A cursory glance through GEDS tells us that almost every department has an international bent to it. When thinking about a department’s overall policy framework, it is impossible to ignore international factors. There are multilateral organizations, bilateral frameworks, etc, that all have an impact on policy approaches in Canada.
The mandate of DFAIT is: The mandate of Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada is to manage Canada’s diplomatic and consular relations and to encourage the country’s international trade.
Additionally, DFAIT serves as a Common Services Provider, with jurisdiction over international telecommunications, international procurement (including real estate, goods, and services).
How effective is this model? I’m unsure. It appears that each department spends time running their own international policy shops and coordinating with DFAIT. That being said, the actual diplomatic expertise required may be lacking in departments, as it is centralized at DFAIT (FS, the Foreign Service classification, is only located in DFAIT). The working relationship between DFAIT and other departments has an impact on how Canada is perceived internationally.
That’s not to put the blame on diplomats or departments — the question, rather, is how to structure our institutions to provide the most coherent and consistent international policy, allowing all departments to fulfill their mandates as effectively as possible.
The Department of Justice essentially functions as the law firm for the Government of Canada. Almost all lawyers (LA classification) are employed by DoJ, even though many are posted to various departments. This allows departments to access the expertise of the lawyers, who provide independent advice, but are fully aware of the operational context of the departments in which they serve. As they are all part of DoJ, they idea is that the lawyers speak with one voice with regard to legal policy. The DoJ itself has its own core functions (including policy), but those providing advice to departments are actually embedded.
DoJ is also a Common Services Provider. Their mandate under that policy:
Justice Canada is responsible for the legal affairs of the government as a whole and for providing legal services to individual departments and agencies through functions related to the offices of the Attorney General and the Minister of Justice. These services include providing legal advice, preparing legal documents, drafting legislation, regulating or conducting litigation, and overseeing all legal mechanisms used to achieve the overall objectives of the government.
It would be interesting to see if DFAIT could do something similar for its diplomatic corps. By having FSs posted to each of the departments, it would allow the departments to benefit by having people who are professional diplomats fully aware of a department’s operational context, while also ensuring that the overall foreign policy of Canada is consistent, as DFAIT would have their employees embedded within each individual department.
Justice and DFAIT both serve as Common Service Providers. Justice can use their employees to provide benefits to the departments (access to services), and provide intelligence to themselves (each department is using the same “firm”, and those embedded can advice on their area of specialization).
It would require a big shift in how we think about foreign policy and the role of the diplomatic corps. However, as we shift towards an ever more globalized world, the actions of departments necessarily will have consequences outside our borders. Recognizing that, and structuring ourselves for success, will be crucial as we begin to address international challenges.