James George, 1918-2020
Bhutan lost one of its greatest friends, and Canada one of its most eminent diplomats, with the death this month of Ambassador Jim George at the age of 101.
Jim George was a legendary figure in the Canadian Foreign Service: Rhodes Scholar, and World War II veteran, he joined External Affairs in 1955 and soon made a name for Canada in the most challenging and adventurous postings, including Sri Lanka and Iran. He was known for epic safaris, packing wife, children, and various junior staff into a jeep and heading off for territories where no Canadian had gone before.
One of these journeys took him, in the mid-sixties, to Bhutan – the first Canadian known to have visited the Kingdom, which at that time was still closed to most visitors. It was a more leisurely time: as Canada’s High Commissioner, (1967-72) he walked for several weeks into Bhutan from Darjeeling.
He was fortunate enough on that trip to meet the King, grandfather to the present King, who sought his advice about introducing some elements of Western education to the Buddhist culture. Ambassador George. Ambassador George also met Father Mackey, who had just established the first rudimentary school in a cowshed in Tashigang. Ambassador George became a firm supporter of Father Mackey’s initiative, and encouraged the Canadian government to support the initiative. And the rest is history.
Ambassador George retained his ties to Bhutan. He served on the advisory council of the Bhutan Canada Foundation and was a generous donor to the cause of education in the Kingdom. He described himself as “first and foremost, a spiritual seeker”, a description which resonated with his love of Bhutan and South Asia.
After he left the foreign service in 1977, he devoted his energy to the linked causes of conservation, ecumenism and peace.
Ambassador George leaves his second wife, Barbara, his children, Dan and Dolphi, and numerous grand and great grand children. The Bhutan Canada Foundation extends our sympathy to them, and our thanks for sharing him with Bhutan and the Foundation.