We take such precious respect from a global player for granted — at our own peril — in an era dominated by the complexities involved in navigating the increasingly thorny issue of how to deal with the United States of America and the People’s Republic of China.
This special relationship dates back hundreds of years to the era when the Caribbean imported Canadian salted codfish and exported rum and sugar to Canada. Financing the trade led to the introduction of Canadian commercial banks, some of which, like the Bank of Nova Scotia, have been operating in the Caribbean since the 19th century. In the 1950s, Canadian firms invested in bauxite mining.
Since the 1980s, trade has been conducted under the aegis of CARIBCAN, a one-way preferential trade agreement. Additionally, several Canadian energy companies have significant stakes in Caribbean-based providers of electricity.
Canada has been an important provider of development aid. Indeed, aid provided through the Canadian International Development Agency to some 12 Anglophone countries in the Caribbean between 2005 and 2017 amounted to CAD$53,634,282.
Haiti is one of the largest beneficiaries of Canadian development assistance in the Americas, receiving more than CAD$1.47 billion in aid since the 2010 earthquake, including approximately CAD$264 million in humanitarian assistance.
Canada was a founding member of the Caribbean Development Bank in 1970 and also cancelled the debt of $182 million of 11 heavily indebted Caribbean countries in 1990. The University of the West Indies has been the beneficiary of several grants, most recently the sum of CAD$19.260 million in 2013 to the Open Campus.
There are an estimated 749,155 people of Caribbean origin living in Canada, concentrated in and around Toronto, Ontario, with Jamaicans accounting for approximately 40 per cent. They have distinguished themselves in academia, politics, the judiciary, the Church and in sports.
We recall that Jamaican-born Donovan Bailey became the fastest man in the world at the time running for Canada in the 1996 Olympics. Over 770,000 Canadians vacationed in the sun and sea of the Caribbean in 2016.
We are in total agreement with Ambassador Richard Bernal who recently described this valuable friendship, in an article on Canada-Caribbean relations, as a “comfortable friendship and an empathetic partnership”.
Friendships among countries need to be nurtured, and The University of the West Indies and Brock University have collaborated to invigorate the relationship with policy-based research.
The two universities have agreed to establish an institute to conduct research on Canada–Caribbean issues. It will be the core of a consortium of universities in Canada and the Caribbean.
We endorse this new initiative and wonder if something similar should not be done to study relations with countries and regions that we do not know enough about. Canada we know, do we know China or do we know enough about Venezuela?