Habits of Hospitality - A Short History of the Origins of the Office of Protocol of Canada

Fred McEvoy & Greg Donaghy

Note on the Authors

Fred Mcevoy is an Ottawa-based historian and writer.

Greg Donaghy is head of the Historical Section of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development Canada.

They would like to thank John Hilliker, Mary Halloran, Norman Hillmer and Jean Bourassa for their helpful comments on this article. The views expressed in it, however, are the authors' own.

Sir Joseph Pope, who served as the department's first under-secretary from 1909 to 1925, was a "stickler for form."
(Source: Library and Archives Canada, PA-110845)

A Short History of the Origins of the Office of Protocol of Canada

Oscar Douglas Skelton, Canada's second under-secretary of state for external affairs, was normally an unruffled man. Yet by the fall of 1927, the head of the country's new legation in Washington, Vincent Massey, had sorely tested him. For months, Massey, enamoured of his new diplomatic life, had besieged Skelton with telegrams and notes on the legation's decor and dishes, honours and titles, and diplomatic dress. Now the head of mission was horrified by the "quite informal" arrangements planned to welcome his American counterpart, William Phillips, to Ottawa. Massey, backed by the U.S. State Department, protested vigorously, but Skelton, who loathed protocol, dismissed American concerns. "Personally," he scolded, "I wish more of their time might be given to such questions of diplomatic procedure as remembering that His Majesty's Government in Canada is not a branch of His Majesty's Government in Great Britain."Footnote 1

The connection between protocol and national status was closer and deeper than Skelton acknowledged. In 1927, Canada was still a young country, which had only taken its first steps on the world stage. Its Department of External Affairs, founded in 1909, was just finding its way, and its protocol functions were limited. However, as Canada slowly shed its colonial past during the 1930s and 1940s and adopted its own foreign policies, that changed. The expanding foreign ministry gradually embraced its protocol responsibilities as another means to reinforce Canada's distinct international persona and to project the country's values at home and abroad.

Between the outbreak of world war in 1939 and the mid1950s, the department's early protocol officers helped establish an institutional basis in External Affairs and across government in Ottawa for managing Canada's international (and domestic) protocol obligations. This is the story of those early institution builders.

Before Prime Minister Wilfrid Laurier's government established the Department of External Affairs in June 1909, protocol questions, both international and domestic, were handled by the Department of the Secretary of State. That department looked after foreign consuls appointed to Canada, handled passports and extradition and, in conjunction with the governor general's office, awarded honours and responded to invitations for Canada to participate in imperial and international conferences.Footnote 2 In other words, the department, and its minister, known as the secretary of state, undertook tasks that would normally have been the responsibility of a foreign ministry, at a time when Canada's foreign relations were still mostly managed by the British government.

Joseph (later Sir Joseph) Pope, who had served as under-secretary in the Department of the Secretary of State from 1896, was the protocol expert of his time. He had previously served as private secretary to Canada's first prime minister, Sir John A. Macdonald, and as assistant clerk of the privy council. As under-secretary, Pope amassed unrivalled experience of the "forms and ceremonies" of public life. He was largely responsible for arranging the Canadian tours of such prominent visitors as the Duke and Duchess of York in 1901, Prince Arthur of Connaught in 1906, and Prince Fushimi of Japan in 1907. The reigning authority on questions of protocol, honours and ceremonies, the under-secretary was widely consulted by prime ministers, governors general, federal and provincial officials, and private citizens.

Nor did Pope lack a sense of his own worth, once noting that he was "almost, if not altogether, the only person living who has maintained an acquaintance with this subject [of protocol] for upwards of thirty years."Footnote 3 Indeed, the Canadian press hailed Pope as the "ruling authority on official ceremony and etiquette" and "a stickler for form." He knew, continued the Ottawa Citizen, "the functions of government, the deportment of officialdom, the procedure for great occasions, the drafting of official communiqués and diplomatic correspondence, the exchange of international amities, and, more important still, the keeping inviolate of the secrets of state. Of all these, Sir Joseph was the recognized master, the court of last resort."Footnote 4

