El Salvador is represented in Canada by an Embassy in Ottawa and consulates in the cities of Montréal, Toronto and Vancouver. Canada is represented in El Salvador by an Embassy in San Salvador.
El Salvador is an important partner for Canada in Central America and is a key country in Canada’s Engagement in the Americas. 2011 marked the 50th Anniversary of diplomatic relations between Canada and El Salvador. Canada’s reputation in El Salvador is rooted in our support for human rights, democracy, socio-economic development and refugee assistance through the country’s most difficult years. El Salvador’s challenges, particularly public security and poverty are also challenges for Canada, in terms of transnational crime (youth, gangs, and drugs) and migration pressures. The Salvadoran diaspora in Canada (approximately 160,000 people) is very active, and represents one of the largest in Canada from any Latin American country. Recently, in response to El Salvador’s call for humanitarian relief after the torrential rains of October 2011 that caused massive flooding and landslides, Canada, through CIDA, announced $700,000 in humanitarian support.
High rates of crime and violence represent serious challenges for El Salvador. The presence of violent gangs, which are increasingly co‑opted by larger transnational organized crime and drug trafficking operations, coupled with extreme poverty, a proliferation of small arms, and weak policing practices have led to an explosion in urban violence and deteriorating public security. However, the Salvadoran government has committed to improve the situation and police reforms are currently underway. Canada has supported multilateral and bilateral security and anti-crime initiatives in El Salvador via DFAIT’s Anti-Crime Capacity Building Program since 2009. CIDA’s Partnership Branch and the Canada Fund for Local Initiatives support youth violence prevention programs through Canadian and local Salvadoran NGOs, in addition to Salvadoran officials’ participation in regional law enforcement training courses. For example, with DFAIT and CIDA funding, the BC-based Justice Education Society has established productive relationships with the Salvadoran Attorney General’s office and the National Police Institute, allowing it to provide technical training in investigation and crime scene processing practices. Specialized equipment was also provided through this funding.
Canada’s multilateral anti-crime efforts in El Salvador are conducted through the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and the Organization of American States (OAS). The UNODC opened a permanent office in El Salvador in April 2010, and collaborates closely with the Salvadoran government on a three-year $16 million program to reduce violence, drug trafficking and criminality. Following the announcement at the Sixth Summit of the Americas of the Canadian Initiative for Security in Central America (CISCA), El Salvador will soon benefit from additional resources allocated by DFAIT to address security issues.
Canada’s Temporary Foreign Worker Program recruits farm workers from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador to work for up to four years in Canada. A total of 5384 work permits were issued in 2011 for Central America, the vast majority of which were issued to seasonal agricultural workers. The seasonal agricultural worker movement grew by over 15% from 2010 to 2011, and will likely continue to grow, as more employers in more parts of Canada are now recruiting workers from Central America. For the individual temporary agricultural worker, the money earned in Canada represents a financial windfall, and has contributed to economic growth in villages in the countries of the region, as the workers invest their earnings in education, land, housing, and other major life improvements. Almost 18% of El Salvador’s GDP comes from remittances from Salvadorans living abroad. Several hundred Salvadoran workers participate in Canada’s Temporary Foreign Worker program.
Two-way merchandise trade between Canada and El Salvador totaled $165.6 million in 2011 (a 34.3% increase from 2010). Canada’s merchandise exports to El Salvador were valued at $36.2 million in 2011 (a 0.23% decrease from 2010). Exports from Canada include paper and paperboard products (35%), mechanical and electrical machinery (19%) and fats and oils (16%). Canada’s merchandise imports from El Salvador were valued at $129.4 million in 2011 (a 48.7% increase from 2010). Imports to Canada include coffee (37%), sugar (35%) and clothing and textiles (21%).
Canada concluded an Open Skies-type Air Transport Agreement with El Salvador in 2010. Canada is working with El Salvador to ensure that the signature and ratification of this agreement is achieved as quickly as possible, in order that the benefits of the agreement might flow to passengers, shippers and the carriers who serve them. Since 2001, Canada has been conducting free trade agreement (FTA) negotiations with the CA4 countries (Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras and Nicaragua). After more than nine-years of talks, Canada has recently concluded negotiations with Honduras but has yet to do so with the other three countries.
Minister for State for Foreign Affairs (Americas) Peter Kent visited El Salvador twice in 2009, including for President Funes’ Inauguration. More recently, Minister of State Ablonczy attended the OAS General Assembly in El Salvador in June 2011 and conducted a bilateral visit during which she met with Foreign Minister Hugo Martínez, visited projects and communities and met with Canadian business representatives active in El Salvador.
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