Interview with Eduardo Collier

Eduardo Collier is a Brazilian who has lived in Canada since 1999. He works for the Ministry of Global Affairs Canada in Ottawa and he just returned from Afghanistan where he held the position of First Secretary and Consul at the Canadian Embassy and here he will share his experience with WAVE and the Brazilian community.

By Teresa Botelho

Wave – Before we talk about your time in Afghanistan, tell us a little bit about yourself and how you came to live in Canada.
Collier – I was born and raised in Recife, PE until I was 16 years old. I always wanted to see the world, so when my parents decided to apply to immigrate to Canada, I knew this was my chance. We received the immigration Visa in 1998 and in May of 1999 we moved to Ottawa. I remember that the sun was shining on the day we arrived and it was 17ºC, but we were all freezing. People from Recife suffer when the temperature drops below 21ºC.

I really admire the courage and vision my parents had to leave behind a whole life that they had built up to that moment, and leave behind their family, friends, and careers in Brazil (my father was a civil engineer and my mother was a public servant at the Finance Department in Pernambuco) to embark on this adventure mainly to offer a better future with more opportunity for their children.

Wave – And how did you get a job at the Ministry of Global Affairs, Ottawa?
Collier – We came to Ottawa because my parents had friends here who could assist us during our arrival. They helped us rent an apartment, register for school, took us around to get to know the city, etc… This type of support is essential for any immigrant and it helped us a lot.

In 2007 I graduated with ‘Honours’ In Political Science and International Relations at Carleton University in Ottawa. Right after graduation, I got a position as a volunteer at the United Nations (UNV) in Nepal, where I participated in organizing the elections that were to take place, after years of civil war in the country.

From Nepal, I went to Argentina through a program for young Canadians sponsored by the Federal Government that is called the International Youth Program. This program offers various paid positions for youths to work in development projects around the world.  It was during this time that I applied for a job at Global Affairs but, as the process is very long, I continued my search to learn more and I managed to get, after  Argentina, a scholarship to study at the University of Torino (Italy) at the Training Centre of the World Labor Organization, where I did my Masters in Management of Development and Project Management. With only one month left to finish my Masters, I was offered a job at Global Affairs where I held many different administrative jobs while trying to pass the diplomatic test for the Ministry, which was my main focus.

In 2014 I passed the test and participated in a training course that lasted two years from which I gained short-term experience (2-3 months) in diplomatic missions for Canada to the Ukraine, Haiti, USA, and Greece, before accepting my first official mission in Afghanistan.

Wave – Now tell us about your mission in Afghanistan and your role as the First Secretary and Consul at the Canadian Embassy in Kabul.
Collier – I do not know how diplomatic service works in Brazil, but here in Canada you can choose five (5) missions at which you would like to work and submit yourself for the selective process. I had only put Afghanistan on my list.

I was looking for an experience like no other in public service. In my role as First Secretary (Management) and Consul, I had many functions. We have various long-term infrastructure projects being implemented at this moment that I managed. I also worked with consular services offering assistance to Canadian citizens in need. I also worked in the areas of finance, human resources, and emergency situation management.  It was a very enriching experience to work in a multi-cultural atmosphere with a multi-disciplinary team in that part of the world.

A large part of my job depended on the level of safety in the country, which was volatile and changed constantly, altering my plans. As priorities changed from night to day and I never slept, I awoke with the same list of projects.
Wave – And the country of Afghanistan? What were your impressions?
Collier – Before applying to work in Kabul I got in contact with various people who had already worked at that embassy, with the intent to better prepare myself for this professional experience, but nothing prepared me better than living in the country did. The first aspect that we felt great to change was in respect to losing your freedom to move around whenever you wish. For security reasons, all your movements are strictly monitored and controlled by the Embassy’s security team, you really need time to adapt to that.

In relation to my impressions of the country, excluding the problems that everyone already knows about, such as civil unrest, terrorism, pollution, etc. I got to see another side of the Afghan people that others do not see. I saw their generosity up close, the sense of humour and perseverance with which they tackle their daily problems. I saw how the women are strong and fight for their rights in actively participating in society, especially the new generation. One of the objectives of Canada in Afghanistan is promoting women’s rights so I always included them in my projects giving their enterprises time to develop and helping them compete alongside the men. The determination of these women to participate and contribute is what struck me the most.

Wave – Did you meet other Brazilians there?
Collier – Unfortunately I did not have the opportunity to meet any other Brazilians there, but I met many people from various countries that had lived and worked in Brazil and who spoke Portuguese well, including our own ambassador. I am very proud to be a Brazilian and I do not miss an opportunity to promote our country, even representing Canada. People always give me that extra smile when I say that I too am Brazilian, as Brazil still has a positive image outside of Brazil. In general, also identifying as a Brazilian has generated positive results everywhere I have been because there is a certain likeability factor to our country.

Wave – Would you like to leave a message or comment for our readers?
Collier – Canada offers immense opportunities for immigrants to contribute to the country in the public sector. There are many programs to learn an official second language, to get work experience and for youths to follow in this career. I do not doubt that if I had immigrated to any other country I would not have had the same opportunities that were offered here to me in Canada. We Brazilians have a natural advantage of being friendly, adaptable and hard workers, which is forever in our favour.