A computer with a PowerPoint presentation on it in front of a crowded lecture hall.
Government & politics, Foreign policy, Centre for the Study of Global Japan, Munk School

Former Parliamentarian and Japanese Ambassador Engage with Students in MGA Course

Professor Phillip Lipscy’s second-year Master of Global Affairs (MGA) course, Bilateral Diplomacy: Canada-Japan and Canada-U.S. relations is connecting students to current and former policymakers to deepen their understanding of global affairs.

On October 26, students had the opportunity to attend a guest lecture by the Honourable Bryon Wilfert, a former member of parliament and co-chair o the Canada-Japan Inter-Parliamentary Group. Mr. Wilfert gave an inspiring talk about how he became fascinated by Asia from a young age and sought to deepen Canada’s engagement with the region as a parliamentarian.

The lecture contained many colourful anecdotes touching on Mr. Wilfert’s career and the personal relationships he cultivated with political leaders like Jean Chrétien, Paul Martin, and Nakasone Yasuhiro. Mr. Wilfert emphasized the important role parliamentary diplomacy plays in complementing the efforts of career foreign service officers.

Phillip Lipscy looks on from the podium and students look on from the audience as His Excellency Kawamura Yasuhisa, the Ambassador of Japan in Canada, provided introductory remarks
Phillip Lipscy and MGA students watch virtual welcome address from His Excellency Kawamura Yasuhisa, the Ambassador of Japan in Canada

Prior to the lecture, His Excellency Kawamura Yasuhisa, the Ambassador of Japan in Canada, provided introductory remarks. Ambassador Kawamura highlighted deepening cooperation between the two nations, including a recent agreement on shared priorities contributing to a free and open Indo‑Pacific region.

Ambassador Kawamura also reminisced about participating in a meeting between Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and then Prime Minister Abe Shinzo, during which the two leaders agreed to deepen cooperation and educational exchange between Canada and Japan. He noted that this meeting planted the seeds for the establishment of the Centre for the Study of Global Japan at the University of Toronto, which Lipscy now directs.

Mr. Wilfert, who is an alumnus of the University of Toronto, commented that “Lipscy’s class was very engaging, and I was impressed by the warm reception and insightful questions I received during the course of the evening.” Prior to the class session, Mr. Wilfert and his Executive Assistant, Teresa Chen, held an informal discussion at Massey College with faculty members Nathalie Des Rosiers, Phillip Lipscy, Peter Loewen, and Louis Pauly.

Lipscy commented that “It was delightful to host such distinguished speakers who have contributed actively to the deepening of Canada-Japan relations.” He noted that the class is designed to introduce students to substantive issues while also exposing them to the realities of foreign policy-making through firsthand interaction with practitioners. He commented that he was impressed by the enthusiasm and eagerness of the students to learn about Japan. “One of the joys of teaching this class is I often learn so much from the speakers myself. By the end of the class, I’m also learning from the students.”

The Honourable Bryon Wilfert with Phillip Lipscy and students Arnaud Nsamirizi, Yuna Ban, Kate Chen
From left to right: Arnaud Nsamirizi, Phillip Lipscy, The Honourable Bryon Wilfert, Yuna Ban, Kate Chen

Lipscy’s class, which is part of the Global Classrooms Initiative, has also hosted guest lectures by current and former officials of Global Affairs Canada, the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and the United States Department of State. Students are completing practicum projects in coordination with a Canadian government counterpart to inform the formulation of current policy-making priorities in Canada-Japan relations. Mr. Wilfert’s visit was supported by the Parliament to Campus program of the Educational Foundation of the Canadian Association of Former Parliamentarians.