|Canadian Embassy, Havana||Cuban Embassy, Ottawa|
|Ambassador Perry Calderwood||Ambassador Josefina Vidal|
Canada–Cuba relations refers to the bilateral relationship between Canada and Cuba. Informal trade relations between the colonies of Atlantic Canada and the Captaincy General of Cuba have existed since the 18th century. However, diplomatic relations between Canada and Cuba were not formally established until 1945.
Diplomatic relations between the two countries remain uninterrupted since their establishment in 1945, with Canada being one of only two countries in the Americas that did not sever relations with Cuba (other than Mexico) after the Cuban Revolution in 1959. Relations between Canada and Cuba have occasionally been a source of contention for Canada-United States relations.
Both countries maintain embassies in the other's capital city, in addition to consulates in other cities. The two countries also share a significant trading relationship with Cuba serving as Canada's second largest export partner in the Caribbean/Central American region, and Canada serving as Cuba's third largest export market.
After the United States terminated the Canadian–American Reciprocity Treaty in 1866, the governments of British North America sent trade missions throughout Latin America, including Cuba. The trade mission arrived in Cuba on 17 March 1866. Other attempts to open Cuba's markets to Canadian exports were made in 1876, although Spanish, British, and later U.S. economic interests prevented Canada from fulfilling that objective.
After the Spanish-American War and the handover of Cuba from Spain to the U.S., the United States Military Government in Cuba passed a series of decrees that permitted the chartering of foreign banks there. Canadian chartered banks, like the Royal Bank of Canada and the Scotiabank, acted on these changes quickly and established a presence in Cuba.
The Republic of Cuba opened its first diplomatic offices in Canada in 1903, in Yarmouth, Nova Scotia; to promote salt cod and rum trade between the two countries. In 1909, the Canadian government opened a commercial office in Havana. In 1931, the Cuban government established a consulate in Montreal.
Canadian financial institutions saw significant growth in their investments during the early 20th century, with the Royal Bank of Canada owning 16 sugar mills and 120 hectares (300 acres) of fertile growing land for sugar cane in 1923. By 1958, more than 70 per cent of all life insurance policies held by Cuban nationals were underwritten by Canadian financial institutions, including Confederation Life and Sun Life Financial.
In 1942, Cuban president Fulgencio Batista announced his intentions to formally establish diplomatic relations with Canada and the Soviet Union. Diplomatic relations was formally established between the two countries in 1945. Cuba was the first country in the Caribbean selected by Canada for a diplomatic mission.
Canada formally announced its recognition of the new Cuban government on 8 January 1959, the day the rebel army entered Havana. Although some Canadian officials expressed concern about the revolutionary tribunals taking place, the Canadian government maintained a policy of non-interference with Cuba. Diplomatic relations between the Canada and Cuba remained uninterrupted in the aftermath of the Cuban Revolution; and is one of only two countries in the Americas, alongside Mexico, that maintained uninterrupted relations with Cuba after the revolution. John Diefenbaker, the Prime Minister of Canada, was a staunch anti-communist, however, he maintained that relations could be continued "despite the philosophical differences between [Cuba's] communist regime and the West..., and that Canada should hardly be required to tighten its trade restrictions above and beyond those of other Latin American nations." Although Canada maintained relations with the new Cuban government, the Canadian government's reaction to early Cuban attempts to improve relations were cold and cautious.
In February 1959, the Cuban government requested ten Royal Canadian Mounted Police members to assist them in training Cuba's police and internal security services. On 26 April 1959, the Prime Minister of Cuba, Fidel Castro,[note 1] visited Montreal to participate in a toy drive for Cuban children. Representatives from the Royal Bank of Canada and Sun Line Financial also met with Castro during the event. In addition to inviting Castro, the event's organizers, the Junior Chamber of Commerce of Montreal, also invited several members of Canadian government to greet Castro, although those contacted refused to do so.
After the U.S. instituted economic sanctions against Cuba, the Cuban government looked at Canada as an alternate trading partner for raw materials, machinery, parts and other supplies traditionally sourced from the United States. As a result, Canadian businesses fared much better than other foreign entities with regards to nationalization in Cuba. In banking, 23 branches of the Royal Bank of Canada and eight branches of Scotiabank were the only banking establishments exempted from the Cuban government's nationalization efforts in October 1960. A Cuban commercial mission was formally dispatched to Canada in December 1960.
