A Message from the High Commissioner of Canada on the Occasion of Canada Day 2019

Hello! Ayubowan! Vanakkam! 

Happy Canada Day!

Today, Canadians - from coast to coast-to-coast and around the world - celebrate and reflect on what their country means to them. Canadians are proud of their country.  For many, it has afforded them the opportunity to lead healthy and prosperous lives and to live in a place where inclusion is valued and practiced.

We are a nation where our extraordinary diversity is seen as a core strength. We are a nation where citizens and residents with roots around the world make up the vibrant and prosperous nation that is Canada in 2019. The large Sri Lankan origin community in Canada is a big contributor to this, and our bilateral relationship is fortified by deep people-to-people links.

Canada’s pluralism and multiculturalism have important parallels in Sri Lanka, where people of various ethnicities, religions and languages have co-existed for millennia.  Like in Canada, Sri Lanka has an opportunity to draw strength and creativity from the talents of all its communities. Matched with our innovative and top ranked education system, which many Sri Lankans have experienced, openness has turned Canada into a magnet for talent and investment: cities like Toronto creating more technology jobs in recent years than Silicon Valley.

It is serendipitous that this year Canada Day coincides with the beginning of Sri Lanka’s first Official Languages Week. 2019 marks 50 years of Canada’s Official Languages Act, which secured the place of French in our society and ensured Canada’s unique bilingual character would be preserved and celebrated. Canada has been using this experience to support official languages in Sri Lanka for nearly two decades through a series of initiatives, including the current National Languages Equality Advancement Project, as a key part of lasting reconciliation.

Canadians are also mindful of the many challenges we must confront. Discrimination and inequality persist across our country, and Canada’s relationship with our indigenous people has been deeply flawed; reconciliation with the descendants of Canada’s original inhabitants is a work in progress.  Even if success has been elusive, we must continue our work, to ensure the residue of difficult history does not fester and contribute further to inequality and alienation.

On the world stage, Canada plays an important role to help reform and renew key international institutions, through which the world works to maintain peace and prosperity. The rules-based international order rests on fundamental principles that include human rights, democracy, the rule of law and free and fair trade.  In running for the United Nations Security Council in 2021-22, we hope to contribute to a new multilateralism, where benefits are distributed more broadly, more evenly and more fairly; where commitments are fulfilled; and where implementation is achieved and results experienced by the people.

In keeping with this, Canada is working hard to advance values of gender equality through our domestic, diplomatic, trade, international development, and humanitarian initiatives. Canada is proud to work with Sri Lanka as part of our efforts to promote gender equality worldwide.

We are putting our Feminist International Assistance Policy into action, demonstrating our strong commitment to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. In Sri Lanka, the Government of Canada is funding projects that seek to address sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV), include women in transitional justice and peace processes, and empower women’s rights organizations to advance their own priorities. Just one month ago, Canada hosted Women Deliver, the World’s largest conference on gender equality, health, rights, and well-being of women and girls. More than 8,000 participants from over 160 countries gathered in Vancouver, including a significant delegation from Sri Lanka. 

We are also working with our partners to champion human rights around the world. This includes engaging with global partners on the rights of LGBTIQ community. 2019 marks 50 years since Canada decriminalized homosexuality and 15 years since the passage of marriage equality, ensuring individuals are free to love and marry who they want. Hopefully, the lessons learned in these uphill battles can be of use to the LGBTIQ community fighting for the same rights in Sri Lanka and Maldives.

Canada has committed $300 million over three years for humanitarian assistance, development and peace and stabilization efforts, and will continue to work with our allies and partners. In Sri Lanka, where we have seen how hate speech and media can entrench communal divisions, we will continue to support conflict prevention efforts.

Finally, Canada is committed to fight climate change and plastic pollution, particularly in the oceans, and to protect the environment and conserve biodiversity. The far reaching implications of climate change for island states like Sri Lanka and Maldives will be devastating without concerted effort from the international community.

Beyond our borders, our flag has become an emblem that garners respect and admiration, whether waving outside our embassy, soaring into orbit, or adorning a backpack. Although being Canadian means different things to each one of us, as a country we are united by our belief that we are stronger when everyone—no matter their culture, gender, religion, language or origin—can participate fully in our society.

One of the great pleasures of my job is getting to meet the extraordinary people from all communities and walks of life that make up this beautiful, storied and creative island. Whatever their backgrounds or perspectives, I find Sri Lankans at a personal level to be unfailingly warm and welcoming.  Canada is dedicated to working with Sri Lanka to move toward a future of opportunity and security for all Sri Lankans and Canadians, a future where all can live and thrive in harmony and prosperity. Together, we can continue to improve both of our great nations. 

Happy Canada Day!

David McKinnon
High Commissioner of Canada to Sri Lanka
Ambassador of Canada to Maldives