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Description found in Archives
Sous-fonds consists of
Sous-fonds part of
Place of creation
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Scope and content
Sous-fonds contains records dating from the founding of the Legation in 1927 and deal with a variety of subjects which were of concern to Canadian-American relations. These include such issues such as economic relations, international and bilateral defence, liaison during the Second World War, post-hostilities planning, international peace, foreign aid, defence organizations and the Vietnam War. The records include minutes of meetings, memoranda and correspondence with the government of the United States, the United Nations, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, the Permanent Joint Board of Defence, North American Air Defence Command, South East Asia Treaty Organization, Organization of the American States and other government bodies. The Washington Embassy throughout its history created records that reflected the conduct of bilateral relations between Canada and the United States. Because of the importance of Canadian-American relations both bilaterally and multilaterally, the records created reflect almost all aspects of Canada's foreign policy from the 1920's until the 1970's. Washington, along with Canada's High Commission to Great Britain, is Canada's most important post abroad. The records in the subjects covered in the seven series reflect this importance. The records are arranged according to the original structure of the filing systems in the Embassy. When researching in the seven series in this sous fonds it should be noted that there were times when more than one filing system was in use. This has resulted in some duplication of files on the same subject. While it has been possible to identify the Ambassador's office filing system, the remaining six filing systems have been described as embassy registry files according to the distinct characteristics of each filing system.
Conditions of access
Copyright belongs to the Crown.
Biography / Administrative history
The Canadian Embassy in Washington was established on 18 February 1927. Prior to the establishment of the Canadian Legation in Washington, the conduct of Canadian-American relations went through several stages. The concept of independent Canadian representation to the United States was first considered in the Canadian Parliament during the 1880's and 1890's as a means of furthering commercial negotiations. The importance of Canadian-American bilateral relations combined with the circuitous nature of communications between Ottawa and Washington, through the British Colonial and Foreign Offices, the Governor-General and the British Ambassador in Washington, led to an increasing awareness on the part of the Canadian government of the need for direct Canadian representation in Washington.
Before the creation of the Canadian Legation in Washington, three institutions that dealt with Canadian-American relations were created. In 1905 the International Joint Commission was formed. Its purpose was to supplement the normal diplomatic channels for questions arising from boundary disputes between Canada and the United States. It was a successor to the International Waterways Commission. While the IJC was judicial in nature, it nonetheless fostered the concept of independent Canadian representation in dealings with the United States. The entry of the United States into the First World War in 1917 precipitated the formation on 7 November 1918 of the Canadian War Mission, a distinctively Canadian representative body in Washington. The Canadian War Mission's purpose was to be a channel of communication between the two governments, to control commercial and financial matters arising out of the war and in particular to be a link between the War Trade Board in Ottawa and the War Trade Board and other American bodies in Washington. The Mission was closed on 31 March 1921.
After the experience of the Canadian War Mission, the Canadian government realized that Canada needed a permanent presence in Washington. Consequently the Agency of the Department of External Affairs in Washington was created in 1921 and it operated out of the British Embassy. Merchant Mahony became Canada's Agent in the United States. He was not attached to the British Embassy staff and he had no diplomatic status. His work centred on commercial relations between Canada and the United States, keeping in touch with Canadian exporters across Canada, as well as keeping the Canadian government informed on matters of concern between the two countries.
In the inter-war years, the increasing pressures of commercial and trade matters accentuated the requirement for an official and permanent Canadian presence in Washington. This led to the announcement on 5 November 1926 of Canada's intention to open a Canadian legation in Washington headed by Vincent Massey as its Minister.
The Washington Legation was officially opened on 18 February 1927 to serve as the official channel of communication and decision making between Canada and the United States in all matters relating to bilateral relations. Its purpose is also the defence of Canadian interests and Canadian citizens. Because of the importance of Canadian-American relations in the conduct of Canadian foreign policy, the Washington Embassy has always been an important post. Foreign policy decisions on any number of issues, not just Canadian-American relations, are discussed and acted upon at the Washington Embassy.
The advent of the Second World War precipitated changes in Canada's representation abroad. In 1943 Prime Minister Mackenzie King and President Roosevelt decided to raise the level of their posts abroad in each other's country to embassies rather than legations. Most countries had come to designate their offices abroad as embassies. Because doubts could arise as to Canada's independence with the presence of the British Embassy in Washington taking precedence over the Canadian Legation, the decision to raise Canada's post as an embassy was taken and in 1944 Canada's Legation was elevated to the level of an embassy.
The central role played by the Washington Embassy in the conduct of Canadian foreign policy has continued since the close of the Second World War, not just in the area of bilateral relations but increasingly as an important point in international trade negotiations and treaties, security and alliances within the Western Hemisphere and international organizations.
Source of title
Other system control no.
Related control no.
1. 1963-132 NPC
2. 1975-194 NPC
3. 1992-93/002 GAD
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