Welcome to the Treaty Law Division

The Treaty Law Division of the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade is part of the Department's Legal Affairs Bureau. The Treaty Law Division is headed by a Foreign Service Officer with legal training and experience.

The principal functions of the Treaty Law Division are, on the one hand, to provide legal advice, both within the Department and to other government departments, on treaty law and, on the other hand, to take care of the actual "nuts and bolts" of the Canada's treaty-making activities.

In its first role, the Treaty Law Division gives legal advice on the application of international treaty law, on the drafting of treaties (and also on the drafting of arrangements not intended to give rise to binding obligations in the international law) and on their interpretation. It also ensures those constitutional questions that may arise out of their implementation are duly studied in close cooperation with the Department of Justice.

In its second role, the Treaty Law Division is responsible for the actual procedures relating to the making of treaties. This includes ensuring that the form of international agreements to be entered into by Canada conforms both to the principles of international law and to Canadian practices. It also includes responsibility for the preparation of the formal instruments relating to the signature or ratification of international agreements (including the treaty texts themselves, Full Powers, ratification and accession). The Treaty Law Division maintains the original text or a certified copy of treaties signed by Canada. It also maintains a Registry of many non-treaty arrangements or understandings (MOUs) entered into by the Government of Canada, government departments and agencies, and Canadian provinces.

The Treaty Law Division is also responsible for ensuring the tabling in Parliament. It is further responsible for publishing on an annual basis in the Canada Treaty Series the texts of those agreements that have come into force for Canada, as well as the registration with the United Nations, in accordance with the relevant provisions of the United Nations Charter, of those treaties to which Canada becomes a party.

In the few cases where Canada has been designated as a depository for the treaty, the Treaty Law Division carries out the obligations that role entails. These include providing certified copies of the text of the treaty to each of its signatories, receiving instruments of ratification or accession from States becoming parties to the treaty and ensuring that they are in good and due form, and informing each individual signatory government through diplomatic channels of such ratifications or accessions.

One of the most important functions of the Treaty Law Division is the maintenance of up-to-date records of all pertinent information relating to the status of treaties affecting Canada. For every treaty to which Canada is or has been a party, records are maintained containing particulars with respect to the date and place of signature, the dates of tabling in, or approval by, Parliament, the dates of ratification, accession, entry into force and termination, its relation to other treaty instruments, details of such implementing legislation as might be required, judicial interpretations, and references to published texts. Some of this information has now been made available to the general public, via the Internet. The maintenance of these records involves a continuous collecting and controlling of data. This is carried out under the supervision of the Head of the Division by the Treaty Registrar and his assistants.

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