Prime Minister of St. Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG), Ralph Gonsalves is attending the Canada-CARICOM Summit in Ottawa, his first trip to Canada in about 15 years.
Gonsalves had not visited Canada since a Vincentian-Canadian lawyer made an allegation against him in 2008.
The lawyer had unsuccessfully instituted private criminal proceedings against Gonsalves in March 2008.
However, then Director of Public Prosecutions, Colin Williams dismissed the proceeding for lack of or insufficient evidence provided by the lawyer.
The accuser never challenged the discontinuance and about two years later, after the woman spoke in a media interview in Canada, Gonsalves’ lawyer, G. Grahame Bollers said her claims were “false and malicious allegations”.
On Sunday, SVG Opposition Leader Godwin Friday told Vincentians at a town hall meeting in Toronto that he expected Gonsalves to attend the summit.
Friday said it would be “an insult” to the Vincentian diaspora and a “dereliction of duty”, for Gonsalves to do otherwise.
Friday, who lived and worked in Canada for years before returning to SVG two decades ago and holds Canadian citizenship, said the summit is “a very, very important event.
“Because we have a special relationship with Canada going back many, many years,” he told the “Hope For Home” town hall meeting organised by the Toronto arm of the New Democratic Party, of which he is president.
Justin Trudeau, prime minister of Canada and Roosevelt Skerrit, prime minister of Dominica and chairman of CARICOM are co-chairing the summit, which is being held in Canadian for the first time.
The summit got under way on Wednesday with the launch of the CARICOM-Canada Strategic Partnership intended to deepen and strengthen the existing relationships between the two regions.
Trudeau said that the new initiative “will help us tackle urgent challenges together, creating good jobs, ending poverty, growing the middle class, making life more affordable, fighting climate change, protecting the environment…and building of course a secure peaceful hemisphere and a peaceful world.
“Today we are bringing our relationship and our friendship to the next level,” he added.
Skerrit said as “we navigate the new frontier” in CARICOM-Canada partnership, it is worth remembering “our shared priorities are not mere ideals.
“They are the fundamental building blocks for a future we will collectively shape,” he said, adding that CARICOM is looking forward to working together “to build a more resilient, prosperous, sustainable and secure future for our peoples”.
He said the region welcomes the CARICOM-Canada Strategic Partnership, saying it will allow for institutionalised and regular dialogue at various levels.
“It will facilitate the implementation of joint actions, decisions and agreements on specific thematic priorities including health, environment, defence trade development and finance,” Skerrit added.
The CARICOM chairman said that the summit’s theme “Strategic Partners for a Resilient Future” is of particular importance in an era of uncertainty “we seek to deliver tangible results to meet our present needs and that of generations to come”.
The two-day summit will discuss a wide range of issues including climate change and resilience, access to finance and global financial architecture reform, Haiti, regional security, as well as trade and investment.