Program gives diplomats a better understanding of Canada

International and Francophonie
Student life
Public and International Affairs

By Eric Champagne, Connell Monette, Serge Mushinzimana and Anne-Chantal Soucie

Associate Professor in Public Administration, Director Global Partnerships, Senior Advisor Africa, Associate Director, uOttawa

Group of professors in meeting about new Canadian and International Affairs Program
In 2021, a delegation from the University of Ottawa’s uOInternational (formerly the International Office) visited several embassies in the National Capital Region. These visits highlighted the need to strengthen our diplomatic ties with nations represented in Canada, to foster greater cooperation and better understand the education needs of the diplomatic community in Ottawa.

During these meetings, a diplomat raised a critical point: the necessity for diplomats to gain a deeper understanding of Canada’s provincial and federal governments, politics and institutional framework, to develop beneficial initiatives between Canada and their respective countries.  

In response to this, a few months later, the University of Ottawa launched the Canadian and International Affairs (CIA) program, an initiative for diplomats and senior officials seeking to enhance their expertise in public administration and international relations. Integrating aspects of diplomacy, lifelong learning and research, the CIA program uses an innovative, comprehensive pedagogical approach to enhancing international relations.  

A mix of disciplines and instructors

The Canadian and International Affairs Program combines elements of public administration, leadership, Canadian politics and diplomacy. It recognizes that diplomats already have significant leadership experience in foreign affairs and diplomacy. However, in today's interconnected world, they also need a robust understanding of Canadian political institutions, foreign policies and intergovernmental relations to navigate the intricacies of diplomacy. 

The program’s strength lies in its distinguished mix of educators, featuring professors from the University of Ottawa’s School of Political Studies, guest speakers and senior instructors from the Professional Development Institute.

A hands-on approach to real-world challenges

To ensure practical applicability, the program includes a series of exercises and training simulations. They offer participants the opportunity to apply their newly-acquired knowledge in real-world scenarios. The latest delivery of the program offered two immersive one-day simulations. The first focused on the dynamics of Canada’s Indo-Pacific Strategy, providing a deep dive into its complexities. The second focused on current diplomatic issues between Mexico and Canada regarding the Seasonal Agricultural Workers Program, offering an understanding of its economic and social intricacies and impact.  

Shortly after the announcement of the program, the University welcomed its inaugural cohort, consisting of Nigerian diplomats.  

Adeyinka Asekun, a participant from the Nigeria High Commission, said: “The CIA program was a very fulfilling experience. It heightened my awareness of the nature of Canada’s political system, in particular Canada’s federalism. I would recommend it for Nigerian diplomats posted to Canada in the future.” 

For Serge Mushinzimana, a participant from uOttawa, “The CIA Program is a testament to the University of Ottawa’s commitment to fostering stronger diplomatic ties and offering innovative educational opportunities.” 

Online and in person: Meeting diplomats where they are

The CIA program offers a hybrid learning experience, a blend of online and offline learning highly suitable for diplomats, who often must juggle demanding schedules and frequent travel. For those in Ottawa, the program includes in-person practical simulations, which remote participants can join online.  

The CIA program emerged through the collaboration of uOttawa units, including uOInternational and the Centre on Governance. The host entity of the program is the Professional Development Institute. Founded over 25 years ago, it played a pivotal role in the rapid design and implementation of the program.  

The Canadian and International Affairs Program represents a transformative educational opportunity not only for diplomats and senior officials, but also for anyone seeking excellence in public administration, leadership and diplomacy.  

Learn more about the Canadian and International Affairs Program, including coming offerings.