Pope's expertise in these areas reflected his innate conservatism. "A thrice-dipped Tory," Pope opposed anything that smacked of movement towards Canadian independence from Britain.Footnote 5 He denounced the notion of replacing the British Union Jack with a distinctive Canadian flag and opposed the use of the phrase "His Majesty's Canadian Government," believing that "this attempt to assert our equality with the ancient government to which we owe our political being... is presumptuous, aggressive, and in the worst possible taste."Footnote 6 However, for administrative reasons, and to strengthen Ottawa's capacity to handle state documents with international implications, Pope became the chief advocate within the bureaucracy for the establishment of a separate department responsible for Canada's external relations. He was the obvious choice to become the new department's first under-secretary at its formation in 1909.Footnote 7

The External Affairs Act of 1909 transferred responsibility for foreign consuls and passports to the new department. On questions of protocol, however, the legislation was not always clear where jurisdiction lay. Pope advised Prime Minister Robert Borden of the problem in September 1912, recommending that there be "a specific allocation of powers to the Secretary of State for External Affairs, and in particular that the functions of his Department and those of the Secretary of State of Canada should be clearly differentiated." Borden declined to act, leaving protocol operations confused and subject to a bitter interdepartmental rivalry that persisted for many years.Footnote 8

On his retirement in March 1925, Pope was succeeded as under-secretary by Skelton, whose interests and priorities were very different. Skelton was primarily interested in policy and in turning the department into a genuine foreign office. He rarely concerned himself with protocol matters. In effect, Pope's successor in that field was W.H. (Howard) Measures, who became the department's next authority on protocol. Indeed, Measures had already begun to assume these duties from the aging Pope, who was plagued by ill health during his last few years in office.Footnote 9

The Duke of Connaught arriving at Low, Quebec, in April 1906.
(Source: Library and Archives Canada, C-004687)

Born in England in 1894, Measures came to Canada to work for the Canadian Pacific Railway in 1913 before enlisting in the Canadian forces from 1915 to 1918. He joined the Department of External Affairs in December 1921, serving as assistant private secretary to the Liberal prime minister, William Lyon Mackenzie King.Footnote 10 Measures quickly became the prime minister's valued confidant. "Life does not offer many associations as long and as intimate," Mackenzie King wrote Measures after the Conservative victory in the federal election of November 1930. "It has been a very helpful one for me... [and] I miss having you to talk with of the events transpiring overseas, in our own country, and in the country to the South."Footnote 11 Since his appointment was not a political one, Measures was retained as private secretary by Conservative Prime Minister R.B. Bennett, remaining in that role when Mackenzie King returned to power in 1935.

Under Mackenzie King and Bennett, Measures was for the first time officially placed in charge of protocol and government hospitality in 1930, even though he worked out of the Prime Minister's Office. He prepared memoranda on such topics as the protocol for the arrival of diplomatic appointees in Ottawa, procedures for appointing Canadian diplomats abroad, the proper display of flags at government buildings, the precedence of Canadian diplomats at the League of Nations, and the precedence of former prime ministers and retired officials.Footnote 12 He was also the secretary of the hospitality committee of the Imperial Economic Conference in Ottawa in 1932, and he assisted with arrangements for a memorial service for King George V in 1935 and with preparations for Canadian participation in the coronation of George VI in 1937. Measures served too as associate secretary of the interdepartmental committee on the royal tour of 1939, a major undertaking that included Skelton as a member and Hugh Keenleyside, another departmental officer, as secretary.Footnote 13

The growing importance of the protocol function for Canada as it navigated its way onto the world stage in the 1930s was acknowledged in August 1941. The outbreak of the Second World War two years earlier had greatly increased the workload at External Affairs, which one contemporary observer described as "a hive of unorganized activity."Footnote 14 Under Skelton's successor, Norman Robertson, the department was reorganized in 1941, and a new unit, the Diplomatic and Economic Division, created. Within this clumsy entity, which reported to a senior official, the assistant under-secretary, Laurent Beaudry, Measures remained in charge of protocol.Footnote 15

