About International Relations

John brings a multi-dimensional perspective to international issues, founded especially on his broad foreign service experience.

John was Canadian Consul General in Detroit on September 11, 2001, when he acted quickly to address the unprecedented issues that arose on the Canada-US border at its major crossing points. Praise for his actions and service came in a Detroit Free Press editorial at the time of his departure from Detroit a year later.


Detroit Free Press – Wednesday, August 21, 2002



In Our Opinion


Border Diplomat

Give John Tennant much credit for resolving crisis

In the not-too-distance future, John Tennant expects to be crossing a U.S.-Canada border that will be secure, speedy and fully automated for most of the routine traffic that carries $1 billion of commerce a day between the two countries.  And Tennant will be able to take some satisfaction in the role he played to bring it about.

Being a diplomat, Tennant credits many others for their roles in resolving the border crisis that followed the Sept. 11 attacks, and drafting an agreement to modernize U.S.-Canada traffic controls within a few years.  But as Canada’s consul general in Detroit, Tennant was at the table, helping to frame the issues and shape the dialogue.

”The task was to get people talking and information flowing so they could understand the extent of the problems that needed to be addressed,” Tennant said, “and then to get all the elements working together to bring resources to the border, which is an increasingly complex place.”

The work was done under the dual pressures of national security and the global economy, when industrial production was threatened by parts shortages as border traffic stalled after Sept. 11.  Most of the issues were resolved in a 30-point “smart border” plan issued jointly by Canada and the United States.

Tennant, 60, describes that recent period as the most demanding and rewarding of his long career in foreign service for Canada, a career that will end early next month when he takes a job in economic development for the Kitchener-Waterloo-Cambridge area of Ontario.

Tennant said his assignment in Detroit, while hardly the most exotic of his many postings, gave him a great appreciation for the “overwhelming importance of Canada’s relationship with the United States.”

Tennant leaves with that relationship in good shape, and the knowledge that he contributed to keeping it so – diplomatically, of course.

Ten years later in 2011, John shared his personal reflections and hopes in an Op-Ed page article in the Waterloo Region Record.

Environmental issues, especially related to Great Lakes stewardship, were also an important focus of John’s tenure as Consul General in Detroit.  The International Armed Forces Council presented John with its 2002 Achievement Award for outstanding cross-border efforts and his distinguished career in the Canadian Foreign Service.

John served twice in Japan, first heading the Commercial Section and then subsequently in the mid 1990’s as Minister (Economic/Commercial) and deputy chief of mission including an extended interval acting as Ambassador.  John also held two appointments in Ottawa dealing with Asia Pacific and the Pacific Rim, most latterly as Director General for Asia Pacific from 1990 to 1994.  Vis a vis Japan, John led a number of consequential initiatives including a high-level Keidanren Business Mission to Canada; and the establishment of the blue ribbon Canada Japan Forum to consider all dimensions of bilateral relationship, Co-Chaired by the Honorable Peter Lougheed and the then Chairman of Mitsui & Co.

John represented Canada in various meetings and forums, and in bilateral and multilateral negotiations, including the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation Forum.

During 2009 and 2010, John was Special Advisor to the African Initiative, one of the largest research projects at the time at the Centre for International Governance Innovation (CIGI), the independent, non-partisan, Waterloo-based think-tank that addresses international governance challenges.

John is a member of the Canadian International Council (CIC), the Canadian American Business Council, the Japan Society, the C.D. Howe Institute and the Royal Canadian Military Institute.