Better know a Canadian functionary: the Ambassador to the United States

In 1926 former British Prime Minister Arthur “The Great Declarator” Balfour, who was at the time the 1st Earl Balfour and Lord President of the Council under Stanley Baldwin, published the Balfour Declaration of 1926, which decided that the UK government and the Dominion governments were separate, and that, among other things, Dominion governors general represented the Crown and not the British government in their countries, and that the Dominions had the right to conduct foreign relations independent of the British diplomatic system. Canada first took advantage of this rule in 1927, when the US government recognized Canada’s Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary to the United States. The Minister was upgraded to a full Ambassador in 1943.

The Canadian Embassy to the United States is at 501 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, Washington DC, next to the Newseum (the News Museum) and across the street from the National Art Gallery. It is also the closest embassy of any country to the US Capitol, which is 600 yards down the street from the Embassy. The Ambassador lives in a mansion at 2425 Rock Creek Drive, Washington DC. In addition to the Embassy, Canada also has general consulates in New York City, Boston, Detroit, Chicago, Minneapolis, Atlanta, Miami, Dallas, Denver, Seattle, San Francisco, and Los Angeles, and special trade consulates in Houston, San Diego and Palo Alto.

The Ministers and Ambassadors of Canada to the United States have been:

The Rt. Hon. Charles Vincent Massey PC CH CC CD (1887-1967), 1927-30. Scion of the wealthy Massey family of farm equipment fame (almost any old-timer’s farm in Canada will have a Massey-Harris or Massey-Ferguson tractor), grandson of Hart Massey (who built Massey Hall in Toronto), and brother of Oscar-nominated actor Raymond Massey, Vincent Massey attended the University of Toronto and Oxford, then was appointed Dean of Men at Burwash Hall, U of T, where he lectured in history. He then married Anna Parkin, daughter of the Principal of Upper Canada College, thus becoming by marriage the uncle of the political philosopher George Grant and great-uncle of former Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff. Massey ran for the seat of Durham County in the 1925 federal election as a Liberal and lost. He was then Canada’s first official Envoy to the United States from 1927 to 1930, making him the first Canadian to have diplomatic immunities. Massey was thereafter President of the National Liberal Federation of Canada before being sent to London as High Commissioner to the UK from 1935 to 1946. After World War II Massey chaired the Massey Commission into the state of the arts and humanities in Canada, then became the first Canadian-born Governor-General of Canada, serving from 1952 to 1959.

Humphrey Hume Wrong (1st time) (1894-1954), 1930-31 (acting)

The Hon. Maj. William Duncan Herridge PC KC MC DSO (1887-1961), 1931–1935. Born in Ottawa, Herridge went to Osgoode Hall Law School, served as an officer in World War I and was a close personal friend of Governor-General Lord Byng, whose treatment by the Liberal government in the King-Byng affair of 1926 made him leave the Liberal Party and join the Conservatives, where he was very loyal to R.B. Bennett, his brother-in-law. Herridge was largely shunned by the Tories after Bennett’s exit as leader in 1938 and thereafter founded the New Democracy Party, which ran candidates jointly with the Social Credit Party in the election of 1940. The new party failed to elect a single member, and Herridge went back to his career as a patent attorney.

Humphrey Hume Wrong (2nd time) (1894-1954), 1935-36 (acting)

The Hon. Sir Herbert Meredith Marler KCMG PC (1876-1940), 1936–39. A public notary from Montreal who went to McGill, Marler was the Liberal MP for St.Lawrence–St. George from 1921 to 1925 and Minister Without Portfolio in the Cabinet of Mackenzie King. He was Canadian Minister to Japan from 1929 to 1936, during which time he was knighted. Sir Herbert was then appointed Minister to the US, retiring from ill health three years later.

Loring Cheney Christie (1885-1941), 1939–41. Born in Amherst, NS, Christie went to Acadia U and Harvard, then became a legal advisor to the Department of External Affairs in 1913 and was a key advsor to Sir Robert Borden during World War I. He retired from the civil service in 1923 and worked in the private sector until rejoining in 1935, serving as Minister to the US from 1939 until his death 2 years later.

