Caribbean leaders are meeting with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau this week, hoping Canada will place its concerns on the international agenda– among them climate change and Haiti.
CARICOM leaders meet in Ottawa for a Canada-CARICOM summit
David Thurton · CBC News
Caribbean leaders meeting with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau this week hope Canada will push their concerns — such as the profound threat they face from climate change — higher on the international agenda.
“Our region has traditionally relied on Canada’s advocacy to highlight our challenges and realities and promote our interest in international fora where we do not have a voice,” said Dominica’s Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit at the start of the Canada-CARICOM summit in Ottawa.
It’s the first such summit held in Canada and outside the Caribbean.
Trudeau is taking a break from domestic politics and his engagement on the Israeli-Hamas conflict to co-chair a three-day meeting with leaders of the Caribbean economic and political bloc — CARICOM.
During his opening remarks at the summit, Trudeau didn’t say whether Canada sees its role as one of amplifying the region’s voice.
Trudeau announced the creation of the Canada-CARICOM strategic partnership – a mechanism that promises to advance shared priorities like health, environment, trade, defence and finance.
“Deepening and strengthening our relationship will help us tackle urgent challenges together,” Trudeau said.
St Lucia’s Prime Minister Philip Pierre, speaking to reporters on Friday, outlined the issues that will be on the agenda as Ottawa hosts the Canada-CARICOM summit through to Thursday.
Pierre, CARICOM’s lead on climate change, said the world is not on track to meet the goals of the 2016 Paris Agreement. That agreement commits countries to working toward limiting warming to 1.5 C above pre-industrial levels.
The planet is inching closer to surpassing that target; the United Nations says the world already has warmed by at least 1.1 C.
According to the UN, global climate pledges have placed the world on track for a temperature rise of between 2.4 C and 2.6 C by 2100.
Pierre said he hopes one outcome of the summit is a message to the world, through Canada, that the region needs help to cope with the effects of climate change — more frequent and intense tropical storms, rising sea levels and hotter days.
The region, he said, needs Canada’s assistance to secure better financing terms from private lenders and multilateral development banks to help it adapt to climate change.
“So hopefully, our issues can be promoted by Canada to the international world,” Pierre said.
Trudeau’s office said in a news release this week’s summit will be an opportunity for countries to advance shared priorities.
“The leaders will also work to fight climate change and address its impacts in the Caribbean, including by exploring ways to improve access to financing for Small Island Developing States in the Caribbean,” the statement reads.
In his remarks opening the summit, Trudeau said Canada continues to advocate for better access to finance.
Canada also committed up to $58.5 million to the Caribbean Development Bank. According to a statement from Trudeau’s office, the money would support renewable energy projects. The statement also says $6 million has been earmarked through the Caribbean Climate Smart Fund for renewable energy systems.
Canada’s former Jamaican high commissioner, Robert Ready, said this week’s summit is about strengthening the ties between this country and the region through an overdue meeting. Canada has been focused on Asia, Europe and Latin America of late, but within the last three years, Ottawa has pushed to re-engage with CARICOM, which represents a region that is home to 16 million people.
“While there are a lot of Canadians who travel south as tourists, I think both sides have tended in the past to take each other for granted,” said Ready, who now sits on the board of the Canada Caribbean Institute.
Haiti is also on the agenda
This is Trudeau’s second meeting with CARICOM heads of government since his trip to the Bahamas in February. As it did then, the worsening security, political and humanitarian crisis in Haiti will feature in the discussions in Ottawa this week.
Since Trudeau’s last meeting with Caribbean leaders, the UN Security Council has voted to authorize a mission to Haiti led by Kenya. The East African country agreed to send 1,000 troops to help restore law and order on the Caribbean island.
But the mission was put on hold when a Kenyan court granted an interim injunction after it was argued the mission was unconstitutional because it did not have the support of Kenya’s Parliament.
Going into the summit, Haiti’s President Ariel Henry told CBC that as far as he knows, Kenya will still be sending forces as part of a multinational mission.
As Kenya works out its constitutional issues, Skerrit, the current CARICOM chair, said work needs to continue on addressing the humanitarian crisis in Haiti.
Skerrit said Haiti will need a “Marshall Plan,” citing the strategic economic plan developed by allies to help rebuild Europe after the Second World War. Skerrit said the United Nations, the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and CARICOM need to come together for Haiti.
“Haiti needs us now more than ever,” he said.
In Trudeau’s French remarks at the beginning of the summit, he said that Canada will continue to work with the regional bloc to find a “Haitian-led solution.”
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
David Thurton is a senior reporter in CBC’s Parliamentary Bureau. He covers daily politics in the nation’s capital and specializes in environment and energy policy. Born in Canada but raised in Trinidad and Tobago, he’s moved around more times than he can count. He’s worked for CBC in several provinces and territories, including Alberta and the Northwest Territories. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org