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Canada's Department of External Affairs, Volume 1

Canada's Department of External Affairs, Volume 1: The Early Years, 1909-1946

Copyright Date: 1990
Pages: 440
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  • Book Info
    Canada's Department of External Affairs, Volume 1
    Book Description:

    After an introductory chapter dealing with the conduct of external relations before 1909, the book examines three distinct phases of the department's development. Although the department had modest beginnings under the first under-secretary, Sir Joseph Pope (1909-1925), it was seen by his successor, O.D. Skelton, as an important instrument for the assertion of Canadian autonomy. Skelton presided over the establishment of the first Canadian diplomatic missions abroad, and was responsible for the creation of a foreign service to staff them. With the outbreak of the war in 1939, both the responsibilities and the size of the department underwent substantial organizational change under Norman Robertson, who became under-secretary after Skelton's death in 1941. Taken together, the criteria for recruitment introduced by Skelton and the reorganization which took place under Robertson gave the department many of the features which have characterized it as a branch of the Canadian government. The further development of the institution will be examined in a second volume covering the years 1946-1968.

    eISBN: 978-0-7735-6233-2
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-viii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. ix-x)
  3. Preface
    (pp. xi-xii)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xiii-xvi)
    (pp. xvii-xxxii)

    • Chapter One External Relations to 1909
      (pp. 3-29)

      Governments in canada have always had to pay close attention to external relations because of the importance of such concerns as trade, settlement, and the definition of boundaries. Long before the Department of External Affairs came into being, in 1909, various mechanisms for the conduct of such relations had been developed. Those that most affected the work of the future department took shape mainly after about 1840, as a result of two crucial changes in British imperial policies: gradual withdrawal of military forces from North America and adoption of the principle of free trade. These changes required the colonies to...

    • Chapter Two Foundation of the Department: 1909–1911
      (pp. 30-56)

      The idea of a canadian department of external affairs was suggested by a Winnipeg journalist, W. Sanford Evans, in 1901, but was not put forth within the government until somewhat later. The first to do so was Joseph Pope. The importance of the international negotiations of the previous two decades, Pope suggested to Laurier in 1904, warranted the keeping of records in a department “charged with all the matters of a quasi-diplomatic character.”¹ Pope for one was weary of trying belatedly to collect documents dispersed over several departments. Besides the frustrations caused by delays in the retrieval of records, he...

    • Chapter Three Early Operations: 1911–1921
      (pp. 57-86)

      The general election of september 21, 1911, which brought the Conservatives under Robert Borden to power, was for a number of reasons of special importance for the Department of External Affairs. The controversies over naval policy and reciprocity had caused both political parties to deal with fundamental issues affecting Canada’s external relations. The interest thus expressed was one to which the new prime minister had already given considerable attention while leader of the opposition, and it was sustained throughout his years in office and indeed afterward.

      Borden was not likely, however, to exploit the autonomist implications of the External Affairs...

    • Chapter Four Skelton Takes Charge: 1921–1926
      (pp. 87-108)

      For the first time in its history, Canada after the election of 1921 had a minority government, as a result of deep regional divisions within the country. With the support of 116 Liberals and one Independent Liberal, William Lyon Mackenzie King was one seat short of controlling the House of Commons. Arrayed against the government were 50 Conservatives, 64 members of a new agrarian party, the Progressives, and 4 others. Much of the government’s energy, therefore, was devoted to the problem of survival. Although it had to deal with a number of international problems that arose during the period, it...


    • Chapter Five Creation of a Foreign Service: 1926–1930
      (pp. 111-134)

      The voters gave mackenzie king a workable majority when they went to the polls on September 14, 1926: 128 Liberals to 91 Conservatives, 20 Progressives, and 6 others. The government, therefore, was in a much safer position to take initiatives intended to further its objectives in external affairs. It also had an incentive to do so, for the dispute with Lord Byng had left the prime minister determined to obtain relief from the remaining restrictions that the imperial relationship imposed on dominion autonomy.

      The government’s first priority in its external activities was to complete arrangements for opening a legation in...

    • Chapter Six The Foreign Service at Work: 1930–1935
      (pp. 135-175)

      The assumption of office by the Conservatives under R. B. Bennett, on August 7, 1930, was a major challenge to the department. There was now a foreign service of sufficient size and talent to be a valuable instrument of public administration, but the election had placed it at the disposal of a government sceptical of the objectives for which it had been created. In the tradition of Sir Robert Borden and Arthur Meighen, Bennett did not share the autonomist views that had animated the authors of the External Affairs Act of 1909 and were reflected in the examinations on which...

    • Chapter Seven The Foreign Service on the Rise: 1935–1939
      (pp. 176-214)

      The political environment in which departmental officers responded to an increasingly tense and complex international situation was determined by the requirements of William Lyon Mackenzie King, who returned to office in 1935 with the largest parliamentary majority (a margin of 113 seats) recorded up to that time. King’s view of international relations remained firmly rooted in his concern for the domestic situation, especially the need to preserve national unity, which he believed would be threatened by public controversy over foreign policy. Thus he was reluctant to have Canada assume an active role in the Commonwealth and the League of Nations...


    • Chapter Eight At War under Skelton: 1939–1941
      (pp. 217-238)

      Canada’s belligerent status intensified pressures on the department already apparent as the country moved toward war. For a time, however, the policy positions and the organizational principles that governed the department during O. D. Skelton’s tenure as under-secretary could be sustained. Although it was announced on September 19 that the government had decided to send a force overseas, the commitment, for financial reasons, was less than the service chiefs had recommended. During the period of “phony war” which lasted until Germany began its successful invasion of western Europe in the spring of 1940, Canadians anticipated that the conflict would be...

    • Chapter Nine Adjusting to New Demands: 1941–1943
      (pp. 239-270)

      Not least of skelton’s bequests to the department was the strength of the senior ranks, which contained several suitable candidates (although no obvious successor) for the post of under-secretary. Thus there was no need, as there had been when Pope retired, to go outside the service for a new permanent head. The prime minister’s first inclination was to appoint Loring Christie. He, however, had been hospitalized for two months, and medical reports revealed a rapidly deteriorating heart condition from which he was not expected to recover. The alternative was to choose from among Skelton’s recruits of the late 1920s.


    • Chapter Ten Preparing for Victory: 1943–1945
      (pp. 271-295)

      Generational change affected departmental leadership strikingly from 1943 onward. The under-secretary, Norman Robertson, had been too young to fight in the First World War, but a number of his senior colleagues had experienced that conflict, and he shared their determination that this time a basis should be found for a lasting peace. The department’s new leaders, in the words of John Holmes, “sought for things Canada might do rather than things Canada might avoid doing.”¹ They worked in particular to secure a voice for Canada in post-war international relations appropriate to its strength and its contribution to the defeat of...

    • Chapter Eleven Planning a New International Order: 1943–1946
      (pp. 296-322)

      The prolonged activity arising from such war-related problems as those involving Japanese Canadians had to be accommodated while the department was considering the new international order which began to take shape through consultations among the major allies as the prospects for victory brightened in 1943. All the plans that emerged were of interest to the department, but some consumed more of its time than others. Some initiatives from outside Canada came not from foreign offices but from domestic departments, which dealt with their counterparts in Ottawa; also, with its senior personnel heavily overextended, External Affairs could not take the lead...

  9. Note on Sources
    (pp. 323-324)
  10. Notes
    (pp. 325-374)
  11. Index
    (pp. 375-406)