The recent CARICOM summit held in Montreal and Ottawa on the 18-19th of October was a significant event, marking 50 years of a partnership between Canada and the Caribbean Community, which includes 15 countries and five associate members. The two-day summit, underscored the shared values of democracy, rule of law, and human rights that have been the foundation of the relationship between Canada and the diverse and vibrant CARICOM nations.
The Caribbean Community fomed in 1973, is a regional organization made up of 15 full members and 5 associate members. The countries are Antigua and Barbuda, Belize, Dominica, Grenada, Haiti, Montserrat, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, The Bahamas, Barbados, Guyana, Jamaica, Suriname, Trinidad and Tobago.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau emphasized Canada’s view of CARICOM countries as vital partners amidst global unrest, highlighting the intertwined nature of economic, climate, and social policies. He stressed the importance of collaboration in order to protect citizens and deliver results for communities.
“These are serious, consequential times. As strategic partners, as friends, if we want to protect our people, if we want to deliver for our citizens, we have to work together,” he is quoted as saying.
Climate change and biodiversity took center stage at the summit’s commencement, followed by vital discussions on the reform of lending institutions. Caribbean states face a unique challenge where their classification as middle-income countries disqualifies them from certain financial aid, leaving them vulnerable to the devastating impacts of hurricanes without the means for adequate infrastructure.
Barbados Prime Minister Mia Mottley vocalized the struggle against institutional frameworks that fail to address the needs of Caribbean nations.
“We come to these meetings and we’re not getting the needle moving because of the absence of political will,” she is quoted as saying to her fellow leaders.
“Canada has the potential not just to be a leader in this, but to also start to be able to help us speak truth to power.”
The call for reform has been echoed by Canada in various international platforms, including an address by Foreign Affairs Minister Melanie Joly to the United Nations General Assembly. Mottley expressed frustration over the few countries hindering progress towards these reforms, though she did not specify which nations were responsible.
Additionally, the summit addressed the dire political and humanitarian situation in Haiti, with a focus on curbing gang violence that poses a threat to the stability of the Caribbean region. The discussions reflect a commitment to fostering a peaceful and prosperous future for all members of the Caribbean Community.