Julia Bentley '78, Alumni of Distinction Award Recipient 2019
"What I find most satisfying in my current role is the privilege of representing Canada abroad and being able to connect people in Canada and Malaysia in ways which they find professionally rewarding. "
For Canada’s High Commissioner to Malaysia, TFS is more than a school and more than a memory – it was an anchor, a fixed point for the Bentley family, who lived abroad for a year at a time, in England, Algeria and India, but always returned to Canada and to TFS. One of the Toronto French School’s first families, the Bentleys’ connection to TFS dates back to its founding. Julia’s sister Sarah was in TFS’ second graduating class. Their mother Elizabeth Bentley taught at TFS for over a decade and headed the English department; she would later write a PhD thesis on the history of TFS.
Julia entered TFS in nursery school. “Even at a young age, I was aware that TFS was unique among schools, as it experimented with a bilingual curriculum and also explored other innovations in teaching and learning. Our teachers came from all over the world.” Julia’s curiosity for other cultures was stimulated at TFS and her aptitude for languages flourished. At TFS Julia studied Russian, Latin and Cantonese (as an extracurricular subject) in addition to French. She would later study Hindi, Mandarin, Japanese, Spanish and Bahasa Melayu. Her interest in Asian cultures started when she lived in India when she was 15; that passion led her to pursue an undergraduate degree at Princeton in East Asian Studies. She later moved to China, first to teach and later, to take a postgraduate diploma in modern Chinese history at Nanjing University. She received her MA in East Asian studies from the University of Toronto in 1984.
Julia confesses that a diplomatic career wasn’t immediately on her career radar. Her international expertise drew her to work first as a development consultant on China. She also served as an international policy advisor for the Ontario Ministry of Intergovernmental Affairs and as a program officer at the Canada-ASEAN Centre in Singapore before joining the Canadian foreign service in 1991. Since then, Julia has served at Canadian missions in China, Taiwan and India. She is especially proud and values her involvement in a humanitarian initiative that facilitated the resettlement of a thousand stateless Tibetans to Canada from India’s Arunachal Pradesh between 2011 and 2016.
Julia Bentley was appointed High Commissioner to Malaysia in 2017. “What I find most satisfying in my current role is the privilege of representing Canada abroad and being able to connect people in Canada and Malaysia in ways which they find professionally rewarding,” says Julia. A consummate diplomat who credits TFS for expanding her horizons and stimulating her curiosity about international relations, Julia advises today’s students to dream big, explore far and wide and keep in touch with those who matter in order to sustain friendships across the decades and around the world.”