Global Affairs – What is in a name?

I have seen the Canadian Foreign Ministry in different names,  first it was External Affairs, this was the department I remember vividly picking up my Father at, it sounded dapper, then the name change, External Affairs got married to Trade and became Foreign Affairs and International Trade, then got separated and became Foreign Affairs, then quickly became remarried to become the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, and then a move that makes no sense at all becoming Global Affairs…

Lets get something straight, Global Affairs sounds more like a pharmaceutical company than a Foreign Ministry. Plus, who the hell thought forcing CIDA (Canadian International Development Agency) and Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada together, would be a fantastic idea?…lets just take a minute and try to figure that one out.  It has taken me many years, and I mean many, maybe my whole life, to finally talk about the craziness, the weirdness of the Canadian Foreign Ministry.

The average person has the perception that a diplomat does nothing but entertain, eating champagne and canapes. While that sounds lovely, it isn’t quite what happens. The average officer has to walk a delicate balance between pushing Canadian interests, and protecting Canadian interests. Most officers are master word smiths, master negotiators as well as intelligence gatherers. Big concepts, but daily business includes visiting local jails where vacationing Canadians might be incarcerated, or hospitals where Canadians have been taken on medical emergencies. During natural disasters, foreign officers set out to search for Canadians, to make sure they are alive and well.

There is a dignity that a name should have, and should reflect what a department really does. Global Affairs, sounds too much like everything, and yet, not enough. It doesn’t sound dignified in any way.

There is a whole other issue. In the private industry, when 2 companies merge, a team comes in and works on a merging plan. There never is a merging plan whenever government departments merge. It just happens, and it is messy, ridiculous, and whole departments are expected to work together and get along overnight. Department of trade, still has a different department agenda than Foreign Affairs, officers who go into the trade stream and those who go into the Political stream, don’t learn the same things, their posting positions are different, yet they ultimately have to report to the same Ambassador when abroad. An officer in CIDA, has nothing in common with its trade or political counterpart. Merging 3 departments under one roof, without any idea as to how it would merge properly is a complete and utter mess, diminishing any clout Canada has abroad.

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