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Canada-Sierra Leone relations

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Bilateral relations

Canada and Sierra Leone established diplomatic relations in 1961.

Canada and Sierra Leone are connected by a unique historical link. Freetown, the capital of present-day Sierra Leone, was founded in 1792 by a contingent of over one thousand settlers, including some from Halifax and other areas of Nova Scotia. These were mostly former slaves from the United States who had sought freedom in the remaining British territories in North America following the American war of independence. Even today, one can see the influence of the Canadian Maritime provinces in Freetown in the style of construction and the names of streets and businesses. This affinity is reflected today in the good working relationship, which allows Canada and Sierra Leone to cooperate on a broad spectrum of issues in various forums, including the United Nations Peacebuilding Commission.

Canada is represented in Sierra Leone by the High Commission of Canada to Ghana, in Accra. Sierra Leone has been represented in Canada since 1973 by the Embassy of Sierra Leone in Washington, D.C.

Trade relations

In 2020, two-way merchandise trade between Canada and Sierra Leone totaled $12.25M, consisting of $8.74M in exports to Sierra Leone and $3.51M in imports. Top Canadian merchandise exports to Sierra Leone include textile products, vehicles and equipment, and food products. Top imports from Sierra Leone include machinery and electrical products. Canadian investments in Sierra Leone used to be concentrated in the extractive sector but these companies have since left the country.

Sierra Leone offers opportunities for Canadian companies in different sectors, including in mining with the resumption of iron ore mining; oil and gas—offshore oil presents a longer-term commercial opportunity; clean technologies—opportunities along the renewable energy value chain; infrastructure development; professional training and public sector management.

Trade agreement

In 2012, Canada concluded negotiations with Sierra Leone for a code-share only Air Transport Agreement, allowing for Canadian carriers to offer code-share services into Sierra Leone.

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Development and humanitarian assistance

Canada has provided $1 million through the UN Development Program and the UN Peacebuilding Fund to support Sierra Leone’s last presidential elections in March 2018, and was an active observer during those elections. These elections were judged free and fair by the National Electoral Commission and by international observers including the African Union, the Economic Community of West African States, the EU and the Commonwealth.

Through the Canada Fund for Local Initiatives program, Canada annually supports small-scale, local projects in Sierra Leone.

Canada has provided funding to several non-bilateral initiatives and organisations to address pandemic related needs. This includes $7M in COVID-19 Special Funding to the GPE for Sierra Leone; $5M to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to provide COVID-19 diagnostic kits and equipment to requesting countries (including Sierra Leone); 3.3 million N95 masks, valued at $10.5M to the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which is in turn distributing to African member states in need; $5M to Canada’s ongoing, multi-country West African Regional Disease Surveillance project with the World Bank; and $2.5M to the African Center for Disease Control’s multi-country Partnership to Accelerate COVID-19 Testing (PACT). Canada also provided $500,000 through the Canada Fund for Local Initiatives (CFLI) to support COVID-19 testing, contact tracing, treatment and prevention as well as food security and public education.

In 2019-20, Canadian official development assistance to Sierra Leone totalled approximately $16M. Canadian multilateral funding includes support for food security initiatives with an emphasis on improving children’s nutrition.

Peace and security

Canada chaired the Sierra Leone Peacebuilding Commission (PBC) configuration from February 2009 to December 2020 when the configuration closed. The country configuration aligned its peacebuilding priorities with those of the Government of Sierra Leone as expressed in its Agenda for Prosperity: promoting good governance and the rule of law; combating illicit drug trafficking and addressing youth unemployment. On December 10, 2020, the Sierra Leone government officially closed its configuration in favour of the new model of fragile and conflict-affected state (FCAS) engagement with the PBC, voluntarily and on the basis of national ownership. At the 2020 meeting, Sierra Leone shared a road map of five priority areas for future cooperation with a focus on its sustainable development priorities.

Canada has provided over $19.4M through the Global Peace and Security Fund for peacebuilding projects in Sierra Leone, including $17.5M for the Special Court for Sierra Leone (SCSL) and $900,000 for the Sierra Leone Multi-Donor Trust Fund. The SCSL was jointly established by the government of Sierra Leone and the UN in January 2002 to try those who bore the greatest responsibility for serious violations of international humanitarian and Sierra Leonean law committed during the Sierra Leone civil war. The SCSL concluded its work on December 31, 2013. The Residual Special Court for Sierra Leone (RSCSL) became operational on January 1, 2014 to carry on the remaining functions of the SCSL such as archiving, witness protection, following up on sentence and incarceration of detainees, and dealing with any judicial work stemming from the SCSL’s mandate.

Two Royal Canadian Navy (RCN) ships visited Sierra Leone as part of a four-country port visit to the Gulf of Guinea region from February 5 to March 10, 2020. The visit, the third in 3 consecutive years, was in the context of OBANGAME EXPRESS, a maritime security cooperation program with partner countries in the Gulf region as part of Operation PROJECTION. OP PROJECTION engages the Canadian Armed Forces with foreign navies and other international security partners to enhance relationships with partners and allies while increasing maritime security.

Since May 2018, Canada and Sierra Leone have co-chaired the International Dialogue on Peacebuilding and Statebuilding (IDPS) through Ministerial co-chairs (Canada: Minister of International Development; Sierra Leone: Minister of Planning and Economic Development). The IDPS is a unique platform for political discussion on peacebuilding issues amongst donors, fragile and conflict-affected state governments, and civil society.

Sierra Leone is a beneficiary of support through the UN’s Elsie Initiative Fund, a multi-donor trust fund established as part of Canada’s Elsie Initiative to incentivize and support troop and police-contributing countries to identify and address barriers to women’s meaningful participation in UN peace operations. Canada is the largest donor to the Fund ($17.5M CAD) and co-chair of the Fund’s Steering Committee (with UN Women). In April 2021, the Elsie Initiative Fund announced that both the Sierra Leonean Armed Forces ($184k) and the Sierra Leonean Police (182k) would receive funding to undergo a barrier assessment using the Measuring Opportunities for Women in Peace Operations methodology, which was developed by DCAF – the Geneva Centre for Security Sector Governance (with funding from Canada and Norway.

Partnerships and organizations

To develop effective responses to today’s most pressing global challenges, Canada and Sierra Leone work closely in multilateral fora, such as:

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