Imprecise names of Canadian govt agencies

What’s with the imprecise names of Canadian government agencies such as “Industry Canada”? There should be something more, like “Canada Department of Industry” or something like that, shouldn’t there?

Do you have any idea how much vowels go for with the exchange rate?

Perhaps if any of the rubes currently functioning as our gov’t had a clear idea of what they were doing, there could be a more descriptive name.:slight_smile:

Actually some of the names are pretty precise. Elections Canada doesn’t leave a lot of room for misinterpretation. Human Resources and Development is clear enough, and has the added bonus of being named the same as the department in most corporations they usually deal with. Revenue Canada broadened their scope of authority, and changed their name to Canada Customs and Revenue Agency.

I think the US is worse for this, actually. Galagher did a whole routine on “Ministry Of The Interior”, and how interiors is the only thing they DON’T deal with.


I think that would say more about Gallagher than about the U.S. government.

The Department of the Interior, run by a Secretary in U.S. parlance, is responsible for land use in the interior (and surrounding waters) of the country, in contrast to the Department of State which is responsible for foreign affairs.

The DoI includes such bureaus as the National Park Service, the Bureau of Land Management, and the Bureau of Indian Affairs. What interiors are they supposed to control? Bedrooms? Elevators? Coal mines?

I like those Canadian names. They’re a lot more interesting and somehow friendlier than their U.S. equivalents.

Considering all departments need names in each official language, keeping the number of redundant nouns to a minimum saves on signage.

I’m hard-pressed to figure out howcome names of govt agencies would be a topic about “arts or entertainment”. I mean, OK, sure there is something entertaining about bureaucracy gone loco, but.

Hence, I’m moving this from Cafe Society forum to General Questions Forum.

Yes–for example, the National Historic Site officially known as “Grosse Île and the Irish Memorial National Historic Site of Canada” is called “Lieu historique national du Canada de la Grosse-Île-et-le-Mémorial-des-Irlandais” in French. And both have to appear on their signage and printed brochures in both languages, both in the same font, type size, etc. Their roadsign must be the size of a small billboard.

When ever I write text for a display label or information sign, I mentally have to leave 125% of the space used by the English text for the French translation.

Here’s a link to the whole damn Canadian government:

It is, however, profoundly awkward in NB, where Human Resources and Developement is the (recently changed to something only slightly more accurate) name of the welfare department. I’ve never been able to wring any sense out of that one.

In addition to reasons suggested above, these names usually have a common format that is succinct but descriptive (’[Area of competency] Canada’). Everybody knows what:

Transport Canada
Environment Canada
Fisheries and Oceans Canada
Industry Canada
Statistics Canada
Parks Canada

do. Even though short, they provide the three essential pieces of information that let you know who they are:

  • That this is a government agency (Form)
  • The field administered by them
  • That this is a federal agency
    The last is important, to distinguish them from equivalent provincial or territorial bodies. Another benefit is that the form is often similar in both official languages when you write it as this ‘[noun] Canada’ structure. Transport Canada is Transports Canada in French.

It saves time and space, too - A news reporter can say “Transport Canada is investigating…” instead of “The federal transportation ministry”. As indicated above, it simplifies signage and letterhead - instead of

Canadian federal ministry of transportation
Ministère fédéral canadien des transports

you can just have

Transport    Transports
Canada       Canada

A simple standard format can thus act as the symbol for all Federal agencies, which looks like this. Because of the system, websites are systematic and easy to remember. Off the top of my head:

It also serves as an element of the unified “brand identity” of the Government of Canada, and has been around since… the seventies, at least, I guess. As mentioned above, a few long-standing departments have been renamed to things like “Canada Customs and Revenue Agency”, but the system is still pretty uniform for the major departments.
And while it may seem imprecise to an American, consider what

“State Department”
“Department of the Interior”

mean to anyone who hasn’t grown up with them. (Our national defence headquarters is called National Defence Headquarters :smiley: )

The Pentagon is a building. What you’re thinking of is actually called the Department of Defense. (And to be thoroughly nitpicky, it’s the Department of State, too, but nobody calls it that.)

Sure. Just like in Canada “A statement came out of 24 Sussex…” means the Prime Minister’s Office said something. (24 Sussex Drive is the address of the PM’s residence.) But clearly “The Pentagon” is in use to refer to the Department of Defence, otherwise the US government wouldn’t be having press conferences in front of a sign that says “The Pentagon”, with “The Pentagon” used in the same way as “U.S. Department of State

Judging by the usage, it looks to me that “The Pentagon” has come to mean “The Department of Defense”, including in Defense Department usage. (Obviously, “The Pentagon” is also a building, used slightly differently.) Am I wrong to say:

Transport Canada is to Ministry of Transportation
The Pentagon is to The Department of Defense
I’d make the same claim about “The White House” replacing “Office of the President” (or whatever the official terminology is). One says “A White House press briefing”, and one visits in place of, say, One says “A Transport Canada report” and visits in place of, say.

