Department of External Affairs (Canada): Wikis


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Departments of the Government of Canada

Foreign Affairs and International Trade
Affaires étrangères et Commerce international
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Minister Lawrence Cannon
Minister Stockwell Day
Established 1993
Responsibilities Foreign Relations

International Trade

Employees N/A
Department Website
Head office of Foreign Affairs Canada

The Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade (DFAIT), more commonly known as Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada, is a department in the Government of Canada which has responsibility for foreign policy and diplomacy, as well as import/export and international trade policies.

The department was founded as the Department of External Affairs and later became the Department of External Affairs and International Trade, the word "foreign" being deliberately avoided by Commonwealth Dominions such as Canada, since the department was founded while Canada's foreign policy was still controlled by the United Kingdom. The department's name was finally changed to the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade in 1993 some 60 years after Canada had gained control over its foreign policy.

The change in name was formalized by an Act of Parliament in 1995. DFAIT maintained two separate ministers: the Minister of Foreign Affairs with lead responsibility for the portfolio, and the Minister of International Trade. The Minister for International Cooperation, with responsibilities for agencies such as the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA), also fell under DFAIT.

A separate Department named Foreign Affairs Canada (FAC) and another International Trade Canada (ITCan) were created in December 2003 through an administrative separation of the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade.

However, on February 15, 2005 legislation to formally abolish the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade and provide a statutory basis for a separate Department of Foreign Affairs and a Department of International Trade failed to pass a first vote in the Canadian House of Commons. However, the government maintained the administrative separation of the two departments despite neither having been established through an Act of Parliament.

In early 2006, under the new government of Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Foreign Affairs Canada and International Trade Canada were rejoined to again form a single department known as Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada. The acronym DFAIT is still used, however.

Leadership of DFAIT is provided by three ministers. The Minister of Foreign Affairs is responsible for foreign policy matters and, as the senior minister in the department, has overall responsibility for the department. The Minister of International Trade is, as the name suggests, responsible for international trade matters. The Minister of International Cooperation is responsible for certain delegated foreign policy matters. Lawrence Cannon now serves as Minister of Foreign Affairs and Stockwell Day serves as Minister of International Trade. Beverley J. Oda serves as the Minister of International Cooperation.

There are three Crown corporations that fall under the portfolios of the Ministers: the International Development Research Centre is the responsibility of the Minister of Foreign Affairs, while Export Development Canada and the Canadian Commercial Corporation fall to the Minister of International Trade.[1]

DFAIT is headquartered in the Lester B. Pearson Building on the banks of the Rideau River in Ottawa.



The change of terminology from "External Affairs" to "Foreign Affairs" recognized, albeit belatedly, a shift that had occurred many years before. At the time that the External Affairs portfolio was created in 1905, Canada was a self-governing dominion in the British Empire and did not have an independent foreign policy. Most foreign diplomacy was conducted with other parts of the British Empire which were not considered "foreign" lands. The United Kingdom and other colonial powers still routinely divided their conduct of overseas policy into foreign affairs (e.g. the UK's Foreign Office) and domestic or "colonial affairs" (the Colonial Office or Dominion Office, which were later reorganized and combined into one department, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office). Diplomacy outside the Empire (eg. between Canada and its non-Empire neighbours, the United States, Russia, St. Pierre and Miquelon, and Greenland) were conducted by the foreign office of the United Kingdom.

The term "External Affairs" avoided the question of whether a colony or Dominion, self-governing and hence sovereign in some respects but sharing the Head of State with other countries, could by definition have foreign affairs. Implicitly, since the Department was responsible for affairs with both Commonwealth and non-Commonwealth countries, all "external" relations were of a type, even when the Head of State was shared with other nations.

Foreign relations

Canada's management of its own foreign relations evolved over time, with key milestones including World War I (at the conclusion of which Canada was a signatory of the Treaty of Versailles and a member of the League of Nations), the Balfour Declaration, increased direct conduct of bilateral matters with the United States (where Canada had its own representatives since at least 1927), and finally, the Statute of Westminster and the Second World War. In terms of Canada's commercial relations, the first Trade Commissioner, John Short Larke, was named following a successful trade delegation to Australia led by Canada's first Minister of Trade and Commerce, Mackenzie Bowell.[2]

The Statute of Westminster clarified that Canada (and certain other colonies such as Australia and New Zealand) were primarily responsible for, among other things, the conduct of their own foreign affairs. After World War II, Canada was a founding member of the United Nations and participant in its own right in post-war settlement talks and other international fora, and in most respects the conduct of foreign affairs was no longer "colonial".

Over the years after World War II, a number of other historical traditions were slowly abolished or brought into accordance with reality, such as the practice of Canadian Ambassadors presenting diplomatic credentials signed by the Queen of Canada (including, on occasion, credentials written in French as an official language of Canada); Canadian Ambassadors now present credentials signed by the Governor General of Canada. Other traditions remain, such as the exchange of High Commissioners instead of Ambassadors between Commonwealth countries (and High Commissioners present credentials from the Head of Government, as the Head of State was historically "shared", and would not accredit a representative to one's self). Nonetheless, by the time the change in terminology was effected in 1993, Canada's foreign affairs had been conducted separately from the United Kingdom in most significant respects for the entire post-war period, or over sixty years since the Statute of Westminster.

This process was paralleled in other areas over this period, including the establishment of Canada's own Supreme Court as the court of last resort, the so-called Patriation of the Constitution, and Canadian citizenship (Canadians had been British subjects, and no citizenship per se existed until 1947).

Old City Hall, on Green Island, is home to most of the employees working on the trade side of Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada. It also hosts a number of secondary and support offices.

Current Structure of Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada

      • North America
      • Latin America and the Caribbean
      • Afghanistan Task Force
      • Europe, Middle East and the Maghreb
      • Asia & Africa
      • Strategic Planning and Policy
      • Consular Services & Emergency Management
      • Global Issues
      • International Security
      • International Business Development, Investment & Innovation
      • Trade Policy & Negotiation
      • International Platform
      • Legal Advisor
      • Human Resources
      • Corporate Finance and Operations

See also


Current executive[3]


External links

Independent Media Focused on Canadian Foreign Affairs

Official website

Official e-Magazine of the Trade Commissioner Service, a core service of the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade


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