A statement of duties prepared in September 1942 reveals the broad range of his activities: he was the formal point of contact for foreign heads of mission, and supervised their privileges, immunities and tax exemptions; prepared the Diplomatic List; issued various identity cards and certificates; established the precedence of the diplomatic corps and other officials; and managed official calls by foreign diplomats and departmental officers. Measures was also responsible for determining titles, anthems, toasts, decorations and medals, and the pedigree of the Royal Family, and for sending messages of condolence to foreign governments. His duties on the ceremonial side included the inauguration of the governor general, the presentation of letters of credence by foreign diplomats and the marshalling of the diplomatic corps at ceremonies. In addition, he organized the reception and hospitality for foreign visitors and delegates to conferences, met official visitors on arrival, and arranged banquets in their honour.Footnote 16

The most delicate issue that Measures confronted was the pregnancy of Princess Juliana of the Netherlands, who was given safe haven in Ottawa while her country was occupied by Nazi Germany during the Second World War. "A most capable and meticulous official," in the opinion of his colleague Hugh Keenleyside, Measures "was also quite properly a man who performed his duties with the greatest gravity." In order to ensure that the baby was born on Dutch territory, and so entitled to succeed to the throne, Measures arranged for the Princess's residence, her hospital room, and even the car that would take her to Ottawa's Civic Hospital, to be temporarily declared Dutch territory. As the pregnancy advanced, Measures became obviously nervous, to the amusement of his colleagues. When informed that Princess Juliana had given birth to a daughter and that both were well, Prime Minister Mackenzie King reportedly replied, "Good, good; but how is Measures?"Footnote 17

W.H. Measures (left) and Prime Minister W.L. Mackenzie King (centre) greet British Prime Minister Winston Churchill on his arrival in Ottawa on 29 December 1941.
(Source: Library and Archives Canada, PA-148541)

In January 1945, a departmental reorganization saw the division split into two parts, with the new Diplomatic Division still reporting to Beaudry.Footnote 18 By October 1946, with Beaudry ill and unlikely to return to duty, the associate under-secretary, Hume Wrong, had seized the opportunity to reorganize the Diplomatic Division. "I think," he wrote, "that there is a natural line of cleavage between the aspects of its functions which relate to ceremonials, protocol, hospitality and so on, and those concerned with passports, visas, travel and related questions."Footnote 19 A Protocol Division would be created under Measures as "chef de protocol," responsible for foreign and Commonwealth missions in Ottawa and consular missions elsewhere in Canada, Canadian missions and consular offices abroad, reception and hospitality for distinguished visitors, precedence, the Diplomatic List, diplomatic visas, messages of condolence and congratulations, and honours and awards.Footnote 20 The Diplomatic Division was abolished in January 1947 and replaced with two divisions, Protocol and Consular.Footnote 21

Canada's wartime economic and military accomplishments and its growing stature on the postwar world stage created a strong sense of nationalism across the country and in External Affairs. Measures shared this national sentiment. The time had come, he asserted, "to consider whether Canadian protocol practice... is adequate for post-war Canada for expanding representation on the higher level of embassy status, and for Canada's importance and responsibilities at the approach of the half-way mark in the 20th century." While the number of foreign and Commonwealth missions in Ottawa had jumped from six in 1938 to 26 by 1946, Canadian protocol practice, which was an adaptation of British practice, had not kept up with the country's changing circumstances. Measures proposed to compare protocol practice in Ottawa with postwar British, American, French and, possibly, Belgian or Dutch practice; the goal was not to adopt "old world" practices to Canada but to give protocol in Ottawa its proper "Canadian character."Footnote 22

Measures headed to Europe in the summer of 1947, visiting London, Paris, Rome, Vatican City, Brussels, The Hague and Berne. This was no junket: the trip through war-ravaged Europe was characterized by "the headlong speed of the itinerary, the exhausting heat, the lack of safe drinking water, and the general discomfort of European travel." Measures himself was exasperated by "the leisurely habits of European officials," who studiously avoided morning appointments. He devised a detailed written questionnaire to short-circuit "the tendency of European officials to expound in a grand manner on subjects of interest to them." Despite these problems, he found the tour of great value. He was particularly struck by the informality of King George's reception of credentials from foreign diplomats; he did not sit on a dais, and held a brief, informal conversation with his visitor. Neither gave a prepared speech. Canadian practice was stiffer and much more formal, and Measures recommended that the more relaxed British style be adopted. This was done in January 1948.Footnote 23

