Canadian International Council

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Canadian International Council
Conseil international du Canada
PredecessorCanadian Institute of International Affairs
TypeThink tank
HeadquartersToronto, Ontario, Canada
John English and Nicolas Rouleau
Revenue (2021–22)
Expenses (2021–22)$747,424[1] Edit this at Wikidata

The Canadian International Council (CIC; French: Conseil international du Canada) is a Canadian think tank on foreign relations. It is an independent, member-based council established to strengthen Canada's role in international affairs. Its goal is to advance debate on international issues across academic disciplines, policy areas, and economic sectors.

The council is headquartered in Toronto, Ontario, with 19 volunteer-run branches across Canada. CIC branches offers CIC members speakers' programs, study groups, conferences, and seminars. Branches are located in Calgary, Edmonton, Halifax, Hamilton, Montreal, Ottawa, Nipissing (North Bay), Prince George, Quebec, Regina, Saskatoon, Simcoe County, Thunder Bay, Toronto, Vancouver, Victoria, Waterloo, Whitehorse, Yukon and Winnipeg. The volunteer-driven branches are the backbone of the organization. It's through the efforts of these many volunteers that the CIC engages Canadians from coast, to coast on current foreign affairs topics of importance to their local communities. It also established a pan-Canadian Young Professionals Network.

The CIC has established a digital media platform,, to promote discussion by Canadians on international affairs.


The CIC has its roots in 1928, in the Canadian Institute of International Affairs (CIIA), when it was founded by Sir Robert Borden. In 1932, Escott Reid was appointed as the Institute's first full-time National Secretary and began organizing annual study conferences where ideas could be exchanged. The conferences were largely round-table discussions and members of branch study groups were invited to participate. Reid also encouraged expansion of the CIIA's membership and greater public participation in the work of the Institute.

The first Commonwealth Conference (the Commonwealth Relations Conference) was held at Hart House (University of Toronto), organised jointly by the CIIA and Royal Institute of International Affairs. Former Canadian Prime Minister Sir Robert Borden was in the chair and Arnold Toynbee was the recorder. There were 77 international delegates, including future Canadian Governor General Vincent Massey, future New Zealand prime Minister Walter Nash and future foreign minister of Pakistan Zafrullah Khan (as an invited observer).[2]

The CIC's first corporate record dates back to 1950, with the objective "to give attention to Canada's position both as a member of the international community of nations and as a member of the British Commonwealth of Nations."[3]

Under insurance magnate Edgar Tarr, 1938 to 1950, it went beyond the original neutral and apolitical research role. Instead it championed Canadian national autonomy and sought to enlarge the nation's international role, while challenging British imperialism. Numerous diplomats attended its conferences and supported its new mission. Canada's foreign policy moved away from imperialism and toward the sort of anti-colonialism promoted by the United States. CIIA leaders and Canadian officials worked to encouraged nationalist forces in India, China, and Southeast Asia that sought to reject colonial rule and Western dominance.[4]

In October 2007, Jim Balsillie (the former co-CEO of the Canadian information technology company Research In Motion ('BlackBerry') initiated the formation of the CIC as a partnership between the CIIA and the Centre for International Governance Innovation (CIGI), a think tank based in Waterloo, Ontario, that works on global issues, in order to create a research base on Canadian foreign policy similar to the American Council on Foreign Relations and the United Kingdom's Royal Institute of International Affairs.[5] In making the announcement, Balsillie wrote, "CIC will be a research-based, non-partisan vehicle. Applying expert and fact-based research to complex issues is the essential foundation for creating effective policy."[5] In November 2007, members of the CIIA voted to become the Canadian International Council.

In May 2008, the Canadian Institute of Strategic Studies (CISS) folded its operations into the CIC as the Strategic Studies Working Group.[6]

In 2019, the Couchiching Institute on Public Affairs was merged into the CIC, and continues as an annual Couchiching event which the CIC hosts.

In 2020, the online publication OpenCanada [1] returned to the CIC after being under the management of the Centre for International Governance Innovation from 2015 to 2020.


