Todd Kuiack a native of Madawaska
BARRY’S BAY – There is never an ordinary day in the office when you are Todd Kuiack, Canadian ambassador to the Dominican Republic.
He might be speaking to a swarm of reporters one minute, and shaking hands with the president of the country the next.
Even though his job sounds thrilling, it’s the fact that he grew up in the tiny town of Madawaska that makes his story even more remarkable.
Kuiack was in town last week and took the time on April 4 to visit Madawaska Valley District High School. He spoke to Alexa Fretz-Ambler’s Grade 12 university English class about his journey to ambassadorship. Other students were invited to attend the presentation, including those who went on the recent Hero Holidays volunteer trip to Baja, Mexico.
Kuiack is the youngest of eight children. His mom is originally from Golden Lake and his dad is from the Wilno area. The family lived in Madawaska, and Kuiack remembers working at Murray’s sawmill when he was in Grade 8.
When it was time for high school, he attended MVDHS.“When I was here I hated French,” he said. “It was a really tough course because I just did not understand what they were doing.”
He calls that “ironic” because he was forced to learn French when he became a diplomat. He had to take, and pass, an intensive one-year French course to keep his job.
“If I did not learn French by the end of the year, I would be out of a job,” he said.
Regardless of his distaste for that one class, he said he really enjoyed his high school experience. He added he was glad he attended the small school because it was the one place he could take part in musicals, participate in sports and study science – all in the same day. He fondly remembers the time he qualified as a member of the Reach for the Top team.
When he graduated from high school, he went on to study science at university in Toronto and obtained his masters in Ottawa.
It was then he applied for a position within the Ministry of Foreign Affairs as a Canadian diplomat.
“Did I want to be a diplomat when I was a kid? No. I wanted to be a hockey player,” he said. “I wanted to be a hockey player and a baseball player in the summer.”
But he took the entry-level exam, and got the job. He also learned Spanish, specifically because he had an interest in the southern countries.
“The first time I went overseas was as a diplomat,” he said. “I was going to represent Canada.”
He worked in Costa Rica, Mexico, and then Chile, where he met his wife, who is from Brockville, Ont.
After Chile, he worked in Cuba. When he returned to Ottawa, it was there he experienced a form of culture shock he had not had before.
Standing in a grocery store in Ottawa, he was trying to decide what kind of bread to get; whole wheat, white, multigrain, etc. He was a bit overwhelmed, because during his time in Cuba, he only had one type of bread – the kind he made himself.
Meanwhile, at the age of 40, Kuiack became the Canadian ambassador to Dominican Republic.
Canada has an ambassador in most countries across the world. They are in each country at the discretion of the Prime Minister, who appoints each ambassador to a posting for a certain amount of time.
The Dominican Republic has more than 700,000 Canadians who visit the country on an annual basis, and the Canadian embassy works to provide assistance when needed.
According to its website, the embassy aims to strengthen the Canadian-Dominican relations by promoting a range of common interests, such as prosperity, security, and also by promoting education, and offering visa and immigration services to Dominican citizens.
One of Kuiack’s first duties as ambassador was meeting Leonel Fernández, president of Dominican Republic. Kuiack was instructed to wear a white suit, and present his credentials, which were written by the Canadian Governor General. The letter asked for the county to accept Kuiack as a Canadian representative in the country, who will speak on behalf of Canadians.
Story continues in the April 12, 2012 issue of The Valley Gazette.