Also, while agreeing that it’s officially “Department of State”, is it commonly called “the State Department”? Either way, I think the point stands that it’s not exactly a self-explanatory name. (“The Department of State? Oh, they take care of matters that concern the State.”)

“Pentagon” and “DoD” are just nicknames for The Department of Defense. It’s just easier sometimes to say that.

In some circles, the Department of State (aka the State Department) will be referred to as “Foggy Bottom” for the neighborhood it is located in.

Nobody seems to call the Department of Energy by any cute nickname or its neighborhood.

But its at 1000 Independence Ave SW

Another subtlety in the Canadian federal government nomenclature is the recent (in our case) addition of the seemingly redundant “of Canada” to certain places or events (all National Parks and National Historic Sites now have “of Canada” tacked to the end of the official name, e.g. "Fort Rodd Hill and Fisgard Lighthouse National Historic Sites of Canada).

The reason? In Quebec, they refer to parks run by the province as “national parks,” just as the provincial legislature is called the “national assembly.” So, in order to reduce confusion, we Feds added the somewhat apologetic “of Canada” to all the 700-plus National Historic Sites and 35 National Parks across the country!

In addition, February 15 is “National Flag of Canada Day.” Just in case anyone here thought we were celebrating the Nepalese flag, or Burundi.

Quebec National Parks:

Except that the Prime Minister’s Office is not located at 24 Sussex. That’s just where the PM lives. Policy announcements wouldn’t be coming out 24 Sussex.

The PMO is located in the Langevin Block, across the street from Parliament. That’s where any PMO statements would come from.

Just an FYI, HRDC was broken up into two new departments about a year ago - Human Resources and Skills Development Canada, and Social Development Canada, and CCRA doesn’t deal with Customs anymore, so they’re just the Canada Revenue Agency now.
I don’t have a problem with the way the names are set up, in fact I like it for a lot of the reasons listed here, but I sure do wish they’d just pick some names and stick with it!

In some legal documents, the Canadian federal government agencies are referred to by a long, traditional title: “Her Majesty the Queen in Right of Canada as represented by the Minister of _______”. (Sometimes it’s ‘Right’, sometimes ‘right’; sometimes there’s a comma before ‘as’, sometimes not. I suppose there’s only one truly correct form, but I don’t know which it is.) This has the disadvantage of being dependent on the gender of the monarch, though it’s possible that ‘The Crown in Right of Canada’ could be used instead. Hopefully this satisfies the need for precision by making it very clear what these agencies are and identifying the source of their authority, if not their jurisdiction.

The short names are mostly a bilingualism thing, intended to save space and make the names as similar as possible in both official languages.

wolfstu: If you don’t already know, using ‘Washington’ to refer to the US government or ‘the Pentagon’ to refer to the DoD is called metonymy.

The official names of the cabinet-level departments all take the form “the U.S. Department of (the) X” and that’s the way the names appear on official letterheads and business cards. It is, however, considered entirely correct in most informal usage to switch the name around to “the X Department,” but that’s not how it will be referred to in formal usage.

As has been mentioned before, “the Pentagon” is nothing more than a nickname for the U.S. Department of Defense. There is no agency that is officialy named “the White House.” That is a nickname for “the Executive Office of the President,” which is also abbreviated as “the E.O.P.” The name of the Executive Manion was officially changed to the “White House” in 1901.

You’re right, and I knew it didn’t sound quite right when I posted it. I was having trouble coming up with another example, though. :o (I’m I allowed the excuse that I was briefly confused by the Belgian usage?)

Come to think of it, “Rideau Hall” or even “Queen’s Park” might have worked.

Yeah, I understand that they came about as nicknames, but it seems to me that when the agencies they refer to themselves begin using them – as in the dressing for the press gallery set, or the banner at (heck, even that they chose the URL that way) – that what were once simply nicknames have come into some kind of official use.

“Fort Fumble-on-the-Rideau” is a nickname for Canada’s National Defence Headquarters, but NDHQ doesn’t call itself that in any of its communications. The US State Department doesn’t hang a sign behind its department head saying “Foggy Bottom” (per BobT above) during press statements. But the Pentagon (aka, the Dept. of Defense) does refer to itself as ‘The Pentagon’ - at least in some circumstances.

I’d call “Fort Fumble” a plain old nickname, but I’d say “Transport Canada” and “The Pentagon” are official usages, alongside but not replacing “Canadian Ministry of Transportation” and “US Department of Defense.”

I see the “Pentagon” backdrop as more an indicator of the location of the press conference rather than as an adoption of “Pentagon” as an official synonym for “the U.S. Department of Defense.”

Incidentally, anyone remember that public service ad listing (and singing) the shortened ministry names while a series of cartoon beavers held up signs?

Seriously, I didn’t imagine this.