Justin Trudeau has entrusted the current Canadian Ambassador to Haiti, Sébastien Carrière, with the role of Sherpa of La Francophonie. The diplomat will somehow go from one minefield to another, with tensions between the Canadian government and the OIF running high after Ottawa cut 3 million from its contribution to the institution.

The International Organization of La Francophonie (OIF) was notified of the choice of the Canadian Prime Minister last Wednesday, wrote to La Presse Oria Vande Weghe, spokesperson for the Secretary General, Louise Mushikiwabo.

The Sherpa for La Francophonie works closely with the OIF and the Secretary General, with whom he “promotes Canada’s position and main interests”, is described on a Canadian government website.

The appointment came amid a hectic week at the organization’s headquarters in Paris.

Because a few days earlier, the Canadian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mélanie Joly, announced to the OIF that she was cutting its funding. In a letter dated April 2, she pointed to the “troubling” results of an internal workplace climate survey to explain the cuts.

In Louise Mushikiwabo’s office, it was seen as revenge on the part of Canada, according to Ms. Vande Weghe in a text message. It was that the secretary general “had been informed of the risk of ‘retaliation’ from Canada if it did not renew the contract of the previous director”, she indicated.

The spokesperson refers to the decision to terminate, without clear justification, the contract of Canadian Geoffroi Montpetit, whose departure opened the door to the arrival of Caroline St-Hilaire; before the entry into office of the former candidate of the Coalition avenir Québec, Ms. Mushikiwabo assumed powers previously vested in number two of the OIF.

“This is indeed a reaction of dissatisfaction on the part of Ottawa”, which “expressed its satisfaction with the good governance of the OIF” during the Djerba Summit, argued Ms. Vande Weghe. “What is certain is that the Secretary General is not sensitive to this type of pressure tactic,” she said in an exchange with La Presse.

The role of Sherpa had been occupied since June 2019 by the former Canadian Ambassador to Paris Isabelle Hudon. The task, however, was less in line with her new responsibilities as president and chief executive officer of the Business Development Bank of Canada, where she was appointed in August 2021.

The envoy from Ottawa to Port-au-Prince will combine the functions of ambassador and sherpa, as is usually the case.

The animosity that has reigned between Ottawa and the OIF since the Rwandan has been at the helm of the institution promises to keep Ambassador Carrière busy. The diplomat preferred not to go too far about these tensions on Monday.

Canada is the second largest donor to the OIF, after France.

The Trudeau government had agreed in 2018 to withdraw its support for Michaëlle Jean to join the candidacy of Louise Mushikiwabo, favorite of the French president, Emmanuel Macron, in exchange for an assurance that the chair of number two returns to him.

The Canadian candidate had fought tooth and nail to prevent her Rwandan rival from rising to the top of the organization, citing in particular the poor record of the country of Paul Kagame in terms of human rights.

According to an internal survey carried out within the OIF published in 2023, 44% of the 207 employees believe they have been victims of moral harassment at work, while 9% believe they have been victims of sexual harassment at work.

It is in response to these results that Minister Joly decided to reduce Canada’s voluntary contribution by $3 million for 2023-2024. The sum will be reallocated to other operators and institutions of the Francophonie, she wrote to Ms. Mushikiwabo on April 2.

Canada’s total contribution to the OIF is approximately €15 million (CAD 22 million).