From 2006 until 2009 I had the privilege of representing Germany as Consul General in Montreal. At that time, the administrative district of the Consulate General was comprised of the provinces of Quebec, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and Prince Edward Island, as well as Newfoundland and Labrador. Interestingly, consular matters in the French Departement d'Outre Mer St. Pierre & Miquelon were also covered by the Consulate. To represent Germany professionally in such a vast culturally as well as linguistically and politically diverse region was very appealing to me. Adding to this appeal was, of course, Montreal's internationally rich cultural life.
The location of the General Consulate on the 43rd floor of a high-rise building with a magnificent view of the Mont Royal, the St. Lawrence River, and the Eastern Townships dotting the horizon is unforgettable, especially in Indian Summer. Also unforgettable was the dedication of my experienced and highly motivated team of coworkers who never tired of working towards our endeavour to make Germany and the various German institutions in Montreal more visible. This was a great challenge for us, especially in light of the staff cutbacks and reorganizational proposals for the Consulate, which even included its closure. Fortunately, for good reasons, this step was never taken: Quebec and its capital city Montreal with its numerous cultural and economic start-up operations, as well as research institutions and high-technology companies was and continues to be an attractive partner for Germany.
Thankfully, we were given very active support for our projects from Goethe Institute, the Representation of the Government of the Free State of Bavaria, the Alexander von Humboldt School, and the Canadian German Chamber of industry and Commerce, to name just a few. In fact, with their help, in autumn of 2007, we were able to organize a festival entitled, “Rendez-vous avec l'Allemagne.” Many German academics involved in teaching at various universities in Montreal also took part in this important project. We were proud to have reached our goal of offering more than forty well-attended events, including classical music, German Hip-Hop, a skattournement, wines and Bavarian culinary specialties, documentary films and academic weeks which allowed students to attend lectures of German writers at the then charming German residence in Avenue Ramezay.
During my posting as Consul General I was able to visit all the provinces in the administrative district of the Consulate, where I always met with open-minded people, willing to engage in projects of close cooperation, particularly in the areas of science, culture, and the economy.
To this day, I fondly remember the many encounters and conversations I had with neighbours, politicians, artists, and entrepreneurs who helped me to better understand Canada. A particular place in my memories is held by the exiled German Jewish community. I was deeply touched to be able to issue German passports to members of the community after seventy years of their expulsion from Germany. It was a great pleasure for me to invite members of this community, in the name of the German government, to a memorial event in Berlin in 2008, “70 Years After the 9th of November 1938.”
After three years, full of vivid impressions and fruitful encounters, I gave my farewell speech to a large gathering, concluding it with these remarks:
My wife Erika and I have thoroughly enjoyed our posting to Quebec and the Atlantic provinces. Above all, we return to Germany, thankful for having had the opportunity to gain a deeper understanding of the history and traditions of Quebec, which are so closely linked to those of Europe. We have learned to appreciate the Quebecois “joie de vivre,” not only in summer, with the flavour of fresh maple syrup in our mouths, but also in winter. In fact, we now understand the meaning of Gilles Vigneault's words : “Mon pays ce n'est pas un pays, c'est l'hiver. ”
We suffered along with the Canadiens! And we are leaving with an idea of the vastness of this country, as expressed in the paintings of John-Paul Lemieux. Bears...regrettably or perhaps luckily...we did not meet.
We are grateful for having met so many people who helped us to feel at home in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. We are especially thankful to them.
The Consulate General of Germany in Quebec has a long and rich tradition which holds a firm place within the framework of German-Canadian relations. May it continue to do so long into the future.