Finland’s honorary consuls gathered in Ottawa in the end of November for a one-and-a-half day meeting. We were happy to have nine out of our 13 honorary consuls in Canada around the same table to discuss Team Finland trade promotion, consular affairs and country branding.
This was the first time since 2016 that our honorary consuls in Canada got together. Last time the meeting was organized in Washington D.C. gathering all the North American honorary consuls. As much as we like getting together with our colleagues across the border, sometimes it’s nice to be able to focus strictly on Canada.
The programme had three key elements. The first was the role of our embassy and honorary consul networks across the globe from the Ministry’s point of view. It was great to have colleagues from the Ministry for Foreign Affairs with us for the meeting. Director General for Administrative Services Mr. Ari Rouhe and Mr. Pekka Kaihilahti, Deputy Director General of the Department for the Americas and Asia both gave presentations to the group.
The second theme was Team Finland trade and business promotion work. Most of Monday was spent talking about Team Finland. Business Finland’s Head of North America Mailiina Turanlahti and embassy’s Trade Counsellor Jarno Valkeapää talked about focus areas in Canada as well as concrete projects. Jarno Valkeapää moderated the conversation and invited honorary consuls to share their experience, ideas and concerns.
Consular affairs were the main topic of the second day. Honorary consuls learned about crisis management from the ministry through a video connection. Embassy’s consul Helena Pentinmäki together with honorary vice consul from Toronto, Laura McSwiggan, talked about the core services that the honorary consuls are expected to provide to private individuals in Canada. We also welcomed the Deputy Director Stéphane Henry from the Office of Protocol, Global Affairs Canada, to present their guidelines to the honorary consul networks in Canada.
The most valuable thing during the two days were the discussions between old and new colleagues. Five out of the nine honorary consuls were appointed within the last two years. The newcomers were happy to meet their senior colleagues to learn from their experience and knowledge. On Monday evening Ambassador Lehtonen hosted a dinner at his official residence, which was a great opportunity for more informal conversations.
We want to thank everyone who participated in the meeting. Hopefully next honorary consul meeting can be organized in Finland with real Finnish experiences!