2015 PAFSO Award Recipients

L. to R.: Allison Saunders, Yasemin Heinbecker, Tyler Arrell, Colin Townson Photo: Gordon King

The Professional Association of Foreign Service Officers (PAFSO) is pleased to announce the recipients of the 2015 PAFSO Canadian Foreign Service Officer Awards presented on June 10 at the Shaw Centre in Ottawa.


With excellent judgement, exceptional talent for innovation and keen awareness of the importance of the Canada-China relationship, Tyler Arrell manages Immigration’s Temporary Resident Unit in Beijing which saw a 40% work increase last year to 400,000 applicants. The monetary value of the student component alone is exceeded only by Canada’s ore exports to China. Tyler understands that excellence in client service is a key to Canada’s competitiveness in attracting tourists, students, business and investment from China. His pioneering, innovative programs streamlining visa issuance for low risk travellers have been adopted by other high volume visa offices. The 2015 PAFSO Award goes to this confident, decisive leader, who mentors, manages and inspires a staff of 35-50 faced with daunting, repetitious workloads to deliver impressive results.


With the first promotions for FS3 and EX1/EX2/EX3 in years looming, Yasemin Heinbecker saw an opportunity to foster collaboration and teamwork across the newly amalgamated department. On her own time, she organized an open and bilingual information sharing network and study group involving over 300 women and some male colleagues. She organized weekly events featuring senior officials as guest speakers to address topics relevant to the promotion exercise. She compiled and shared a recommended reading list and established a support group for unsuccessful candidates. The 2015 PAFSO Award goes to Yasemin, whose voluntary efforts resulted, for the first time, in women being promoted in equal numbers on the EX2/3 lists and women’s representation on the EX1 list breaking the 50% threshold.


For seven years Allison Saunders, Deputy Director of DFATD’s Continental Shelf Division, has been the fulcrum of a close knit team of geologists, hydrographers and lawyers who have prepared a submission to the UN’s Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf. The submission is key to gaining international recognition for Canada’s continental shelf – the final line on the map of Canada. Allison’s leadership rests on superb diplomatic and legal skills supplemented by scientific expertise which enables her to understand the subtleties of the highly technical data underpinning Canada’s submission. Allison Saunders receives the 2015 PAFSO Award for her leadership role in a country shaping project of critical importance to Canada’s maritime security and economic future.


Colin Townson continued to build on his stellar networking and reporting skills in Afghanistan and at NATO, which drew a ministerial commendation, when assigned to the Canadian Embassy in Libya. With its closure Colin was appointed Chargé d’Affaires for Libya at the Canadian Embassy in Tunisia where he has made it the leading source of reliable information and the principal venue for international coordination meetings concerning Libya. His social media presence has significantly amplified Canadian messaging and he used this influence to create a diplomatic niche for Canada promoting human rights in Libya. Known as the ‘go to guy’ for insights about events and personalities in Libya, Colin’s expertise and leadership role has been widely noted in the diplomatic community. Under his leadership Canada established itself as a champion of the human rights agenda – a role that was acknowledged in Foreign Policy magazine. For these accomplishments, Colin is awarded the 2015 PAFSO Award.

The members of the 2015 Panel of Judges were: Ms Maureen O’Neil (Chair), Mr. Serge April, Mr. Andrew Cohen, Mr. Denis Comeau, and Ms Claudette Deschênes.

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