Canadian Foreign Minister Stéphane Dion to visit Sri Lanka

Stéphane Dion will be Canada's first Minister of Foreign Affairs to visit Sri Lanka in more than a decade. (Photo By UNISDR)

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Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Stéphane Dion will make a historic three-day visit to Sri Lanka later this month. It will be the first visit by a Canadian foreign affairs minister in 13 years.

Dion is expected to meet his Sri Lankan counterpart Mangala Samaraweera, President Maithripala Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremasinghe in Colombo.
Dion will travel to Jaffna and meet the Chief Minister of Northern Province C.V. Wigneswaren, the Governor and civil society, a highly placed source told Lanka Reporter.  The visit will mark a new chapter in a decades long relationship between the two countries.

Dion will also meet with officials working closely with constitutional reform, reconciliation and resettlement.

Prime Minister Trudeau and President Sirisena speak during the G7 Summit in Japan recently.

Prime Minister Trudeau and President Sirisena speak during the G7 Summit in Japan recently.

The minister will visit Canadian initiatives related to de-mining operations and support to Northern Sri Lanka’s Dairy and Agriculture industries.
Under the Canada-funded Agro Economic Development Project (ADP), the Government of Canada together with UNDP and FAO, is working to strengthen agro economic cooperatives in the Northern Sri Lanka, with a specific focus on the districts of Jaffna, Killinochchi and Mullaitivu, as the region continues a gradual transition from recovery to development phase.

Dion will oversee the signing of a several agreements including one on National Languages. The National Languages Project in Sri Lanka is a joint initiative of the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) and the Sri Lankan Ministry of National languages & Social Integration.

The Minister is expected to visit Kegalle to inspect Canadian-funded flood relief work.

In his most recent statement on Sri Lanka in May, Canadian Prime Minister  Trudeau said he was encouraged by the efforts of the new Sri Lankan government, yet pressed for a robust process with “meaningful engagement of foreign and Commonwealth investigators, prosecutors, and judges.”

Dion in a speech at the Canadian Tamil Congress (CTC) Thai Pongal Gala last January said the next four years in Sri Lanka were crucial for reconciliation and prosperity.
Dion spoke to his Sri Lankan counterpart last November ahead of a meeting between Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and President Maithripala Sirisena at the Commonwealth Summit in Malta.

Mangala Samaraweera Shelley Whiting Canadian High Commisioner on a demining field visit to Mannar last December.

Sri Lankan Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera and Shelley Whiting Canadian High Commissioner on a demining field visit to Mannar last December.

Yet strong community ties between the two countries could make the main difference, he told guests at the gala in Toronto last January.

“Canada has an asset, it is the Tamil community. That is a great asset for our country,” Dion said. “I am sure you will do your best to help the Tamil community and all Sri Lankans in Sri Lanka.”

Sri Lanka’s new High Commissioner to Canada Ahmed Jawad presents his credentials to the Governor General of Canada David Johnston in Ottawa in October.

Sri Lanka’s new High Commissioner to Canada Ahmed Jawad presents his credentials to the Governor General of Canada David Johnston in Ottawa last September.

Last September, welcoming the new Sri Lankan envoy to Canada Ahmed Jawad, Canada’s Governor General said his country looks forward to a bright future working with Sri Lanka.

“Dating back 60 years, Canada and Sri Lanka’s long-standing relationship stems from our shared Commonwealth heritage. It’s also anchored by our strong people-to-people ties: the Sri Lankan diaspora in Canada is estimated to number between 250,000 and 300,000 people,” the Governor General said in his address.