President and Founder

John Barrett, Ph.D., ICD.D., Ambassador (ret)

Dr. Barrett’s professional career spans the federal public service, international organizations, policy think-tanks and universities, the nuclear industry – with a focus on international security and the peaceful uses of nuclear technology.

He is President of Portolan Global Inc., an Ottawa-based consulting firm offering navigational advice and expertise in the nuclear and clean energy sector. Portolan Global specializes in government & stakeholder relations; international governance and geopolitical risk; and policy advice that integrates climate change, national security, non-proliferation, and advanced small reactors (SMRs). Among his major clients is Westinghouse Electric Canada.

Between 2013-2019 Dr. Barrett was President & CEO of the Canadian Nuclear Association, where he revitalized Canada’s nuclear industry as “New Nuclear”, a source of clean energy solutions to climate change and energy security. From 2009-2013, he served as Canada's Ambassador to the International Organizations in Vienna (United Nations, International Atomic Energy Agency, Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty Organization). He chaired the IAEA Board of Governors (2012-2013) and the UN Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice (2011) and had the honour of being appointed Canada’s Ambassador to Austria and Slovakia.

Dr. Barrett began his career in academia with a BA and MA from the University of Toronto and a doctorate from the London School of Economics (UK). He was appointed Post-Doctoral Research Fellow at the Institute of International Relations at the University of British Columbia before moving to Ottawa to join the Canadian Centre for Arms Control & Disarmament (CCACD) as Deputy Director.

During the 1990s, Dr. Barrett was a senior official in the NATO International Staff (Brussels), appointed Director of NATO Policy Planning as well as Chief Speechwriter to successive NATO Secretaries-General. Upon return to Canada, he continued high-level speechwriting, policy development and strategic communications for the Minister of National Defence (DND), the Governor General of Canada (Rideau Hall), and two Prime Ministers (Privy Council Office).

In 2005, Dr. Barrett re-joined the Department of Foreign Affairs from PCO as Director, Disarmament & WMD Non-Proliferation, building on the extensive experience he gained at the CCACD and at NATO. In 2006-2007, he chaired the UN Panel of Government Experts on “Verification in all its Aspects”, achieving a consensus report adopted by the UN General Assembly.

In addition to expertise in foreign policy development, diplomatic negotiation and high-level speechwriting, Dr. Barrett added corporate planning and performance management. As Director General of Strategic Planning and Coordination (2007-2009), he created DFAIT’s first Integrated Corporate Business Plan and served as the department’s Chief Risk Officer. In 2009 he was appointed Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary and Permanent Representative to the International Organizations in Vienna, where he served until taking over the Canadian Nuclear Association in 2013.

Dr. Barrett is a Director of the World Institute for Nuclear Security (WINS) in Vienna and a Fellow of the Canadian Global Affairs Institute (Ottawa). He holds the ICD.D certification of the Canada-based Institute of Corporate Directors (Toronto). He was recently elected an “Alumnus of Influence” at his alma mater, University College, University of Toronto. He is a former Editor of Millennium: Journal of International Studies (LSE). He is a founding member of the Brussels International Map Collectors Circle (BIMCC).


Telephone: 613-513-8355

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