Later that year Measures considered the related question of whether a Canadian cabinet minister needed to be present when credentials were presented. This was the case in most of the European capitals he had visited. Conscious that Canada's governor general was still British, Measures argued that the presence of a cabinet minister would emphasise "the Canadian character of an occasion on which the diplomat brings a Letter of Credence addressed, not to the King of Canada but to the King of Great Britain, Ireland, and the British Dominions Beyond the Seas." Mackenzie King's successor as secretary of state for external affairs, Louis St. Laurent, also thought it important to have a government minister present at the ceremony to support the governor general.Footnote 24

In setting up his division Measures was determined that his office should make a good impression on visiting diplomats. A newly arrived diplomat's first impression of Canadian officialdom was formed at the meeting with the chief of protocol. Measures insisted that his reception room be "easily accessible and well furnished." Moreover, it should be close to the offices of the minister and under-secretary, on whom the diplomat would also call.Footnote 25 Insisting that a wall in his office be repaired, Measures underlined that this was "the first room that these foreign Diplomats will enter in a Canadian Government building. First impressions as you know are most important, and I must confess that the wall of this room will give a false notion to these Diplomats of the conditions in which Canada does its business." Protocol offices he had visited when abroad "were housed in handsome and well appointed rooms," with good furnishings and artwork. He wanted to acquire paintings from the National Gallery but feared the gallery's director "might balk if he saw room 101 in its present state."Footnote 26

Measures worried too about appropriate staffing levels for the new division. He saw his own role as "a sort of field officer whose duties necessitate frequent withdrawals from the detailed work of the Division for interviews with heads of diplomatic missions, [and] attendance at and organization of hospitality events." When absent, he relied on a strong second-in-command, backed by an adequate staff. This was not always forthcoming, prompting Measures to note in May 1947 that he lived "in daily apprehension of the failure of Protocol Division to carry out adequately its present tasks and to prepare for our future responsibilities... We are doing our best but I dread the omission or commission of some duty which may bring unfavourable comment or criticism on the Division and on the Under-Secretary."Footnote 27

Measures and Protocol Division were well established by the late 1940s. Indeed, with the publication in 1947 of his best-selling guide, Styles of Address, which taught a generation of young diplomats the proper salutation for every occasion, Measures was at the height of his influence.Footnote 28 His main difficulty remained the uncertain division of responsibilities between the departments of External Affairs and the Secretary of State.

Serious trouble finally erupted in July 1950 over Mackenzie King's state funeral, which was the Secretary of State's responsibility. That department, however, lacked an officer with the capability and experience to manage the funeral, and Measures was summoned from vacation to take charge of the arrangements. The under-secretary of state for external affairs, Arnold Heeney, recommended the transfer of Measures and some of his responsibilities to the secretary of state's department in an effort to resolve the lingering jurisdictional difficulties. This step would relieve External Affairs of some, but not all, ceremonial and hospitality duties.Footnote 29

Endorsed by the minister, Lester B. Pearson, the proposal sped through cabinet and came into effect in January 1951. A new unit, Special Division, was created in the Department of the Secretary of State, which now took charge formally of precedence, state functions and ceremonies, conferences and formal government meetings. These would become the sole responsibility of the Department of the Secretary of State but "without prejudice" to the protocol role of External Affairs in the field of international relations.

This was clearly a recipe for further jurisdictional strife. "Close and continuing liaison between our two Departments," Heeney wrote the deputy minister in the secretary of state's department, "will be necessary in the whole field which we have been discussing."Footnote 30 Nevertheless, the cabinet's decision established a better-defined and more mature institutional framework for the government's protocol operations, inside and outside the Department of External Affairs.

Measures was succeeded as chief of protocol by another experienced officer, H.F. Feaver, known to his colleagues by his high school nickname of "Temp." Trained as a lawyer, Feaver joined the department in 1930 as one of its first foreign service officers. Urbane and always well turned out, he had a reputation for being well connected, reinforced perhaps by his marriage to one of Princess Juliana's ladies-in-waiting. In Keenleyside's judgment, Feaver handled the "complicated field" of protocol with "a touch of genius."Footnote 31 Like Measures, Feaver believed that, because diplomatic practice changed over time and varied from country to country, there was no need for Canada to follow any except its own. Instead, Canadian protocol "should be developed in a manner designed to express, as far as possible, Canadian characteristics... the fundamental informality and friendliness of the Canadian people."Footnote 32

