Message from the High Commissioner of Canada on the occasion of Canada Day

Happy Canada Day to all Canadians and to our friends in Sri Lanka and Maldives!

Amidst the pandemic and recent events in Canada, we are foregoing formal celebrations this year, and instead taking a moment to commemorate. Canadians at home and around the world are encouraged to mark the occasion with their families at home or in line with guidance from local health authorities.

The long months since the pandemic began have been difficult, but despite the uncertainty and hardships of the past year, we have much for which we can be thankful. Through extraordinary work around the world, effective vaccines were developed and are becoming more accessible, bringing hope that we will soon embark on a road to recovery. That said, the different rates at which the vaccines are being rolled out pose challenges for the global community: no country is truly safe until we all are. As we continue vaccination efforts in Canada, we are simultaneously supporting the global response, including in Sri Lanka and Maldives, where we are supporting the sourcing of vaccines, supplies and assistance for the response to COVID‑19. Much of this has relied on the support of partners around the world and we thank them for that.

Canada Day is a good time to reflect on the past year, on our history, and on the road ahead. The heart-wrenching discovery of hundreds of unmarked graves around the former Kamloops and Marieval residential schools, and the worrying increase in racist incidents, including the senseless murder of a Muslim family in London (Ontario) only a few weeks ago, have challenged many Canadians to consider what Canada is and should be. These incidents, and the lived reality of many of our compatriots, highlight the work that remains to be done to achieve our goal of an inclusive Canada in which all of its citizens have the opportunity to play an equal part. Indigenous peoples across Canada have faced longstanding discrimination and disadvantage, a part of our history filled with grief and pain that needs to be understood and learned from. Canada is committed to supporting survivors and their families, including through memorialization, and remains steadfast in its commitment to walking the path of reconciliation together with Indigenous peoples across Canada. Racism and hatred do not belong in any of our communities, and we, collectively, have the power to create a more welcoming and inclusive Canada for the benefit of all.  

Canada Day is a celebration of Canada’s greatest strength: its people. The vibrant and diverse Canada we know today began with the long history of its indigenous people. Canadians now proudly trace their roots to all over the world. Their diverse stories and experience contribute so much to our country. We continue to welcome migrants – permanent residents, students, refugees – from all over the world, including Sri Lanka and Maldives. I am proud of the fact that Canada boasts one of the largest Sri Lankan origin diasporas in the world, drawn particularly from the Tamil community, but also with large and dynamic Sinhalese and Sri Lankan Muslim representation as well. These people-to-people links are at the heart of our longstanding ties, which include strong economic, official, and educational links as well.

As I travel around both Sri Lanka and Maldives, I am grateful for the warm welcome and the willingness of so many to share their stories with me. Understanding is so much about listening and being open to ideas that might challenge our own. Only then can we find our common humanity and look for durable solutions to our challenges.

In the coming months, we will have the chance to build back better. Canada will take this opportunity to promote respect for human rights, foster inclusion, advance gender equality and women’s empowerment; to address the inequalities of poverty exacerbated by the pandemic; and, to find more innovative and sustainable avenues for international trade and economic development. This work must provide benefits across society. I look forward to working with the governments of Sri Lanka and Maldives and with our many partners on the ground to advance these shared objectives.

Happy Canada Day!
Bonne fête du Canada!