University of Toronto

Innis Alumni & Friends

Jonathan Fried

Class of 1974 – Innis

Innis Alumnus, Jonathan Fried, has held numerous positions representing Canada on the international stage. A graduate of Innis College, Fried also studied law at UofT prior to earning a Masters of Law at Columbia University. He is currently serving as the Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Canada to the WTO. 

Innis College, and its active encouragement of exploration, discovery, of drawing connections between diverse disciplines, and of connecting students and faculty, provided me with the foundation for a career devoted to contributing in some small way to making the world a better place.  Prof. Peter Russell’s leadership as Principal and the conviviality and warmth of Macdonald-Mowatt house on St. George St., Innis’ original home, added more inspiration and are favourite memories.  Building on studies in political science and philosophy, staying in the neighbourhood for law school, and after short stints in private practice, academia and a Masters of Law at Columbia University, I ultimately joined the Foreign Service in the Government of Canada, and have been proud to represent our country since.

Indeed, I have been privileged to serve in various positions in what is now the Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development, the Department of Finance and the Privy Council Office in Ottawa.  I have served abroad in Brazil and the USA, and have represented Canada at the International Monetary Fund, as Ambassador of Canada to Japan and now as Ambassador and Permanent Representative to the World Trade Organization. In all these roles, I’ve come to appreciate that, although we live in a world still beset by tension and conflict, by poverty and inequality, ultimately what we seek in Canada – tolerance, equality, a better standard of living and more opportunity for our citizens — are goals common to most all governments in the world, and is what unites virtually all the post-WW II international organizations created to foster cooperation.  As we have learned in Canada, democracy, good governance, human rights and the rule of law go hand-in-glove with building an enabling environment to “make the pie bigger”, to foster innovation and entrepreneurship, so there is more to share, and more resources to pay for such public goods as education and health.  To make this happen, the skills of lawyers, economists, sociologists and social workers, and many other disciplines are needed.  Many in the world want to learn from Canada’s experience.  Our cosmopolitan society is itself a constant work in progress, and we readily share the lessons we continue to learn as well.

Looking back at my time at Innis, it was a good thing that I did not know what I wanted to do or what I wanted to be; it was probably best that Innis allowed the freedom (at least then) to study without a single “major” —  a powerful inducement to build a stronger sense of the range of human knowledge that can be brought to bear on understanding problems and finding solutions; and it was certainly best that I avoided being driven to choose any career path too early on – Innis is about taking the time to resolve what really matters.

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