It’s almost July 1… the perfect opportunity to revisit the relationship between two special North American nations: one small, the other not-so-small… It might surprise you how many happy-go-lucky, friendly, community-minded Canadians live in Belize. All the good times I’ve had in Belize, whether in the Cayes, Hopkins, Cayo, Corozal, or Placencia… Canadians have been present. You’re guaranteed to meet at least one Canuck in any expat group you join. Considering Canada’s small population, there are more Canadian expats in Belize than you might expect. They make up more than 7% of all tourists that come to Belize, but my guess is that their percentage of the expat population is even higher. They are a great bunch of people to have in your community. Most Canadians I met had a more positive outlook on life than other nationalities; they’re patriotic without the overbearing nationalism. This open-minded good-naturedness endears them to the local community.Canadians are attracted to Belize because they find the same ideals that they enjoyed back home—a relaxed attitude to life, personal freedom, and the love of nature. The big upside is the chance for more fun in the sun. A significant portion of Canadians living in Belize only come for six months at a time, heading up north for the summer. This group is known as the “snowbird” expats.Snowbirds enjoy the best of both worlds. They skip Canada’s winters but get in just enough time at home to satisfy extended family. Crazy Canucks Beach Bar is an institution on Ambergris Caye—an entertaining spot any night of the week. You can also meet other Canadians online using forums like the Overseas Living Clubhouse.
The Canada-Belize connection goes both ways. There are notable Belizeans living in Canada, too… Oral Fuentes founding member of the Oral Fuentes Reggae Band, studied at the Academy of Performing Arts in Cambridge, Ontario. He still performs in his chosen country. Christie Laing is an up-and-coming actress of Belizean descent who appeared in “Arrow” and “Once Upon a Time.”
How Belize Got Its Mennonite Population
Belize’s substantial Mennonite population comes from Canada originally… well, Russia by way of Canada. In 1873, 7,000 Mennonites moved from Russia to Manitoba, Canada, to avoid religious persecution.After WWII, Mennonites in Canada were seeking new land. They wanted to avoid military conscription and build fully self-governing communities elsewhere. In 1957 a delegation of Mennonites came to Belize to visit George Price, the man who was to become the national patriot of Belize.At the time, Belize had no real agricultural production for local consumption except for subsistence farming, and George Price wanted food independence for his future independent nation… so a deal was struck for fertile land in the Cayo area.
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Canada and Belize have a long history of positive bilateral relations. Both are part of the Commonwealth of Nations and members of the Organization of American States. Total trade between Belize and Canada in 2020 was US$6.12 million. This relatively small amount of trade has the potential to grow because of the Caribbean-Canada Trade Agreement, also known as CARIBCAN. CARIBCAN ensures that 97% of Caribbean exports enter Canada duty-free. To qualify for the preferential and free-trade tariffs, the products must fall under the rules of origin: 60% of the value of the product must be created or added in the Caribbean Community (CARICOM).Belize exports spiny lobster, sugar, essential oils (citrus), frozen orange juice, and black-eyed peas, among other things, to Canada. The majority of Canadian investments in Belize are in financial services, forestry, and real estate.
Helping The Little Guy
Canada has many aid strategies in the Caribbean. For example, with the Canada Fund for Local Initiatives, CARICOM countries are eligible to benefit from a CA$600-million development fund earmarked for the Commonwealth countries in the Caribbean. A focus of Canadian efforts is strengthening the Belize Defence Force. If you’re Canadian and curious about Belize, come down and check the country out. Skip the snow this coming winter, and have a great time in the tropics instead… Con Murphy Belize Insider