Continued trade with Cuba also fell in line with policies pursued by the Diefenbaker government; expanding Canada's trade relations to include members of the Soviet Bloc and mainland China; as well as promote the idea that Canada's foreign policy was not mirroring the foreign policy of the United States. In light of the U.S. embargo, the Canadian government also believed "it was up to countries like Canada and the United Kingdom to do what they could in order to maintain the links with Havana," and prevent the U.S. from driving Cuba completely into the Soviet camp. On 23 December 1960, Diefenbaker outlined the Canadian government's policy of trade with Cuba. The policy made clear that Canada would limit the trade of arms and other related equipment of strategic significance, although they would place no limitation on trading non-strategic goods.
However, the choice to maintain relations with the revolutionary Cuban government served as a point of contention for Canada-U.S. relations in the decades following the Cuban Revolution. Canada saw significant pressure to end cordial relations with the Cuban government, especially after the Cuban commercial mission was warmly received in December 1960. In an effort to safeguard Canada-Cuba relations, the Cuban ambassador to Canada, Americo Cruz, informed the Cuban government to not "show off our good relations," in an effort to help alleviate U.S. diplomatic pressure against Canada. From January 1962, the Kennedy administration began to re-open the issue of isolating Cuba and internationalizing the embargo with Canadian officials and other NATO allies. The Canadian government looked to other NATO and American allies for support over its Cuban policy, in relation to the United States.
Although the Canadian government supported continued trade with Cuba, it did not provide the Cuban government with much political support. The Canadian government's response was muted after the Bay of Pigs Invasion. Although it acknowledged the invasion was financed by the United States, the Canadian government refused to condemn the U.S. for its role in the invasion; having instead informed the Cuban ambassador it had "not done enough to improve its relations with the United States," and that it believed they needed to "reach an agreement with the United States to save the Revolution." Cruz had found the Canadian government's reaction to the invasion and its subsequent denial of humanitarian aid fruitful, having revealed to him that the Cuban government could not expect much political support from Canada.
Cuban Missile Crisis
Canada played a minor role in the Cuban Missile Crisis, with the Royal Canadian Navy assisting the United States, and other NATO allies in searching the North Atlantic Ocean for Soviet vessels from the 24 October to the end of the crisis. The Canadian government also provided the United States intelligence on Cuba, with Canadian diplomats having collected intelligence on military installations and other strategic elements. Canadian diplomats were dispatched to confirm the installation of missiles in Cuba in October 1962.
However, Diefenbaker's desire to maintain an independent foreign policy from the United States during the Cuban Missile Crisis, contributed towards his defeat in the 1963 Canadian federal election. Prior to making a public televised announcement regarding the Cuban quarantine on 22 October 1962, Kennedy had called Diefenbaker to inform him about the plan, and to request Canadian Forces be placed on DEFCON-3. Diefenbaker in turn was angered that his government was not consulted earlier; and questioned Kennedy for further proof, and to first send a United Nations team to confirm it. The issue led to a two-day debate in Diefenbaker's cabinet, with Minister of National Defence Douglas Harkness advocating that Canada follow the United States in raising its military readiness, given their "obligations" as members of NATO, and NORAD.
Harkness's position eventually gained the support from Diefenbaker's cabinet as Soviet ships approached the American quarantine zone, and other NATO members began to voice their support for the United States. DEFCON-3 was formally authorized by Diefenbaker on 24 October.
Diefenbaker's public perception in Canada suffered from the crisis, with the Canadian public viewing Diefenbaker as indecisive. The perception as an indecisive leader, and his refusal to accept nuclear-armed CIM-10 Bomarc missiles, led to his eventual defeat to Lester B. Pearson's Liberal Party of Canada in the 1963 election.
Post-Cuban Missile Crisis
Although Diefenbaker was defeated in the 1963 election, his policy with Cuba was continued by the Liberal Party most notably under the tenure of Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, who long held the opinion that Canada needed to establish a foreign policy, "independent of American influence". The Canadian government was critical of the United States embargo against Cuba during the 1960s and 1970s, objecting to American attempts to block trade to Cuba by Canadian-based American subsidiaries.
