Annual meetings between Canada and CARICOM? That’s what the North American country wants

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.

Canada’s Foreign Minister, Francois-Phillippe Champagne

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 ends in Barbados on Wednesday.

According to the statement, Champagne, who is representing Prime Minister Justin Trudeau 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.”

“We have more than two million Canadians who come here annually, and we want to strengthen the relationship.”

— Canada’s Foreign Minister, Francois-Phillippe Champagne

The statement said 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 Canada’s support in its 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 per cent 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 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.