W.H. Measures (left) with Crown Prince Akihito of Japan during the Prince's 1953 visit to Canada.
(Source: Library and Archives Canada, PA-148541)

Feaver quickly encountered the blurred roles between External Affairs and the Department of the Secretary of State. "Experience," he observed in April 1953, "has made the Under-Secretary [now Dana Wilgress] dissatisfied with this arrangement, and, consequently, he has placed most of the responsibility on the Protocol Division, which simply has inadequate staff to carry this load."Footnote 33 Pearson shared these concerns, and in August 1954, the minister proposed an interdepartmental committee on government hospitality, whose work would be coordinated by a secretary drawn from Feaver's staff in Protocol Division.Footnote 34

A memorandum to cabinet in February 1955 set out the case for the new committee. Noting the lack of coordination concerning invitations to foreign visitors and members of the Royal Family, the document recommended that the committee oversee and coordinate hospitality, keeping a watchful eye on expenditures. External Affairs was given a powerful role on the committee, which reported to its minister and was chaired by its chief of protocol. The department also provided the committee's secretary. Other members would come from the governor general's office, the Prime Minister's Office or the Privy Council Office, and the Department of the Secretary of State.Footnote 35

A half-century after its creation, Canada's Department of External Affairs was finally equipped to assume fully the nation's protocol duties. The new arrangement was not perfect. Disputes over jurisdiction continued to plague relations between the Department of the Secretary of State and the foreign ministry. Staff shortages too were a frequent problem, once prompting the chief of protocol to complain that his division had been reduced to "a sweat shop."Footnote 36

Still, the basic and essential infrastructure for meeting Canada's protocol obligations was now in place. External Affairs had a functioning protocol office, and there was an agreed division of labour with the secretary of state's department and an established interdepartmental mechanism for resolving conflicts and coordinating activities. External Affairs was ready, in the words of a future undersecretary, Marcel Cadieux, to assume the "habits of hospitality and of kindness characteristic of a new country."Footnote 37


Footnote 1

O.D. Skelton to Vincent Massey, 23 May 1927, cited by Norman Hillmer in the draft manuscript of his biography of O.D. Skelton, 136-37. We are grateful to Professor Hillmer for drawing this to our attention.

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Footnote 2

John Hilliker, Canada’s Department of External Affairs, Volume 1: The Early Years 1909-1946 (Montreal and Kingston: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 1990), 8-9.

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Footnote 3

Kenneth P. Kirkwood, “History of the Department of External Affairs” (unpublished manuscript), Vol. 2, 295. This manuscript is held in the departmental library.

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Footnote 4

Ottawa Citizen, 2 December 1926, quoted in ibid., 293.

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Footnote 5

Maurice Pope (ed.), Public Servant: The Memoirs of Sir Joseph Pope (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1960), 285.

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Footnote 6

Hilliker, Canada’s Department of External Affairs, 64.

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Footnote 7

Ibid., 20-21.

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Footnote 8

Joseph Pope, “Confidential Memorandum for the Prime Minister, touching the administration of the Department of External Affairs,” 13 September 1912, Department of External Affairs Records [DEAR], Vol. 1125, File 1912-666, Library and Archives Canada [LAC].

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Footnote 9

Hilliker, Canada’s Department of External Affairs, 88.

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Footnote 10

Kirkwood, “History of the Department,” Vol. 4, 925.

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Footnote 11

W.L.M. King to W.H. Measures, 7 November 1930, Measures Papers, Vol. 3, File: “Mackenzie King,” LAC.

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Footnote 12

“Arrival of Foreign Ministers: Practice at Ottawa,” 25 September 1934 and “Procedure of Appointment of Canadian Ministers Pleni potentiary,” Measures Papers, Vol. 1, File: “Credentials (General),” LAC; “Memorandum,” 4 July 1933, ibid., Vol. 2, File: “Flag”; O.D. Skelton to W.L.M. King, 16 June 1936, W.L.M. King Papers, Microfilm Reel C-2721, 140836, and W.H. Measures to W.L.M. King, 23 November 1936, ibid., 140837-8, LAC. The memorandum on flags called for the flying of the Union Jack at home and the Red Ensign abroad, which would have hor rified Pope.

