Canadian International Council | The Canadian Encyclopedia


Canadian International Council

The Canadian International Council is a public policy think tank dedicated to the discussion and analysis of Canada’s international affairs. It was founded as the Canadian Institute of International Affairs (CIIA) in 1928 by Sir Robert Borden, Sir Arthur CurrieJohn W. Dafoe and Sir Joseph Flavelle. The organization investigates the important and relevant issues of the day. It seeks to present a diversity of opinions on subjects such as Canada's participation in conflict, relations with the United States, and responsible citizenship in a global community.

Canadian Delegation at United Nations Conference

Background and Formation

After the First World War, political apathy and ignorance of international affairs motivated the founding of forums in Britain and the United States to debate current affairs and global issues. Inspired by this, the Canadian Institute of International Affairs (CIIA) sought to prepare Canadians for participation at international conferences such as the Institute of Pacific Relations. More broadly, it sought to engage effectively in the international sphere. The early organization was characterized by a large degree of autonomy in the various branches across the country. Businesspeople dominated the Winnipeg branch, academics coalesced in Toronto and Vancouver, and in Ottawa government bureaucrats were the majority.

In 1932, a grant from the Massey Foundation made it possible to appoint Escott Reid as the CIIA’s first full-time national secretary. This resulted in better coordination among the branches. Ambitious programming and increasing membership and public participation led to a more effective central organization and research capacity. Personal contacts precipitated a close relationship between the CIIA and the Department of External Affairs (now Global Affairs Canada). Many of the institute's national secretaries, such as Reid, pursued careers in the public service.

Organizational Structure

The Canadian International Council has 13 branches across the country. Together, they organize more than 70 events each year. They provide forums for the study and discussion of Canada's position and policies in the world. The national office organizes an annual foreign policy conference, lecture series and policy development workshops. It continues to maintain close co-operation with Global Affairs Canada (GAC) and other government departments.

Collaborations with private and voluntary sectors, universities and the media are also regular features of the Council’s activities.


In June 2006, the CIIA merged with the Centre for International Governance Innovation (CIGI) to form the new Canadian International Council (CIC). The single umbrella organization promotes public engagement with Canadian foreign policy and international relations. With a $1-million donation from Jim Balsillie, co-CEO of Research In Motion (RIM), in September 2007, the relationship was deepened to form a new partnership. Prior to the establishment of the CIC in summer 2007, there were 1,385 members of the CIIA, including Canada's leading experts on international affairs in academic, business and government circles.

The CIC pools the capacities and expertise of the CIIA, CIGI and the Munk Centre for International Studies at the University of Toronto, to create a public policy think-tank on Canada's foreign relations. A national fellowship program to support candidates from academia, public service and the business community will be headquartered at the Munk Centre. As part of the arrangement, CIIA operations were incorporated into the CIC.

The council produces Behind the Headlines, formerly published by the CIIA. It is also digitizing materials from the John Holmes Library, a collection of Canadian and international relations resources.


The CIIA published International Journal (the first issue appeared in 1946), a noted peer-reviewed scholarly publication on international relations. It also published online commentary articles in International Insights and International Security Series.