Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Stéphane Dion was received warmly in Colombo as the two countries engaged in a high level visit after more than a decade. Canada is home to the largest Sri Lankan diaspora outside Asia. Sri Lanka’s new government announced it was ready to engage with community and invited members to visit the island and participate in reconciliation and development efforts.
“When conflict raged, Canada became home to many of our brothers and sisters who sought refuge,” Sri Lankan Foreign Affairs Minister Mangala Samaraweera said in his remarks.
“I also informed Minister Dion that we are keen to engage with the Sri Lankan community in Canada, and invite them to visit the country that they left, or was compelled to leave, long ago. I explained that we are keen that they also explore meaningful ways of contributing to Sri Lanka’s reconciliation and development efforts.”
Dion said the ties between two countries are built on strong ties between the large Sri Lankan community in Canada and their country of birth.
“Canada’s engagement with Sri Lanka is built upon strong people-to-people ties. Canada is home to a large community from Sri Lanka, including one of the largest Tamil communities outside of Sri Lanka and India,” Dion said. “Canada benefits greatly from the contributions the people of this island have made to our country. Our cultural richness and diversity has been enhanced as a result.”
Canada offered support improve delivery of government services in both official languages Tamil and Sinhala.
The language disparity between the majority Sinhala community and the minority Tamil community is being often cited as one of the root causes of the ethnic conflict in Sri Lanka.
“I am announcing today the National Languages Equality Advancement Project that will be contributing $11.2 million over five years towards improving the delivery of government services in both official languages and by increasing awareness and acceptance of the bilingual nature of Sri Lanka,” Dion said during the joint media conference.
Dion will be in Jaffna tomorrow for several meetings.