BRIDGETOWN, Barbados, February 20, 2020 (CMC) — Canada is proposing an annual meeting with Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Leaders, as the North American country moves to strengthen its relationship with the 15-member regional integration grouping.
A Trinidad and Tobago government statement said that Canada’s Foreign Minister, Francois-Phillippe Champagne, met with regional leaders at their Inter-sessional Summit that ended, here, yesterday.
According to the statement, Champagne — who is representing Prime Minister, Justin Turdeau, who had to cancel his visit to the region at the last moment — “indicated that his country is taking steps to strengthen its relationship with CARICOM, (and) to this end, Canada has proposed an annual meeting with the regional body”.
The statement said Trinidad and Tobago Prime Minister, Dr. Keith Rowley, in his response to Champagne, asked Canada to consider lifting its visa requirements for Trinidad and Tobago and, by extension, the region.
“Dr Rowley said both sides will be well served by the removal of this barrier, given Trinidad and Tobago’s deep and historical connections with Canada,” the statement said.
Meanwhile, Champagne told reporters that he had been making a case to regional leaders for their support in Canada’s bid to secure a seat on the United Nations Security Council.
“We have more than one million Canadians of Caribbean descent in Canada. We have more than two million Canadians, who come here, annually, and we want to strengthen the relationship.
“We want to make sure that the youth, which represents about 60 percent of the population of the Caribbean under 30 years of age, that the voice of the Caribbean can be amplified, and that we can stand alongside you, whether you’re a small island nation or a bigger economy within the CARICOM, and to make sure your voice is heard around the world,” he told the media, adding that Ottawa is keen to strengthen its relationship with the Caribbean.
“Canada is part of the G7, the G20, the Francophonie, NATO, so we want to make sure that as we take decisions, that we consider the challenges and the opportunities of this region, whether we’re talking about the blue economy, whether we’re talking about how can we build more economic security for the people living in the region, we want to make sure that the historical relationship is brought to its full potential.”
He sought to give assurances that his country would also help champion the causes of the region, should it be successful in securing a seat on the UN Security Council.
“I would say that part of the reason I was here, was to listen to the Caribbean. You know we’re facing big challenges, whether it’s climate change, the Coronavirus, a number of things that the nation states work together. And when you think about island economies that are dependent on tourism, the position that the international community takes on some of these challenges, will have probably the biggest impact or a disproportionate impact on the people living in the region.
“So the reason I was here, was to better prepare ourselves, make sure we’re here to listen and to work together with our Caribbean colleagues, so that when Canada is on the UN Security Council, we can speak with one voice: the voice of youth, the voice of women in the region, the voice of small and medium-sized businesses, the voice of the progressive leaders in the region. The seat is big enough to share with our colleagues in the region, and that’s what Canada intends to do,” Champagne said.