interview that she visited Gilgit-Baltistan six times and this year she chose to spend her thanksgiving holidays in the Gilgit-Baltistan region where she went for a 3-day hike over Thalay La pass and called the region as the best short treks in the world and Pakistan as the trekking paradise.
Recently, the Canadian High Commission in Pakistan organized an event for sustainable tourism and the promotion of winter sports in Pakistan, which is in line with the vision of PM Imran Khan. She is of view that when tourism grows it benefits the local communities in a number of ways but tourism should be environmentally sustainable. She said that Canada is an active participant in the fight against climate change and in climate change adaption and resilience. Canada is a major contributor to the Global Environmental Fund and the Green Climate Fund, both of which benefit Pakistan. HE Ms Gilmour also said that she plays her part by planting trees but this is a collective problem and requires a collective effort.
“Climate change threatens security …affecting access to water, food, and energy — each of which is linked to conflict risk and national security…as well as patterns and prevalence of the infectious disease, the frequency and scale of humanitarian crises, and human migration”-Wendy Gilmour’s Tweet.
Wendy Gilmour, the High Commissioner of Canada in Pakistan is also of the view that the Canadian government highly values the bilateral relationships with Pakistan and both countries have extensive people-to-people contact, large Pakistani diaspora in Canada of people of Pakistani origin, and Canada has been an active part of development especially in health, women empowerment and education.
H.E Wendy Gilmour is a distinguished diplomat and among the very few diplomats who have gained immense admiration and recognition in a very short period in Pakistan.