Canada's Consular Strategy — Contributing to the Safety and Security of Canadians Abroad
Managing Canada’s consular relations is an important part of Canada’s foreign policy and of Global Affairs Canada’s (GAC) core mandate. Consular services help Canadians in unexpected situations abroad, such as when they have been arrested or detained, are severely ill or injured, or when their passport has been lost or stolen. GAC delivers consular services to Canadians 24 hours a day, seven days a week through its embassies and consulates abroad and its Emergency Watch and Response Centre in Ottawa.
Global Affairs Canada’s consular program is constantly evolving to respond to the changing needs of Canadians. Over the past few years, the consular program and the delivery of its services have been extensively reviewed and GAC has studied what works and what can be improved. Based on this work, and building on the accomplishments the program has already made, GAC has developed a renewed consular strategy to produce better results for Canadians.
Development of the strategy
Canada’s Consular Strategy is the result of extensive consultations with internal and external stakeholders, public opinion research and a series of consular program and services reviews.
In 2017, GAC conducted an internal evaluation of the consular program as part of the Departmental Five-year Evaluation Plan. This evaluation identified program gaps and challenges and recommended five key areas for improvement.
In 2018, the Office of the Auditor General completed the first-ever independent audit of Canada’s consular services. The audit focused on requests for consular assistance from Canadians travelling or living abroad and the effectiveness of the consular response.
In 2018, The House of Commons Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development published Strengthening the Canadian Consular Service Today and for the Future. The report was based on a review of written submissions and the testimony of more than a dozen witnesses.
In the same year, GAC held a series of 12 focus groups and 846 public opinion surveys to study the behaviours and attitudes of Canadian travellers and travel industry professionals. This study explored sources of travel information, safety precautions, awareness of consular services and travel insurance, among other topics.
In 2018–19, we also conducted the largest and most innovative collaborative design-thinking exercise in the history of the consular program. More than 200 consular officials, 50 other government departments and industry stakeholders, such as social services and airline and travel insurance representatives, participated in a series of multi-day workshops. The workshops focused on the point of view and experiences of clients needing consular services as they interacted with consular staff – the client journey. During the workshops, participants identified a series of key challenges and areas needing work, and discovered new ideas and opportunities.
All of this data produced and shaped Canada’s consular strategy.
What is a client journey?
A “client journey” is a process based on principles of “design thinking” that helps an organization better understand how clients use its services. Global Affairs Canada used this approach during a series of global workshops in 2018–19 to gather data and to identify challenges and areas for improvement in consular service delivery.
Through its renewed consular strategy, GAC will contribute to the safety and security of Canadians abroad.
Consular diplomacy in action
Consular officials, guided by Canadian values, serve Canadians through network building, advocacy and strategic engagement, and by keeping current on local contexts, best practices and trends in consular affairs.
Key priority areas
The renewed consular strategy builds on three key priority areas:
Global Affairs Canada delivers relevant, accessible and bilingual consular services 24 hours a day, seven days a week within its mandate and established framework. By recognizing that each consular case is unique, we will adapt our strategic approach as necessary while taking into consideration local and personal circumstances that may affect our clients’ needs and the help we can provide.
Global Affairs Canada shares accurate, timely and relevant information and safe travel advice with Canadians before, during and after they travel and during large-scale emergencies abroad. By actively engaging with Canadians, Global Affairs Canada helps them prepare for international travel and understand how to access consular services, what to expect and how to provide feedback.
Global Affairs Canada creates synergies with public and private organizations in Canada and abroad. By making linkages with relevant stakeholders, Global Affairs Canada is seeking to leverage the services provided by others to be better able to connect Canadians with options for their needs before, during and after travel.
Building a better framework
Global Affairs Canada is creating a robust program framework through consistent performance monitoring and by aligning resources with service delivery needs through the use of the right data to inform decisions and the use of forward-looking training, policy development and guidance.
Why renew our consular strategy
More Canadians abroad: More Canadians than ever before are living abroad and travelling to more varied destinations. Canada’s changing demographics and other trends mean that the profile and needs of the typical Canadian traveller have changed as well.
Improved knowledge and awareness of consular services: Research indicates that the Canadian general public is not aware of some of the consular services that the Government of Canada can provide. When planning a trip to a new destination, many travellers rely on friends and family as their main source of information. Safety and security considerations are not top of mind.
Information access in a digital age: The rapid rise of digital technologies – particularly mobile applications – makes it easier for Canadians to find information about living and travelling abroad. Research shows that while a growing number of Canadian travellers know about the Government of Canada’s Travel Advice and Advisories we need to promote the Travel Smart app and Registration of Canadians Abroad service.
Making a difference for Canadians
Canada’s renewed consular strategy will improve the way Canadians access the information and services they need to travel safely. A number of key activities are already underway and new initiatives are being developed to support the strategy’s priorities. These include:
- The launch of updated service standards for consular services on April 1, 2019, making it easier for Canadians to know what to expect when they ask for consular services.
- The launch of a new feedback form this summer that will make it easier for Canadians to provide GAC with feedback on the consular services they received.
- The development of new tools and training to better equip consular officials managing arrest and detention cases, which responds to a key recommendation from the Office of the Auditor General.
- The improvement of access to key information on Travel.gc.ca, including the Travel Advice and Advisories service, which will make the site more user-friendly.
Global Affairs Canada is working with internal and external stakeholders to build on these priority areas within Canada’s consular strategy and is implementing new activities to help strengthen the program and deliver better results for Canadians.
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