Federal government departments are a network of administrative units that implement the laws of Parliament and are responsible for the delivery of policies and programs put forward by the government. These departments are divided up among a number of public policy fields that fall within federal jurisdiction and that require direct political oversight, such as, heritage, foreign affairs, finance, defence, and health, among others.
Government departments are created by acts of Parliament. Each act sets out the powers, duties and functions of the department and its responsible minister. The departments themselves are each led by a Government Minister, who is a member of the Cabinet. Most Cabinet Ministers are responsible for the administration of one or more government departments and report to Parliament on their departments’ activities. A Cabinet Minister may also be assigned a Parliamentary Secretary to assist with his or her parliamentary and departmental duties. The administrative management of a department is led by a senior civil servant, with the title Deputy Minister.
Government departments play a key role in providing input on policy decisions, along with permanent neutral expert advice to their Minister. By providing programs and services to the public, government departments also act as a link between the government and its citizens.
NOTE: This compilation uses the information provided in the Guide to Canadian Ministries, to present a history of ministerial departments. Ministries of State are excluded. Parliamentary Guides, and the Canada Gazette were used as supplementary sources.