Canada looks to Strengthen Bilateral Relations with Saint Lucia

By Reginald Andrew
H.E. Lilian Chatterjee (r) with Saint Lucia’s Foreign Minister Alva Baptiste.
H.E. Lilian Chatterjee (r) with Saint Lucia’s Foreign Minister Alva Baptiste.

Canadian High Commissioner H.E. Lilian Chatterjee says she is pleased to be actively pursuing a colourful career in the diplomatic field. Since joining the diplomatic corps, about five years ago she has held down some top positions in the sub-region and beyond.

H.E Chatterjee started off her career working with the Canadian International Government Agency (CIGA), which was later transformed into the department of Foreign Affairs.

From 2017 to 2020, she says, she had the pleasure of being sent to work in Guyana, and then Suriname and ultimately taking on ambassadorial duties with the post of CARICOM Ambassador.

“And so, I am very aware of the long history we have in supporting not just Saint Lucia, but the region through our development assistance,” H.E Chatterjee explained.

In 2021, she was appointed High Commissioner to Barbados and the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS).

H.E Chatterjee has visited Saint Lucia repeatedly in the past, and is very fond of the destination. Currently, she is focused on extending the bilateral relations between Canada and Saint Lucia in all spheres and sectors.

Recalling the hosting of a bilateral-relations anniversary, last year, she said, the objective is to strengthen the “good collaboration” between the two countries.

She said the occasion was “to recognize that Saint Lucia and Canada have very strong bilateral relations and to recognize our presence in the country, through all sectors….our community and private sector are very prominent here, and we have a strong Canadian Diaspora living in Saint Lucia.”

The Canadian government’s support is not limited to business ventures, but they have also reached out to young budding athletes, and as the high commissioner states: “we also have a strong sports development assistance here”, and an Honorary Consul positioned on island.

According to H.E Chatterjee a lot of work is implemented on the “development side” and sometimes this is conducted through agencies such as, the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB), UNDP, and the Canada-funded development projects (Build Back Equal), and the Canadian Fund for Local Initiative (CFLI)’s “and last year we funded many local NGOs …and we are funding them this year as well”.

This year, funds will be extended to the Sacred Sports Foundation; and the outreach will also extend to the United & Strong gender-based equality group, and other groups like Birds of a Feather, Helen’s Daughters, and the Eastern Caribbean Alliance for Diversity and Equality (ECADE).

Through an agricultural project implemented by WUSC (World University Service of Canada), the High Commissioner says, the intention is to help develop the agricultural sector in Saint Lucia and, “We are developing agricultural products here …and we have identified farmers and youth especially, to provide them with requisite skills.”

SAGE- Skills to Access the Green Economy “is based in Saint Lucia to offer technical vocational training skills to the citizens here …but also, though they are head-quartered in Saint Lucia they cover many other countries,” she said.

H.E Chatterjee touts the SAGE initiative as a significant project, aimed at equipping young persons with the skills set to access livelihoods from the Green Economy.

Another major project involves a US$45million fund to CARICOM from which Saint Lucia is to gain maximum benefits. “Every single one of these projects will directly benefit Saint Lucia,” she said. “And each one of these projects will have ear-marked funding for Saint Lucia.”

Meanwhile, last December, the CFLI provided approximately CAD$69,000 to advance human rights in Saint Lucia.

According to a release, through CFLI, “the High Commission of Canada is pleased to contribute CAD $69,000 in funding to two Saint Lucian non-governmental organizations to protect and promote the human rights of LGBTQI+ persons.

“Following an open call for proposals, the Canadian High Commission selected Sacred Sports Foundation Inc. and the Eastern Caribbean Alliance for Diversity and Equality (ECADE) as two of its eight Eastern Caribbean CFLI projects for 2022-2023.”

Canada will provide CAD $25, 000 to the Sacred Sports Foundation, a 2021 CFLI recipient, to implement phase two of its ‘This is ME and YOU’ project creating sustainable safe spaces and social support networks for the LGBTQI+ community. Through the CAD $44,000 CFLI contribution and in partnership with regional stakeholders, the Eastern Caribbean Alliance for Diversity and Equality project ‘INTERSECTIONAL+’ will develop a curriculum on LGBTQI+ and gender-based violence rights in law and host sensitization training for gazetted police officers and police academy instructors in Saint Lucia, Grenada and St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

CFLI is a programme designed to support small-scale, high-impact projects in developing countries that align with the Government of Canada’s thematic priority areas for engagement. The High Commission of Canada received proposals from civil society organizations across four eligible countries in the Eastern Caribbean, administering CAD$300,000 in available funding.

Other successful 2022-2023 CFLI project proposals include Circle of Friends (Dominica), the East Dominica Children’s Federation, Ecobalance Inc. (Dominica), the Grenada Planned Parenthood Association, Equal Rights Access and Opportunities SVG (St. Vincent and the Grenadines) and Orange Hill Development Organisation Agro-Processors Inc. (St. Vincent and the Grenadines).

The projects in Saint Lucia advance critical foreign policy priorities for Canada in the Caribbean, including gender equality and inclusive governance.

H.E. Chatterjee noted, “The promotion and protection of human rights is an integral part of Canada’s foreign policy, and we are committed to working with local partners to create a more inclusive and equitable global community.

“Initiatives prioritizing the fundamental human rights of all individuals and working to educate and increase awareness in the Eastern Caribbean are critical. Canada is proud to continue its collaboration with Sacred Sports Foundation and ECADE to safeguard the human rights of all.”

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