February 8, 2013 - Bob Dechert, Parliamentary Secretary to Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird, participated in the following exchange in today’s Question Period:
Member of Parliament John Carmichael (Don Valley West): “Mr. Speaker, our government is continuously reviewing our network of diplomatic missions abroad to ensure taxpayers’ dollars are respected.
“Canada House on Trafalgar Square in London is a historic and heritage site, home of our high commission.
“Can the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs please update this House on the status of our mission there?”
Parliamentary Secretary Dechert: “Mr. Speaker, I'd like to thank my colleague for the question. He does great work with the Canada-U.K. Inter-Parliamentary Association.
“Canadians who have visited London may know that our high commission enjoys a place of privilege in Canada House on Trafalgar Square.
“What many people may not realize is that our mission is currently split between Canada House and another, aging building kilometres away.
“We will be expanding Canada House—taking over the building immediately adjacent—and consolidating the high commission’s operations in one spot.
“This will save taxpayers money and provide better service to Canadians.
“This exciting project will improve our operations in one of the world’s great cities.”
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A backgrounder follows.
For further information, or to schedule an interview on this topic with Canada’s High Commissioner to the United Kingdom, Gordon Campbell, media representatives may contact:
Foreign Affairs Media Relations Office
Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada
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Canada House is Canada’s premier diplomatic and public space in the United Kingdom. It is located at a historically significant site on Trafalgar Square in the heart of London.
Canada has had diplomatic representation in the United Kingdom since 1880 but did not have a dedicated building until the acquisition of Canada House in 1923. Canada House was officially opened in 1925 by King George V and Queen Mary.
Prior to its acquisition by Canada, the building on Trafalgar Square had served as the premises of the Union Club, a gentleman’s club built in Greek Revival style between 1824 and 1827 by architect Robert Smirke.
When Canada House opened, the Daily Telegraph said that it typified “the enormous importance that Canadian affairs occupy in London.”
During the Second World War, Canada House was a home away from home for those in the services, a place they could go for help and advice and to contact loved ones. It continued in that role for many Canadians travelling overseas for years afterward.
In 1963, Canada acquired the northern half of the building from the Royal College of Physicians, and the two sides were renovated to fit together into one.
In 2012, after a later round of renovations, Canada House reopened in time for Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II’s Diamond Jubilee. As “Canada Olympic House,” it was transformed into a base for Canadian athletes and their families during the 2012 London Summer Games.
Canada House will be expanded through the purchase of the adjacent building. This building is also of historic importance to Canada: it was opened in 1929 by the Sun Life Assurance Company of Canada and served as the Canadian army’s overseas headquarters in London during the Second World War.