Canada–Iceland relations

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Canada - Iceland relations
Map indicating locations of Canada and Iceland



Canada – Iceland relations refer to international relations between Canada and Iceland. Iceland has an embassy in Ottawa and consulates generals in Winnipeg, Toronto and Montreal. Canada has an embassy in Reykjavík. Both countries have interactions through the North Atlantic Ocean and Arctic Ocean and are members of the Arctic Council.


Canada's relations with Iceland began over one thousand years ago when Icelander Leif Eriksson landed in L'Anse aux Meadows in Newfoundland.[1][2]

The first Iceland migrants arrived in Canada in 1874 to work on the rail lines at Kinmount, Ontario.[3] Between 1870 and 1914, thousands of Icelanders migrated to North America, with most moving to Canada.[4]

During World War II, in 1940, Canadian troops were based in Iceland. Canadian Prime Minister William Mackenzie King said this action was made by the Canadian Government at the request of the Government of the United Kingdom.[5] Canadian Prime Minister Mackenzie King announced on 18 June 1940 that the first contingent of the Canadian Expeditionary Force had landed in Iceland.[6]

State visits[edit]

In September 1961, Icelandic President Asgeir Asgeirsson made a 16-day visit to Canada.[7]

In 1999, Icelandic President Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson made a 3-day visit to Saskatchewan.[8] He also visited Winnipeg where he said he was "touched to meet Icelandic Canadians who still maintain ties to the home of their pioneering ancestors".[9]

In 2007, Prime Minister of Iceland, Geir Haarde, visited Newfoundland and Manitoba. He met with Danny Williams, the Premier of Newfoundland and Labrador and said "I’ve sensed great enthusiasm from the people here for strengthening the ties between Iceland and Newfoundland".[10]

Cultural relations[edit]

Minister of Labour Immigration in Manitoba, Nancy Allan, said "No country in the world is closer connected to Manitoba than Iceland".[11]

There is a community of Icelandic descent concentrated mainly in Gimli, Manitoba.[1] In 2008 in Canada, 88,875 people have some ethnic Icelandic background, 30,550 of them in Manitoba. This equates to about a third of Iceland's current population.[3]

In 1999, Halldór Ásgrímsson, Icelandic Minister for Foreign Affairs and External Trade said [2]

Iceland and Canada have shared close and friendly ties for a long time. A large proportion of the Icelandic population migrated to Canada during the latter part of last century and the early part this century. Today, we find by far the largest population outside Iceland, in Canada.

Neil Bardal was an active member of the Icelandic community in Manitoba and served as a former honorary consul general of Iceland, past president of the Icelandic National League of North America and director of the Canada Iceland Foundation. In 2006, he was the recipient of the Order of Manitoba for his leadership work in the Icelandic community. In 2000, Bardal was awarded the Knight's Cross of the Icelandic Order of the Falcon, the highest honour bestowed by the Icelandic government.[12][13][14] Former United States Consul to Winnipeg, Mary Speer, described Bardal as a "tireless advocate for strong Canadian-Icelandic relations." [15]

Another descendant of Canada's Icelandic community, Janis Gudrun Johnson was appointed to the Senate of Canada in 1990 by then-Prime Minister of Canada Brian Mulroney. Throughout her time in the Senate, Johnson has been a strong proponent for close Canada–Iceland relations and cultural ties. From November 28–29, 2014, Johnson accompanied Canadian Minister of Foreign Affairs John Baird on a bilateral visit to Reykjavik to discuss a variety of bilateral issues including responsible resource development, expanding the European Free Trade Association free-trade relationship, international security issues and the objectives of the Arctic Economic Council.[16]

Education relations[edit]

Some Icelandic and Canadian universities participate through the University of the Arctic collaborative network.

