Canada, the Caribbean and the Caicos

It’s 25 degrees and partly cloudy right now in the Turks and Caicos. Yesterday, daytime temperatures in Montréal didn’t rise above -15, and the wind chill plunged the mercury closer to -20. It was very difficult to enjoy a breath of fresh air, or a smoke and coffee, something I value greatly when working.

Suffice it to say my day-dreams lead me to look forward to seeing Spring again, and in particular Spring in the City, something I’ve missed for several years now. I’m not complaining about the weather, I choose to live here and I’d gladly put up with the worst Canadian Winter to enjoy a Montréal Summer. That said, I’d like to have the option of taking a vacation in a Canadian province located in the Caribbean.

I can hear you all thinking, ‘surely he gests!’

I’m not. I’m dead serious. And this particular example is demonstrative of a fault – a lack of imagination – emblematic of Canada as a nation.

Let me back track a bit.

Above is map of the Caribbean, Central America and Mexico. The Turks & Caicos are located just below the Bahamas and close to key Caribbean nations, such as Cuba, Jamaica, Haiti and the Dominican Republic. They are a British Overseas Territory and an important offshore financial centre, with a population of 45,000 souls. Most importantly, the islands and their residents currently lack self-government, and efforts to link the territory with Canada go back to 1917. Before we go any further, it should also be stated that there is a strong local interest in joining Canada.

That’s right – they want to become a Canadian province, and have been interested for more than forty years.

Why we haven’t capitalized on this incredible opportunity is both complicated yet ultimately maddening. One of the key issues preventing this voluntary annexation is that it would apparently require re-opening constitutional talks and would require all provinces agreeing to the annexation. Some believe that this would necessarily require re-opening direct constitutional talks with Québec (in essence, a replay of the Meech and Charlottetown Accords, which for those of you old enough to remember, effectively led directly to the 1995 Referendum, and was thus a colossal failure for the Mulroney Administration). This apparent fact led Nova Scotia to propose that the islands would join the province if it ever voted to join Canada directly, but the fed at the time failed to move the project any further. I suppose admitting the Turks & Caicos into Confederation as a province could potentially upset citizens of our Northern Territories, but then again, why not make them provinces too?

Another issue, one I remember being hotly debated in a shitty pastiche of then-novel Fox News styled interrogation-journalism on Global several years ago, was whether Canada should become ‘a colonizing nation.’ I remember being put-off by the tangental nature of the debate and hearing echoes of civil rights movement slogans diligently misused for effect. One of the talking heads was arguing that the tiny nation should become independent. Independent? Why? Liechtenstein has a similarly-sized population, but unlike the Turks & Caicos it has a highly developed economy and is the wealthiest per-capita nation in Europe. The Turks & Caicos has an infant mortality rate more than three times higher than Canada and is largely dependent on its tourism industry (which attracts a disproportionate amount of Canadian tourists to begin with). If they joined as a province, Canada could use its substantial resources to better the lives of the Islanders and create a more diversified local economy.

Moreover, we have a geo-strategic interest in the region, one that I fear most Canadians never really consider. For a Northern country, we are heavily implicated in the Caribbean. Consider the island nations adjacent to the Turks and Caicos – Cuba, a nation with whom we’ve had especially excellent diplomatic and trade relations since the Revolution. Haiti also figures prominently with regards to Canadian implications in the Caribbean, as there are more than 100,000 Canadians of Haitian descent and Haiti receives an exceptional amount of Canadian aid money. If the Turks & Caicos became Canadian, we’d be that much closer to where we’re needed, and where Canada could use its wealth and status to help stabilize the region. Canada’s military, the RCMP, Coast Guard and DFAIT would quickly seek to establish their presence on the islands, and for good reason. Crime has been on the rise for a considerable amount of time and in March of 2011, the two most senior police roles in the nation were handed over to Canadian law enforcement officials as part of a larger plan to eliminate corruption in the islands. A stronger local presence could mitigate the potential danger of international smuggling cartels passing through crucial Caribbean shipping lanes. Then there’s the fact that a local presence could quickly respond to major ecological and natural disasters, and act as a conduit for increased Caribbean immigration. We could develop new markets for our goods and services and develop new infrastructure mega-projects to serve the islands and the region, such as a new international airport or deep-water seaport. And I suppose while I’m listing off what could be, I may as well add that if the Canadian Space Agency ever wants to launch its own rockets, we could use a launch site a little closer to the Equator.

Just sayin’…

Yet despite the numerous advantages of further implicating ourselves in the Caribbean and putting the legislation in motion to create a new province, we sit around waiting, seemingly forever, completely unsure of how to proceed. For the moment, we lack vision so we need to turn to our past, to other countries to propose interesting ideas or solutions. Where are the Made-in-Canada solutions? Why don’t we break with our conventional understanding of who we are an look ahead to reality? I can’t see how a move such as this would be detrimental to either Canada or the Islanders.

What do you think?

8 thoughts on “Canada, the Caribbean and the Caicos”

  1. I fully agree and have started a petition on the matter on my Facebook page. If we gave them a territory level status they we have no constitution issues. Only if we make a province we have to open that can of worms! It would benefit both sides. Here’s thinking the best!

  2. Bill –

    Why be a pessimist?

    You forget that there is a political movement from the islands keen on joining Canada. Why should we deny them?