However, Canadian diplomats also conducted intelligence-gathering missions on Cuba on behalf of the United States. The intelligence-sharing arrangement was formalized after Kennedy met Pearson at a summit in Hyannis Port, Massachusetts, and asked whether the Canadian government would abet U.S. intelligence-gathering efforts in Cuba. These activities included monitoring Soviet compliance to withdraw its missiles, and surveilling the Soviet's continued informal presence in Cuba. This intelligence-gathering arrangement continued for several years into Trudeau's tenure as Canada's prime minister.
In 1975, the United States passed legislation that loosened the restrictions of its embargo, permitting Canadian and other foreign subsidiaries of American-based companies to conduct trade with Cuba.
In 1976, Trudeau spent three days in Cuba, and sparked a personal friendship with Castro. The visit was also the first by a Western nation to Cuba since 1960. Trudeau's trip to Cuba was criticized by Diefenbaker, given Cuba's involvement in the Angolan Civil War. Remarks made by Trudeau in Cuba, notably "Viva Cuba! Viva Fidel Castro," were also criticized by Diefenbaker, and Thomas Cossitt, a Canadian Member of Parliament. In his memoirs, Trudeau noted that Castro downplayed Cuba's involvement in Angola during his visit, and he had only realized the extent of Cuba's involvement after returning to Ottawa. Shortly after his visit to Cuba, Trudeau cut foreign aid to Cuba.
In January 1977, Canadian-Cuban relations was strained after details were made public that the Cuban government used a consular mission in Montreal for intelligence-gathering purposes. However, the consulate had been under surveillance by Canadian law enforcement as early as 1972, with Canadian authorities having been already aware of the Cuban mission's ulterior uses for the building. Although Canadian authorities monitored the Cuban consulate, authorities did not take any action against consulate officials until 1977, when details of Cuban espionage were disclosed to the public, forcing authorities to act and expel them from the country. Five Cuban nationals were expelled from Canada, including three diplomats. In a statement of admission, the Cuban government stated it used the consulate in Montreal for intelligence gathering, although noted its activities were directed against "Cuban enemies," including the United States government and the CIA.
In 1984, the Canadian government passed the Foreign Extraterritorial Measures Act, a law designed to dissuade Canadian-based American subsidiaries from taking part in the American economic embargo of Cuba.
In 1994, a joint venture was formed between the Cuban Nickel Union and the Canadian firm Sherritt International, which operates a mining and processing plant on the island in Moa. A second enterprise, Cobalt Refinery Co. Inc., was created in Alberta for nickel refining.
Canada, in addition to the European Union, objected to the passage of the Helms-Burton Act in the U.S. Congress in 1996, specifically Title III, a provision that permitted Americans whose properties were nationalized by the Cuban government, to sue individuals that are presently using it. The Canadian Minister of Foreign Affairs Lloyd Axworthy stated "Canada shares the U.S. objectives of improving human rights standards and moving to more representative government in Cuba. But we are concerned that the Helms-Burton Act takes the wrong approach. That is why we have been working with other countries to uphold the principles of international law".
In response to the Helms-Burton Act, the Foreign Extraterritorial Measures Act was amended to permit Canadians sued under the Helms-Burton Act, to counter-sue in Canadian courts. The resulting amendment also found those that paid damages under the Helms-Burton Act to be liable to fines and imprisonment in Canada. In a satirical response to the Helms-Burton Act, a private member's bill known as the Godfrey-Milliken Bill was introduced in the House of Commons of Canada in response to the extraterritoriality of the Helms-Burton Act. The proposed bill would have allowed descendants of United Empire Loyalists who fled the American Revolution to be able to reclaim land and property that was confiscated by the American government in the 1700s. Although the Helms-Burton Act went into effect in 1996, enactment of Title III was postponed until April 2019.
During the mid-1990s, Canada and Cuba reached an agreement that saw the Cuban government compensate Canadians whose properties were expropriated after the Cuban Revolution. Emergency economic reforms made during the Special Period in Cuba, allowed for a significant number of Canadian businesses to invest in Cuba. Increased economic activity between the two countries prompted a 41-hour official visit to Havana by Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chrétien in November 1998. In the months prior to his arrival to Cuba, U.S. President Bill Clinton urged Chrétien to raise concerns about human rights to Castro for his planned visit to Cuba at the 24th G8 summit. Chrétien faced some criticism from the Canadian public for not publicly voicing his concerns over human rights in Cuba, although he privately discussed the issue with Castro, as well as demanded the release of four specific political dissidents. However, the resulting discussion resulted in a "chill" in relations between the two leaders, with Cuban officials rebuffing Chrétien's efforts to free the political dissidents.