Economic relations[edit]

In 1975, the Icelandic Government urged Canada to establish a 200-mile offshore fishing limit to protect itself from overfishing by foreign fleets. The Foreign Minister of Iceland Einar Aguisson said "we sincerely hope Canada will establish an offshore limit of 200 miles". The Icelandic President Kristjan Eldjarn said during a tour of Canada that "Iceland can't wait any longer because of depleted fish stocks and if Canada joins us we will then have an important ally." [17]

In 1998, the two countries signed a trade and economic cooperation agreement.[18] In 2007, Canada signed a free trade agreement with the European Free Trade Association which includes Iceland.[19][20] This agreement came into force July 1, 2009.[21]

Under this trade agreement, Canadian exports to Iceland such as industrial products received tariff reductions. This included prefabricated buildings, cathode ray tubes, steel structures, aluminum structures, and doors and windows. Tariffs on Canadian frozen French fries exported to Iceland will be reduced by about 40 percent.[21]

In 2008, Canada was Iceland’s 20th largest trade partner with the top three Icelandic export sectors being: Fish, crustaceans, molluscs (C$11.1m), Chemicals (C$4.1m) and Machinery (C$3.7m) [22]

In February 2009, the Government of Manitoba proposed an initiative where skilled, unemployed workers from Iceland would work fill vacancies in Manitoba to help Icelanders affected the 2008–2012 Icelandic financial crisis. The Manitoba and Icelandic governments signed off on the initiative in 2009.[11] However, the process was delayed by federal government's rules around the Temporary Foreign Worker Program. This frustrated the Icelandic Government, a representative of the Icelandic government's Directorate of Labour, said "It has moved slower than I expected, and that's bad, not the least for those who are unemployed, because time doesn't work for them." [23]

In late 2010- the opposition party in Iceland suggested that the country should scrap its currency in favour of switching to a new currency after the very serious banking collapse in 2008. Seven out of 10 Icelandias agree to change to a new currency if it meant more economic prosperity. The favoured "currency-of-choice" is currently the Canadian Dollar due to the closeness of cultural customs between Canada and Iceland. Neither governments would comment and a speech by Canada's ambassador to Iceland was cancelled in March 2012, when the matter became more prevalent.[24]

Transport links[edit]


Iceland has had direct shipping connections with the Canadian province of Newfoundland across the North Atlantic Ocean. The fishing banks off the shore of Newfoundland were frequent destinations for the Icelandic trawlers.[25]

Shipping line Maersk Line offers a container service from Montreal to Reykjavik and also a service from Vancouver to Reykjavik. Eimskip, an Icelandic company, operates between Argentia, Newfoundland and Halifax, Nova Scotia to Reykjavik.[26]


In 2007, the Canadian Transport Minister Lawrence Cannon announced an Open Skies agreement with Iceland, under the Government of Canada's Blue Sky policy. Canadian Minister of International Trade David Emerson said "This Blue Sky agreement will complement the recent free trade agreement signed with Iceland and other countries of the European Free Trade Association, and will help facilitate stronger business ties and enhance tourism between Canada and Iceland".[27]

There are direct air links between the two countries. In May 2007, Icelandair commenced flights between Halifax and Iceland.[28][29] In August 2007, Icelandair announced they intended to start flights between Toronto and Iceland.[30] Flights started in May 2009 between Reykjavik and both Toronto and Halifax.[22]

In December 2009, Icelandic airline Iceland Express announced it would commence services between Winnipeg and Iceland commencing in June 2010.[31] However, Iceland Express has since sold to WOW air, which re-focused Iceland Express routes to European destinations.

