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Courtesy of Raymond Chrétien

Raymond Chrétien


“It is true it all started with France, and it is true that Quebecers have a very strong identity, but it does not mean that they are not prepared to work within the broader environment that is Canada. You can be a Quebecker and a Canadian; you can be a strong Quebecer and a strong Canadian. Remember, we have a great role to play in Canada as a whole.”

Raymond Chrétien


“Presenting Credentials to President Clinton in Washington 1994”. Courtesy of Raymond Chrétien.

Raymond Chrétien is the only Canadian diplomat to have served as ambassador to both the United States and France. Born in Shawinigan, Quebec, in 1942, he obtained his law degree from Université Laval before joining the Department of External Affairs in 1966. Following postings in New York, Beirut, and Paris, Chrétien was named ambassador to Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of the Congo) in 1978. Thirty-six years old at the time, he became the youngest ambassador in Canadian history. Upon his return to Ottawa in 1981, Chrétien continued his meteoric rise in the department, first as director, then as assistant under-secretary, and finally as inspector general. From 1985 to 1988 he was ambassador to Mexico, whose government at the end of his posting awarded him the Order of the Aztec Eagle. Stationed at headquarters from 1988 to 1991 as associate under-secretary of state for external affairs, Chrétien was sent abroad again in 1991 to become ambassador to Belgium before serving as Canadian ambassador to the United States from 1994 to 2000. In Washington, Chrétien played a key role in the implementation of the newly-signed North American Free Trade Agreement. As a Québécois and nephew of Prime Minister Jean Chrétien, Raymond Chrétien was also the ideal person to interpret the leadup to and dramatic results of the 1995 Quebec referendum to Americans. In 1996 the Secretary General of the United Nations appointed Chrétien his special envoy to investigate and to defuse the serious humanitarian crisis in the Great Lakes region of Africa. Chrétien ended his diplomatic career in France, where he was ambassador from 2000 to 2003, facilitating a rapprochement between that country and Canada that earned him the title of Commandeur de la Légion d’honneur from the French president. In 2004, Chrétien joined Fasken law firm. Capping off a lifetime of service to his country, he was federal negotiator of the historic 2007 accord that allowed for the implementation of the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement of 1975 with the Cree. A recipient of Queen Elizabeth II’s golden and diamond jubilee medals, Chrétien is also a companion of the Order of Canada.

Further reading:

Jean-Frédéric Légaré-Tremblay and Raymond Chrétien, Raymond Chrétien : Le Canada dans le monde d’hier à aujourd’hui (Montréal: Éditions Varia, 2007).

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