This is the third in our occasional “Behind the scenes of …” series that pulls back your gran’s curtains to take a peek behind everything British in Toronto. So far, we’ve gone behind the scenes of a fish and chip shop and a football blog and podcast.
Today we’re upping the game and going behind the scenes of the British-Consulate General in Toronto which represents the UK government in Ontario.
To help us out in that respect, we finally got in touch with Edinburgh native Kevin McGurgan, the British Consul-General in Toronto and Director-General for Department for International Trade Canada.
A very busy man having served duties in Russia, Pakistan, Saudia Arabia, Syria and free gin offerings around the world, it took us a while to get this one set up. But, here we are.
So, time for the British Consul-General to spill the beans. The orange ones you get from British shops, not the dark brown sticky ones that look burnt and taste like molasses.
How long have you been the British Consul-General for and how did you get the job? Did you get a choice of cities and, if so, why Toronto?
I have been the British Consul-General since late 2014. All our jobs are decided by internal interview. There were other cities available but I wanted to come to Toronto for two reasons.
First I have worked with Canadians throughout my career: in London, at the UN and Afghanistan to name a few places. The opportunity to work and experience Canadian life and culture was too good to miss.
Second. The role itself. As well as Consul-General I lead the UK’s Department for International Trade team, responsible for helping UK companies export to Canada and Canadian business invest in the UK. I wanted to help grow the UK’s prosperity and this was the perfect role to do so.
Explain what your role entails and the services that the British Consulate in Toronto provides to Brits.
I have three roles. The first is explaining to Torontonians and Ontarians what is happening in the UK, what the UK is doing globally and why that matters to them. In the other direction I explain to UK colleagues, mainly in Government, what is happening in Ontario and Toronto and why that should matter to them.
The second is my trade and investment role.
The third is the protection of British nationals and providing consular services to UK nationals. Those services range from citizenship ceremonies for new nationals to providing emergency travel documents when passports are lost or stolen (as sometimes happens!).
What’s been the most unusual request for help that you or the British Consulate has provided?
We get many requests from advice on what’s the best British pub to visit — The Queen and Beaver is a good place to start — to can we buy British poppies for Remembrance Day? (Answer: Yes.)
I can’t think of any particularly unusual request here but my colleagues elsewhere have received some. This Independent article gives a good summary about them, from bacon to Spanish nudists. [C’mon, click bait? Really Kev? OK.]
Is Toronto still a good destination for a Brit to consider moving to and why?
Toronto is a great destination for business and living. As the city and its economy continues to grow, there’s increased demands for British goods, services and expertise and I’ve met successful Brits [ahem, *cough cough*] who are seeing their businesses grow, from food and drink to financial services, interior design to recruitment consultancy.
It’s also such a great place to live with fantastic public amenities like the Toronto Public Library to great sports teams such as the Leafs and Toronto FC.
The Toronto Ravines are my favourite place. They are where I go to reconnect and recharge at the end of the week, either for a run or long walk with our dog, Cody.
Feel free to tell us anything about the British Consulate or exciting diplomatic life abroad that Brits in Toronto readers should know.
It’s a great privilege to represent your country overseas and make a difference for British nationals, the economy and global security.
At the Consulate we are always thinking of ways to involve ourselves in city life and for the second time, we climbed the CN Tower to raise funds and awareness for World Wildlife Fund Canada. We’ll be doing the same again next year.
One of the most recent exciting times was the Invictus Games in Toronto. It was inspirational watching all athletes, celebrate their success and see how Torontonians welcomed them to the city, helped along by some fabulous weather.
Sean Connery or Daniel Craig?