Transcript – Miniseries on Locally engaged staff, episode 2: Maddie Morris

Welcome to the GAC Files, a podcast about the people, issues and ideas driving Global Affairs Canada.

Maddie Morris: One of the best pieces of advice I got within my first week of transitioning was to just remember that trade commissioner is the job and outside of that, just because my gender changes, that shouldn’t impact anything else about what I do as a trade commissioner.

Welcome to the GAC Files, a podcast about the people, issues and ideas driving Global Affairs Canada.

Emmanuelle Tremblay: You may already have heard about our next guest—she announced her new gender identity on LinkedIn a few months ago. Her post went viral: it was viewed more than 400,000 times and generated about 300 comments.    

This is the story of Maddie Morris, a locally engaged staff member at Global Affairs Canada who is 1 of the first trade commissioners to publicly announce her gender transition. 

Growing up in a rural community in Anderson, South Carolina, Maddie studied and worked abroad. Now she works at the consulate general of Canada in Los Angeles. She promotes economic ties between Canada and the U.S. Southwest in the innovation and venture capital spaces. 

I have the pleasure of speaking with her to learn about her unique and courageous journey. Hi, I’m Emmanuelle Tremblay. Thank you, dear listeners, for tuning in to another podcast about our locally engaged staff here at Global Affairs Canada. 

Welcome, Maddie.

Maddie Morris: Thank you for the introduction. I’m delighted to speak to you today. Let’s get started. 

Emmanuelle Tremblay: Let’s go, then. 

So, before we continue, I’d like to note, dear listeners, that this episode is part of our very first miniseries of GAC Files podcasts, which is made up of 3 episodes. As you might expect, the miniseries focuses on locally engaged staff (sometimes we’ll also say LES), a group of employees that, I will remind you, accounts for nearly half of Global Affairs Canada’s workforce and three quarters of the staff at our missions abroad. Finally, to respect Canada’s Official Languages Act, I invite each guest to speak in the language of their choice.

I’d like to know, Maddie, how you became a locally engaged staff member? How did you become an LES [locally engaged staff] for a Canadian mission? 

Maddie Morris: Absolutely. During undergraduate, I had the fortune to be 1 of the first people in my family to ever leave the country and from that moment on, I really wanted to learn about other cultures. I became really interested in visiting other places, travelling, meeting new people. To be honest, there’s something about diplomacy, in general, that I just found to be very romantic—this idea that you’re leaving your home to represent your home somewhere else.

When I was younger, I was really interested in working for the U.S. State Department, but my career kind of took other paths. I ended up—when I studied at the University of Edinburgh for my master’s, I worked in the Scottish Parliament during their referendum for independence. Then after that, I worked for the United Kingdom’s Department [for] International Trade out of their consulate in Atlanta as a locally engaged staff member.

I enjoyed working as an LES, a locally engaged staff member, for the Brits so much that I decided to, I guess, move to the Commonwealth and represent Canada out of their consulate in Seattle, Washington, where I managed the advanced engineering and aerospace portfolios.

And just recently, I decided to stick with Canada and I transferred down to the consulate here in Los Angeles, where I’m managing the innovation and venture capital portfolio, like you mentioned.

Emmanuelle Tremblay: Hmmm, wow, what a path. That’s fascinating. So, I see that you went away from your home to the United Kingdom—in Scotland—and then came back to Atlanta, which was probably not the most conducive and open kind of society. Is that why you chose to move out to the West Coast? 

Maddie Morris: Atlanta is an international, multicultural city. It’s a good place to be. Generally, I felt like I needed to get away from, I guess, the part of the country that I had grown up in, create a little distance to be able to really be focused on myself. And choosing to move out to Seattle—Seattle, and the U.S. Pacific Northwest in general, is one of the most open-minded, progressive and accepting places in, really, the world and it was a perfect place for me to undertake the transition, to really to be able to focus on taking care of myself and then kind of move on from there.

Emmanuelle Tremblay: Yeah. Did choosing to work for a Canadian mission have anything to do—did that influence your choice? 

Maddie Morris: Absolutely, 100%. And I think folks that are members of the LGBTQ2 community—I think at a very young age, they learn home isn’t necessarily where you were born. Home isn’t necessarily the place you were raised in. Home is the place that loves you and accepts you just for who you are, no changes necessary.  