The Hon. Leighton Goldie McCarthy PC (1869-1952), 1941–44. McCarthy’s father, Dalton McCarthy, was the leader and sole elected representative of a virulently anti-French and anti-Catholic political group in Ontario called the McCarthyites. Although the party dissolved when Dalton McCarthy was killed in a carriage accident in 1898, Leighton ran for his father’s vacant seat in a by-election, and won. He sat as an independent MP for Simcoe North from 1898 to 1908; he ran again as a Liberal in 1911, but lost. McCarthy was later President of Canada Life Assurance, and became the first Ambassador to the US in 1943.

The Rt. Hon. Lester Bowles Pearson OM CC OBE PC (1897-1972), 1944–46. “Mike” Pearson, son of a Methodist pastor, went to U of T, then served as an ambulance driver in World War I before signing up to fly fighter planes, although before he could fly a mission he was hit by a bus in London and was in the hospital until the war was over. Pearson then went to Oxford, taught history at U of T, and played semipro baseball in Guelph before joining the foreign service, and was second-in-command at the Canadian High Commission in London from 1939 to 1942 and a counselor at the US embassy from 1942 to 1944, when he became Ambassador. He returned to Ottawa in 1946 to serve as deputy minister of External Affairs. Pearson was then appointed as Secretary of State for External Affairs by Louis Saint-Laurent in 1948, and Pearson was the Liberal MP for Algoma East from 1949 to 1968. Pearson was also Canada’s representative at the UN and was President of the General Assembly of the UN in 1956, where he came up with the idea to form an international peacekeeping force to ease tensions between Egypt, France and the UK over control of the Suez Canal, for which he won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1957. He was later Leader of the Liberal Party of Canada from 1958 to 1968 and Prime Minister from 1963 to 1968.

Humphrey Hume Wrong (3rd time) (1894-1954), 1946–53. Born in Toronto, Hume Wrong went to U of T, served the Army in the World War I, then went to Oxford, came back to Canada and taught history at U of T. Wrong was hired on as first secretary to the Canadian legation in DC when it opened in 1927 and briefly served twice as interim minister before being appointed Ambassador in 1946, where he was a key architect of the North Atlantic Treaty of 1949, which started NATO. He was appointed deputy minister for External Affairs in 1953, but died shortly thereafter.

The Hon. Arnold Danford Patrick Heeney CC PC (1st time) (1902-70), 1953–57. Born in Montreal, Arnold Heeney went to the University of Manitoba, McGill and Oxford (on a Rhodes scholarship) before practicing law in Montreal. He was Clerk of the Privy Council from 1940 to 1949 and Undersecretary of State for External Affairs from 1949 to 1953.

Norman Alexander Robertson CC (1904-68), 1957–58. Born in Vancouver, Robertson went to Oxford on a Rhodes scholarship. He joined the Department of External Affairs in 1929 and became friends with Lester Pearson and Hume Wrong. During World War II, he served as deputy minister of External Affairs, then was High Commissioner to the UK for three years starting in 1946. He returned to Ottawa to be Clerk of the Privy Council from 1949 to 1952, and then was High Commissioner to London again from 1952 to 1957, where he was a standard-bearer at the coronation of Elizabeth II. He served again as deputy minister of External Affairs from 1958 to 1964.

The Hon. Arnold Danford Patrick Heeney CC PC (2nd time) (1902-70), 1959-62. After two years as chair  of the Civil Service Commission, Heeney returned as Ambassador, retiring in 1962. He died in Ottawa eight years later.

Charles Stewart Almon Ritchie CC (1906-95), 1962-66. Born into a rich family in Halifax, Ritchie, whose brother Roland would eventually become a Justice of the Supreme Court, went to the University of King’s College, Oxford, Harvard and the École Libre des Sciences Politiques before becoming a diplomat. He was Ambassador to West Germany and the UN, before being appointed Ambassador to the US, and was later Ambassador to NATO and High Commissioner to the UK. He also had a long intermittent affair with the Irish author Elizabeth Bowen.

Albert Edgar Ritchie CC (1916-2002), 1966-70. Edgar Ritchie was born in Andover, NB, went to Mount Allsion University, won a Rhodes scholarship and went to Oxford. He joined External Affairs in 1944 and spent 22 years in senior positions in Ottawa before being sent to DC. He was later Undersecretary of State for External Affairs from 1970 to 1974 and Ambassador to Ireland from 1976 to 1980.

