Canada officially established diplomatic relations and opened a High Commission in Kingston when Jamaica gained independence in 1962. Jamaica will celebrate 50 years of independence on August 6, 2012; this year will also mark the 50th anniversary of Canada-Jamaica diplomatic relations.
On March 4, 1963, Graham McInnes became Canada's first High Commissioner to Jamaica. Canada is represented in Jamaica by the High Commission of Canada in Kingston. Jamaica is represented in Canada by the High Commission of Jamaica in Ottawa. Jamaica also has consulates in Toronto, Winnipeg, Edmonton, and Victoria.
Canada and Jamaica’s bilateral relationship is close and longstanding, encompassing hemispheric and international cooperation, security and defence cooperation, trade and investment links, official development assistance, tourism, and a large Jamaican community in Canada estimated at 300,000 people. Canada and Jamaica cooperate within the Commonwealth, the United Nations and the Organization of American States.
Discussions are underway between Canada and the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), of which Jamaica is a member, aimed at achieving a mutually beneficial trade agreement that provides significant economic benefits and takes into account the region's capacity constraints and vulnerabilities.
The Canadian Forces have enjoyed a productive 45-year relationship with the Jamaican Defence Force (JDF). Canada and Jamaica signed a Memorandum of Understanding in 2012 to establish a Canadian Forces Operational Support Hub in Jamaica. Canada has assisted Jamaica in the construction and development of the Jamaican Military Aviation School. The school provides helicopter and fixed-wing aircraft training to pilots throughout the Caribbean. From August to November 2011, Canada deployed three military helicopters and air crews to Jamaica in support of JDF operations in order to conduct search and rescue training. Defence cooperation also includes pre-deployment training for Canadian Forces’ engineers and as they assist JDF in improving security infrastructure.
Canada is also a key international partner for Jamaica in its efforts to fight crime and violence. Jamaica has benefited from Canadian support through the Anti-Crime Capacity Building Program (ACCBP) and the Counter-Terrorism Capacity Building Program (CTCBP). Assistance has been provided for training in polygraph operation, cyber-security, maritime border security, and anti-money laundering techniques.
Jamaica participates in the Canadian Seasonal Agricultural Workers Program (SAWP). This organized labour mobility program sees roughly 6,000 Jamaica workers come to Canada annually to meet the temporary seasonal needs of Canadian agricultural producers.
Canada and Jamaica continue to increase academic cooperation through a variety of scholarship programs. Since 2007, 143 Jamaican students have been awarded scholarships to study in Canada.
Canada’s development assistance program in Jamaica is managed by the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA). CIDA does not maintain a bilateral or country-to-country development assistance program in Jamaica, but does maintain an important bilateral program with the Caribbean region, through its countries of focus. CIDA’s four-year, $17.2 million Justice Undertakings for Social Transformation (JUST) Program was launched in December, 2011. Additionally, Jamaica benefits from a $5 million CIDA contribution intended to support sustainable agriculture practices aimed at providing more durable, hurricane-resistant greenhouses and improving environmental management of small-scale fisheries. Jamaica, along with the other CARICOM countries, continues to benefit from participation in the $600 million, twelve-year regional development program announced in 2007.
In terms of the commercial relationship, in 2011 Jamaica was Canada's third largest merchandise export market among the CARICOM countries (after Trinidad and Tobago and The Bahamas). Bilateral merchandise trade between Canada and Jamaica increased from $291.9 million in 2010 to $386.3 million in 2011. Canada's merchandise exports to Jamaica in 2011 totalled $112.1 million (down 13.7% from 2010 levels) and were mostly meats, electrical and other machinery, fish, pharmaceutical products, cereals, paper and paper board and plastics. Canadian imports from Jamaica stood at $274.1 million (up 69% from 2010).
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