Ambassadors of Note

It is a distinct privilege and honour to be able to represent and serve one’s country abroad as a member of Canada’s Foreign Service.

While Canada became a self-governing dominion in 1867, it remained a subordinate territory within the British Empire and had no department for managing its international relations. Only in 1880 was a High Commissioner named to London to pursue our interests there. This was followed by a Canadian representative to Paris in 1882. The Department of Trade and Commerce was created in 1892 and Canada’s first trade commissioner was appointed (to Australia) in 1894.

This year marks the 110th anniversary of the creation of the Canadian Department of External Affairs in 1909 and the institutional beginning of a distinct Canadian foreign policy optic on the world.

To commemorate this historic occasion, the Retired Heads of Mission Association (RHOMA) has decided to highlight the careers of twenty significant “Ambassadors of Note”, with the objective of enhancing the public’s understanding of the vital role diplomacy plays in the pursuit of Canada’s national and international interests.

This was an extremely difficult task given the large number of Ambassadors, High Commissioners and Consuls General who had distinguished careers over the years and merited consideration. Nominations were sought on two separate occasions from RHOMA’s membership and advice proffered by a “kitchen cabinet” of outside persons with extensive foreign policy knowledge and experience. In the end, eighty-nine names were considered by the selection committee made up of five representative Board members of RHOMA, including Gary Smith as Chair, along with Gaston Barban, Richard Kohler, Anne Leahy and Louise Léger.

The criteria for selection were as follows:

  • Had to have been a Head of Mission (HOM).
  • Could be living or dead but no longer serving as a Canadian diplomat.
  • Was involved in an ongoing activity or a single major event as a HOM which was out of the ordinary and had a significant impact on Canadian foreign policy or on how Canada was seen in the world.
  • Set a precedent as a HOM in a way that set the stage for other diplomats to come.
  • Was an individual who, by dint of their life-long accomplishments in the field of diplomacy and beyond, must be included to highlight how Canadian diplomats as a profession have made a difference for Canada at home and abroad.

It should be noted that in making this selection, female foreign service officers were accepted into External Affairs only in 1947 while the first woman to become an Ambassador did so in 1958.

The RHOMA Board intends to expand the current list of twenty at an early opportunity and as its resources permit.

The profiles herein were researched and written by Steve Marti (PhD), a Canadian historian with experience in the Historical section at Global Affairs Canada. Translations by Danielle Vinette.

All texts and photos of Ambassadors of Note are the property or for the exclusive use of the Retired Heads of Mission Association (RHOMA). Permission for their use, duplication or reproduction for any purpose must be obtained in advance from the Association in writing.

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