Consuls assist in Canada the citizens and business people of the country they represent. Whereas a consul is normally a career civil servant of the sending country, the honorary consul usually exercises functions of consular office as an ancillary activity and usually pays for all expenses.
Some large countries e.g. USA don’t usually use honorary consuls but most countries do because they desire to increase their presence on any given territory at no cost.
The most important and usual function of a consul is the assistance with authentication of documents. It may certify public documents such as citizenship, residency, birth, marriage, school or death certificates, final judgments, identity cards, driving licenses, residency permits or private documents such as full powers of attorney, signatures on contracts or donations etc. With ever increasing trans-border trade, the honorary consul’s advice is also often required by businesspeople from both states.
The Vienna conventions on diplomatic relations, 1961, and on consular relations, 1963, regulate the framework of consular representation between the states. Canada signed both conventions. The position of foreign representatives in Canada are regulated by Foreign Missions and International Organizations Act, 1991 and numerous Guidelines, Circulars Notes that are regularly issued by Global Affairs Canada.
The appointment of honorary consul is subject to the approval of Global Affairs Canada and the candidate must undertake to keep separate consular files (inviolable) from other files or not to seek any employment on federal, provincial or municipal level or get elected, etc. The honorary consul has no immunity from arrest and doesn’t enjoy any special privileges. However he or she can effectively promote government, business or personal relations between the two countries.