April 14, 2014 – Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird today announced that Canada will suspend its voluntary contribution to the Commonwealth Secretariat and reallocate the funds for the next two years.
“As host of the 2013 Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting and current Chair in Office, Sri Lanka has a duty to take meaningful action on human rights, political reconciliation and accountability. However, Sri Lanka has failed to realize progress on any of these issues,” said Baird. “Under the leadership of Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Canada took a strong and principled stand in not attending the 2013 Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Colombo, and today’s announcement is an extension of that leadership.
“As Prime Minister Harper has stated, Canada believes that if the Commonwealth is to remain relevant it must stand in defence of the basic principles of freedom, democracy and respect for human dignity, which are the very foundations upon which the Commonwealth was built,” said Baird. “This decision was not taken lightly. We can no longer justify providing additional funding to an organization that turns a blind eye to human rights abuses, anti-democratic behaviour and religious intolerance in its member states.”
While Sri Lanka is Chair in Office, Canada’s $10-million annual voluntary Commonwealth contribution will instead go for two years toward supporting initiatives that espouse the Commonwealth’s values and help to deliver results for those who need them the most.
“Canada remains deeply concerned about the absence of accountability for alleged serious violations of human rights and international humanitarian standards in Sri Lanka,” said Baird. “We will reallocate the funds to assist in combatting the practice of child, early and forced marriage, and help Commonwealth civil society advance the promotion of human rights. Canada will continue to work with its partners to uphold the Commonwealth’s core values, which are cherished by all Canadians.”