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Israeli envoys plug trade on visit to snowy Fredericton

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An Israeli flag flies in front of the New Brunswick provincial legislature ISRAELI EMBASSY PHOTO
An Israeli flag flies in front of the New Brunswick provincial legislature ISRAELI EMBASSY PHOTO

Despite a day that started at 8:30 a.m. in the midst of a snowstorm and didn’t end until 9 p.m., after the storm passed, Israel’s ambassador to Canada, Rafael Barak, termed his visit to Fredericton, N.B., “tiring, but successful.”

Accompanied by Ziv Nevo Kulman, Israel’s consul general to Quebec and Atlantic Canada, Barak said the one-day whirlwind trip to the provincial capital Jan. 13 aimed to “discover trade opportunities between New Brunswick and Israel in technology and science.

“Cyber security was a major focus of our talks with people at University of New Brunswick and provincial government officials,” Barak said after his return to Ottawa Jan. 14. It was the first visit to Fredericton for both men.

“Deputy Premier Stephen Horsman and David Burns [UNB’s vice-president of research] both stressed that the university is working hard in the cyber security field along with IBM, which has a Canadian centre for cyber security established in Fredericton. IBM is a major player in the field at Ben-Gurion University in Be’er Sheva, Israel’s centre for cyber security.”

Barak and Nevo Kulman paid a protocol visit to N.B. Lieut.-Gov. Jocelyne Roy Veinneau, and they also visited with the director and associate director of UNB’s Security Centre of Excellence as well as the university’s chief information officer; IBM representatives; Stephen Lund, CEO of Opportunities New Brunswick; and Matt Decourcey, Liberal MP for Fredericton, who “expressed his eagerness to co-operate with Israel,” Barak said.

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“Except for Stephen Lund [who visited Israel as part of a Nova Scotia delegation a few years ago], the majority of those we met have never been to Israel, so it gave us a chance to introduce what is happening in the business and development  side of our country,” added Barak, Israel’s ambassador to Canada since January 2014.

“We even had the Israeli flag raised in front of Province House, which was closed at the time because of the snowstorm.”

The storm prevented Premier Brian Gallant from returning to Fredericton from a business trip to Moncton to meet with the Israeli delegation.

“I found affinities between Israel and New Brunswick,” said Barak, “particularly between Fredericton and Be’er Sheva. We invited UNB officials to a cyber conference in Israel later this year and will suggest the director of the Cyber Park in Israel come to Fredericton to meet with local officials.”

The envoys concluded their day with a two-hour session at Sgoolai Israel Synagogue, where they met close to 30 members of the Fredericton Jewish community.

Synagogue president and Atlantic Jewish Council management committee member Marilyn Kaufman welcomed the visitors, who spoke about the purpose of their trip and reflected on its benefits. They also talked about Israel’s current situation with its Middle East neighbours and spoke about many aspects of economic connection with Canada.

“Mr. Barak told how the Canadian Space Agency is sharing with Israel the launch of the Amos 6 satellite in 2017 and stressed how 25 multinational companies are taking part in cyber security development in Israel. He said Israel was the fourth country to have a free trade agreement with Canada while stressing Israel doesn’t ‘take the relationship of Canada’s Jewish communities with Israel for granted.’”

Answering an audience question about Canada’s support for Israel under Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Barak said Trudeau met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu a few weeks ago and will meet with him again soon. He said Trudeau assured him good relations with Israel will continue and Canada will support Israel at the United Nations.