Originally spearheaded several years ago by Canada’s first Member of Parliament (MP) of Macedonian ancestry, Lui Temelkovski, the group has now been re-established with the help of close cooperation between the Macedonian Diaspora community in Canada and the Macedonian Embassy in Ottawa.
The current list of MPs is approximately 20, although the official list will be released shortly in an official announcement. The elected President of the Group will be Hon. Wladyslaw Lizon (Conservative Party – Mississauga East-Cooksville), and the Vice-Presidents will be Hon. John McCallum (Liberal Party – Markham-Unionville), Hon. Brian Masse (New Democratic Party – Windsor West), and Hon. Jeff Watson (Conservative Party – Essex).
Ambassador Ljuben Tevdovski recently stated to Macedonian media: “The establishment of the Macedonian group in the Parliament of Canada is a historic step, based on common values, solidarity and mutual support between the two nations.”
“After several years of encouraging the re-establishment of the Canada-Macedonia Parliamentary Friendship Group, UMD Canada is gratified to see this goal finally realized. It could not have been possible without the entire Canadian Macedonian community working to together, to promote Canada-Macedonia relations, and to raise important international issues that are relevant to the national interests of both countries,” said UMD Canada Director Jim Daikos. “We thank all the Members of Parliament who have joined the group, and we would especially like to express our sincere gratitude to Ambassador Tevdovski for his dedication to this project. UMD looks forward to working with Members of Parliament to strengthen Canada-Macedonia bilateral relations.”
Over the last several years, the Canadian arm of the United Macedonian Diaspora has held numerous meetings with the Rt. Hon. Prime Minister Stephen Harper, the Hon. Foreign Minister John Baird, the Hon. National Defense Minister Peter MacKay, the Hon. Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism Jason Kenney and with various MPs at their offices on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, and at MP constituency offices across southern Ontario. Discussions included the re-establishment of the Canadian-Macedonian Parliamentary Friendship Group, promotion of economic ties between Canada and Macedonia, and current human rights problems facing the Macedonian communities in Greece, Bulgaria and Albania, among other issues. Most recently, in November 2012, UMD Canada led a delegation to Ottawa, which included UMD Greece Representative Eugenia Natsoulidou, and the Greece’s Macedonian Orthodox religious leader Archmandrite Nikodim Tsarknias.
Bilateral relations between Canada and Macedonia have blossomed in recent years, especially after Canada’s recognition of Macedonia’s constitutional name in 2007, and through the close coordination between Royal Canadian Armed Forces and the Army of the Republic of Macedonia, under the auspices of NATO. Canada has been one of the largest contributors of troops and aid to NATO’s ISAF mission in Afghanistan, and Macedonia has also played a key role, as the fifth-highest contributor of troops per capita overall.
As home to an estimated 250,000 Canadians of Macedonia descent, Canada signed a Social Security Agreement with Macedonia in 2011, allowing citizens with work experience and residence in either country to receive pension benefits.