Mona Elisabeth Brøther is the Norwegian Ambassador in Ottawa, Canada.
Brøther speaks warmly and enthusiastically about Canada and the possibilities ahead for cooperation between Norway and Canada. “To be a diplomat is to be able to understand the culture where you serve, and at the same time promote your own country’s interests. Canada is a very interesting partner for us.” Brøther’s diplomatic career developed step by step, most recently when she presented her credentials in Canada in September 2012.
“It’s been a long way coming into this position. First, I got selected to the three year Diplomatic Course in 1979, right after I graduated from the University of Oslo.” Since then, Brøther has been stationed twice in Venezuela, as well as Denmark and Chile, where she held her first ambassador’s posting.
Networking for Norway
Brøther, as with other ambassadors Norwegians Worldwide have spoken with in previous issues, describes the ambassador’s job as very diverse. But she still upholds some routines. “I usually start out my day reading reports, to stay updated on Norwegian and Canadian politics”, she says. “My job is to report on politics as well as to keep an open door to the Canadian society for Norwegian business and culture. I have meetings with Canadian politicians, and representatives of the Government.
“A lot of my work consists of networking, and talking to people about Norway,” adds Brøther. She heads a team of 11 people at the Norwegian Embassy in Ottawa. The team hosts various events and luncheons, both at the embassy and the Norwegian residence, which she describes as beautiful.
“Norway and Canada share a rich, but fragile, northern environment, and a common interest in the Higher North. This has resulted in close cooperation within the framework of the Arctic Council and a mutual prioritization of sustainable natural resource development and management”, she says. As for her own role, “I am at the forefront for Norway in Canada, and I aim to advance Norwegian solutions and experience, as well as find common grounds for actions in the Arctic.” One example of such activity this year is to organize the Transatlantic Science Week in Toronto, a meeting place between academics from the United States, Canada and Norway on Arctic themes.
The cultural aspect of relations is also important to Brøther, and she mentions the Toronto Film Festival and the Ottawa International Writers Festival as two important arenas for Norwegian actors in the cultural scene. She describes the Canadian people as a “reading people”, who loves literature.
-How do you like living in Canada?
“This is a good place for Norwegians. We are made for the winter; after all, we are, like the Canadians, peoples of the North. Canadians and Norwegians are like-minded people. Living here, we are blessed when it comes to security, and the Canadians are polite and friendly. It is an impressively vast country and there is a lot to see from coast to coast. I have made many friends here, and my husband and I have a great life in Ottawa.”
Immigrants and Experts
When describing the Norwegian community in Canada, Brøther divides the Norwegians in to two groups: The immigrants and the experts. “The consensus shows that 500 000 people feels related to Norway. This is a very high number. These people are descendants of immigrants, who still feel strong ties to Norway. The immigrants settled in the Midwest and along the coast, a lot of them where seamen and fishermen.”
The numbers of households that speak Norwegian is much lower, around 5,000. “As for modern immigration, the group of Norwegians coming to Canada today is for the most part experts in engineering in the oil, gas, and maritime industries. These people often come with their families, but not to settle forever in most cases. They usually stay for about four or five years,” she says.
Even if Brøther describes Norwegians and Canadians as highly compatible people, there are some differences between the two societies. “Canada has a shorter history and everyone here originates from someplace else, whereas in Norway, we are all pretty much the same. People in Norway are very alike. Here, the multicultural mix constitutes of a different social reality.” She also mentions the great distances, which can be challenging, especially when it comes to business.
As for the future, she wants to continue to improve knowledge and understanding of Norway in Canada, while promoting collaboration between the two countries. “Our cooperation is visible in areas such as education, research, commercial relations, and maritime management. Most Norwegian businesses have a foot abroad, and Canada is a good place for Norwegian investments. There is a lot to learn for Norwegians coming here.”
BIO Mona Brøther
- Born January 9 1952 in Oslo
- Cand. Mag. in Spanish, Political Science and History from the University of Oslo
- From 1996 to 1999 she was the leader of the cultural section in the Foreign Service
- In 2002 she was awarded The Royal Norwegian Order of Merit
- From 2005 to 2008 she worked with the project Commission on Legal Empowerment of the Poor
- She has given several speeches at international conferences regarding poverty, property and economic rights for the poor
She had published four anthologies on Legal Empowerment – a Way out of Pov