I think I found my home in the middle of a global pandemic, in the middle of the pouring rain, in Seattle, Washington, U.S.A., logging into my Government of Canada laptop. 

I found my home there, in the place, because the government of Canada had room under their roof for a transgender woman from South Carolina to represent them abroad.

Emmanuelle Tremblay: What has been your most memorable professional moment working for one or the other Canadian consulates that you’ve worked in, in the last few years?

Maddie Morris: My favourite memorable moment I’ve had is getting the chance to envision and work with our colleagues over at Boeing when I was up in Seattle on the Boeing Launchpad Canada initiative. It was a start-up accelerator for 10 Canadian start-ups that oftentimes wouldn’t have the inroads, the connections, the exposure in a large Fortune 500 company like Boeing. But Boeing dedicated 2 months.

I think the reason why that was my most memorable moment was because in the aerospace sector, one that is, you know, traditionally represented by kind of older cis straight white men, 8 of the 10 start-ups were founded by underrepresented groups in Canada. And certainly—in my experience as a queer trade commissioner—you know, always look to support underrepresented groups, not even just in areas when we have LGBTQ2 missions here [in] Los Angeles or elsewhere, but in every aspect of what we do; it’s about promoting those Canadian values of diversity, of equity and inclusivity.

Emmanuelle Tremblay: Wow, that’s really interesting. 

So, I really appreciated hearing Maddie tell us about her experience with being the driving force behind a very promising initiative with Boeing, which allowed 10 small start-up companies to access Boeing, some mentoring and some investment opportunities, too.  

So, it’s really interesting to see this interplay between the interests of integration, inclusivity, economic development and business opportunities for Canadian start-ups. 

What do you like more generally about your job as a trade commissioner? What do you see [as] your value added?

Maddie Morris: Oh my goodness, Emmanuelle! So, so many different things. I love the fact that every day, I am learning something new. You never know, when you walk in the door—regardless of whether I’m currently focusing on the innovation sector [unintelligible] advanced engineering, you never know. Maybe one day you’ll be working with a Formula One car. The next day, it will be an autonomous car solution provider. The day after that, it’s composites and drones. The day after that, it could be anything.

It just brings a real joy to walk into the office, to open your email and never know: what cool thing am I going to learn about today that I had no clue about yesterday? It’s a role that—it keeps you on your toes, but it’s one that I feel like I’m always growing and just proud to hold.

Emmanuelle Tremblay: This diversity is quite stunning. You must be quite adaptable to be able to adjust to all these new things coming your way.

Maddie Morris: Thank you.

Emmanuelle Tremblay: How do you manage all that? It’s really complex.

Maddie Morris: I think adaptability is, I guess, what it means to be a locally engaged staff member, maybe to be a rotational diplomat as well. If you’re someone that’s great about just being able to walk into a room and figure it out on the fly, then this is the job for you for sure.

Emmanuelle Tremblay: Well, Maddie, that adaptability is really impressive. So, we talked about. 

Every day is a bit of a surprise, the opportunities to interact with different types of companies in different sectors. So, it’s constant learning, but also a sort of perpetual adaptation.   

One last question for you, Maddie. What would be your message to people who would like to work as locally engaged staff from the street? What would be your most convincing sales pitch to them?

Maddie Morris: That’s a great question. I definitely think—in line with what we were just chatting about—perfect segue—just being able to learn, being able to go places that normal folks maybe walking on the streets don’t even envision as being a possibility, getting to walk through Boeing’s manufacturing facilities, getting to meet with congressmen, with senators, getting to just walk in and chat with the smartest professors in their field about nuclear physics.

You’re always learning and getting that exposure and that accessibility to so many cool people, ideas. It just makes for a really fun, interesting life. The government of Canada is an inclusive, diverse, wonderful employer to work for that has accepted me as a trade commissioner and given me the chance to represent Canadian values abroad.

Emmanuelle Tremblay: It’s been a real pleasure having you today to share this incredible story. For our listeners, thank you for tuning in to the GAC Files.

In the next episode, I’ll be talking to Maxim Cambor, Common Services Officer, Embassy of Canada to the Czech Republic, in Prague. Stay tuned!    

GAC Files is a production of Global Affairs Canada. All of the opinions expressed in this podcast are those of the individuals and not necessarily that of their employer or Global Affairs Canada. For more information on Global Affairs Canada podcasts, visit  Be sure to subscribe to our podcast. Thank you for listening to the GAC Files. 

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