PANAMA CITY – Canada’s lack of an ambassador to the international group that oversees this weekend’s hemispheric summit in Panama is raising concerns about Ottawa’s commitment to Latin America.
The government says there’s nothing unusual about the fact it hasn’t replaced its most recent envoy to the Organization of American States – even though his four-year term ended in November.
But observers say it’s an example of Canada’s fading influence in the region and raises questions about its dedication to the group that organizes the Summit of the Americas – which Prime Minister Stephen Harper is attending this weekend.
Peter Hakim of the Washington-based think-tank Inter-American Dialogue says it’s disappointing Canada didn’t name an ambassador in the lead-up to this year’s summit, though he notes the U.S. and Brazil do not have OAS envoys either.
A government spokeswoman says Canada continues to be well-represented in the OAS through its deputy head of mission and that it intends to name a new ambassador in the coming months.
Caitlin Workman says Ottawa views the OAS as the most important multilateral forum in the Americas, where leaders can discuss important issues of common interest.
Harper is attending the summit this weekend in Panama City to meet with his hemispheric counterparts.
He will use the summit, held once every three years, as an opportunity to promote the government’s objectives for human rights, security and democratization in the region.