It all started when…
The tragic ebola crisis in Liberia is one that left many of us with scars, devastation and bitterness that will take a long time to heal. Like Ebola, Liberians have been through various crises before, but our resilience has taught us that the responsibility for turning those crises into opportunities rests with us. It was in that resilient spirit that we came together as a family during the ebola crisis to experienced the power of one voice and unity in joining our brothers and sisters in Liberia and around the world to defeat Ebola. This time around, we decided that we must not wait for another crisis; we must maintain this unity and oneness to strengthen our various communities across Canada. In other words, when one hurts, we should all be hurting, and when one rejoices, we should all be rejoicing.
Under the able guidance of H.E. Ambassador Jeremiah Sulunteh, an exploratory ad-hoc committee was set up on October 18, 2014 in Hamilton, Ontario to study the proposal of uniting the Liberian Community across Canada through direct engagement and dialogue. On March 21, 2015, the committee submitted its findings at a conference in Windsor, Ontario to a cross section of leaders and members of the Liberian community. The committee was duly dissolved giving birth to the Federation of Liberian Associations in Canada as the umbrella organization of the Liberian Community in Canada. An interim body was elected under the leadership of Francis J. Hinnah with a mandate to develop the organizational framework of uniting the community behind this common vision in preparation for full elections. The interim leadership was able to engage over 15 Liberian Community Associations across the country who are now active members of the Federation.
Liberians in Canada
The recorded history of Liberians in Canada on a larger scale started in the 1990’s during the Liberian Civil war when the country opened it’s doors to receive Liberians fleeing the civil war. Waves of Liberian refugees and asylum seekers fleeing the war intensified by the early 2000’s and continued till 2015. Even though the war was already over, thousands of Liberians languished in refugee camps in the region seeking to be resettled given the economic hardship and uncertain future since many refugees have been away for more than two decades. Today, the Liberian community in Canada continues to grow through family reunification and the ushering in of a new generation of children. Currently, the largest Liberian population in Canada is in Alberta, primarily in Edmonton and surroundings. The concentration of Liberians in Alberta occurred during the boom of the oil sands and still remains an attractive employment prospect for many Liberians compared to other provinces.
Bilateral relations between Canada and Liberia are good, but limited even though diplomatic relations were established in 1971.. The two countries maintain a dialogue through multilateral forums.
Canada and Liberia
Canada has covered Liberia diplomatically through the Embassy of Canada to Côte d'Ivoire in Abidjan since 1971. Liberian affairs in Canada have been managed since 1971 through the Embassy of the Republic of Liberia to the United States in Washington DC.
Trade and Investments
Trade relations between Canada and Liberia are modest. In 2017, bilateral trade in goods rose to over $40 million, composed of nearly $4.2 million in exports to Liberia and more than $35.8 million in imports from Liberia. Top Canadian exports to Liberia include base metal product; machinery; vehicles and parts; and textiles. Liberia continues to have a challenging business environment, characterized by low human capital, poor physical infrastructure, and limited access to financial services. The registration of property and land titles also remains an issue, making it difficult for investors to access credit.
Development and Humanitarian Assistance
Canada does not have a bilateral development assistance program in Liberia. Development assistance is instead done through international organizations and NGOs. In 2016-2017 Canada provided $10.80 million, mainly to programs and initiatives in the health and education sectors. Canada provided $1 million in 2016-2017 to UNDP to support the 2015-2018 Liberian Electoral Cycle and the presidential elections of 2018.