If you’d asked me back when I first joined the co-op program, I wouldn’t have predicted that I’d be working for Indian and Northern Affairs Canada (INAC) [Now Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada]. I enrolled in the Master of Arts program in the School of International Studies at SFU because I was interested in international development. So when I joined the co-op program, I wanted a workterm with the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA).
It became clear that CIDA postings were all in Ottawa and my circumstances made it too difficult for me to move there. My co-op advisor suggested that if I was interested in the federal service I should look at INAC, since they have an office in Vancouver and often had co-op postings. It didn’t seem to fit with my studies or career path in international development, but I recalled that one of my IS professors had challenged those of us interested in overseas work with the reality of developing world conditions for many Canadian First Nations.
The position I took was in the treaty negotiation office of INAC. One of my colleagues calls treaty negotiations “onshore international relations”, and it’s a good description. Working here has really added depth to my understanding of international relations and development issues. The interaction and struggle for understanding between different cultural, social and political systems takes place between federal and provincial governments and First Nations just as it does between developed and developing countries. Also, as in international development studies, there is a concern with economic development and how it may benefit and impact communities. At INAC, I’m getting a chance to work in a microcosm of international relations, right here in Canada, while contributing to a process that may change history. My co-op experience has opened my mind to new career possibilities, and even if international work is still on my horizon, there is no doubt that this INAC position has helped me shape many of the perspectives and skills I will use in the future.