Former Ontario premier Bob Rae has been appointed Canada’s ambassador to the United Nations, the Prime Minister’s Office announced Monday.
Rae, who also served as the interim Liberal Party leader between 2011 and 2013, will succeed Marc-André Blanchard as Canada’s representative to the body.
The ambassadorial shakeup comes less than a month after Canada failed to secure a temporary seat on the Security Council, losing to Norway and Ireland on the first ballot.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has tapped Rae for other foreign policy-related roles in the past. Rae served as Canada’s special envoy on humanitarian and refugee issues during the Rohingya crisis in Myanmar and Bangladesh.
In an interview with Radio-Canada, the CBC’s French-language service, Rae said he was “very, very honoured” to be picked by Trudeau for the job.
He said his father, Saul Rae, was a career diplomat who also served as Canada’s ambassador to the UN in Geneva and New York between 1972 and 1976. “It’s in my DNA,” Rae said.
Rae said Canada will be pushing for reforms to the UN at a time when international institutions have been tested by the COVID-19 pandemic. The World Health Organization (WHO), in particular, has faced criticism for its handling of the virus.
“COVID-19 is a revealer — it reveals the weakness and fragility in all our institutions. This will be very much on my mind as we go forward,” Rae said.
“The well-being of the world really depends on a rebuild and a reconstruction of our international institutions, and I think that’s the task ahead for Canada and a great many countries.”
He said while “authoritarianism and nationalism are making a comeback” in some countries, Canada, as a middle power, must support multilateral institutions like the UN.
In his 2009 autobiography, From Protest to Power, Rae recounts growing up the son of a diplomat who worked for the then-fledgling Department of External Affairs.
Rae’s father joined the department at the start of the Second World War — when Canada was trying to be more assertive on the global stage at a time when national interests were still secondary to the country’s place in the British Empire.
“When my dad joined … there were only eight in his entry class,” Rae said. “They all shared certain core views about Canada and its place in the world. The British Tory view of Canada as a colony was rejected outright.”
Rae’s father, who served alongside other diplomatic leaders like former prime minister Lester B. Pearson, was posted to Mexico, North Vietnam, the Netherlands and the U.S. during his time in the foreign service. Rae spent much of his childhood in Washington, D.C. and Geneva during his father’s overseas postings.