During his official remarks at an event for the Official Opening of the Consulate General, Toronto, on April 15, 2023, Prime Minister and Minister of Finance the Hon. Philip Davis said that the occasion marked a “significant milestone” in the deepening of diplomatic relations between the two nations, as well as a testament to their shared history and commitment to fostering mutual growth and understanding.
“Bahamians have long had a strong presence here in Canada, and our historic ties have only grown stronger over time,” Prime Minister Davis said, at the event held at the Four Seasons Hotel Toronto. “In fact, official Bahamian groups and societies have already organized in various parts of Canada, including The Bahamian Association of Nova Scotia in Halifax/Dartmouth, and The National Association of Bahamians in Canada. It is of deep interest to note that the largest concentration of Bahamians is right here, in Toronto.”
“This new Consulate General’s office, therefore, has been long overdue and will, I’m certain, only serve to augment and advance the all-too-important mission of the Bahamas’ division of foreign affairs,” he added. “Toronto-based Bahamians will now have ease of access to conduct business, and also receive aid, if need be.
“In addition, Bahamians visiting Canada will now have increased accessibility to emergency assistance.”
Among those present for the event were Minister of Foreign Affairs and the Public Service the Hon. Fred Mitchell; Parliamentary Secretary of Tourism, Investments and Aviation (MOTIA) John Pinder; Director General of Tourism Latia Duncombe; Bahamas High Commissioner to Canada (Ottawa) His Excellency V. Alfred Gray; Consul General Al Dillette; Bahamas non-resident Ambassador to Brazil His Excellency Dexter Johnson; and other government officials and stakeholders.
Prime Minister Davis noted that the opening of the Consulate General also represented a commitment to expanding The Bahamas’ economic and global presence.
“As we look back on the year 2022 that brought a record-breaking seven million-plus tourist arrivals to our beautiful country, we are reminded of the importance of maintaining strong international ties,” he said.
He added, “The significant increase in stopover visitors from Canada, which more than tripled within the first two months of this year compared to 2022, is a clear indicator of the potential for continued growth in tourism and economic partnerships between our nations.”
Prime Minister Davis said that, furthermore, the presence of numerous Bahamian students pursuing higher education in Canada highlighted the potential for increased academic and cultural exchange between the two countries.
“We are proud to see our young Bahamians expanding their horizons and gaining valuable knowledge and experience here in Canada, which will no doubt contribute to the continued development and progress of The Bahamas,” he said.
“As part of our administration’s efforts to reposition The Bahamas on the global stage, we have been actively participating in key international issues, including the fight against climate change,” he added. “Our nation, like many other small island states, is at the forefront of the impacts of climate change. We have a unique perspective and a vital stake in ensuring that our voices are heard, our interests are represented, and that collaborative action is taken on this pressing global challenge.”
Prime Minister Davis noted that his Government was committed to forging partnerships with countries like Canada, which share its vision for a more sustainable and environmentally responsible future.
“Through these collaborations, we aim to develop and implement innovative solutions that will not only benefit our nation but contribute to the global effort to combat climate change and protect our planet for future generations,” he said.
“It is vitally important that we continue to invest in growing our official presence here in Canada,” Prime Minister Davis added. “As the Bahamian-Canadian connection grows stronger, so too must our ability to officially represent and serve the Bahamian diaspora here in Canada.”
Prime Minister Davis said that his Government recognised that the Bahamian diaspora was an important resource for the country and the Government hoped that, with the addition of the new consulate, it will continue to expand its ability to provide opportunities for consular and diplomatic support, as well as facilitate and foster national and cultural connections.
“Indeed, with the addition of this new consulate, we trust that it also serves as a gesture of the Bahamas’ commitment to encouraging positive linkages between our countries and maintaining strong diplomatic ties,” Prime Minister Davis said.
“I take this opportunity to urge all Bahamians living in Canada to register with the closest Bahamian consulate or the High Commission in Ottawa,” he added. “This will help the consul to remain in a state of preparedness to best serve you should you need that help.”
Prime Minister Davis expressed his “sincerest gratitude” to Minister Mitchell, High Commissioner V. Alfred Gray, Consul General Al Dillette and his family on “a job well done”.
“I’d also like to extend an extra special thank you to the hard-working members from the Ministry of Tourism who did such a fantastic job with preparing and outfitting this new Consulate General’s office,” he said.
“Congratulations to you,” he added. “Through your commitment, toil, and earnestness The Bahamas will continue to be well represented both at home and internationally.”
Prime Minister Davis pointed out the importance of trade and foreign direct investment in driving economic growth and development in both nations.
“I am proud to say that Canada has been a key partner in this regard, and I would like to express my gratitude to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau for his leadership on regional issues in the Caribbean,” he said.
Prime Minister Davis noted that one of the most recent successes in that bilateral relationship was the lifting of the ban on Canadian beef imports into The Bahamas. That decision, he said, not only demonstrated commitment to fostering open and fair trade, but also opened new markets and opportunities for Canadian businesses, while providing Bahamian consumers with more choice and access to high-quality products.
“As we celebrate these achievements, let us also look forward to the future and explore new avenues for collaboration and investment,” he said. “We are eager to work together with Canada to further strengthen our trade relationship, attract foreign direct investment, and explore mutually beneficial opportunities in areas such as renewable energy, infrastructure, and technology.”
“These partnerships will not only contribute to the prosperity of both our countries, but also help us tackle pressing global challenges and promote sustainable development,” Prime Minister Davis added. “By working together, we can enhance our collective resilience and create a brighter future for all.”
Prime Minister Davis noted that bilateral merchandise trade between the two countries, in 2021, amounted to $367.4 million, with Canadian direct investment to date in The Bahamas, primarily by Canadian banks, totaling $23.1 billion.
“In addition to our thriving trade relationship, Canada and The Bahamas also benefit from valuable partnerships in the realm of development,” he added. “Our countries have worked closely on initiatives aimed at promoting climate and economic resilience, sustainable governance, and the advancement of gender equality.”
Prime Minister Davis pointed out that, in the aftermath of hurricane devastation, Canada demonstrated its “unwavering commitment” to supporting The Bahamas and the Caribbean by pledging $100 million for reconstruction, resilience-building, and strengthening regional response capacities.
“This pledge was fulfilled in 2022 and has had a lasting impact on our communities, helping us to build back stronger and more resilient,” he said.
Prime Minister Davis added: “Moreover, in response to the COVID-19 crisis, Canada has redirected programming to address the needs of The Bahamas and the Caribbean, providing support for gender-based violence prevention, income support, essential services, training for health professionals, and supplies and protective equipment. This assistance has proven invaluable in our collective efforts to mitigate the impacts of the pandemic on our people and our economies.”
Prime Minister Davis thanked Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, whom he recently hosted in The Bahamas for the CARICOM Heads of Government Meeting, and the Canadian Government for their “unwavering support and friendship”.
“We welcome Prime Minister’s Trudeau commitment to spend $44.8 million to respond to our region’s climate crisis,” he stated.
“As we strengthen the bonds between our nations, let us work together to seize new opportunities, overcome shared challenges, and create a world where everyone can thrive,” Prime Minister Davis added.
He noted that, as those present celebrated the opening of the new Consulate-General in Toronto, he encouraged them to not forget the importance of “our strong bilateral relationship with Canada and our shared commitment to advancing peace, stability, and prosperity in our region and around the world”.
“I am confident that, together, we will continue to build on our existing partnerships and explore new opportunities for collaboration, driving positive change for the benefit of our people and our planet,” Prime Minister Davis added.
By ERIC ROSE/Bahamas Information Services
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