CANADA CONNECTION

St Lucia and Canada have a storied connection dating back to the 1800s. As Canadians, this wasn't something we knew about when we purchased La Toc Villa. It wasn't until we read"A History of St Lucia", the first-ever detailed and comprehensive record of the island's past that we learned of the close relationship between St Lucia and Canada. For more than a decade, my wife and I have felt a great connection with the island, and now we know why. Here are a few key moments in history where Canada has locked arms with our favourite Caribbean island.

 

WORLD WAR I

Although no fighting took place on St Lucian soil, St Lucia did play some part in the Great War of 1914-1918. When WWI broke out, Castries was virtually unprotected. The Local Defence Force under Captain Lionel Devaux did what it could, but the island's entire armoury consisted of just a few guns at La Toc and Vigie. The Acting-Governor of the Windward Islands requested help from the Canadian Government, and in April 1915, 68 Canadian troops landed in St Lucia. Another 48 arrived later that month and the St Lucia Detachment No.6 Company, Royal Canadian Garrison Artillery (RCGA) was formed. In all, 450 Canadians served at La Toc and Vigie between 1915 and early 1919, with overall responsibility for the defense of the island. There were even a number of Canadian-St Lucian marriages as a result.

 

THE CANADIAN BANANA COMPANY

St Lucia suffered decades of deep poverty in the late nineteenth century into the twentieth century. In 1934, the Canadian Banana Company offered a five-year contract to purchase all the suitable bananas St Lucia could grow, at 50 cents per bunch. The St Lucia Banana Association was incorporated and a vigorous campaign of banana extension commenced. The association provided peasants with healthy plants, offered inspection and treatment of disease areas and recommended improvements in grade and quality. Large tracts of forest land were opened up for banana farming. Interestingly, some of the new banana farmers were veterans of WWI who had not previously bothered to claim their reward of five acres of land, but now could see a future in agriculture. By 1937, 914 acres were under bananas and refrigerated vessels of the Canadian National Steamships made fortnightly calls at Port Castries. While the Canadian company bought all the bananas St Lucia produced, it did not ship all. The remainder was sold cheaply in the local market, helping the destitute poor to survive.

 

PIPE-BORNE WATER IN ST LUCIA

By 1890, Castries had a fairly decent water supply, with the Castries Water Works sending 250,000 gallons of clean water daily to taps and standpipes around the town. It was not until 1966 that the government established a Central Water Authority with the aim of bringing potable water to the entire island. Funded by the Canadian Government, the program expanded continuously and by the late 1980s, 90 per cent of St Lucia's population had access to pipe-borne water. The expansion of pipe-born water around the island was not just a matter of convenience but also of public health. It led to the elimination of several water-borne diseases, which afflicted and killed countless people up until the 1970s.

 

"A History of St Lucia", Lighthouse Road Publications, 2014

Jolien Harmsen, Guy Ellis, Robert Devaux

https://www.amazon.ca/History-St-Lucia-Jolien-Harmsen/dp/9769534005

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