The United States has maintained an official presence in Canada since 1833 when it opened its first Consulate in Halifax, Nova Scotia. During the next forty years, a dozen similar missions were opened across British North America, including a consular agency headed by William Patrick at Ottawa in 1866. More than sixty years passed before Canadian accession to full sovereignty within the British Commonwealth opened the way to formal diplomatic relations between the two countries. William Phillips was appointed as the first U.S. Minister to Canada in 1927. In recognition of Canada’s increasingly independent foreign policy and with a view to increased wartime cooperation, the U.S. delegation in Ottawa was upgraded to an embassy in 1943.
The U.S. Ambassador to Canada is the personal representative of the President in conducting official relations between the two countries. When the Ambassador engages in negotiations, initiates a policy, delivers an address, or takes part in ceremonies, she does so on behalf of the President. She also oversees operations at U.S. consulates in Halifax, Quebec City, Montreal, Toronto, Calgary, and Vancouver. In addition to the Ambassador, the U.S. Embassy in Ottawa includes approximately 225 officers and staff. State Department sections within the Embassy focus on political, economic, consular, public affairs and administrative functions. Personnel from 32 other U.S. Government agencies manage commercial, agricultural, customs, immigration, law enforcement, and military relations – all of which fall under the authority of the Ambassador.
The U.S. Embassy has played a central role in U.S.-Canadian relations over the past seven decades. Substantive highlights in this uniquely productive bilateral relationship include agreement to construct the St. Lawrence Seaway (1934), implementation of the Ogdensburg Treaty (1940), establishment of the North American Air Defense Command (1958), negotiation of the Auto Pact (1965), and conclusion of Great Lakes Water Quality Agreements (1972 and 1978). More recent diplomatic achievements include negotiation of the U.S.-Canadian and North American Free Trade Agreements (1989 and 1993), and signing of an Air Transport Agreement Between the United States of America and Canada easing restrictions on air travel between the two countries (1995). In addition to managing the bilateral relationship, the Embassy has played an important continuing role in facilitating U.S.-Canadian cooperation in multilateral fora including the United Nations, the Organization of American States (OAS), the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), the Organization for Economic Development and Cooperation (OECD) and the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC). It also facilitates travel to Canada of high-ranking U.S. officials, which has included thirteen Presidents.