Canada at 150: A look at Global South Foreign Relations with Canada

By Srimal Fernando, Global Editor The Diplomatic Society

4 July 2017

2017 is a significant year in many ways.  Hundred and fifty years ago, Quebec, Ontario, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia came together to create the Canadian Confederation, called the Dominion of Canada on July 1, 1867. This year marks the historically significant 150th anniversary of Canada’s confederation. Raising the Maple Leaf Flag of Canada and “singing of the national anthem, O Canada!  at sunrise on this  significant  day  was one of the proudest moments of celebration for Canadians.  

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaks during the Canada Day noon hour show on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Saturday, July 1, 2017 (Photo source Canadian  Press /Justin Tang) 

In his speech Prime Minister Justin Trudeau addressing the Nation said, “On the 150th anniversary of the Confederation, we celebrate the millions of Canadians who have come together to make our country the strong, prosperous and open place it is today. On behalf of the government of Canada, I wish you and your loved ones a very happy Canada Day.”

As one of the populous countries, the North American nation moved ahead on the path of prosperity with a remarkable economic growth. Unlike any other country in the world the nation has been the watershed in distribution of welfare and socio- economic development for the people of Canada and has been a main driver of economic progress and well-being in many developing nations.

Over the past decades Canada’s response to specific emergencies has been praiseworthy and through Global Affairs Canada committed Canadian Dollars (CAD) $ 32 billion dollars for international   development   efforts (Global Affairs Canada 2017). In a bid to bolster existing development efforts   the North American nation’s budgetary allocation for Africa  was  15.1  percent  and Asia received  8.7 percent  and  55  percent will be added from the finances for  development   efforts  for other nations  (Global Affairs Canada 2017).

Canada and South Asia

Canadian development efforts have played a major role in South Asia and South Africa since the 1950s.  Today 1.8 million South Asian descendants are estimated to live in Canada and constitute almost 5 percent of the Canadian population, being the largest visible minority in Canada.

For Canada the relations with India are most important. Overall, the Indian diaspora in Canada is estimated around 1.3 million. In the year 2014 bilateral trade between both the nations was Canadian Dollars (CAD) $6.5 billion. The cooperation between India and Canada has also extended to the field of space sciences. For example, in June 2014, Indian Satellite Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) C-23 launched two Canadian satellites.

Sri Lanka
Today the Sri Lankan diaspora in Canada is estimated to number between 250,000 to 400,000. Canada established diplomatic relations with Sri Lanka in 1953. The North American nation had been one of the largest financial and technical assistance providing nations to Sri Lanka.  The Canadian Aid helped to improve the country’s image in Sri Lanka following a $100 million contribution given towards the construction of the Maduru Oya Reservoir, under the Accelerated Mahaweli Development Programme

Since inception, the bilateral relations forged between Canada and Pakistan span more than fifty years. Canada’s bilateral relationship with Pakistan is regarded as politically, strategically and economically important, and it has been steadily strengthening and has become one of the main partners in South Asia. Bilateral trade between Canada and Pakistan stood at Canadian Dollars (CAD) $651.0 million in 2009 (International Affairs, Trade and Finance Division, Parliament of Canada, 2010). The Canadian government has been providing humanitarian support to Pakistan. Canada pledged approximately Canadian Dollars (CAD) $130 million for earthquake relief and reconstruction efforts during the 2005 post earthquake disaster period.

Afghanistan, Bangladesh and MaldivesSince 2000 there have been enhanced contacts between Canada and Afghanistan.  The North American nation plays a prominent role in military, cultural and in diplomatic affairs in Afghanistan. Canada has committed an additional $227 million in development assistance and $330 million to help sustain the Afghan National Security Forces in 2017.

Growth in bilateral trade between Canada and Bangladesh has increased more than threefold from (CAD) $478 million Canadian dollars in 2003 to nearly (CAD) $1.7 billion Canadian dollars in 2012.

Given the island’s tourism status, Canada has had diplomatic relations with the Maldives since 1981.

Nepal and Bhutan
Over the years Canada’s foreign relations have gradually expanded to Nepal and Bhutan. The North American nation officially established diplomatic relations with Nepal in 1965.The future of Canada’s relations with Nepal and Bhutan seems to be bright and strong with the two Himalayan nations.

Canada and South Africa
South Africa is potentially a very important partner for Canada’s future in Southern Africa. Formal diplomatic relations between the two nations date back as far as the late 1930s. Four months after Nelson Mandela’s prison release, on a visit to Canada Mandela addressing the Canadian Parliament said, “Your support... sustained us, gave us hope and encouragement, even in the darkest days." Twenty years later the trade relations between Canada and the Rainbow Nation expanded and benefited both nations. In 2014, the annual trade between Canada and South Africa stood at over $1.5 billion Canadian dollars.

Canadian foreign assistance, since its inception, made substantial contributions to both economic growth and social development and has been promoting peace, democratization to save lives for a better tomorrow.  In this context the commendable Canadian efforts have won the hearts and minds of many Global Southerners through its positive actions.