Nossal: Are diplomats needed in the digital age?

By: /
October 17, 2011

In January 1969 Pierre Elliott Trudeau famously declared that “the whole concept of diplomacy today is a little bit outmoded.”  All that all one needed to know what was happening abroad, he said, was to read “a good newspaper.”  Although Trudeau changed his mind about the usefulness of Canada’s foreign service, some Canadians persist in deriding diplomats as high-spending functionaries engaged in activities made passé by the advent of digital media.  But governments that have been inclined to act on such views by slashing the easily-targetable budget of the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade have quickly discovered just how much Canada’s diplomats abroad are needed – to make sense of the world beyond Canada’s borders for the government of the day, to press Canadian interests abroad, to provide services to Canadians overseas.