Gregory Galligan, Artsci’02, is a proud Canadian diplomat whose career path has wound through several of the world’s conflict zones and most recently led him to a high-profile position in Iraq.
Mr. Galligan was appointed Canada’s ambassador there at the end of 2021 – an announcement he found both exciting and humbling.
“It’s an honour to get the nod to go,” he says, and the supportive reaction to the news was “incredible. I have friends from Queen’s who reached out to me immediately.”
After high school in Ottawa, Mr. Galligan started his education with Queen’s at the Bader International Study Centre, an experience he treasured. He loved travelling and seeing the places he was learning about in his textbooks. He participated in Queen’s Model United Nations and Model Parliament, activities that prepared him well for his eventual career. After graduating in 2002, Mr. Galligan headed to Brussels for an internship with the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.
“I was witnessing this multilateral institution at a time of real global tension. From that experience, I thought, ‘I really like this, I want to pursue this,’” he says.
He then did a master’s degree in international relations at King’s College in London, followed by an internship with the British Broadcasting Corporation, where he was happily doing research for documentaries “until I got a wonderful call asking if I’d like to join the foreign service.”
Mr. Galligan had been pursuing the foreign service since writing the entrance exams while at Queen’s.
It was 2005 and the time had come to start his career as a diplomat. He worked on the Middle East peace process, then shifted to the nuclear non-proliferation file, specializing in North Korea and Iran.
He was eager to get out from behind a desk and, in 2007, he got his wish. His first foreign posting was to Israel, where he spent three years, followed by a stop in Afghanistan. Mr. Galligan was a deputy director within a provincial reconstruction team. His job involved engaging with political, business, and religious leaders and other local Afghans. It was fascinating, and sometimes risky, work.
“It was a really unique experience. Some days you’d take a Black Hawk [helicopter] to work,” he says.
After an intense year in a war zone, Mr. Galligan packed his bags again and headed to Washington, D.C., for an exchange program with the U.S. State Department. He returned to Ottawa the following year and filled several roles, including working on Iran and Iraq files and running the foreign affairs communications division.
In 2020, he went abroad again, this time to Lebanon, where he was executive co-ordinator for Syria. He was chargé d’affaires at the embassy in Beirut when a massive explosion at the port rocked the city, killing more than 200 people and injuring thousands.
But Mr. Galligan was home in Canada visiting with family for Christmas when he got the news about his next big assignment: ambassador. This time it was for real, after he had prepared for the position once before. He was tapped to become ambassador to Venezuela, but Canada shut down its embassy in 2019 before he arrived.
Now Mr. Galligan’s hopes of becoming an ambassador have been realized and he will be representing Canada in Iraq for the next two years. He says he doesn’t know where his diplomatic passport will take him next.
“It’s an amazing career and I feel very lucky to get the opportunity to serve Canada around the world.”