James Bartleman

There aren’t many men who can claim they met their wife while shuttling between Brussels and Vienna after preparing Canada’s positions for a Cold War arms control summit. James Bartleman can. In fact, Prime Ministers of Canada, dating all the way back to Lester B. Pearson, have learned to rely on the advice of this member of the Chippewas of Rama First Nation. Currently, Canada’s High Commissioner to Nelson Mandela’s South Africa, High Commissioner Bartleman spent the past four-and-a-half years at the elbow of Prime Minister Jean Chrétien while serving as the PM’s handpicked foreign and defense policy advisor. Before that, he was our Ambassador to Fidel Castro’s Cuba and served in Israel during troubled times. His tough talk in regards to rights for the Palestinians earned him a respectful farewell party from the Israelis – no easy group to impress when it comes to toughness in a cause. High Commissioner Bartleman also saw service as Canada’s Director General of Security and Intelligence while the Cold War still dictated policy for over four decades. High Commissioner Bartleman has achieved the highest rank in the Foreign Service of any Canadian Aboriginal. He has also done this without ever forgetting his First Nation roots back in Port Carling, Ontario. In the 1970s, he designed the first ever action plan to bring First Nations people into the public service. Today, decades later, he’s still working hard at this cause. “I never felt that my Aboriginal background either helped me or hindered me,” he says of his stellar career, “but I thought that it gave me, as an individual, a much richer life, knowing what Aboriginal life was like.” A whole country is in his debt. James Bartleman was a 1999 National Aboriginal Achievement Award recipient in the Public Service category.