When I worked and lived in Peace River in the ’70s I became aware of a lawyer, social activist and community organizer by the name of Halyna Freeland, who was well spoken of in that community.
Years later when I heard that a Ms. Freeland had been elected to the Canadian parliament, I glibly assumed it was the same person I had heard of in Peace River. It was the social activism of the MP’s life that triggered that connection.
Now that MP Chrystia Freeland has been elevated to the position of Minister of Foreign Affairs, the confusion has been resolved through further research. Halyna Freeland, a Peace River lawyer and activist, was the mother of the Liberal MP and newly anointed Minister of Foreign Affairs. She died in 2007.
As the U.S. transitions to a new president, whose connections to Russia seem ambiguous at best and concerning at worst, it is perhaps serendipitous that Chrystia Freeland is the point-person for Canadian external affairs. Cultural understanding and language skills play a huge part in any diplomatic assignment or project.
We know for instance that U.S. involvement in Vietnam and the Middle East were significantly hampered by the lack of these skills. In that regard, Ms. Freeland is especially prepared for potential diplomatic hotspots like Ukraine and Russia. The understanding of culture, language nuance and history is vital. She is of Ukrainian heritage, is a fluent speaker of Russian and Ukrainian and has lived for extended periods in both countries.
And from Peace River, Alberta, you say! We should be so lucky!