NASSAU, Bahamas (CMC) — Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Thursday announced a package of aid to the Caribbean that includes funding to tackle the climate crisis and stem the flow of illicit drugs and guns across borders, continued duty-free access to goods from the region, and security and other assistance specifically for Haiti.
He disclosed the assistance after telling Caribbean Community (Caricom) leaders at their 44th regular summit underway here that he wanted to mark the 50th anniversary of the grouping this year with renewed partnership between his country and the regional grouping.
Acknowledging the challenges created by climate change and that “Caribbean nations understand the issue better than most”, Trudeau commended the regional heads for becoming global leaders on climate action.
“To build on this, today I am announcing CAD$44.8 million in new funding to tackle the climate crisis in the Caribbean,” he said.
“This funding will support projects with regional organisations like the Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre and the Caribbean Biodiversity Fund that will improve marine and coastal ecosystem management, increase water security, and help governments better respond to the impacts of climate change and natural disasters,” said Trudeau.
He noted that one of the significant challenges many Caricom countries face in dealing with climate change is accessing climate and concessional financing.
Addressing the issue of trade, Trudeau noted that in 2021 Canada’s two-way merchandise trade with Caricom countries reached CAD$1.9 billion, with bilateral trade in services reaching CAD$3.9 billion.
To ensure such trade continues he said Canada is seeking a renewal of its waiver from the World Trade Organization for its CARIBCAN trade programme, to ensure that goods from the region can enter Canada duty-free beyond 2023.
“CARIBCAN was first announced by Canada at this same meeting in Nassau in 1985 so it is only fitting we renew that pledge here today,” he told the gathering.
Additionally, to assist the region with its security, Trudeau said Canada will provide CAD$1.8 million to target illicit drug trafficking and strengthen border and maritime security in the Caribbean.
“We know that criminal elements are becoming more sophisticated, and more support is needed to stop the flow of illicit drugs, arms, and human trafficking,” he said.
“Together, we can build a safer, better future, for the people in our countries and around the world.”
The Canadian leader said critical to prosperity is stability in the region and, like the Caricom leaders, he is very concerned about the ongoing unrest and instability in Haiti, whose Prime Minister Ariel Henry he had “a very constructive conversation” with at the ongoing summit.
Haiti is facing political turmoil and corruption and unrelenting gang violence, with armed gangs committing murder, rape, kidnapping, and recruiting children to terrorise people.
Trudeau, noting that the toll of human suffering in the French-speaking nation weighs heavily on him, said Canada will deploy Royal Canadian Navy vessels to conduct surveillance and gather intelligence as well as maintain a maritime presence off the Haitian coast in the coming weeks.
He also disclosed an expansion of sanctions against corrupt economic and political elites who have used their influence and resources to support criminal gangs and fuel instability in Haiti.
“To date, Canada has implemented targeted sanctions on 15 individuals. Today, I am announcing a sixth round of autonomous sanctions against two more individuals,” Trudeau said.
He added: “Today I am announcing CAD$10 million to support the International Office on Migration, to strengthen the protection and resilience of Haitian women and children along the Haiti-Dominican Republic border and in migrants’ place of origin. And, we will invest an additional CAD$12.3 million in humanitarian assistance.”
Trudeau said that together, Caricom, Canada and international partners can help Haitians bring an end to the crisis and build a better and more hopeful future for their country.
“Now is the moment to come together to confront the severity of this situation. As neighbours, and for Canada as a partner with decades of history of support for the people of Haiti, we need to work on long-lasting solutions that will restore order and security, allow for essential aid to flow to those who urgently need it, and create the conditions for free and fair elections so that the Haitian people can live in a stable and democratic society,” he said.
Trudeau recognised the establishment of the High Transitional Council as a positive step towards political stability in Haiti and one that he said must be broadened.
“Caricom must be an integral leader on this crisis, including through convening political dialogues and helping rally partners, around the globe, to provide much-needed assistance for Haiti,” he said.
Saying that the crisis in Haiti and climate action were among the urgent areas that Caricom and Canada can work together on, Trudeau said he looked forward to “strengthening our partnership, building on the already solid foundation of shared values, priorities, and mutual respect and friendships that binds us together”.
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