University of Toronto Department of Political Science
Within ten years of completing his B.A., Rambod Behboodi was legal counsel to the Canadian delegation in negotiations on a path-breaking international treaty on the humane treatment of animals. This was an agreement to head off a complete European Union ban on Canadian fur – one that would have represented a huge cost to tens of thousands of Native Canadians. More than that, it would have put a whole way of life in jeopardy.
“They were tough negotiations, but we managed to get an agreement with Russia and the EU – the first ever treaty on humane treatment of animals. That achievement, in itself, was remarkable (we had a great team). But, when we were done, hearing from Native Canadians and other trappers as to how we had helped protect their way of life – that remains one of the warmest moments of my career.”
After completing his B.A. in political science in 1988 (concentrating on the comparative politics of industrial countries), Rambod disappointed his parents by failing to go into one of the “respectable” professions, and instead enrolled at U of T law school. After a stint with a large Toronto firm and a year abroad teaching law and learning to love true Danish pastries, he joined the trade law division at the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade in Ottawa.
Within a few years he was legal advisor to the Canadian mission to the European Union in Brussels, and a few years after that he was in a similar position at the Canadian delegation to the World Trade Organization in Geneva – acting as chief representative to the highest legal organ at the WTO.
Along the way, he argued a number of high profile cases in the WTO (losing several, winning a couple), and acted as legal counsel to Canadian delegations in a number of multilateral environmental negotiations – mostly dealing with hazardous wastes, dangerous chemicals and genetically modified organisms.
Since returning to Canada from his last posting abroad, Rambod worked as counsel at the the Privy Council Office and from there moved to General Legal Services at the Department of Finance Canada.
Working in government for the past sixteen years, twelve of which were spent in the diplomatic service, Rambod continues to be influenced by his educational experience as an undergraduate in political science. “I have been working for the past two years on a number of constitutional issues, and I can say without hesitation that the fundamentals of my constitutional thinking were laid by Professor Ron Blair.” He also recalls fondly the courses in comparative and Canadian politics taught by Larry Johnston, Joy Esberey, and Robert Vipond.
Rambod was active outside the classroom. In Hart House he found a second home, spending time with the Debates, Farm, and House committees, and attending readings, concerts and weekly volleyball games. He was twice elected to the U of T’s Governing Council. Looking back, “in and outside the classroom, I got a complete education: how to research, how to think, how to organize, how to get along, how to campaign, how to socialize, how to win, how to lose – oh yeah, and how to party.”