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 to the United States 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 the Canadian province 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 is highly involved with the Special Court for Sierra Leone (SCSL), which is mandated with try those who bear the greatest responsibility for serious violations of international humanitarian law and Sierra Leonean law committed during the civil conflict in Sierra Leone after November 30, 1996. In addition to helping draft the constituting resolution, UN Security Council Resolution 1315 (2000), Canada has contributed $18 million since 2002 and provides approximately $1 million annually in in-kind contributions such as legal expertise and investigations training. Canadians are represented in all key areas of the Special Court; one of the nine judges is Canadian and Canada chairs the Special Court Management Committee.
In June 2007, the SCSL began the trial of former Liberian President Charles Taylor, who had been indicted by the SCSL in March 2003 for 12 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity. On April 26, 2012, the SCSL found Taylor criminally responsible for 11 of those charges, a judgment which was welcomed by Canada.
Canada has chaired the Sierra Leone country configuration of the UN Peace-Building Commission since February 2009. The country configuration has aligned its priorities with those of the Government of Sierra Leone: promoting good governance and the rule of law; combating illicit drug trafficking; addressing youth unemployment.
Canada is the 4th largest donor to the $330 million UN Peace-Building Fund, pledging $35 million through 2012. Since assuming its chairmanship of the Sierra Leone configuration, Canada has provided over $1.4 million through the Global Peace and Security Fund for projects to benefit peace building initiatives in Sierra Leone, including $400,000 since January 2011 for the Sierra Leone Multi-Donor Trust Fund.
Since 2007, Sierra Leone benefits from approximately $730,000 worth of Canadian training and programs for police and peacekeepers, provided by the Pearson Peacekeeping Centre. 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) and UNIMIL (Lebanon).
Canada has a small commercial relationship with Sierra Leone. In 2012, two-way merchandise totaled $12.3 million, a drop from over $16 million in 2011 and basically flat from 2010. Over this three-year period, Canadian exports were stable but Canadian imports from Sierra Leone, mainly machinery and appliances, varied significantly. The limited Canadian investments in Sierra Leone are concentrated in the mining sector.
Relations between Canada and Sierra Leone in the area of development assistance are limited. The Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) has no bilateral assistance program specific to Sierra Leone, but Canada can provide needs-based humanitarian assistance through organisations such as the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement and the World Food Programme.
Sierra Leone received $35.4 million in 2009-2010 through CIDA’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. In 2010-2011, the Glyn Berry Program provided $125,000 for a local democracy project. The Canada Fund for Local Initiatives amounted to a total of $200,000 for 2010-2011.