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2018 Closing Keynote: To Leave No One Behind

Gender Equality, Inclusive Governance and the Law: Aligned for a Better World

2018 Annual Conference, January 22-23, 2018 

125 Sussex Drive, Ottawa, ON

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Tuesday January 23, 2017 - 4:15pm - Closing Keynote Address


Closing Keynote Address: To Leave No One Behind


Colleen Swords, Former Canadian diplomat and senior legal advisor to Global Affairs Canada


Lawyer, Colleen Swords has a distinguished career in the Canadian Public Service holding senior roles with Indigenous and Northern Affairs, Canadian Heritage, and at Global Affairs in trade, human rights, development assistance and international security.  Drawing on this broad experience and on observations from our discussions, Ms Swords reflects on the imperatives that lie before us at home and globally, in policy and in practice as we make good on our 2030 commitment to “leave no one behind”.


Colleen Swords (retired) was appointed Deputy Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada by the Prime Minister, effective July 21 2014.

Prior to her appointment, she was Deputy Minister at Canadian Heritage, and prior to that was AANDC's Associate Deputy Minister for four years.

Mrs. Swords' career at the then Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada spanned 29 years where she held numerous senior positions including Assistant Deputy Minister, International Security Branch and Political Director from 2006-2009, Ambassador of Canada to The Netherlands and Permanent Representative to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, and Canadian High Commissioner accredited to Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean (1994-1997). She has also been posted to Washington (1997-2000), Thailand (1987-1989) and Tanzania (1981-1983).

In Ottawa, Mrs. Swords was Legal Adviser to the Department of Foreign Affairs from 2002-2005.  In this capacity, she was Agent for Canada before the International Court of Justice in the Case on the Legality of the Use of Force. In other headquarters assignments, she has held various positions in the Legal Bureau including Director of the Economic and Trade Law Division, Deputy Legal Adviser and Legal Officer responsible for human rights, humanitarian law, and peace and security issues. She has represented Canada in various dispute settlement proceedings under the NAFTA, the Canada-US Free Trade Agreement and in the WTO.  Prior to joining the federal government, Mrs. Swords began her career in a legal aid clinic in Toronto, Ontario.

A graduate of Brock University, Osgoode Hall Law School and the Europa Institute of the University of Amsterdam, she is a member of the Law Society of Upper Canada. Mrs. Swords was born in Kamloops, British Columbia and is married to Björn Johansson. They have two children.