30 Years of Friendship

An important date for Canadian-Lithuanian relations

Thirty years ago, on August 26, the Parliament of Canada officially recognized

the restoration of Lithuania‘s independence, and announced the reestablishment of diplomatic relations on September 2 of that year.

The beginning of Canada‘s relationship with Lithuania goes back 100 years.

Initiated in 1919 after Lithuania first became independent from Russia and Canada was still a dominion of the British Empire, those ties were never severed. Even after 1944 when the Soviets occupied Lithuania, the Lithuanian consulate in Canada, established in 1937, continued to function. Canada never recognized Lithuania‘s annexation by the Soviets, but only during the past three decades were normal activities possible.

After the restoration of independence, Lithuania‘s finances were in dire straits, and Canada‘s contribution of $10 million was most valuable. Westernization of the government‘s administration was essential, and Canada sent public service, finance and credit service experts to assist Lithuania in building its economic base.

Security was another area where Canadian support was important, with military, leadership and English-language skills offered to many Lithuanian soldiers at Camp Borden in Ontario. Today, Canadian military units guard the Eastern border of the European Union near Lithuania and Latvia. Canada‘s influence was enormously helpful in enabling Lithuania‘s membership in NATO and other organizations. Lithuania is most grateful to Canada for its participation in the NATO airspace policing mission in the Baltics in 2014-2015, and for its financial assistance for the NATO Energy Security Centre of Excellence in Vilnius.

Canadian and Lithuanian parliamentarians met in Vilnius on July 7, 2021, to discuss the 30-years of diplomatic relations and future projects
From left – Canada‘s Ambassador to Lithuania Kevin Rex, Canadian Foreign Minister Marc Garneau

Currently both Lithuania and Canada share concerns regarding the situation in Ukraine, security in Eastern and Central Europe and cooperation with other North American institutions.

Canadian teachers assisted Lithuania in English-language teaching, and Canadian enforcement officers provided consultation and support for the Lithuanian police. The recently established Canadian-Lithuanian Chamber of Commerce in Vilnius is researching possibilities for further cooperation.

Lithuania has become more familiar to Canadians, with the appearance of talent such as that of Raptors team players Linas Kleiza and Jonas Valančiūnas, Toronto opera and ballet dancer Jurgita Dronina. Lithuanian surnames abound in listings of Canadian scientists, professors and government officials.

Prior to the pandemic, a colourful Canada Day event organized by the Canadian Embassy in Lithuania and the Canadian-Lithuanian Chamber of Commerce

expressed the sincere bond being nurtured between the two countries, and it will hopefully continue to grow.

                                                   From an article by Lithuanian-language editor
Sigina Katkauskaitė