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Footnote 13

Kirkwood, “History of the Department,” Vol. 4, 925; Hilliker, Canada’s Department of External Affairs, 143-44, 200-02; H.L. Keenleyside, Memoirs of Hugh L. Keenleyside, Volume 1: Hammer the Golden Day (Toronto: McClelland and Stewart, 1981), 484-86.

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Footnote 14

The observer was Lester B. Pearson. Hilliker, Canada’s Department of External Affairs, 242.

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Footnote 15

H.L. Keenleyside, “Memorandum for Members of the Staff,” 2 August 1941, DEAR, Vol. 2814, File 1086-40, LAC.

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Footnote 16

“Diplomatic and Commercial Division,” 9 September 1942, DEAR, Vol. 2814, File 1086-40, LAC.

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Footnote 17

Keenleyside, Memoirs, 448.

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Footnote 18

Hilliker, Canada’s Department of External Affairs, 276.

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Footnote 19

H.H. Wrong, “Divisional Organization,” 2 October 1946, DEAR, Vol. 3559, File 1086-40, LAC. Beaudry returned to work briefly, but retired for health reasons in April 1948.

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Footnote 20

“Memorandum re: Reorganization of the Diplomatic Division,” n.d., DEAR, Vol. 679, File 136-I, LAC.

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Footnote 21

Circular Despatch B.2, 9 January 1947, enclosure, “Department of External Affairs Organization,” DEAR, Vol. 3559, File 1086-40, LAC.

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Footnote 22

W.H. Measures, “Memorandum for Mr. Norman Robertson,” 23 November 1946, DEAR, Vol. 679, File 136-I, LAC.

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Footnote 23

W.H. Measures, “Modern European Protocol,” and “Visits of Chef du Protocol on the Continent,” n.d., Measures Papers, Vol. 7, LAC; Laurent Beaudry, “Memorandum for the Secretary of State for External Affairs”, 5 January 1948, DEAR, Vol. 6230, File 7753-40, LAC.

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Footnote 24

W.H. Measures, “Memorandum for the Under Secretary of State for External Affairs,” 15 July 1948, DEAR, Vol. 6230, File 7753, LAC.

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Footnote 25

W.H. Measures, “Protocol Division: Space and Equipment,” n.d., DEAR, Vol. 679, File 136-I, LAC.

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Footnote 26

W.H. Measures to W.L. Smith, Superintendent of Public Buildings, 13 November 1947, DEAR, Vol. 679, File 136-I, LAC.

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Footnote 27

W.H. Measures to T.W.L. MacDermot, Head of Personnel Division, 30 May 1947, DEAR, Vol. 679, File 136-I, LAC.

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Footnote 28

Howard Measures, Styles of Address: A Manual of Usage in Writing and in Speech (New York: Thomas Y. Crowell Company, 1947).

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Footnote 29

A.D.P. Heeney to H.O. Moran, Assistant Under-Secretary, 26 July 1950, DEAR, Vol. 679, File 136-I, LAC.

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Footnote 30

A.D.P. Heeney to Joseph C. Stein, Under-Secretary of State, 8 February 1951, minuted by Stein, Measures Papers, Vol. 6, File: “State,” LAC.

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Footnote 31

Keenleyside, Memoirs, 465.

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Footnote 32

H.F. Feaver, “Notes for Heads of Divisions Meeting,” 29 January 1951, DEAR, Vol. 6186, File 1955-F-40, LAC.

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Footnote 33

H.F. Feaver, “Memorandum for Mr. Gill,” 2 April 1953, DEAR, Vol. 6292, File 11336-3-40, LAC.

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Footnote 34

H.F. Feaver to Personnel Division, 26 August 1954, DEAR, Vol. 6292, File 11336-3-40, LAC.

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Footnote 35

Secretary of State for External Affairs, “Memorandum to Cabinet,” 21 February 1955, Measures Papers, Vol. 6, File: “State,” LAC.

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Footnote 36

E.D. McGreer to Head of Personnel Division, 23 July 1956, DEAR, Vol. 6292, File 11336-3-40, LAC.

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Footnote 37

Marcel Cadieux, The Canadian Diplomat: An Essay in Definition (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1963), 111.

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