Bidding Farewell to Mr. Daniel Edward Hobson, Non-resident Ambassador of Canada to Yemen A Sad Farewell to a Friend of Yemen [Archives:2000/27/Interview]
It was a sad moment when Yemen Times Chief Editor, Walid Al-Saqqaf stepped into the hotel room where Mr. Edward Hobson, Non-resident Ambassador of Canada to Yemen, was staying in his last visit to Yemen as an ambassador.
“I just wanted to bid you farewell, and make a short interview with you, which I believe will be your last interview as an ambassador of Canada” Walid said. Indeed, Yemen Times had the honor to be the newspaper saying goodbye to a close friend of its founder, Dr. Abdulaziz Al-Saqqaf, and to a man that has done a lot in strengthening the unique relationship between Yemen and Canada.
Here are some excerpts:
Q: What are your feelings as you are leaving Yemen after expiry of your work term as an Ambassador to Yemen?
A: The first impression is of some sadness, because it has been a special treaty to have the honor in representing Canada in Yemen and as I have come to know Yemen and particularly the Yemeni people. This sadness is tempered by personal assurance as I and my wife would come back either as tourists or doing other activities in the region. The lasting impression and the positive thing is the memory of Yemen which is the most awesome thing in my heart. The last 4 years have been a period when Yemen has made great strives. I am proud as well of how the relationship has grown fundamentally because of the strives that have taken place in Yemen and the progress that has been made politically and economically.
Q: Could we know where you are heading for next? ie., what is your next post?
A: I am heading home! I should explain where home means. I was raised in a home life where my father was a Christian Clergyman, and as a child, I would move along with my family every five or four years. Although I was born in Ottawa, our country’s capital, I never lived there. I spent most of my school years in Halifax. I continue to move around like a gypsy as I was used to it. Last year, when in the public service, I will continue to work in the trade relations department, which is my specialty. I will also teaching courses in economic and trade relations and it will mean that I will be able to return to where my elderly parents are living.
Q: Does this mean that you would be retiring?
A: I intend to retire from the public service, but I certainly do not have the intention to retire from work. The reason why I want to retire only from the public service is because my father remained very active in his profession, and only quit a couple of years ago. He is now 87, and he remained quite active until the age of 85. I believe I have his genetic make up in me. I intend only to move from the public service as I do not have many years in the public service until I will have to retire. But I would like to have a shift in my work activities, I would be working in the academic sector. I also have alternatives of working with NGOs in Canada, or perhaps doing some independent trade consulting. I have a lot of opportunities ahead of me, which makes it feel quite exciting.
Q: Frankly speaking, during your period of work as the Ambassador to Yemen, Yemen and Canada reached quite high levels of cooperation and strong relationship. What advice would you like to offer to your successor?
A: Well, I first of all would suggest to him that there are more things to be done, as we have not in any means reached the maximum level of relationship. What I have been happy about in the relationship is that we have been able to maximize a relatively small amount of resources to show that Canada would like to support the political and economic reforms currently taking place. We don’t have a full program here, and realistically we did not reach a level where we can do that. But we have been able to tap other sources as we had a Canada fund, which allows us to do small projects, but that is very modest as it was only C$ 150,000. We were however able to tap some other sources such as CIDA in the NGO area. I believe that we were able to capture Mr. Norman Cook, Director of the Priorities and Special Needs Department of CIDA, along with the people working in that area. Hence, we were able to work with NGOs. President Saleh’s recent visit to Canada was a great opportunity for Canadians NGOs to know more about Yemen. The Presentation of the Yemeni Minister of Planning, Mr. Sofan was a good introduction given about Yemen’s conditions, and possible sectors of developments. We will be increasing the aid to Yemen. Starting from this April, we will start channeling more than CAN $1 Million. This means that the Canada fund we run will increase from CAN$ 150,000 to CAN $300,000, which will help implementing more interesting projects in various fields. It is possible to add more attention to human rights education, and other humanitarian issues.
Q: What about the news of a possible Canadian Embassy in Sanaa?
A: We need to have more of a presence here. We at the embassy of Riyad will have to be here more. This is a long-term process, but I hope that it would not be long until we have a permanent Canadian presence here. I don’t want to seem be too optimistic on that, but personally I am optimistic. If I can just mention two or other things after having labored here for four years, I was particularly pleased to arrange a wonderful trip to Canada to show that the relationship between the two countries can indeed develop and strengthen and result in the ultimate establishment of a Canadian presence in Sanaa. You could see that it was very helpful to have top level Canadian leaders be aware about what is happening in Yemen. My sense has been to get that story across in the highest political level. There is greater awareness in Canada of the potential of a strong relationship with Yemen, and that could only be emphasized by having a more permanent here for the sake of the economic interest we have, which we need to enforce. We have Canadian Oxy here as you know, and other companies in the mining sector interested in doing more. My judgement is that the recent development of the settlement of the border dispute with Saudi Arabia can only be a positive boost in that direction. I was just mentioning to one of your ministers today that for a while in Canada we were very suspicious of the interest of investors to come into Canada, and thought that Europeans and Americans just wanted to come in to just take our resources and leave, but we realized, compared to such large countries that we couldn’t develop our own resources anyway without the foreign investment. As investment came in, it generated wealth to Canadians in the form of jobs and high income. This also applies to Yemen.
Q: Finally, as Yemen Times, we know that you enjoyed a unique and personal relationship with our late founder, Dr. Abdulaziz Al-Saqqaf, who had helped a lot in arranging for President Saleh’s visit a long time back. We wish you the very best of luck in your future, and hope you a safe journey home. Any other remarks you want to add?
A: Thank you for those kind words. I would like to say in closing that my first two years here were made much easier because of your father. He was a wonderful individual. We had arranged for him two visits to Canada, in which he started laying the ground of work for the kind of activities that made the Yemeni-Canadian relationship move ahead steadily. Dr. Saqqaf also had the opportunity to meet our foreign minister in a regional meeting. Our minister was very much impressed with him and with the story he had to tell about Yemen. So, his work and life will continue to be a legacy for you people here in Yemen. But it was extremely important as well for the steps we were able to take in improving the relationship between Canada and Yemen. He will always be in our hearts as we continue to try to develop the relationship. I would also would like to express my gratitude to the family and to the Yemen Times. I wish you and your colleagues to continue on the same path drawn by your founder. God bless you as you do.