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Wednesday, July 24, 2024

OP-ED: Canada Day in Laos – Celebrating a New Era in Bilateral Relations

This Week

BY Ambassador of Canada to Laos Ping Kitnikone – 1 July, 2024

Today, we celebrate Canada Day during a very special time. It is a year where Canada and Laos have much to celebrate. We commemorate five decades of diplomatic relations and friendship between our two nations, and we are embarking on even deeper cooperation with Laos becoming our new ASEAN country coordinator. These milestones offer a unique opportunity to reflect on our shared history and to look forward to a future of continued cooperation and mutual benefit.

Canada Day is a momentous occasion that holds deep significance for Canadians worldwide. It is a day to celebrate our rich cultural heritage, our dedication to diversity and inclusion, and our commitment to being good global citizens. 

The relationship between Canada and Laos has grown significantly since the establishment of diplomatic ties in 1974. Our cooperation spans various sectors, including education, health, sustainable development, supporting women and girls, and burgeoning business ties. Canada’s contributions to Laos, such as the CAD 750,000 (USD 546,296.25) committed by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in 2023 to support UXO/demining efforts and our ongoing support for women’s’ economic empowerment programs, underscore our multifaceted commitment to enhancing Laos’ development and well-being.

In the past year, the Canada Fund for Local Initiatives made significant contributions to Laos by supporting six crucial projects. These projects spanned various domains, including health, inclusive growth, governance, environment, and gender equity. The focus on the rights of women and girls was particularly notable in all six projects, reflecting Canada’s deeply ingrained commitment to these issues. Larger scale support includes USD 30 million in seed funding for the Monsoon Wind Power Project, and USD 16 million  to the Lao Landscapes and Livelihoods Project, which is generating jobs in rural areas by promoting investment in environmentally sustainable and socially-responsible forest and landscape management. 

In the educational sphere, I’m happy to share that the first and quite successful “Study in Canada” fair recently took place in Vientiane Capital. As well, our office in Vientiane has supported the integration of two Lao Universities into the Canada-ASEAN SEED scholarship program, which we hope will soon lead to successful Lao recipients. These initiatives will enable Lao students to experience the high-quality education Canada has to offer, and foster greater understanding and collaboration between our nations.

Canada’s rich cultural diversity includes the third largest Lao diaspora community in the world, with approximately 40,000 people of Lao origin calling Canada home. This community has enriched Canadian society with its culture and traditions, while also serving as a vital bridge between our two countries. I am proud to be part of this dynamic community and to do my part in advancing the mutual understanding between our people.

Notable peoples and places in the Lao Canadian community are worth mentioning on this special day. For instance, I would like to acknowledge the work of author Souvankham Thammavongsa, who won the most prestigious Canadian literary prize in 2020 with her book How to Pronounce Knife. Award-winning director and producer Peter Chanthanakone, who specializes in 3D animated short films, has enchanted audiences in Canada and all over the world, including through visits here to teach and share his passion with the Lao Institute of Fine Art. 

Regarding the food scene, newly-opened Lao Lao in Toronto, was listed by a prominent magazine as one of Canada’s best new restaurants last year, delivering authentic Lao hospitality and culture. And here in Vientiane, the Canadian and Lao co-owners of Pie My Love/Felix & Cacao bring a delicious taste of Canadian food and culture to Laos. They all highlight the significant contributions of Lao-Canadians to our cultural and social landscape.

As we look to the future, Canada’s CAD 2.3 billion (USD 1.67 billion)  Indo-Pacific Strategy will continue to deepen our collaboration with Laos. We aim to promote economic growth, enhance security, and strengthen people-to-people ties across the Indo-Pacific. We are also making investments to grow our team in the region, which includes expanding the Canadian diplomatic footprint here in Vientiane.

Today, as we celebrate Canada Day, we honor the achievements of the past fifty years and reaffirm our commitment to a future of shared progress and prosperity. It is with great pleasure that we celebrate this milestone with the people of Laos, and we look forward to the continued strengthening of bilateral relations between my two native countries.

I am also excited to announce that the Honorable Minister Joly, our Foreign Affairs Minister, will be in Vientiane for the ASEAN Regional Forum and Post Ministerial Conference, where we will continue to build on our shared goals and solid foundation. Together, we will work towards a future where our partnership grows even stronger, benefitting both our nations and contributing to peace, stability, and prosperity in the region.

Happy Canada Day to all, and here’s to many more years of friendship and collaboration between Laos and Canada.

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