    As Canadians living in a Canadian province they’d have far more sovereignty, rights, opportunities, than if they remain a British Overseas Territory.

    So yes, quality of life would improve. They’d get the stability of the Canadian dollar, healthcare, military protection, investment, education opportunities. Canada gets a door to the Caribbean (so we can better serve our Caribbean community, provide emergency services in case of natural disaster, ease immigration etc.), tourism would increase, as would investment coming in on its heels.

    Perhaps most importantly, Canada would finally have a location suitable for launching our own rockets into space. I can imagine this would be a huge boon for the local economy. Perhaps we could build observatories, radio telescopes, and all the other high-tech scientific equipment that doesn’t nearly work as well further north.

    But you need to keep in mind – this is not colonialism. Not when you’ve been asked for a union before. Not when it’s so mutually beneficial.

    I know it’s pop and hip to assume all Whites/Europeans are con-artists waiting to take the third world to the cleaners, but I can assure you the reality is quite different.

    Canada’s still the good guys. Our record speaks for itself.

  3. “Your islands would grow” If you lived there would you want that? Why wouldnt Canada exploit them they exploit sovereign countries with big resource companies already. Their standard of living would increase? I dunno they might earn more money but thatd be needed for the suddenly high cost of living. Next trip to T&C a beer will be $9 instead of 2. No thanks leave them alone and take a holiday there if you enjoy it. I’m sure the people of T&C would like to greet you as a guest.

  4. As an Islander that was also colonized by the British and then given the option to join Canada i can say it was a great choice. Yes we had to join BC to do this which i am not sure was the best way to do get into Canada but that is another story.

    T and C would be a wonderful addition to Canada or Nova Scotia and i can assure the T and C citizen i will not move there to colonize you but will visit knowing my overvalued Canuk buck is being spent in Canada.

    Sadly i do feel this will never happen as we have politicians of all stripe with no vision or balls to do this. They hide behind some out moded view of pure and virtuous Canada. So we will let the US some day take them over and we will use US bucks to visit there and let the US and others benifit our wealth. Still it is nice to dream, hmm maybe the west can seperate in the US and Canada and make Casadia and then convince Hawaii to join us to get our place in the sun, of course we will have to say no and nom merci to Ont and Que joining us sorry guys lol lol!!! just kidding.

  5. James –

    Thank you for your comment; here’s some additional information you may find useful.

    1. There’s a historic background here – politicians in both the Turks & Caicos and Canada have proposed this union several times over the past fifty years. Initially it was proposed by politicians from the islands. As it stands currently, as a BOT, the Turks & Caicos isn’t entirely sovereign nor completely part of the British Empire. As part of Canada, especially as a Canadian province, the TCI would receive considerable sums from the federal gov’t for new hospitals, schools, a university, money for the arts, new infrastructure etc. There’s no question Canada would make a massive investment, and of course there’d be millions of Canadians who could suddenly travel cheaply and safely to the islands spending their money there and further boosting the economy of the TCI.

    2. Popular support has been estimated to be at 60% amongst the citizens of the islands. Perhaps that’s changed in the last few years with our current detestable Prime Minister. Perhaps it would rise to 90% if we had a better PM who could provide a plan for how it would be so beneficial for both nations to form a union. As it stands, I understand why you’d think the white devils from Canada would be looking to exploit your land and people – we haven’t been doing a good job helping others out under these Tories who rule us, but times and politicians change. The majority of Canadians, as you are no doubt already aware, are decent, hard-working and honest and looking for the TCI to join as equals.

    3. We already provide a considerable economic engine. Union would only increase that, not to mention provide incredible new job opportunities and options for islanders to migrate north for work, education etc. Your islands would grow, your standard of living would increase.

    4. Having been educated in the old Protestant School Board of Greater Montreal – and this might surprise you – about a third of all my teachers at both the primary and secondary level – came from the Caribbean. From TCI, the Grenadines, Jamaica, St. Lucia, Grenada etc. This is actually where I first heard of the idea – from people who were born in the Caribbean and had a very good understanding of what a union with Canada would entail.

    5. I understand how this notion of a big white northern country forming a union with the Turks & Caicos could seem a terrible idea – if you had zero knowledge of Canadians, which you claim is not the case. We’re not here to exploit. This union could be immensely beneficial, but you’re going to have to accept that 21st century Canada is not equal to 16th century Spain or Portugal. Give me a break.

    For your edification:

    This last post outlines why you might want to consider union with a more democratic nation such as Canada.

  6. I am from the Turks and Caicos Islands and I a can tell you that what you wrote in this article is absolute nonsense. There is no desire in my country to become Canadian. We have many Canadians that live there and we love them, just as we love the local British, American and French Folk that have migrated there, but we have absolutely no desire to become Canadian or the sunny playground for the rich and retirees of any other wealthy nation.

    You should get into more of your history and get more facts on the subject before embarrassing yourself and misleading others.

  7. As an American I’d love to go to visit Cuba, but I’d have to “lose” my passport to get there. This is a nice write up of Canadian/Carribean history. Thanks!

  8. We need to revisit this again. Times have changed.

    Our retiree population will double in the next 20 years. Lavish spending on research, and innovations is not keeping our brains in Canada. We need not only a vacation and retirement destination, but a warm climate to locate a new high-tech hub. Otherwise we can never compete with silicone valley. Just look at RIM.

    If anyone has info on how best to proceed, please post it here or at my facebook page


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