US Consul General takes advantage of winter sport in Quebec

United States Consul General to Quebec David Fetter has been on the job from his office at 2 Dufferin Terrace since last fall.

Fetter admitted that he was disappointed that he could not find a Nordique’s shirt when he arrived — he learned, to his dismay, that they had become the Avalanche!

An unexpected pleasure, said Fetter, was his warm welcome to Quebec City. “I had the impression that the entire city was going out of its way to make me feel comfortable,” said Fetter. “I am trying to immerse myself in the culture.”

After a yearlong mission with the US military in Afghanistan, he said, “[Quebec City is] still interesting, but the conflicts are different. There are plenty of challenges, but it’s a whole different subset.”

He has made contact with the troops in the region. “We’ve been out to Valcartier; we met with the senior staff. We were invited out for exercises with a battalion about to head out to Afghanistan. I was very impressed with their professionalism and with the individual soldiers. I felt very comfortable surrounded by them after a year with the US military. Even in French, there’s a military culture that crosses linguistic boundaries.”

While watching exercises in the snow was “a little disconcerting [due to the lack of the white stuff overseas],” Fetter said, “I found [the troops] quite well versed in tactics of counter-insurgency. They have done their homework. It’s not an easy mission. They’re ready. Their job is working with the Afghan people and the government on education, development and governing.”

Happy to be in Quebec City, Fetter has a few things on his plate during his mandate. He will have to make a few appearances during this special anniversary year.

In Quebec City, Fetter said, “There’s no excuse to be bored.” Especially not this year: “I lucked out. I get the 400th anniversary!” he said. Unfortunately, he has to do some exploring on his own. “My family happens to be in Ottawa,” said Fetter. “I miss the family. They were here for Christmas and hopefully they’ll be here in the summer for long stretches.”

The US Consulate is planning several events to help mark the city’s 400th anniversary.

They’re bringing in a ship for the Rendez-vous Naval. The 208-metre vessel USS Mesa Verde, the US Navy’s newest amphibious transport dock ship, will anchor at the port of Quebec.

In June, the biannual air show will feature both American air force special flying teams the Blue Angels and the Thunderbirds.

Place USA, in collaboration with Parks Canada, will be pitched near Espace 400e in the old port. New benches for Place Dufferin, just outside the consulate, are being sponsored by former US consuls general.

In addition to the 400th festivities, Fetter does have a couple of big issues to keep tabs on.

“Number one is the border,” he said. “I am an optimist. I think we can and are creating a border that is more secure and more open. It is technologically feasible. There are second and third store benefits,” he added.

“I don’t think that the problems will be major disruptions of the flow of goods or people. There will be isolated cases of miscommunication and inconvenience,” he said. “I am beginning to appreciate just how large the border with Quebec is.”

The way people travel is changing. “Just like we had to remember house keys, driver’s license, we need a passport for crossing the border. The population of Quebec is sensitized to this. In general, they recognize that things are changing. It’s known. People are already responding. ” He added, “We’re in a transition period. The attitude at the border is that there is a very high compliance rate.”

Settling in
“I am a card carrying member of the Lit and His,” he said, “if they had a card. I really enjoy that building. I went when my wife and daughters were visiting. We went square dancing! I love history, architecture and it’s a great combination of the two.”

Fetter has already found the place that represents the true nature of Quebec City: the Hôpital général de Québec and its cemetery. “That to me, as much as anything else, is the 400th. The mélange of British and French; there are even First Nations soldiers buried in the trenches.” Not to mention the fact that General Montcalm is buried there now too.

“As an American, I am also charmed by the fact that the name Benedict Arnold is known.” Arnold, who was wounded in battle in Quebec City, is a part of any tour of the old city.

Outside of work, Fetter is a sports buff – he loves cross-country skiing. He’s been dazzled by the Plains of Abraham, which are practically in his backyard. “I carry my skis and go. I’ve never had the pleasure of skiing on groomed trails before Quebec,” he said, adding that the trails in Duchesnay are also favourites.
He is a fan of rugby and four years in Australia made him a fan of the Brumbies. He is looking for a mature men’s league to hang out with ...

One of his goals is to learn how to skate while in Quebec City. He is making progress.

During his three-year stint, Fetter said he hopes to travel lots. “I am a great believer in going to see as much of Quebec as possible. I like to drive around the province and see the communities. I’d like to see the Saguenay region by boat. I’ve been to Île d’Orléans and up the north coast of Gaspésie.”

When he travels, Fetter said he enjoys talking to people. “I speak to as many students as possible. That’s the best part of my job,” he admitted. “Some of the most interesting conversations I’ve had have been with high school and cegep students. I’ve found around the world that they tend to still be more interested in your answer to a question than in how their question sounds. That’s what makes conversation interesting!”