Canada and Sierra Leone established diplomatic relations at Sierra Leone’s independence in 1961. Canada is represented in Sierra Leone by the Canadian High Commission in Accra, Ghana. Sierra Leone has been represented in Canada since 1973 by its Embassy in Washington, D.C.
Bilateral relations between Canada and Sierra Leone are strong, the two countries being connected by a unique historical link. Freetown, the capital of present-day Sierra Leone, was founded in 1792 by a contingent of over a thousand settlers from Halifax and other areas of Nova Scotia. These were mostly former slaves from the United States who had sought freedom in the remaining British territories in North America following the American War of Independence. Even today, one can see the influence of the Canadian Maritime provinces on Freetown in the style of construction and in the names of streets and places. This affinity is reflected today in the good working relationship which allows Canada and Sierra Leone to cooperate on a broad spectrum of issues in various forums, including the Commonwealth and the United Nations.
A major area of cooperation between Canada and Sierra Leone is in peacebuilding. Since 1999, Canada has actively supported post-war rehabilitation and the consolidation of peace in Sierra Leone through various forms of assistance.
Canada was highly involved with the Special Court for Sierra Leone (SCSL), which concluded its work on December 31, 2013, after Charles Taylor’s conviction was upheld. Canada contributed $18 million over the life of the Court and chaired the Court’s Management Committee. The Residual Special Court for Sierra Leone (RSCSL) was created to carry on the remaining functions of the SCSL – archiving, witness protection and dealing with any judicial work stemming from the SCSL’s mandate and became operational on January 1st 2014. Canada continues to be make valuable contributions to the RSCSL – including chairing the RSCSL Oversight Committee and a Canadian is a roster judge who can be called upon if needed.
Canada has chaired the Sierra Leone country configuration of the UN Peacebuilding Commission since February 2009. The country configuration has aligned its peacebuilding priorities with those of the Government of Sierra Leone as expressed in its Agenda for Prosperity: promoting good governance and the rule of law; combating illicit drug trafficking; addressing youth unemployment. Following the removal of Sierra Leone from the Security Council agenda in March 2014, the Peacebuilding Commission is also transitioning towards a lighter approach and eventual exit.
Canada is the 6th largest donor to the $638 million (US$587 million) UN Peace-Building Fund, pledging $35 million through 2012. The peacebuilding Fund has supported more than $50 million in peacebuilding programming in Sierra Leone. Since assuming its chairmanship of the Sierra Leone configuration, Canada has provided over $19.4 million through the Global Peace and Security Fund for peacebuilding projects in Sierra Leone, including $17.5 million for the Special Court for Sierra Leone and $900,000 for the Sierra Leone Multi-Donor Trust Fund.
Since 2007, Sierra Leone has benefited from approximately $1.2 million worth of Canadian training, equipment and programs for police and peacekeepers. Between 2000 and 2013, Canada contributed to the rebuilding of Sierra Leone’s Armed Forces through the deployment of ten Canadian Forces personnel to the UK-led International Military Advisory Training Team (IMATT). IMATT’s mission ended in early 2013 and as an indication of the progress achieved over its 13 years of operation, Sierra Leone progressed from a recipient country of peacekeepers to one that now contributes armed forces personnel to peace operations such as UNAMID (Darfur), UNMIS (Sudan), AMISOM (Somalia) and UNIMIL (Lebanon).
Canada has a small commercial relationship with Sierra Leone. In 2013, two way merchandise trade reached $10.8 million consisting of $ 9.7 million in exports to, and $1.1 million in imports from, Sierra Leone. The limited Canadian investments in Sierra Leone are concentrated in the mining sector, and a Canadian telecommunications company operates in Freetown.
Relations between Canada and Sierra Leone in the area of development assistance are limited. Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development Canada (DFATD) has no bilateral assistance program specific to Sierra Leone.
Sierra Leone received $13.1 million in 2012-2013 through DFATD ’s multilateral and partnership channels. This includes support to multilateral, humanitarian and global organizations such as the World Bank, the United Nations Development Program, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and the Global Fund to Fight Aids, Tuberculosis and Malaria. It also includes support to Canadian non-governmental organizations such as World Vision, Plan International, and the Canadian Red Cross.