The Government of Canada established formal diplomatic relations with the Royal Government of Bhutan in June 2003 and is the only member of the G8 to have done so, besides Japan (Bhutan has diplomatic relations with only 22 countries).
Canada and Bhutan have a long standing relationship built on strong people-to-people links and a history of close collaboration in the education sector. In 1963, a Canadian Jesuit priest, Father William Mackey, travelled to Bhutan at the request of the Royal Bhutanese Government in order to establish a secular secondary school system for the country. Since then, over 50 Canadians have taught in Bhutanese schools and more than 250 Bhutanese educators have studied in over ten Canadian institutions.
The current (fifth) King of Bhutan, His Majesty Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck, also has a close connection with Canada. In 2005, during a visit to Canada as then Crown Prince, he was also awarded an honourary doctorate degree by the University ofNew Brunswick. As Bhutan embarks upon its important transition from absolute monarchy towards constitutional democracy in 2008, Canada will work to further strengthen these close bilateral ties.
Father Mackey’s, and indeed Canada’s, legacy in Bhutan remain very strong due to continued cooperation in the field of education throughout the years. In 1985, the World University Service of Canada (WUSC) opened an office in Bhutan to coordinate an educational capacity building programme which allowed more than twenty Bhutanese educators to study at the University of New Brunswick in Canada and which afforded forty Canadian teachers with the opportunity to volunteer in Bhutanese schools over a period of five years. In recent years, the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) has provided support to a number of projects in areas such as curriculum development, teacher training and leadership capacity building within Bhutan's education sector.
While education is the primary focus of Canada-Bhutan cooperation, there are important bilateral ties in other areas. The International Develfopment Research Centre (IDRC) has supported Bhutan in establishing its first link to the internet, in enhancing food productivity and income generation in rural households through Community-based Natural Resource Management (CBNRM) training and in establishing a web-based distance education delivery system in the country. Both CIDA and IDRC also supported an internationalc onference on Gross National Happiness (Bhutan's alternative to the economic indicator of Gross National Product) held in Canada in 2005, furthering strengthening people-to-people links and dialogue between both countries. In addition, over the past five years, many Canadian private sector organizations have been collaborating with Bhutan in the areas of education; construction; environment; hydro power; and financial and public service management.
Canada has also been actively involved in working towards a comprehensive solution for the large number of Bhutanese refugees residing in camps managed by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Nepal. Canada has been an active member of a "Core Group" of countries (including Australia, Denmark, New Zealand, Norway, the Netherlands, and the US) to support the efforts of UNHCR in finding a comprehensive, long-lasting solution to this protracted refugee situation. Over the last several years, Canada has undertaken a number of efforts to encourage a comprehensive solution for Bhutanese refugees in Nepal, involving a mix of repatriation to Bhutan, local integration in Nepal and resettlement to third countries. In May 2007, the Canadian Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, the Honorable Diane Finley, P.C., M.P., announced that Canada will resettle 5,000 Bhutanese refugees over the next several years as part of this comprehensive solution.
Official interaction between Canada and Bhutanis coordinated through the Canadian High Commission in New Delhi and the Bhutanese Permanent Mission to the United Nations in New York.
For over three decades, Canada has funded modest development assistance projects in developing countries through the Canada Fund for Local Initiatives (CFLI). The CFLI is a program that supports small projects proposed and implemented by local NGOs and other grassroots organizations such as village councils, cooperatives and women’s groups. This enables Canada to respond to local needs by working at the community level. Equally important, the CFLI serves to strengthen Canada’s relationships with civil society and local communities and to build networks of contacts in countries around the world. The staff at the Canadian Mission look forward to working with you to implement an initiative you may have to contribute to your community’s development.
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