Robert Fowler

Robert Fowler


Robert Fowler... Sleeping with al-Qaeda

May 10th, 1:00-3:00 pm


Robert Fowler was a dominant force in Canadian Foreign Affairs, as policy advisor to three Prime Ministers, as a Deputy Minister of National Defence, and as Canada’s longest-serving ambassador to the United Nations.

On December 14, 2008, Fowler acting as the UN secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Niger, was kidnapped by al-Qaeda. Along with his colleague Louis Guay, Fowler lived, slept and ate with his captors for over four months gaining first hand insight into the world’s most feared terrorist group. For 130 days, he survived in severe desert conditions fearing every moment could be his last.

“A Season in Hell” is Fowler’s riveting story of his captivity. Fowlers capture, release and media appearances have shed new light on the confrontation between Western values and violent Islamic fundamentalism.

Please join us in what we know will be a fascination discussion!


In the course of more than 38 years of public service, Bob Fowler spent a dozen years in the Department of External Affairs, serving in Paris, at the UN and at Headquarters in Ottawa, before being transferred to the Privy Council Office where he was the Foreign Policy Advisor to Prime Ministers Trudeau, Turner and Mulroney (1980 - 86).

He was Assistant Deputy Minister (Policy) at the Department of National Defence from 1986 to 1989, during which time he produced three White Papers on Canadian Defence Policy. He served as Deputy Minister of National Defence from 1989 to 1995. In this capacity he was responsible for 35,000 civilian employees, the administrative, materiel and support needs of 90,000 members of the Canadian Forces, a budget of $13 billion (CDN), and for the elaboration of defence policy.

In January of 1995 he was named Ambassador to the United Nations (1995 - 2000), where he represented Canada on the Security Council in 1999 and 2000, and was Canada’s longest serving UN Ambassador. As Chair of the Angolan Sanctions Committee, he issued two ground-breaking reports which, by putting an end to the impunity of sanctions busters and severely limiting the rebels' access to diamond markets and the arms bazaar, led to the end of the civil war that had ravaged Angola for 25 years.

From 2000 to 2006, Mr. Fowler was Canadian Ambassador to Italy, Albania, San Marino, the three Rome-based UN Food Agencies, and High Commissioner to Malta. Concurrently, he was appointed Sherpa for the Kananaskis G8 Summit in 2002 (chairing the creation of the Africa Action Plan, which laid a new foundation for the G8's relationship with Africa), and in 2005 he chaired Prime Minister Martin’s Special Advisory Team on Sudan.

From 2001 to 2006, he was the Personal Representative for Africa of Prime Ministers Chrétien, Martin and, briefly, Harper.