Maple Leaves and Caribbean Seas
One week ago, the High Commission of Canada to Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean launched a book to pay tribute to “that rich part of [Canadian] diversity that has been shaped by [their] Barbadian and Eastern Caribbean friends over the years…”
The book, entitled ‘Maple Leaves and Caribbean Seas’ describes the interaction between that North American nation and the Caribbean region as a “love story” and speaks of the common heritage between the two, beginning in the 1700s when lumber and saltfish were traded for rum and molasses, and in the process the two became “partners, allies and friends.”
And indeed, Canada’s record of friendship with the region and St Vincent and the Grenadines has been stellar. Canada gave the West Indies Federation two ferries in 1961 – the Federal Maple and the Federal Palm as symbols of the close relationship. In business, the Royal Bank of Canada opened its first branch in Bridgetown in 1911, with the Canadian Bank of Commerce following suit in 1920 and Scotiabank in 1967.
In the early 1970s Canada contributed to the construction of junior secondary schools around St Vincent and the Grenadines (including the Troumaca Ontario Secondary School) and for decades has provided scholarships for students pursuing undergraduate and graduate studies at universities in a wide range of subject areas. For many years, our citizens have provided and are providing services on Canada’s vast farms during harvest time.
It has been the people to people links that have cemented the ‘love story’ between the region and Canada. Our first prime minister Robert Milton Cato served in the Canadian Army where he attained the rank of Sergeant. Featured in ‘Maple Leaves and Caribbean Seas’ are several Caribbean born people who have created history or made names for themselves in Canada. Grenadian Jean Augustine was the first black woman to be elected to Canada’s Parliament, while Barbadian-born Anne Cools was the first black senator in Canada and the first black female senator in North America.
The book also features former prime minister Sir James Mitchell who studied at the University of British Columbia in western Canada, as well as Vincentian author H. Nigel Thomas who gave the world his perspective of Canada through his works such as ‘Behind the Face of Winter’ and ‘Return to Acadia’.
We salute Canada on their 150th anniversary as a confederation. May the cooperation between our region and Canada grow from strength to strength.