Marcel Cadieux CC (1915-81), 1970-75. Born in Montreal, Cadieux went to U de Montréal and McGill and was an expert in international law for the Department of External Affairs, a subject he also taught at the University of Ottawa.

Jack Hamilton Warren OC (1921-2008), 1975-77. Warren served in the Navy in World War II and was Deputy Minister of Trade and Commerce, then High Commissioner to the UK from 1971 to 1974. He would later become a director of the Bank of Montreal.

Peter Milburn Towe OC (1922-now), 1977–1981. Towe was born in London, went to the University of Western Ontario and Queen’s, and served in the RCAF in World War II. He was a longtime employee of External Affairs, and had been Canada’s representative to the OECD.

Allan Ezra Gotlieb CC OM (Man.) (1928-now), 1981–1989. A Winnipeg-born Rhodes Scholar, Gotlieb studied at Oxford, UC Berkeley, and Harvard. He joined the civil service and was deputy minister of the Department of Communications, deputy minister of Manpower and Immigration, and Undersecretary of External Affairs. As Ambassador he was key in negotiating NAFTA and coined its nickname, “the Grand Bargain”. He collected the paintings of James Tissot, which he donated to the Art Gallery of Ontario. He was later chair of the Canada Council and publisher of Saturday Night magazine. His wife Sondra, a writer, threw grand parties in DC and was once caught slapping her social secretary.

Derek Hudson Burney OC (1939-now), 1989–1993. Born in Thunder Bay and a grad of Queen’s, Burney was Ambassador to South Korea, then was Chief of Staff to Brian Mulroney from 1987 to 1989. After returning from DC he was CEO of Bell Canada.

Gen. Alfred John Gardyne Drummond de Chastelain CC CMM CD CH (1937-now), 1993–1994. John de Chastelain was born in Bucharest to a Scottish father and American mother and immigrated to Canada in 1954. He enrolled in the Royal Military College and was commissioned in the Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry. He served in Cyprus, was Commandant of the Royal Military College, and Chief of the Defence Staff from 1989 to 1993 and 1994 to 1995. After his retirement Gen. de Chastelain got very involved in peace negotiations in Northern Ireland, and from 1997 to 2011 chaired an international commission to disarm Irish paramilitary groups.

Raymond Chrétien OC (1942-now), 1994–2000. The nephew of Jean Chrétien, Raymond Chrétien went to U de Laval and became a lawyer before joining External Affairs, and was ambassador to Rwanda, Burundi, Congo, Zaire, Mexico, Guatemala, Belgium, and Luxembourg before coming to DC. He was later the Ambassador to France.

Michael Kergin (1942-now), 2000–2005. Kergin went to U of T and Oxford and was a career diplomat, having previously been Ambassador to Cuba. He is now a fellow of the University of Ottawa.

The Hon. Francis Joseph McKenna OC PC ONB QC (1948-now), 2005-2006. Frank McKenna was born in Apohaqui, NB, and went to St. Francis Xavier University, Queen’s U and University of New Brunswick. He was Liberal MLA for Chatham from 1982 to 1997 and was elected Premier of New Brunswick in 1987 unanimously, the Liberals winning all 58 seats in the New Brunswick legislature, and served as premier exactly 10 years.

The Hon. Michael Holcombe Wilson CC PC (1937-now), 2006-2009. A hotshot Bay Street investment banker, Wilson was Progressive Conservative MP for Etobicoke Centre from 1979 to 1993 and was Minister of State for International Trade under Joe Clark and Minister of Finance, Minister of Industry, Science and Technology and Minister of International Trade under Brian Mulroney. He is currently the Chancellor of the University of Toronto.

Gary Albert Doer OM (Man.) (1948-now), 2009-now. After studying sociology at the University of Manitoba, Doer was a prison guard, then was president of the Manitoba Government Employees’ Association in 1979 to 1986. He was New Democrat MLA for Concordia from 1986 to 2009 and was Minister of Urban Affairs and Minister of Crown Investments under premier Howard Pawley. Doer was then Leader of the Manitoba NDP from 1988 to 2009 and Premier of Manitoba from 1999 to 2009, resigning to accept the ambassadorship.


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