By Sandrea Maynard
Canada and the Caribbean have been historically longstanding partners but today, many Canadians perceive the Caribbean as a destination for vacations.
Over the years, as other entities have expanded their presence in the Caribbean, Canadian development support in the region has moved from physical infrastructure development to more intangible policy assistance, often delivered through third parties such as international organisations. Consequently, Canada’s tangible visibility profile in the region has diminished.
Together with strategic partners in the Caribbean, the Canadian Government has been bolstering bilateral ties to address this development and ensure that Canada and the Caribbean progress as mutually beneficial partners moving together into the future.
Canadian society includes a large number of people of Caribbean origin, many with family connections and business interests there. Similarly, many Canadian citizens have good reason to care deeply about what happens in the Caribbean.
Maintaining Caribbean economic stability and economic growth can bring economic benefits to Canada. A stable market of 16 million people (60% under 30) can be an essential market for Canadian traders and investors.
Collaboration between CARICOM and Canada, for example, between educational institutions such as the ones we lead, results in international students, exchanges of students and faculty, cooperative research, and development of the leaders of tomorrow.
The cultural diversity of both CARICOM and Canada can only benefit from greater access to and collaboration between all levels of society.
Canada’s support to CARICOM in dealing with climate change and its many vulnerabilities, a greener energy transition, and improved public health is not just the right thing to do, it also highlights Canadian technology, training, and expertise.
Security cooperation to improve public safety and administration of justice in Canada can also reduce threats to Canada, given the extensive movement of people between the regions.
Collaboration in international organisations such as the UN and the OAS would benefit both sides. CARICOM can have a G7 ally to help advance its interests and Canada can expect CARICOM’s support for its foreign policy objectives such as promoting democracy, equity and human rights. In other areas, Canada stands to gain insights and support as CARICOM moves to increase links with Africa, a region where Canada is seeking to make more significant inroads.
Over the past several years, there have been significant increases in engagement between CARICOM and Canada, including regular meetings with ministers of foreign affairs, trade, and development, and leaders met last year in The Bahamas.
Prime minister Trudeau and prime ministers Mottley and Holness have assumed leadership roles together on several important UN initiatives. The next significant step is a Canada-CARICOM Summit in Ottawa from October 17-19.
The Canada Caribbean Institute (CCI), founded by The University of the West Indies (The UWI) and Canada’s Brock University and devoted to studying Canada/Caribbean relations, is eager to see the summit realised. The Institute urges the leaders to build on the legacy of the past to set an agenda that allows CARICOM and Canada, and to move together as closer partners into the future. It stands ready to support such an agenda.