More than 8,000 diplomats are accredited to Canada, and the majority live in the national capital region. Their children may be born here, or graduate from high school or university. Their friends and extended family members visit. After their postings end, many take positions of considerable influence in their home country. These leaders and their families have a natural interest in and leave with powerful links to Canada, often becoming ‘ambassadors’ for Canada.
Yet, before the Carleton Initiative’s orientation, there has been no systematic attempt to orient, reach out to or even welcome diplomats to the national capital. Diplomatic outreach is targeted to heads of mission and, on occasion, their spouses. Little is done to welcome new diplomats or to offer programs and services to junior officers and spouses. Welcoming and orienting diplomats as they begin their postings in Canada allows them to become more effective earlier and to make or increase personal contact with Canadians.
In Washington, D.C., the Hospitality and Information Service, known as THIS for Diplomats, was started in 1961 at the request of the U.S. Chief of Protocol to help diplomatic families adjust to American life. It offers programs and services that are useful both professionally and personally. Much of its success is due to the complement of volunteers who arrange and attend events with the diplomatic community in the belief that citizen diplomacy—with its personal contacts—strongly benefits both the diplomatic and host community. The Meridian International Center offers briefings and seminars as well as targeted programs for young diplomats. As well, several of Washington’s think tanks offer briefings geared to diplomats on issues ranging from U.S. political briefings to seminars on the politics of water.