The CIC has been recognized at the Canadian Online Publishing Awards for its work with OpenCanada.[7] In 2013 the site won the Content of the Year award, as well as two gold medals for best overall online-only publication and online-only article or series in the academic and nonprofit media category.[8]


Network for Democratic Solidarity[edit]

In 2021, with support from the Konrad Adenauer Stiftung Canada, the CIC began a multi-year research project aimed at articulating a new form of mutual democracy promotion that Canada and Germany have practiced in the era of rising populist authoritarianism (from 2016 onward). This project, called "Renewing Our Democratic Alliance" facilitated the mutual learning of best practices between inclusive democracies facing shared challenges to the rights of their citizens. At a 2022 conference on Democratic Backsliding hosted by the CIC and Toronto Metropolitan University at McGill University, the CIC announced the creation of a Network for Democratic Solidarity | that will serve as a group of likeminded nations committed to helping one another strengthen democratic practice.[9] The Network for Democratic Solidarity became an independent organization in May 2023.

Foreign Policy by Canadians[edit]

Foreign Policy by Canadians logo

Foreign Policy by Canadians was a joint initiative by the Canadian International Council (CIC), CanWaCH and Global Canada. It was a deliberative poll of a large, representative sample of Canadians from all walks of life to articulate the nation's preferences on Canada's foreign policy priorities for the 2020s. To understand the views of everyday citizens, CanWaCH and the CIC ran a deliberative democracy exercise with James S. Fishkin's Stanford Center for Deliberative Democracy . Using techniques developed by the Center for Deliberative Democracy, this project identified a representative sample of the entire Canadian population which was then briefed on the critical issues facing Canada in the world and deliberated on policy proposals meant for presentation to the Canadian government. The results will provide an indication of the level of support the broader Canadian electorate would have for global engagement if fully exposed to the issues at stake. This initiative is meant to bridge the gap between policy makers and Canadians from all walks of life to identify how Canada should engage the world.


From 2018 to 2022, the President and Research Director of the CIC was Ben Rowswell, former Ambassador to Venezuela.[10] The CIC is overseen by a board of directors chaired by Nicolas Rouleau and John English.


International Journal
Publication details
Standard abbreviations
ISO 4Int. J.

International Journal (IJ), established in 1946,[11] is the CIC's scholarly publication and Canada's pre-eminent journal of global policy analysis. IJ is cross disciplinary, combining the insights of history, political science, and economics with anthropology and other social sciences to advance research and dialogue on issues of global significance.

In 2013 the CIC partnered with the Bill Graham Centre for Contemporary International History and SAGE Publications to share publishing responsibilities for the International Journal.

The CIC also publishes Behind the Headlines. First published in 1940 as a pamphlet series focused on contemporary Canadian foreign policy, Behind the Headlines evolved first into a quarterly current affairs magazine, and then into its current form as a policy paper series.


The Canadian International Council is a non-for-profit organization and a registered charity with Canada Revenue Agency. Funding comes from private sponsorship, membership fees, donations, and events.


  1. ^ a b "Archived copy" (PDF). Retrieved 25 May 2023.
  2. ^ W. David McIntyre (2008) The Unofficial Commonwealth Relations Conferences, 1933–59: Precursors of the Tri-sector Commonwealth, The Journal of Imperial and Commonwealth History, 36:4, 591-614, DOI: 10.1080/03086530802560992.
  3. ^ Federal Corporation Information - 347591 - Corporations Canada - Corporations - Industry Canada. (17 October 2013). Retrieved on 23 October 2013.
  4. ^ Priscilla Roberts, "Tweaking the Lion's Tail: Edgar J. Tarr, the Canadian Institute of International Affairs, and the British Empire, 1931–1950." Diplomacy & Statecraft, 23.4 (2012): 636-659.
  5. ^ a b Balsillie, Jim. "Why we're creating the Canadian International Council". Centre for International Governance Innovation. Archived from the original on 1 April 2016. Retrieved 19 March 2016.
  6. ^ Canadian International Council – Canada's hub for international affairs » Strategic Studies Working Group Archived 12 May 2013 at the Wayback Machine. Retrieved on 23 October 2013.
  7. ^ "Canadian Online Publishing Awards". Archived from the original on 6 January 2014. Retrieved 5 January 2021.
  8. ^ "Canadian International Council – Canada's hub for international affairs » Wins Gold at COPA". Archived from the original on 17 January 2014. Retrieved 16 January 2014.
  9. ^ "Canadian and German civil society organizations call for a Network for Democratic Solidarity". Canadian International Council. Retrieved 26 May 2023.
  10. ^ "Staff | Canadian International Council".
  11. ^ Elisabeth Gayon (1985). "Guide documentaire de l'étudiant et du chercheur en science politique". In Madeleine Grawitz [in French]; Jean Leca [in French] (eds.). Traité de science politique (in French). Presses Universitaires de France. p. 306. ISBN 2-13-038858-2.

External links[edit]