Sri Lanka ‘keen to engage’ with large community in Canada (with Video)

Dion shakes hands with Prime Minister Ranil Wickramsinghe ahead of meeting at Temple Trees. (Handout)

Dion shakes hands with Prime Minister Ranil Wickramsinghe ahead of meeting at Temple Trees. (Handout)

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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.

Signing of an agreement on National Languages.

Signing of an agreement on National Languages.

“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.”

Stephane Dion with his counterpart Mangala Samraweera following a joint press conference at the Foreign Ministry in Colombo.

Stephane Dion with his counterpart Mangala Samraweera following a joint press conference at the Foreign Ministry in Colombo.

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.”

Canadian Foreign Minister meets Sri Lanka President Maithripala Sirisena. (Picture by Sudath Silva)

Canadian Foreign Minister meets Sri Lanka President Maithripala Sirisena. (Picture by Sudath Silva)

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.

Dion warmly recieved at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs by children.

Dion warmly recieved at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs by children.

“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.

Dion Meeting with Members of the Tamil National Alliance TNA  Left,  R. Sampanthan Leader of Opposition.

Dion Meeting with Members of the Tamil National Alliance TNA Left, R. Sampanthan Leader of Opposition.

Samaraweera and Dion in a lively discussion.

Samaraweera and Dion in a lively discussion.

Canada's High Commissioner Shelley Whiting and Foreign Minister Dion warmly recieved at Taj Samudra Hotel in Colombo.

Canada’s High Commissioner Shelley Whiting and Foreign Minister Dion warmly recieved at Taj Samudra Hotel in Colombo.

Dion shakes hands with Foreign Secretary Chitranganee Wagiswara who was the former Sri Lankan High Commissioner to Canada as Deputy Minister Harsha De Silva looks on.

Dion shakes hands with Foreign Secretary Chitranganee Wagiswara who was the former Sri Lankan High Commissioner to Canada as Deputy Minister Harsha De Silva looks on.

Foreign Minister Dion lights a traditional oil lamp at Taj Samudra Hotel in Colombo.

Foreign Minister Dion lights a traditional oil lamp at Taj Samudra Hotel in Colombo.

Dion arrives at Colombo airport recieved by Deputy Minister Harsha De Silva, Foreign Secretary Chitranganee Wagiswara and Ahmed Jawad Sri Lanka's High Commissioner to Canada.

Dion arrives at Colombo airport recieved by Deputy Minister Harsha De Silva, Foreign Secretary Chitranganee Wagiswara and Ahmed Jawad Sri Lanka’s High Commissioner to Canada.

Dion shakes hands with President Sirisena.

Dion shakes hands with President Sirisena.

Meeting the Prime Minister at Temple Trees.

Meeting the Prime Minister at Temple Trees.

Foreign Minister Dion warmly recieves a garland at Taj Samudra Hotel in Colombo.

Foreign Minister Dion warmly receives a garland at Taj Samudra Hotel in Colombo.