Liberian president meets Harper
[PoliticsWatch updated 11:15 a.m. March 29, 2007]
|Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf
speaks to reporters in Gatineau Wednesday.
She's called the "Iron Lady" of Africa and is the first
elected female African head of state, but Liberian President Ellen
Johnson Sirleaf spent most of Wednesday in the national capital
region unsure if she would meet Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper.
The PM finally met with the president late in the afternoon
after opposition MPs accused the government of a diplomatic snub in
Johnson Sirleaf was in town to speak at the Canada 20/20 Public
Policy Conference at a hotel adjacent to the casino in Gatineau,
The visit was unusual for a foreign leader, who are usually greeted
with the protocols of an official visit such as flags of the guest
nation flying along streets in Ottawa.
Earlier on Wednesday, the Prime Minister's Office told PoliticsWatch that Harper did not
meet with Johnson Sirleaf because "there was no request from
the Liberian government."
When asked if she tried to get a meeting with the prime minister the
president only said, "I left that to protocol."
"I think the prime minister would not like to meet me until he's made Liberia a priority
country," she said. " Let's give him that opportunity."
But later in question period, the prime minister said he "would be delighted to have a meeting"
with Johnson Sirleaf. Harper said he hadn't heard that she would be
in town until Tuesday.
Johnson Sirleaf also
met with Foreign Affairs Minister Peter MacKay and was
introduced at the conference by International Cooperation Minister Josee
The president was invited to speak at the conference by Liberal MP Belinda
Stronach after the two met at a conference in Washington
Stronach ran against Harper for the leadership of the Conservative
party in 2004 and left the Tory caucus a little more than a year
later citing her problems with Harper's leadership
"I was responding to this invitation mainly to Belinda and to thank her for all that's she's done in Africa and
and to speak at the 2020 conference," the Liberian president
After her speech, Johnson Sirleaf was joined on stage by Stronach
and comedian Rick Mercer to thank them for a recent purchase
of 33,000 anti-malarial bed nets for Liberia. The donation was made
through Spread the Net, an organization the two are involved
The nets are to help prevent the spread of malaria, which is the No.
1 killer of children in Liberia.
Liberia, like other African countries, also faces an AIDS
When asked if Liberia planned to take advantage of a Canadian
program designed to steer cheaper pandemic drugs to developing
nations like Liberia, both the president and Nigel Fisher,
president of UNICEF Canada, seemed unaware of the program.
"I just know that the program is still in formation so I don't think Liberia has benefited from
that," Fisher said.
In fact, Canada's Access to Medicines Regime has been law for nearly
three years. The program allows generic drug companies in Canada to sell drugs currently under patent protection to developing nations.
Last month, Health Minister Tony Clement said that while on a
recent trip to Africa health ministers in Tanzania and Kenya that he
met with were also unaware of the program and they didn't think it
would be helpful because they purchased drugs at a cheaper price
from India and China.
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