Bilateral relations between Canada and Sierra Leone are good and ties are long-standing. It was in Halifax and other areas of the Canadian province of Nova Scotia that former slaves from the United States sought freedom following the American War of Independence, and it was from Halifax in the late 18th century that they set sail to establish Freetown, Sierra Leone. Even today, one can see the influence of the Canadian Maritime provinces on Freetown in the style of construction, and the names of streets and places.
Through the Commonwealth, the two countries regularly meet and work together on a broad spectrum of issues.
Canada established relations with Sierra Leone following its independence in 1961. The Canadian Embassy in Accra, Ghana, is accredited to Sierra Leone. In 2006, Canada established an Honorary Consul in Freetown but it has been unoccupied since March 2010. The High Commission of Sierra Leone located in Washington has been accredited to Canada since 1973. The current High Commissioner is Bockari Kortu Stevens.
In Sierra Leone, the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) has no bilateral assistance program but provides humanitarian assistance to the country through organisations such as UNICEF and the World Food Programme.
Canada has supported the consolidation of peace and post-war rehabilitation in Sierra Leone, contributing approximately $34 million through various forms of assistance since 1999. Under Operation Sculpture, eight Canadian soldiers are serving with the International Military Advisory Training Team (IMATT) led by the United Kingdom, and which provides training to the reformed Sierra Leone army. In 2009-10, six members of the Sierra Leone armed forces attended training in Canada and three others attended training in Africa as recipients of the Military Training & Cooperation program (MTCP).
Canada has chaired the UN’s Sierra Leone Peacebuilding Commission (PBC) country configuration since February 2009. The priorities of the Sierra Leone PBC are: 1) promoting good governance and the rule of law; 2) combating illicit drug trafficking; 3) addressing youth unemployment.
Canada is the 4th largest donor to the $330 million UN Peacebuilding Fund, pledging $35 million through 2012, including $5 million contributions both this year and next. Since assuming its chairmanship of the Sierra Leone Configuration, Canada, through the Global Peace and Security Fund (GPSF) has provided $1,431,915 for projects to benefit peacebuilding initiatives in Sierra Leone, including $400,000 since January 2011 for the Sierra Leone Multi-Donor Trust Fund (MDTF). In total, Canada contributed over $37 million in 2009-10 for peace and development activities in Sierra Leone. The Canada Fund for Local Initiatives (CFLI) provides limited funding for local nongovernmental organizations working in the area of human rights, good governance and democracy. CFLI grants will total $200,000 for 2010-11. Sierra Leone also benefits from CIDA’s Multilateral Program and from the Canadian Partnership, and received $8.12 million in 2008-09.
Canada is committed to building peacekeeping capacity in Africa. The Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade contributed $9.3 million from 2008 to 2010 to projects, implemented by the Pearson Peacekeeping Centre, to support Sierra Leone and other African countries by providing training police officers, civilians and members of the military assigned to peacekeeping operations.
Next presidential and legislative elections are scheduled for 2012.
Canada helped draft UN Security Council Resolution 1315 (2000), which resulted in the creation of the Special Court for Sierra Leone (SCSL). The Special Court was charged with trying 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 June 2007, the Special Court for Sierra Leone (SCSL) began the trial of Liberia’s former president Charles Taylor. Taylor was indicted by the SCSL in March 2003 for 12 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity in Sierra Leone. Canada, through the Global Peace and Security Fund, has been a strong supporter of the Special Court and has contributed over $18 million to it. Canada also chairs the UN’s Special Court Management Committee. On April 26, 2012, the SCSL found Taylor criminally responsible for 11 charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity. Canada welcomed the judgment and Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird issued a statement.
Canada has modest trade relationship with Sierra Leone.