Volume #14 - 909.|
STATUS AND DESIGNATION OF COMMONWEALTH HEADS OF POST
Memorandum from Acting Under-Secretary of State for External Affairs|
to Acting Secretary of State for External Affairs
November 29th, 1948|
PRECEDENCE AND TITLES OF HIGH COMMISSIONERS|
London Meeting Recommendations
The meeting of Prime Ministers in London in October made the following proposals:
(1) That High Commissioners should rank with Ambassadors (except with the Dean of the Diplomatic Corps); and that High Commissioners should rank amongst themselves according to the date of arrival and not, as heretofore, according to the seniority of Commonwealth countries.
(2) That each Commonwealth Government would decide whether to give the style Excellency to High Commissioners.
(3) That some form of credentials for High Commissioners be considered.
(4) That visiting Cabinet Ministers would not be mentioned in official Tables of Precedence but would continue to have courtesy precedence as distinguished visitors.
(5) That a proposal, favoured by Australia, South Africa, Pakistan and Ceylon but opposed by the United Kingdom and New Zealand, to change the designation High Commissioner to Ambassador should be postponed for discussion at a subsequent meeting.
Action by Other Governments
2. The King has approved a submission made by the United Kingdom Government putting into effect in the United Kingdom the new precedence of High Commissioners and granting the style Excellency to High Commissioners in London; a circular letter has been sent on November 24 by the United Kingdom Foreign Office to the heads of foreign missions in London, and the new precedence of High Commissioners will be gazetted.
Protests against the new precedence of High Commissioners have been made by the Diplomatic Corps in Wellington, New Zealand. If similar protests are made in London, the United Kingdom authorities propose to say that the recent decision has done nothing to disturb the order of relative precedence of ambassadors, ministers plenipotentiary and chargés d'affaires agreed upon at the Congress of Vienna of 1815, "but has simply given formal recognition to what has long been the rightful place of High Commissioners as representatives of ambassadorial status exchanged between the countries of the Commonwealth."
Action by the Canadian Government
3. It is recommended that the Canadian Government should now put into effect in Canada a change in the precedence of High Commissioners whereby they will have the same courtesy precedence in Canada as Ambassadors; that is to say,
(a) Ambassadors and High Commissioners will rank with each other according to the date of the presentation of Letters of Credence of Ambassadors and the date of arrival in Ottawa of High Commissioners, except that the position of Dean of the Diplomatic Corps will continue to be held by the senior foreign Ambassador.
(b) Ministers Plenipotentiary and Chargés d'Affaires ad interim, who had courtesy precedence in Canada next below Ambassadors, will continue in that place and under the new arrangement will come below the new combined category of Ambassadors - High Commissioners.
(c) The relative rank of High Commissioners amongst themselves will in future be based on the date of their arrival in Ottawa and not, as heretofore, on the seniority of Commonwealth countries.
(d) The new precedence of High Commissioners will be retroactive; i.e., the High Commissioner for Ireland who came to Ottawa in 1939 will precede all ambassadors except the Dean of the Diplomatic Corps.
A newly appointed ambassador or High Commissioner will take his place at the end of the proposed Ambassador - High Commissioner category; thus, if the Irish Government were to appoint a new High Commissioner or were to ask the Canadian Govemment to agree to the appointment at Ottawa of an Ambassador, such as appointee would take his place according to the date of presentation of his credentials, at the end of the list.
(e) Canada was alone in giving, some years ago, the style Honourable to Commonwealth High Commissioners, and Canada has therefore been in the forefront in honouring High Commissioners. At the present time the style Excellency is reserved in Canada for the Governor General and his wife, foreign Ambassadors and Ministers Plenipotentiary, and the Apostolic Delegate. It is recommended that no action be taken to give the style Excellency to High Commissioners but that the Canadian Government should:
(i) continue to give High Commissioners of other countries the title Honourable,
(ii) inform the Commonwealth governments that Canada does not desire the style "Excellency" to be given to Canadian High Commissioners.
(f) It is recommended that no action is necessary in Canada concerning the London recommendation that some form of credentials for High Commissioners should be considered, for the reason that for some years Canadian High Commissioners have been provided with suitable credentials.
Precedence of Visiting Cabinet Ministers
(g) As mentioned below under Procedure, no action is necessary here regarding the precedence of "visiting Cabinet Ministers" because they have never been included in the Canadian Table of Precedence. They will, of course, continue to be treated as distinguished visitors.
(b) In the United Kingdom, a Submission to the King is necessary because High Commissioners and visiting Cabinet Ministers were included in the official United Kingdom Table of Precedence. In Canada, Ambassadors and High Commissioners, and other representatives from abroad, such as Ministers Plenipotentiary and Consuls General, have had a courtesy precedence and not a precedence by right of inclusion in the Canadian Table of Precedence.
It is therefore recommended that no formal Submission to the King is required for the proposed change of precedence of High Commissioners in Canada, and that the Secretary of State of Canada, who is responsible for questions of precedence, should be asked to take whatever action he considers appropriate to effectuate the above recommendations. The concurrence of the Governor General could be signified by His Excellency's approval of an Order-in-Council, if this procedure commends itself to the Secretary of State of Canada. 29
(i) Announcements in London and in other Commonwealth capitals will probably be made. It is recommended that the Secretary of State for External Affairs should notify other Commonwealth Governments of Canadian action, before an announcement is made by the Secretary of State for External Affairs.
29Après discussion au Cabinet, il fut décidé de ne pas passer un décret. Au lieu de cela, le secrétaire d'État informa le secrétaire du gouverneur-général. DEA/3011-A-40 : Heeney à Gibson, le 3 décembre; Gibson à Letson, le 6 décembre.