Canada reiterates support for Guyana in border controversy with Venezuela

(L-R) Canadian High Commissioner to Guyana Mark Berman and his wife with Prime Minister Mark Phillips and Foreign Minister Hugh Todd during the recent Canada Day reception

Making it clear that Canada stands with Guyana in its border controversy with Venezuela, Canadian High Commissioner to Guyana, Mark Berman, urged respect for international law.
According to High Commissioner Berman, the Canadian Government remains concerned about the state of affairs between the two countries regarding their shared border, and is urging that international law be respected.

“The Canadian Government is concerned with the tensions between Guyana and Venezuela, and we reiterate that we stand with the Guyanese people. We stand with the Government, and we call for respect of international law. In this complex, ever-changing global environment, good relations are paramount, and I can’t emphasize enough the importance we place on our relationship with Guyana,” High Commissioner Berman has said during an event held to observe Canada Day celebrations.

Addressing relations between Canada and Guyana, High Commissioner Berman declared that Canada is committed to continuing the growth of relations between the two countries, and would continue to partner with Guyana on the road to achieving its economic and social development goals.

“We’re doing our best to work side-by-side with Guyana because the relationship between Canada and Guyana is rooted in the deep historical people-to-people lengths that I mentioned. Canada has always been a close friend of Guyana, and we will continue to work with you to strengthen our relationship and achieve your economic and social development goals,” he pledged.

“Indeed, Canada continues to value and build a relationship with Guyana which we forged since your independence, and which continues to expand and deepen 58 years later. Canada and Guyana not only share a multilateral relationship on the global and regional stage, but, above all, we are bilateral partners on the trade development front, and (we are) friends,” Berman added.

Only last month, Guyana had to notify all relevant international bodies, allies and other partners about Venezuela’s threatening actions at the border. This was after reports surfaced that the Venezuelan Army had built a bridge connecting their mainland with Ankoko Island in the Cuyuni River.

Ankoko Island is shared by the two countries, with each owning half, but Venezuela illegally took over the entire island and also established a military base in 1966, after Guyana gained independence.

Guyana and Venezuela are currently before the International Court of Justice (ICJ) to determine a final resolution to the ongoing border controversy, in which the Bolivarian Republic is seeking to annex more than two-thirds of Guyana’s sovereign territory.

Venezuela has since submitted its counter-memorial to the ICJ for the process to continue. However, even as the matter is being adjudicated, Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro, in April 2024, promulgated the “Organic Law for the Defense of Guayana Esequiba”.

The Guyana Government has rejected this move, noting that this action by Venezuela is an egregious violation of the most fundamental principles of international law enshrined in the United Nations Charter, the Charter of the Organization of American States (OAS), and customary international law. This action also contradicts the letter and spirit of the Joint Declaration of Argyle for Dialogue and Peace.

At that time, Governments of the nations of the Caribbean Community (Caricom) and the Latin American and Caribbean Community of Nations (CELAC), as well as the Secretary General of the United Nations and the Secretary General of the OAS, have been notified of the new developments. Guyana maintains that if Venezuela wants to contest the territory in question, the proper forum is the ICJ, which will decide the issue objectively and according to law.

Caricom has released a statement noting that, in its adoption of “the Organic Law”, the Government of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela has acted unilaterally, precipitously, and potentially dangerously. In the process, it has: (i) offended “the Joint Declaration of Argyle for Dialogue and Peace between Guyana and Venezuela”, dated December 14 2023; (ii) subverted international law; and (iii) signalled possible embrace of an unworthy aggression to achieve its own articulated goals or purposes.

Only recently, the World Court held a meeting with agents of both countries, during which it was agreed that a second round of submissions would be made. The meeting, which was overseen by ICJ President Justice Nawaf Salam, was to determine the way forward since Venezuela submitted its counter-memorial.

The Court is expected to issue an order setting times for the two parties to deliver their submissions after they differed on the deadlines, with Guyana asking for six months; that is, until October 8, 2024, while Venezuela has requested 12 months from Guyana’s October Reply to adequately prepare its submission.