The 2022 PAFSO Award Recipients

Left to right: Zeynab Aliyeva, Erin Brouse, Marie-Hélène Cormier and Rebecca Van Vlasselaer.

Now in its 32nd year, the PAFSO Awards continues in its mission to recognize, highlight and celebrate the exceptional achievements of members of Canada’s professional Foreign Service.

2022 was yet another banner year for the PAFSO Awards. Once again, we were pleased to receive a large number of outstanding nominations over the winter. And, after careful and difficult deliberation, our distinguished judges’ panel have made their selection.

The recipients of the 2022 PAFSO Awards are:

As a highly sought-after political and security reporting officer, Zeynab Aliyeva has helped to establish greater collaboration and communication across GAC and the Government of Canada as a whole.

As a talented polyglot, she uses her language skills to reach a deeper social and cultural understanding of conflicts and applies her knowledge of linguistic nuances and ability to build trust to gain access to individuals who would not otherwise be available to western diplomats. As a result, Zeynab consistently generates political reporting that fills knowledge gaps in Canadian analysis on complex situations.

In Afghanistan, Zeynab oversaw the Sarpoza prison reconstruction and reported on the conditions of Afghan detainees which was of significant importance due to human rights sensitivities.

During her three years as the Global Security Reporting Program Officer, Zeynab established herself as a Canadian expert on the dynamics on the ground in this country.

Despite being evacuated to Poland following the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Zeynab wrote reports that shaped Canadian positions and policy on important issues.

Her expertise, hard work and dedication to Canada and the Foreign Service are certainly worthy of recognition.

In 2021, the crisis in Afghanistan resulted in Taliban persecution of women leaders, human rights advocates, judges, persecuted religious minorities, members of the LGBTQ community, and journalists.

Erin Brouse felt that Canada had a moral obligation to these vulnerable people, so before even settling into her new posting in Cairo, she volunteered to lead resettlement application processing efforts in Kabul and Tajikistan. She found innovative ways to move forward compelling cases, finding solutions for families in increasing danger.

It is through the determination and passion of people like Erin that Canada meets its international obligations to refugees. The majority of who find themselves homeless, often in desperate situations, for years, decades and even generations. This is the reason for Erin’s tireless work. She applies her experience and the lessons she has learned to help refugees in Afghanistan and all around the world.

Canada should be proud to have such a committed and determined Foreign Service officer.

In the fall of 2021, Marie-Hélène participated in the training of a new cohort of IRCC foreign service officers. She trained them on the principles and application of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, IRPA. A tall order in optimal circumstances, but all the more difficult in the context of COVID-related restrictions.

The virtual training program was creating high levels of anxiety and stress for this brand new group of Foreign Service officers. Marie-Hélène made herself available, even outside of class hours, to answer their questions. She shared her experience, and provided advice and wisdom. During the six weeks of this full-time training, her constant commitment, empathetic style and enthusiasm made this experience a most rewarding one. All members of this cohort successfully passed.

Marie-Hélène provides that kind of incredible support to everyone she trains. At the start of their careers, she gives them the tools they need to be successful officers. Her ability to connect with people and create a training space that fosters the success of all participants is deserving of recognition and a PAFSO award.

During her three-year assignment in Lebanon, Rebecca Van Vlasselaer faced challenges that many would not encounter their entire career: a global pandemic, supply shortages, civil unrest, and, oh yes, the largest non-nuclear blast in history.

After the explosion, Rebecca coordinated all necessary tasks and brought in emergency employees to tackle repairs. She managed this in a high-risk country experiencing economic crisis, at a time when everyone risked exposure to COVID.

In the midst of an unprecedented disaster, she kept her calm and knew how to maintain the morale of her team. She found innovative solutions for staff to quickly regain adequate living conditions, including electricity, internet and basic necessities.

It is thanks to these extraordinary efforts by the emergency response team that the embassy was closed for only one day.

Rebecca’s efforts are the standard of a great leader deserving of a PAFSO award.

The members of the 2022 Panel of Judges were: Mr. Bill Crosbie (Chair), Ms Sharon Chomyn, Ms. Emmanuelle Latraverse, Ms. Meredith Preston McGhie, Professor Teddy Y. Samy, and Ms. Nadia Theodore.

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