Shaping Canada’s Role in the World Since 1928
Former Prime Minister Sir Robert Borden assembled civic leaders from coast to coast, to form the Canadian Institute of International Affairs (CIIA), the predecessor of the CIC. Many of those gathered had served as Canadian delegates to the Paris Peace Talks after the First World War, the first time Canada spoke in its own name in international diplomacy.
Present at this inaugural meeting were Frederick N. Southam (the head of the Southam Newspaper Group); John W. Dafoe (editor of the Winnipeg Free Press), General Sir Arthur Currie (commander of the Canadian Corps in World War I); John Nelson (journalist and co-founder of the Canadian Press); Sir Joseph Flavelle (business leader and chairman of the Imperial Bank of Commerce); Newton W. Rowell (former Ontario Liberal Party leader); Reginald W. Brock (director of the Geological Survey of Canada); N .A. M. MacKenzie (university leader and Member of Parliament); C. A. Bowman (CBC broadcasting pioneer); Charles S. MacInnes (prominent lawyer); Rev. John MacKay (principal of Manitoba College, forerunner of the University of Manitoba); and Stanley Brent (YMCA general secretary).
The fledgling institute initially comprised five branches and 144 members. Its constitution committed the CIIA “to promote a broader and deeper understanding of international affairs and of Canada’s role in a changing world by providing interested Canadians with a non-partisan, nation-wide forum for informed discussion, debate and analysis.”
In the 1940s, the CIIA helped the government ramp up its foreign policy capacity as Canada embraced a major role in international affairs. In 1940, it launched an international affairs magazine called Behind the Headlines, which featured timely commentary and analysis on Canadian foreign policy issues intended for a general audience.
The institute launched the International Journal, an academic publication combining brief, policy-relevant articles with longer, peer-reviewed, scholarly assessments of interest to foreign policy makers, analysts and academics in Canada and around the world.
The quarterly journal was intended from the outset to provide a platform and outlet for informed Canadian views on international affairs, and it rapidly became the pre-eminent Canadian academic periodical in the field. Now, the International Journal is a collaboration between the CIC and the Bill Graham Centre for Contemporary International History, and continues to provide a reliable source of information on international affairs.
John Holmes, then head of the CIIA, popularizes the notion that Canada was a “middle power” in the Cold War, a concept which helped crystallize the public’s perception’s of our role in the world for decades. A generation of foreign policy leaders counted Holmes as a teacher and mentor.
Extensive coast-to-coast public consultations laid the groundwork for a new Canadian foreign policy after the Cold War
In June 2006, the CIIA merged with the Canadian Institute for Strategic Studies to create the CIC, a single umbrella organization to promote public engagement with Canadian foreign policy.
Perhaps the most distinctive characteristic of the CIC has been its ability to embrace the digital era, recognizing the ways in which new technologies have impacted both how international relations are conducted and how a public affairs organization should operate. The CIC was the founder of the popular OpenCanada.org web platform in June 2011, which remains a major contributor to foreign policy dialogue in Canada and has attracted a wide audience.
The CIC conducts Canada’s largest-ever exercise in deliberative democracy, selecting a representative sample of the entire population for twelve hours of deliberation on the priorities the Canadian people want to guide our country’s global engagement. 444 Canadians participate from every province, ethnic, linguistic group and demographic in an online exercise featured on CBC