Canada aims to expand commercial partnership, academic cooperation, and cultural exchanges with Kurdistan Region: diplomat

Yves Duval, Head of the Canadian Embassy Office in Erbil, December 14, 2021. (Photo: The Canadian Embassy Office in Erbil)
Yves Duval, Head of the Canadian Embassy Office in Erbil, December 14, 2021. (Photo: The Canadian Embassy Office in Erbil)

ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – Yves Duval, head of the Canadian Embassy Office in Erbil, gave an exclusive interview to Kurdistan 24 about relations between Canada and the Kurdistan Region and other related topics.

Areas of cooperation between Canada and the Kurdistan Region 

“The Erbil office was officially opened in 2014 to expand our trade relations and to develop our commercial partnership in Iraqi Kurdistan,” Duval told Kurdistan 24. “However, when ISIS revealed itself as a threat to Iraq and the Kurdistan Region, Canada deployed military assistance to support Iraqi forces and the Peshmerga.”

Duval explained that the Canadian Embassy Office in Erbil liaises with the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) to facilitate Canada’s continued cooperation with the Peshmerga. 

“Canada continues to support Iraqi forces and the Peshmerga in their fight against ISIS,” he said. “The recent attacks against Kurdish people and the Peshmerga demonstrate the importance of this cooperation, as ISIS continues to pose a threat in some areas.”

“We also oversee the delivery of Canadian humanitarian and development assistance, particularly for the benefit of the victims of ISIS, including the internally displaced people,” he added. “While the fight against ISIS has taken much of our efforts since 2014, it is time now to return to our original intention, to expand our trade relations and commercial partnership.”

The Canadian diplomat also said that his office in Erbil has identified key areas and engaged with potential partners to support the expansion of the private sector and develop cooperation between Canadian and Kurdish academic institutions.

“There is also room to expand our cultural exchanges, and we are currently exploring initiatives in this regard,” he said. 

Trade between Canada and Kurdistan Region

Duval mentioned that Canada exports many products to Iraq and Kurdistan Region, such as food products (canola oil, grain, and pulse), pharmaceutical products, lumber, cars, and equipment used in the oil and gas sector.

“There are currently two Canadian companies active in the oil and gas sector in the Kurdistan Region; Western Zagros and Shamaran,” he said. “In addition, many Canadian companies provide services as sub-contractors to international oil companies active in Iraq.” 

Duval expressed delight that Canadian exports find their way to the Iraqi and Kurdish markets. He would also like to see the exchange of knowledge and technology. 

“Canada has developed considerable know-how and technology applicable to water management, irrigation, and green energy across Iraq,” he said. “With the right technology, the Kurdistan Region could develop its agricultural and dairy industries and become a net exporter of food.” 

Areas where the Kurdistan Region could improve

“Canada has adopted a Feminist International Assistance Policy to promote the empowerment of women and gender equality,” Duval said. “This is an area where there is always room for improvement, here in the Kurdistan Region and elsewhere around the world, including in Canada.”

On the economic side, the Canadian diplomat said that the Kurdistan Region has tremendous resources, such as oil and gas, minerals, vast farming lands, water, educated youth, and stability. 

He said that the private sector needs to exploit these resources to develop the industrial sector further and provide satisfactory jobs for university graduates in the autonomous region. 

Canada’s diplomatic footprint

“Our priority is to expand our commercial partnership, academic cooperation, and cultural exchanges, and our diplomatic footprint will reflect the nature and level of our engagement,” he said. 

Canada’s diplomatic representation in the Kurdistan Region is an embassy office rather than a consulate in Erbil.

The Canadian mission in Iraq doesn’t provide consular services. Instead, “visa applications for Iraqi tourists, students, or business people are processed at the Canadian Embassy in Amman, Jordan,” Duval said. 

“Applications can be submitted directly online, and there is a designated Visa Application Centre in Erbil for biometrics.” 

Kurdish hospitality, culture, and food

“Erbil city offers a wonderful blend of modernity and historical sites,” the Canadian diplomat said. “I am also impressed with the Kurdish hospitality and the interest towards Canada.” 

“I love Kurdish food, particularly those delicious kebabs and the fresh bread,” he added. “I go to the gym regularly because I enjoy Kurdish food too much, and I don’t want to put on weight.”

Duval is a big fan of Kurdish music and dancing. “I like Kurdish music, particularly live performances with Daf,” he said. “I also really enjoy Kurdish dances, even though I am not very good at it.”

Duval also spoke about the similarities between Canadian and Kurdish people.

“Canadians are known to be friendly people, and this also applies to Kurds,” he said. “We both share the experience of a diverse population with the understanding of the importance of living in peace and harmony.”

Hobbies and professional background

Duval holds a Master’s degree in International Relations. He joined Canada’s Department of Foreign Affairs in 1998, spending most of his career away from Canada, with postings in Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, Iraq, and Afghanistan.

He came to the Kurdistan Region as Head of the Office of the Canadian Embassy in Erbil in September 2021. 

“My first impression was that Erbil had expanded considerably since my last visit in March 2012,” he said.

Duval enjoys cooking, and he even worked as a chef for some time. 

“I have no talent for playing music, but I love listening to music or, even better, attending a live performance,” he said. 

“When I go back home, I enjoy playing badminton and riding my motorcycle.”

After work hours in Erbil, Duval spends his free time reading books, following hockey, and Formula 1 racing.