OTTAWA - There's a new breed of diplomat lurking in the country's missions around the world, a timid creature that recoils from the Canadian limelight and spends hours trying to reconcile an ever longer list of duties with a constantly shrinking budget.

The Department of Foreign Affairs is in the grips of a kind of existential crisis, say a range of current and recently retired staff, brought on by major challenges to their daily work. They speak of a chill that has descended on their ranks, thanks to a communications crackdown from Prime Minister Stephen Harper's office, and the more overarching...

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