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Canada Reinforces Bilateral Relations with Saint Lucia and Wider Region

By Reginald Andrew
H.E. Lilian Chatterjee and Foreign Affairs Minister Alva Baptiste.
H.E. Lilian Chatterjee and Foreign Affairs Minister Alva Baptiste.

In recognition of Canada’s 50th observation of bi-lateral relations and friendship with Saint Lucia, the Canadian Embassy states it is keen on reinforcing its diplomatic relations with the country and the wider Caribbean.

Canada’s High Commissioner to Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean, H.E. Lilian Chatterjee acknowledged the support over the years of entities such as Air Canada, CIBC Caribbean, Sagicor, Sol Ltd., and other Canadian private sector partners in Saint Lucia and the wider region.

According to the High Commissioner, with dwindling relations since 2020, it was necessary “to underline and reinforce the importance that Canada attaches to our diplomatic, business and international assistance relationship”. She also recognised the long-standing “people to people ties over several decades”.

“Canada welcomes the recovery of the tourism sector as pandemic related restrictions ease,” H.E. Chatterjee told the gathering at a social reception, Tuesday.

She disclosed that Air Canada has resumed three flights per week from Canada to Saint Lucia and it was “especially because Canadian travelers were eager to return to Saint Lucia.”

While recalling that in 2020, Canada appointed an Honorary Counsel in Saint Lucia, she said, however “that people are at the heart of all that we do. Our collective future depends on their well-being…as Canada works with our Caribbean partners to promote and advance international human rights and to support inclusive governments in democracy. And to make sure that no one is left behind including women, indigenous peoples, LGBTI persons, youth and children.”

The High Commissioner lauded Saint Lucia for passing “a landmark Domestic Violence Act” and for appointing the island’s first female acting Commissioner of Police (COP).

“The Canada –Saint Lucia relationship is multi-faceted,” she declared. “We work together in multi-lateral, regional and bi-lateral fora. Canada is committed to advancing our feminists foreign policy and our feminists’ international assistance policy as we continue to tackle important issues such as the climate crisis.”

Added Chatterjee: “Small Island Developing States (SIDS) are disproportionally affected … and building back better includes investing in growth opportunities. Canadian companies have been present in Saint Lucia for decades, Canadian expertise features prominently. It is found in roads and highways, distribution system upgrades and supply augmentation in the water sector, including the John Compton Dam, and tourism related projects, border management and passport solutions that are brought to you by the Canadian Bank Note company.”

The High Commissioner continued, “There is significant investment in the generation and distribution of electricity, and there is considerable attention being paid to air and seaport development and establishing a sophisticated electric bus system.

“Canada is internationally recognised for its expertise in the ocean science, sustainable management and emergency response skills. As Saint Lucia defines and redevelops its ‘Blue Economy’, Canadian businesses and institutions are keen to share their expertise.”

H.E.Chatterjee said Canada also has a keen interest in the education sector and predates its participation to their involvement in the “basic enhancement education project” established over a decade ago.

“Canadian institutions continue to seek opportunities through the multi-lateral development banks and through their own direct relations with local education,” she stated.

The High Commissioner noted that as recently as June, this year, “a Canadian and Saint Lucian institution signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) (which is) between Academy Canada of Newfoundland and the National Skills Development Centre (NSDC) of Bisee, Castries.”

Chatterjee said early next month, her Canadian colleagues will participate in the Ministry of Education’s college and career fair “to promote opportunities for Saint Lucians to study in Canada and to learn about scholarship programmes available for CARICOM nationals.”

In addition, she said, a multi-sectorial trade session – mission from Atlantic Canada will visit Saint Lucia in November, for the second time this year “with a view to forging new and stronger relations with the government and private sector here.”

The High Commissioner asserted that Canada is a “committed development partner for Saint Lucia and the Caribbean and on a per capita basis, the Caribbean is one of Canada’s largest development partners.”

She highlighted that Canada supports Saint Lucia “to strengthen economic and climate resilience, while advancing inclusive governments and gender equality.”

Addressing the gathering, Foreign Affairs Minister Alva Baptiste stated it was pleasing “to celebrate the fruits of a relationship planted on the shoulders of giants”.

“A friendship crafted and forged in the hottest fires of honesty, integrity and mutual respect. To celebrate a genuine love between nations, fostered by the interaction of our citizens across and within borders to celebrate Saint Lucia and Canada,” he added.

Baptiste said as far back as 1979, Saint Lucia has benefited from Canada’s generosity and “has been able to sustainably pursue a developmental agenda.”

He noted that Saint Lucia has benefited from the Canada –CARICOM Climate Adaptation Fund, the Canada-Caricom Skills Training for the Green Economy, and the Engender Project, as well as, “better known projects such as the construction and partial staffing of the Castries Comprehensive Secondary School [CCSS], and the Hewanora International Airport (HIA).”

Alva said, he had consulted with the High Commissioner and reviewed the magnitude of projects undertaken in the country and to seek means of improvement moving forward.

He noted that the celebrations were not confined solely to the history of Canada and Saint Lucia “but also the future”.

Said Baptiste: “While the events of the past are indeed critical in defining our current relations, it is what we intend to do going forward that will determine the longevity and the productivity of our relations in years to come.”

In summing up the scope of bi-lateral relations between the two countries, the minister asserted: “There are dimensions to our bi-lateral relations that we have not yet even began to explore …and it is my hope that we can reminisce on the past and at the same time, conceptualise a future that pays homage to the beauty of a relationship …that is still in the blossoming stage.”

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