Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Leaving home, and going home

After nine years in Winnipeg, ('the best time of my working life') Iceland's consul general and his wife are getting ready to retire ...and talk about Manitoba

  • Print

Atli Ásmundsson, the good-natured consul general for Iceland in Winnipeg, likes to say that only the superpowers have diplomatic representation in Winnipeg -- the U.S. and Iceland.

Ásmundsson has endeared himself to the Winnipeg community so excellently in his nine-year tenure here that most of us do not give it a second thought that Iceland is the only other country besides the U.S. to have a professional diplomatic presence in Winnipeg.

Considering there are much greater trade volumes between Manitoba and places such as China, Japan, Mexico and South Korea, and likely more immigration connections to the Philippines or Ukraine, it underlines the special relationship that exists between the north Atlantic island nation and this lake-dominated central province in Canada.

Ásmundsson has become a fixture in Winnipeg and is held in high regard not just by those of Icelandic heritage in Manitoba, but by the broader community. He has reached the mandatory Icelandic foreign service retirement age of 70 and will officially leave his post next June.

Lgberg-Heimskringla, Winnipeg's long-standing Icelandic newspaper, will honour Ásmundsson and his wife Thrúdur Helgadóttir at its annual gala dinner in January.

The ever-charming former political party operative and his wife will relocate to Iceland, where they plan to spend their early retirement years doing public speaking in towns and villages throughout Iceland about a subject he said Icelanders cannot get enough of: Manitoba.

"For me, it (his time in Winnipeg) has been the best time of my working life," Ásmundsson said.

"I have been offered many times to go elsewhere to different postings. I have always said that if the minister thought I am doing a good job here I would like to stay."

Officially, the consulate's most important function is to help the tens of thousands of people of Icelandic descent who live in Manitoba and Western Canada stay in touch with their history and heritage by offering information and facilitating cultural events.

Iceland established an honorary Consul in Winnipeg in 1942 even before the country was officially independent. In 1999, a diplomat was sent to head the new consulate general that opened that year.

Ásmundsson has been an excellent promoter of the vigorous cultural output from Iceland (as well as from North Americans of Icelandic descent.) Among other things, he was a great supporter of núna (now), the Icelandic Festival.

He has championed Icelandic writers and proudly boasts that Iceland has close to 100 per cent literacy and that Icelanders publish more books per capita than any other nation in the world.

But he is also a responsible advocate for economic interests between Iceland and Manitoba. Five years ago, when Iceland was full-steam ahead in its aggressive, if ill-advised, quest to establish a presence in the international banking industry, Ásmundsson helped Landsbanki, the former National Bank of Iceland, set up an office in Winnipeg.

It is fitting that on the eve of his retirement and departure from Winnipeg, Ásmundsson has seen a special committee of trade officials from Iceland and Manitoba formed to look into potential economic development opportunities between the two regions that have so many friendly connections but little to no business dealings.

"The fact is, there is very little trade between Manitoba and Iceland," Ásmundsson said. "The committee will look at what the obstacles are. We assume distance and the cost of transportation hinders it. Now with Churchill and Centreport, we are going to have a serious look. I am hoping there will be meaningful results before the middle of next year."

The Manitoba lead will be fittingly taken by Peter Bjornson, Manitoba's minister of Entrepreneurship, Training and Trade and a Gimli resident of Icelandic heritage.

martin.cash@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition November 24, 2012 J5

History

Updated on Saturday, November 24, 2012 at 7:58 AM CST: adds photo

Fact Check

Fact Check

Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories?
Please use the form below and let us know.

* Required
  • Please post the headline of the story or the title of the video with the error.

  • Please post exactly what was wrong with the story.

  • Please indicate your source for the correct information.

  • Yes

    No

  • This will only be used to contact you if we have a question about your submission, it will not be used to identify you or be published.

  • Cancel

Having problems with the form?

Contact Us Directly
  • Print

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective April 16, 2010.

letters

Make text: Larger | Smaller

LATEST VIDEO

Peguis Chief Hudson comments on toddler's death upgrade to homicide investigation

View more like this

Photo Store Gallery

  • Geese take cover in long grass in the Tuxedo Business Park near Route 90 Wednesday- Day 28– June 27, 2012   (JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)
  • A young gosling flaps his wings after taking a bath in the duck pond at St Vital Park Tuesday morning- - Day 21– June 12, 2012   (JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)

View More Gallery Photos

  • Africa edition

    Africa is one complex and gloriously unmanageable 'theme' to choose to kick off our 2012 series, Our City Our World, which is why it took up the whole newspaper on Jan. 18.

  • China edition

    Hard-working Chinese immigrants, once banned, have risen to the highest echelons of Manitoba.

  • Germany edition

    German immigrants have played a surprisingly large role in the development of the province.

  • Iceland edition

    Arriving in Manitoba in the 1870s unprepared for a brutal winter, Icelandic settlers and their descendants have left their mark on our province.

  • Italy edition

    Industrious Italians rose from peasant roots and adapted to Canadian society by mastering L’art d’arrangiarsi (the art of getting by).

  • Latin America edition

    It used to be the only time Prairie folks met Spanish-speaking people was when they vacationed down south. More often now, they're the people next door.

  • Middle East edition

    When the first Middle East families immigrated to Manitoba, mosques were unheard of and even yogurt was exotic. But now all that has changed.

  • Philippines edition

    A booming Filipino community nearly 60,000 strong has transformed Manitoba.

  • South Asian edition

    As the city's Indo-Canadian population experiences dramatic growth, its pioneers recall their warm Winnipeg welcome.

  • Ukraine edition

    Scarred by Holodomor, the Ukrainian community helped shape Winnipeg's cultural mosaic.

  • United Kingdom edition

    Manitoba's history is built on a foundation provided by settlers from the U.K., who came here seeking better lives.

Related Items

Poll

Should political leaders be highly visible on the frontlines of flood fights and other natural disasters?

View Results

View Related Story

Ads by Google