Being a Canadian Diplomat in the End of the Cold War: Experience in Czechoslovakia 1988-1990

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Wednesday, January 15th, 2020

Wednesday, January 15, 20202:00PM - 4:00PM108N, North House, Munk School of Global Affairs
1 Devonshire Place
M5S 3K7
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Pierre Guimond is currently Diplomat in Residence and Senior Fellow at the Graduate School of International Studies of Laval University. Prior that he was Minister-Counsellor and Head of the Foreign Policy and Diplomacy Section of the Canadian Embassy in Paris.
He started his career in 1979 at the Ministry of Intergovernmental Affairs of the Government of Québec with assignments as desk officer in federal-provincial relations and then Head of the public affairs section of the Québec Government Office in Toronto. He joined the Canadian Foreign Service in 1987 and served in Prague, Bonn and Vienna before becoming Ambassador to Hungary, Slovenia and Bosnia-Herzegovina from 2007 to 2010. At the headquarters of the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, he served as desk officer for the Policy and Strategic Analysis Division, USSR and Central and Eastern Europe Division. He was also deputy director of the European Union Division and Senior Departmental Assistant to Minister of Foreign Affairs Bill Graham. He later became Director of the European Union Division, Eastern Europe and Balkans Division and Policy Planning Division. Mr. Guimond also had an assignment as foreign policy advisor in the Foreign Policy and Defense Secretariat of the Privy Council Office. A graduate of Laval University in Political science, he is also an Auditor of the French Institut des Hautes études de défense nationale. He is a member of the External Advisor Committee of the Canadian Foreign Service Institute, member of the board of Canadian associations on international affairs and is a frequent commentator on French Canadian media.

Pierre Guimond’s first posting abroad as a junior diplomat was as Third Secretary and Vice Consul at the Canadian Embassy to the Czechoslovak Socialist Republic from the summer of 1988 to that of 1990, a time known in that country as the end of the period of “Normalisation”. While his basic tasks were, among others, to understand the local political scene and reporting back to Ottawa, doing that meant that Guimond had to maintain close contacts with many individuals known as ‘dissidents” by the Soviet-styled local authorities. Although “the” Canadian government expert on Czechoslovakia at the time, he, like so many other observers, failed to see coming the rapid transformation that was to occur in this Central European countries in the Fall of 1989 and which led to the lead dissident being elected President of the Republic. A key witness to both the political oppression and the uprising of the Czech and Slovak peoples, this diplomat ended up providing some support to members of the dissident movement, that included Vaclav Havel, in their communication with “the West”.


Larysa Iarovenko


Pierre Guimond
Diplomate en résidence, Université Laval

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