Job Title:Deputy Director
Employer:Global Affairs Canada
Grad Year:2004
Degree(s):B.A.
Major(s):History
Expertise:International Affairs
Industry:Public Service

What makes you a good mentor?

My interest in being a mentor is to share my knowledge and experience on one hand, and on the other to rekindle the enthusiasm I have always felt for my career which from time to time does take a hit.

About Vicken Koundakjian

Vicken Koundakjian was born in Beirut, Lebanon. His father, Harry, was an internationally renowned photojournalist based in that city, because the Middle East, already in the 60s and beyond, was a regional hot bed of news activity, with the spate of wars, coups and other disasters, natural or otherwise, that seemed to happen regularly. To watch and cover all that was going on, Beirut was an ideal hub in that region.

Vicken is a career Canadian diplomat with nearly 30 years service to the Crown, with postings to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia (1992 to 1995), Tehran, Iran (1998 to 2000), Caracas, Venezuela (2006 to 2008), and his most recent posting to Abuja, Nigeria (2008 to 2010). These are considered among the toughest missions in the Canadian diplomatic service. During his home assignments, Vicken has been assigned to manage more and more progressively complex files, as a reflection of his skills, ability and diplomatic acumen, covering the spectrum of bilateral, multilateral, commercial, consular and emergency management issues, including kidnap negotiations.

Already at a young age, Vicken was an active volunteer. After a long stint in scouts, where he got his first aid badge, he volunteered for the Lebanese Red Cross, which was the closest thing to St John Ambulance that could be found at that time.  When his classmate and fellow volunteer was shot and killed, Vicken and his parents agreed that it was time to leave Beirut.

At that time, Vicken wanted to be a vet, so went to Belgium to study. However, physics proved to be his undoing, so he switched to languages. He currently has nine, most at high proficiency levels, which has been very helpful for his subsequent career as a diplomat. Vicken speaks Canada’s both official languages, English and French, as well as Armenian, Arabic and Persian, German, Spanish, Dutch (very rusty) and Russian (even more rusty).

His qualifications from l’Institut Supérieur de l’État des Traducteurs et Interprètes (ISTI in short) in Brussels, Belgium, were recognized as equivalent to a BA (Hons) in translation from Queens University, in Kingston, Ontario, one of Canada’s top universities. Queen’s has an equivalent translation program to the one in Belgium. He also has a BA (Hons.) in history, which he started at the University of Toronto, then finished at Carleton University in Ottawa, where he moved in 1990 when he joined the Canadian Foreign Service. Vicken is working on an MA in War Studies at Canada’s Royal Military College, based in Kingston, but that institution has not been offering any distance courses in Ottawa for some time, so that plan will likely change.

Vicken has always been interested in honours and awards, so has pursued that interest quite seriously. He was a prolific author and reviewer. For his contributions to the literature on honours and awards, as well as for establishing local branches, the OMRS awarded him its highest honour, the Gold Merit Award. Vicken is also a long standing member of the US-based Orders and Medals Society of America (OMSA), and while attending the conventions across the US, initiated a series of seminars on international orders and medals (to supplement the seminars on US and Commonwealth awards). Vicken has been recognized by OMSA with the award of a Life membership, a Commendation Medal and several Literary Medals.

Since his initial move to Ottawa, Vicken has been involved more and more in national and local charities. Vicken and his wife recently set up a bursary at Carleton University in Ottawa to support those refugees in their late teens and early twenties, who had to stop their studies when forced to flee their home countries. The “Home at Last: Welcome to Canada” bursary is intended to give student refugees the opportunity to concentrate on their university studies without worrying about financial pressures, and thereby help them contribute to a better Canada.

In December 2016, Vicken was informed that the Court of Common Council of the Corporation of the City of London has granted him the Freedom of the City of London, a high and ancient honour, which he is expecting to receive at some point in 2017.

Vicken is the recipient of the following Canadian and international orders and medals: Serving Brother of the Most Venerable Order of St. John of Jerusalem; Canadian Peacekeeping Service Medal; Queen Elisabeth 2nd Golden Jubilee Medal; Queen Elisabeth 2nd Diamond Jubilee Medal; St. John Service Medal; Sultan of Quai’ti Meritorious Service Medal; Kingdom of Saudi Arabia Medal of Merit.