In 2001, the Canadian government protested American preclearance customs agents in Canadian airports who tried to catch American citizens travelling to Cuba in defiance of U.S. law. In April 2009, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper expressed support for the U.S. government's decision to lift Cuban-American travel and remittance to Cuba.
During the 2010 United Nations Security Council election, Cuban diplomats to the United Nations lobbied Latin American ambassadors to the United Nations General Assembly to vote for Canada. In 2013, the Canadian government hosted bilateral talks between the governments of Cuba and the United States. Seven negotiation sessions were held between the American and Cuban governments in Ottawa and Toronto. The following negotiations resulted in the Cuban thaw.
As of May 2018, Cuba is presently Canada's second largest export market in the Caribbean/Central American region; with bilateral trade between the two countries averaging approximately C$1 billion annually. In 2000, Canada was Cuba's second-largest merchandise trading partner after Spain. However, by 2009, Canada had become Cuba's fourth largest merchandise trading partner after Venezuela, China, and Spain. Canada remained Cuba's third largest export market after Venezuela and China, and the eighth largest source of imported goods to Cuba in 2009; with declining Canadian imports in the late-2000s attributed to the loss of purchasing power after the Cuban government implemented austerity measures. Canada primarily supplies Cuba with agricultural goods; and equipment for energy generation, mining, telecommunications, and transportation. Nickel accounts for the majority of Cuban imports to Canada, although cigars, frozen lobsters, and rum are also imported from Cuba.
The size of the trade market between Canada and Cuba has attracted major Canadian investments to Cuba. Canada is one of Cuba's largest foreign direct investors, with Canadian businesses forming 26 joint-venture economic associations within Cuba in 2008. In 2010, there were 15 joint ventures in Cuba involving Canadian businesses; with Canadian businesses holding the second largest number of joint-venture agreements in Cuba after companies based in Spain. Canadian businesses in Cuba are largely invested in mining, power, oil and gas, agri-food, and the tourism industry. Sherritt International, a Canadian natural resource company is the largest investor in Cuba, with a diversified portfolio in agriculture, energy, mining, and oil production. Canadian businesses have arguably been able to benefit from the US-embargo of Cuba, with Canadian companies that operate in Cuba facing no direct competition from their US counterparts. However, the US-embargo has limited the number of Canadian companies operating in Cuba, with Canadian businesses that have a large presence in the US being unable to operate in Cuba without risk of conflicting with the Helms-Burton Act.
Canada funds international development programs to strengthen Cuba's agricultural sector, and improve food security in the country. In addition to the agricultural sector, the Canadian assistance program includes funding for technical training and certification for workers in oil and gas, petrochemical exploration, power engineering, pipefitting, and renewable energy industries. Funding was also provided for the training of auditors to solidify "greater transparency and accountability," in Cuban government agencies and state-run enterprises.
Between 1994 and 2010, the Canadian government has invested C$136 million of foreign aid into development projects and initiatives in Cuba.
Approximately 1.2 million Canadians visit Cuba annually. Canadian tourists account for 30 per cent of all tourists who visit Cuba per year, making the country the largest source of tourists for Cuba. Cuba is the fifth most-popular overseas destination for Canadian tourists; with Canadian tourists spending approximately C$780 million in Cuba annually. A number of cultural and university exchange programs also exists between the two countries, with Canadian universities holding the largest number of non-Spanish-speaking university exchange programs in Cuba.
Canada has had an embassy in Havana since 1945. The current building was built in 1929 and used by Canada since 1961. It also provides consular assistance to Australian and Israeli nationals. The embassy is located in the upscale district of Miramar in municipal area of Playa in Havana. Canadian consulates are also found in Varadero and Holguin. due to these two locations being key destinations for Canadian tourists. Although Canada maintains diplomatic representation in Cuba, its embassy does not directly fund or facilitate any cultural or interpersonal exchange programs between the two countries.
- Canada–Caribbean relations
- Canada–Latin America relations
- Cuban Canadian
- Foreign relations of Canada
- Foreign relations of Cuba
- Castro governed Cuba as the Prime Minister of the country from 1959 to 1976. He governed the country as the President of the Council of State from 1976 to 2008.
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