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Description found in Archives
Fonds consists of
Place of creation
No place, unknown, or undetermined
59 microfilm reels.
119 photographs 75 b&w prints, 25 b&w negatives, 19 coul slides.
2 architectural drawings
1 atlas : (36 leaves)
249 audio reels (ca. 255 h, 42 min, 30 s)
192 film reels (ca. 156 h)
100 videocassettes (ca. 92 h, 12 min, 43 s)
65 audio cassettes (ca. 63 h, 15 min)
30 audio discs (ca. 3 h, 25 min)
Language of material
Added language of material: French
Scope and content
Fonds consists of records created and/or maintained by the Department of External Affairs and its predecessors. Researchers are cautioned that unprocessed textual records and records in other media are not reflected in this description. One photo series consists of the visit of Indian Prime Minister Jawâharlâl Pandit Nehru, Mrs. Nehru, and Mrs. Indira Ghandi to Vancouver, Niagara Falls and Ottawa, Canada, 1949. The visitors were received by Prime Minister Louis Saint-Laurent, William Lyon Mackenzie King and various diplomats of India from Dept. of Foreign Affairs in Canada. Photos taken by National Film Board, Capital Press Service, Yousuf Karsh, Not and Merrill, Bill and Jean Newton and Canada Wide Photo. Audio-visual material can be found in the following lower level records: Canadian High Commission to the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland sous-fonds; Canadian Embassy to France sous-fonds; Vimy Ridge celebrations series; Historical Division series; and Miscellaneous Audio-Visual Material from the Department of External Affairs series.
Conditions of access
Crown Copyright. Credit: Library and Archives Canada.
For photographs, credit: Name of photographer/National Archives of Canada/PA.
Finding aids are available. See lower level descriptions and accession records in ArchiviaNet (the NA website). (Other)
Creator / Provenance
Biography / Administrative history
The Department of External Affairs was created in 1909 by an Act of Parliament,(8-9 Edward VII, C. 13, "An Act to create a Department of External Affairs, assented to on 19 May 1909). Prior to 1909 Canada did not have one body that was responsible for the conduct of foreign policy. This function was completed in a myriad of fashions and by numerous departments. At Confederation Canada had one official channel to the world through the Office of the Governor General. He reported to the Secretary of State for the Colonies in Great Britain and in Canada the Governor General communicated formally with the Office of the Privy Council, ie: the Prime Minister and the Cabinet.
At the time of Confederation Parliament was responsible for the regulation of trade and commerce and defence, but there was no suggestion that Canada should act as an independent entity in external relations. The conduct of Canada's foreign affairs was in the hands of the British Foreign Office. Correspondence regarding the appointment of foreign consuls, extradition and passports was the responsibility of the Secretary of State along with foreign visits and ceremonies. Trade matters were dealt with by the Department of Trade and Commerce and the Departments of Agriculture and then Interior were responsible for all matters relating to immigration. All foreign policy aspects of issues like fisheries, waterways and boundaries were the responsibility of the specific department involved.
The Department of External Affairs was formed in 1909 to be responsible for the conduct of Canadian relations with other countries, albeit still within the umbrella of the British Empire. The Under-Secretary reported to the Secretary of State until 1912 when the department came under the direct responsibility of the Prime Minister. ( )This remained until 1946 when "An Act to amend the Department of External Affairs Act" (10 George VI, Chapter 6: assented to 28 May 1946) gave responsibility for the department to the Secretary of State for External Affairs.
Responsibilities in the early years included the issuance of passports, the research and production of confidential documents on international matters, participation in international negotiations, responsibility for foreign consuls in Canada and the official channel of communication in areas of commercial relations, immigration and defence even though External Affairs was not the department of primary responsibility.
The advent of the First World War greatly increased the department's responsibility though its mandate remained the same. The 1920's brought increasing work in the League of Nations and the International Labour Organization specifically. The recruitment of better educated foreign service officers allowed the department to expand into an ever demanding international situation. In the late 1920's responsibility for the three new posts abroad, Washington, Paris and Tokyo, were given to the department.
In 1931 the ability of the Canadian government to exert more independence in the conduct of its foreign policy was broadened by the passage of the Statute of Westminster in Great Britain. This Statute recognized the equality in status between each of the Dominions and the British government. This growing independence was evidenced throughout the 1930's as Canada as a nation and the department in particular exercised increasing control over its foreign policy decisions. The entry of Canada into the Second World War signalled another milestone in Canada's responsibility for its own foreign affairs and the department in 1939 had matured enough to handle this increasing responsibility.
The Second World War had a very considerable effect on the expansion in the duties and size of the Department of External Affairs. The creation of new posts abroad needed for the conduct of the war included establishing new High Commissioners in other Commonwealth countries, the opening of new posts in Latin America, establishing a wider range of consular activities around the world and establishing and expanding diplomatic relations with Canada's allies and with the exiled governments of occupied countries in London. The war also added additional responsibilities to the Department's normal functions which included censorship, intelligence and security, psychological and economic warfare, control of aliens and refugees, treatment of Japanese-Canadians and economic activities relating to export controls and the procurement of supplies. By 1943 additional responsibilities in international negotiations relating to post hostilities problems emerged as another preoccupation of the department.
In 1946 "An Act to amend the Department of External Affairs Act" was passed by Parliament,(10 George VI, Chapter 6: Assented to 28 May 1946). This amended act allowed for the first time since 1912 that a Minister of the Crown, not the Prime Minister, would have responsibility for the Department of External Affairs. The main function of the department continued to be the protection advancement of Canadian participation in international organizations. It provides for Canada in representation in foreign countries, negotiates treaties and agreements and collects information regarding developments likely to affect Canada's international relations.
In the early 1980's, in a move to consolidate all foreign service operations, the Department of External Affairs took on additional responsibilities in the areas of trade and immigration. The Foreign Branch of the Commission for Employment and Immigration was moved from the Canada Employment and Immigration Commission (Order in Council, P.C. 891, 31 March 1981). On 12 January 1982 the Trade Commission Service and International Marketing was moved from the Department of Industry, Trade and Commerce(Order in Council, P.C.11, 12 January 1982).
On 7 December 1983 the establishment of the Department of External Affairs under Part 1 of the Government Organization Act was completed. This Act provided for the appointment of a Minister for International Trade to assist the Secretary of State for External Affairs regarding international Trade. The Act also provided for the possible appointment of a Minister for External Relations to assist the Secretary of State for External Affairs regarding Canada's international trade relations. In 1989 the department's name was changed to the Department of External Affairs and International Trade. In 1992 the immigration function returned to the Department of Immigration. Soon after the election of November 1993 it was announced that the department name would be changed to the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade to reflect the existing independence Canada has in the conduct of its foreign policy.
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