Canada has appointed a veteran diplomat with extensive experience in the Americas and around the world to serve as interim consul general in Atlanta for an undetermined period of time.
James Hill takes up the post vacated by Louise Blais, who was also here in a temporary capacity for about six months between her stint as ambassador to the United Nations and later retirement from the foreign service. (For a period of months in between, current Deputy Consul General Kirk Duguid served as acting consul general.)
Mr. Hill most recently served as Canada’s ambassador to Costa Rica; he enjoyed serving as the envoy to that Central American country as well as Honduras and Nicaragua, but admits that that it was much quieter on the economic front: Costa Rica as a nation traded about $100 million with Canada, while the state of Georgia alone had two-way trade of $11 billion with the country in 2021.
Earlier in his career, Mr. Hill was posted in Seattle as consul general. This time, he jumped a the chance to serve in a region where the standard maintenance of the U.S.-Canada relationship — promoting shared history and values and fostering economic — would take on a new flavor.
“Having gotten a dividend from (serving as consul general) in my Seattle experience, I was very interested in taking up this assignment in a different part of the U.S.,” he told Global Atlanta. “It was a part of America I was unfamiliar with.”
Mr. Hill has gotten to work familiarizing himself with the Southeast, hosting lunches at the consulate and learning a portfolio that includes trade advocacy, political engagement, economic diplomacy, culture and much more.
He comes at a time of renewed optimism in the economic relationship, as trade irritants start to simmer down and as the Southeast prepares to once again welcome Canadian companies and government officials for the SEUS/CP Alliance conference in Savannah, an annual celebration of trade and investment ties.
“I think this year it carries a little more special significance,” he said, noting that a “reset” is set to take place after two years of engagemenT via videoconference.
The same is true for the U.S.-Canada relationship, battered over the last five years by the winds of a renegotiation of NAFTA , the imposition of U.S. tariffs on Canadian steel and aluminum and a pandemic that closed off personal travel even while goods kept flowing.
While standard neighborly disputes persist, Mr. Hill said recent events, including the war in Ukraine, have underscored the need to cultivate healthy international friendships. And while bilateral tides ebb and flow, the “bedrock” of U.S.-Canada relationship is immovable, he said.
“The basic center of the relationship, even factoring in challenges to that, remains extremely strong and if anything I would say especially in the last months with challenges to the global geopolitical system, it has shown the importance and the necessity to foster those alliances to strengthen those partnerships, be it bilaterally or multilaterally through institutions like NATO.”
That’s the raison d’être of Canada’s network of missions around the world, of which the Atlanta consulate has been a node for decades.
“We’re not the new kids on the block,” Mr. Hill said.
The new consul general himself has been around the block globally as well. Mr. Hill grew up in small town in the province of Saskatchewan with a thirst for cross-cultural experiences, perhaps thanks to a grandmother who traveled extensively and an uncle who served overseas in the military.
“Anything, from books to stamps to movies, was like catnip to me,”he said
A young Mr. Hill studied history at the University of Saskatchewan and taught English in Japan, where the feeling of immersion was exhilarating; he joined the foreign service in 1989.
He realized quickly he experienced this differently from some of his compatriots: “I realized a lot of people were attracted by the idea of being aboard but not the reality of being abroad,” he said.
After a first assignment in Tehran,  Mr. Hill was sent to Rio de Janeiro, where he served as consul and trade commissioner for Canada in that part of Brazil.
As he moved up the chain — aided by his Portuguese proficiency — Mr. Hill never shied away from a challenge, serving as high commissioner (equivalent to ambassador) in Mozambique, chargé d’Affaires in Kuwait and in Libya; deputy head of mission in Afghanistan, head of the Kosovo diplomatic observer mission, among other posts back at headquarters in Ottawa.
Now, he brings that résumé to bear for Canada in Atlanta.
Editor’s note: Global Atlanta is currently traveling in Canada on a reporting trip sponsored by the Consulate General of Canada in Atlanta. Learn more here

As managing editor of Global Atlanta, Trevor has spent 15+ years reporting on Atlanta’s ties with the world. An avid traveler, he has undertaken trips to 30+ countries to uncover stories on the perils...