Starting from March 2013, Icelandair upgraded its seasonal service from Toronto to Reykjavik to year-round.[32] It also launched year-round service from Edmonton starting from March 2014.[33]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Canada-Iceland Relations, Government of Canada, December 2006.
  2. ^ a b "04.10.1999 - Reykjavík, Iceland: Opening Speech at the Canada Days in Iceland | News | News and Publications | Ministry for Foreign Affairs". 1999-10-04. Retrieved 2010-07-26. 
  3. ^ a b Sarah Barmak Special to the Star (2008-04-13). "A picture and a thousand words". Toronto: Retrieved 2010-07-26. 
  4. ^ "Iceland Review Online: Daily News from Iceland, Current Affairs, Business, Politics, Sports, Culture". 2005-12-06. Retrieved 2010-07-26. 
  5. ^ Canada's Defence Line, Ottawa Citizen, June 22, 1940.
  6. ^ Canada's New War moves, Troops Land in Iceland,Glasgow Herald, June 19, 1940.
  7. ^ Icelandic Chief in Canada, The Milwaukee Journal, September 13, 1961.
  8. ^ "SASKATCHEWAN GOVERNMENT: President of Iceland visits Sa Saskatchewan. - M2 Presswire | HighBeam Research: Online Press Releases". 1999-07-29. Retrieved 2010-07-26. 
  9. ^ Iceland president stops in Winnipeg, The Record - Kitchener, Ontario, Jul 31, 1999
  10. ^ "Iceland Review Online: Daily News from Iceland, Current Affairs, Business, Politics, Sports, Culture". 2005-12-06. Retrieved 2010-07-26. 
  11. ^ a b "Iceland Review Online: Daily News from Iceland, Current Affairs, Business, Politics, Sports, Culture". 2005-12-06. Retrieved 2010-07-26. 
  12. ^ "CTV Winnipeg- Well-known funeral director dies at 69 - CTV News". 2010-02-14. Retrieved 2010-07-26. 
  13. ^ "CTV Winnipeg- Friends and family of Neil Bardal gather for funeral - CTV News". Retrieved 2010-07-26. 
  14. ^ Sun, Winnipeg (2010-02-13). "Sunflashes | Manitoba | News". Winnipeg Sun. Retrieved 2010-07-26. 
  15. ^ Speer, Mary (2010-03-06). "Passings / He beat cancer by never letting cancer beat him". Winnipeg Free Press. Retrieved 2010-07-26. 
  16. ^
  17. ^ Set up 200-mile limit, Icelander urges Canada, The Montreal Gazette, Aug 2 1975.
  18. ^ "Trade and Economic Cooperation Arrangements (TECAs)". 2009-06-30. Retrieved 2010-07-26. 
  19. ^ "CBC News - Canada - Canada signs first free trade deal since 2001". 2007-06-07. Retrieved 2010-07-26. [dead link]
  20. ^ "Canada and EFTA sign free trade agreement | IceNews - Daily News". Retrieved 2010-07-26. 
  21. ^ a b "New Free Trade Agreement Opens Doors for Canadian Business in Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland". Retrieved 2010-07-26. 
  22. ^ a b "Doing Business Abroad - The Canadian Trade Commissioner Service". Retrieved 2010-07-26. 
  23. ^ "CBC News - World - Manitoba-Iceland labour partnership sputters". 2009-10-28. Retrieved 2010-07-26. 
  24. ^ "Iceland thinks about Loonie". The Globe and Mail (Toronto: The Globe and Mail). Retrieved 3 March 2012. 
  25. ^ "Investing in Canada, Conference, Radisson SAS Saga | Speeches | Minister | Ministries of Industry" (in Icelandic). Retrieved 2010-07-26. 
  26. ^ "Iceland - Economic Overview". 2009-12-14. Retrieved 2010-07-26. 
  28. ^ "Opodo travel news – Icelandair links Canada and Iceland". 2007-05-18. Retrieved 2010-07-26. 
  29. ^ Icelandair Launches Service from Halifax, Canada, PR Newswire, 17 May 2007
  30. ^ New Icelandair route to Toronto – via Reykjavik, IceNews, August 2, 2007.
  31. ^ Writer, Staff (2009-12-24). "Flights to Iceland to start in June". Winnipeg Free Press. Retrieved 2010-07-26. 
  32. ^ "Icelandair to Fly Year-round from Toronto". 2013-02-01. 
  33. ^ "Icelandair Increases Edmonton Service". 2013-10-17. 

External links[edit]